§ 2.50 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move,That this House approves the proposals contained in the White Papers Command No. 8026 and Command No. 8027, designed by His Majesty's Government to meet the growing dangers to world peace of which the war in Korea is an example; and is of opinion that the necessary legislation to amend the National Service Acts should be brought in forthwith.I am afraid I shall have to ask the House for indulgence for speaking at rather greater length this afternoon than is my custom, but the subject is a great one. We are asking the support of the House and of the country for a programme for increasing the strength of our Armed Forces. This programme envisages certain immediate steps and also long-term plans, which will take time to implement. This programme will entail sacrifices from the people of Britain. It involves an interruption of the progress which has been made since the war in building up the economic position of this country and the standard of life of our people.
I know it is distasteful and disappointing to all of us that, little more than five years after the ending of the Second World War, we should have to devote so large a proportion of our resources to Defence, but this action has been forced upon us owing to the growing tensions in the world. The steps which we are now asking the House to endorse are taken solely with the intention of preventing another war and resisting in its early stages the onward march of aggression. We all know from bitter experience that aggression unchecked grows with success. Sacrifices now can prevent greater sacrifices in the future, but sacrifices there must be. It is, therefore, I think, necessary for me this afternoon, without dealing at length with foreign policy, to place our present action in its perspective.
When the war ended, we all looked forward with hope to a new era of peace and international co-operation. All parties in this country joined in helping to create the United Nations as an instrument for promoting that co-operation and preventing any resort to arms in world affairs. I believe everybody realises how patiently 952 and how persistently the Foreign Secretary strove to make the United Nations a success and to work with all other Governments, including that of Soviet Russia; but the continual obstruction by that Power has frustrated the efforts of the United Nations. Further than that, all over the world the agents and supporters of the Cominform have worked ceaselessly to foment trouble and disorder.
Two results have flowed from this. First, owing to the action of Soviet Russia in paralysing the Security Council and the consequent failure to make the United Nations an effective instrument for building up collective security, it has been necessary for the democratic countries to get together—first in the Western Union and then in the North Atlantic Pact—to provide for their mutual security. And secondly, the failure to get co-operation over the post-war settlement and the continued unrest created by Communist inspired activities in various parts of the world has entailed a heavy defence burden on this country. Our forces have been spread out holding the line in South-East Asia and in occupation duties in ex-enemy countries. For these reasons, the assumptions on which the estimates of our defence needs were formed before the end of the war were not fulfilled and plans made subsequently have had constantly to be revised or interrupted by the pressure of immediate requirements. I am sure everybody will realise how difficult in these post-war years has been the task of the Chiefs of Staff in working out long-term plans.
I need not recall to the House that for all these years this country has been facing a very difficult economic situation and I need hardly emphasise that a sound economic position is the absolutely vital basis for successful defence. In the unprecedented contest in which we are now engaged, the preservation of the home front is as important as defence against external aggression. An economic breakdown in the democratic countries has long been the hope of the enemies of freedom. They think that would give them the best chance of disrupting from within societies which refuse to conform to their model. But the aggression of North Korea on South Korea opened a new phase in this contest. Hitherto there had been no overt attack, but here was military aggression against a State set up 953 under the aegis of the United Nations. Here was a direct challenge to the world authority.
We all remember how failure to meet aggression ultimately destroyed the League of Nations. It is not my purpose this afternoon to recall the unhappy events of the past, but the lesson is plain there for all of us to read. The United Nations' troops, including our own, are now in action in Korea. I have every confidence that aggression will be halted and a salutary lesson given to would-be aggressors. This aggression has been condemned at the United Nations by all the nations, except Soviet Russia and those within its circle of influence. That is a very significant exception. We must deeply regret this. No propaganda can alter the fact that the attack on South Korea was naked aggression and condonation of aggression in one part of the world raises anxieties as to what may happen elsewhere. Those implications must be considered. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is now in America discussing these and other matters with the Ministers of the United States and France and, subsequently, with Ministers of the Atlantic Powers, but we must face the possibility that what happened in Korea may, in one form or another, be repeated elsewhere. But this does not mean that we believe that world war is imminent and assuredly we do not believe that it is inevitable, but it does mean that in our view we must take every practical step which is possible to prevent war.
I said that the difficulties and disturbances in the world are the result of a deliberate Communist campaign carried on by various means. Communism is a militant and imperialist creed held with fanaticism by its adherents. It is based on certain ideas. You cannot confute ideas by armed force. You can confute them by better ideas and by better action and by showing in practice the superiority of the democratic way of life. Military defences against Communism are essential, but they are not a complete policy. Communists make play very often with some of the finest aspirations of mankind.
They use the national aspirations of people as a means of drawing those who have no inclination whatever to their creed into their orbit. They exploit the natural desires of people to rule themselves. By our policy in Asia and other 954 parts of the world we have given wide scope to those national aspirations, with the result that it is recognised by millions today that the extension of freedom is the policy of the democracies, and that Communist support of nationalist movements is only a part of a design to enslave the whole world and bring it under Communist dictatorship; and it is most noticeable how the nations of Asia as well as those of other parts of the world are lined up on this question of Korea.
Secondly, we have sought with others to help to restore war-shattered economies, to raise the standard of life in the less-developed parts of the world, to try to remove the poverty and misery which form the breeding grounds for Communism. Much remains to be done. Much has been done, and this country has done a great deal, despite all our difficulties. I often think that perhaps some of our critics who complain of the use of the sterling balances and unrequited exports hardly realise how important a part that has played in building up the economies of those countries.
In these positive plans for combating Communism, we work with our friends in the Commonwealth—witness the Colombo Conference—and our friends in the United Nations. Collaboration is essential, but no less is the fullest co-operation in the defence field. We have responsibilities in the world; our position imposes them. We accept them, but we cannot bear those burdens alone. The provision of forces for the prevention of war requires a contribution from all countries.
We have, too, our responsibilities to our fellow members of the Commonwealth, and we are in very close contact with them on Defence as on other problems. We have our allies in the Middle East to whom we have our obligations; and our fortunes are closely linked with those of our European neighbours and with the great Republic across the water. We shall not fail to do our part, but to do this we must be strong economically, militarily and spiritually.
While our eyes are naturally turned on the Far East, where our Forces are taking part in the fight to defeat aggression, and while we must always keep a very close watch on the position in the Middle East, we shall have to give increased attention to the defences of the 955 West. It has been our policy to seek to build up, first through the Brussels Treaty and then by the North Atlantic Treaty, forces sufficient to deter any aggression in Europe. I admit at once that the creation of those forces has not been as rapid as we could have wished but, as I shall show later, all the parties to those agreements are taking steps to strengthen their forces and to make these organisations more effective.
It is in the light of this policy and the considerations which I lay before the House that I now turn to the measures which we are submitting to the House today. Our plans fall under two headings—manpower and equipment. I will deal first with manpower. Since the end of the war we have striven continuously to try to build up the Regular content of our Forces. We wanted to rely on our Regular Forces to the largest possible extent in our peace-time defence commitments. We have been working to try to get a situation in which we could increasingly regard National Service as a means of producing trained reserves, and only on a diminishing scale as a means of filling the gaps of the Regulars.
This has not been possible for two reasons: first, because our commitments have proved far more onerous than had been anticipated or hoped; and secondly, because the rate of voluntary recruitment has not kept pace with requirements. In addition, during the last two years there has been a falling off in the number of men extending their service or re-engaging for further periods with the Colours. This has, of course, accentuated the lack of balance in the Forces which always occurs after a major world war. There are many reasons for this failure, or comparative failure, of our recruiting. I do not think I need burden the House with them at any great length. It is no new problem. At a time of full employment after a great war, the counter-attractions of civil life are very strong.
The increases in pay which were made at the end of the war brought the pay of the Services far closer in line with civilian rates than it had ever been before. Pay and allowances were reviewed in November, 1948, when increases amounting to £12,500,000 were made. We have always recognised, however, that recruiting did not solely depend on pay. There is the 956 matter of amenities, and a great deal of attention has been given to that. Accommodation is a matter of great importance. Much of our barrack accommodation dates back over many years. There was a great shortage of married quarters. A great deal has been done to tackle that problem, despite the difficulties of the post-war period. As the House knows, Parliament has made special arrangements for financing that work by the Armed Forces (Housing Loans) Act.
Then, again, we have been giving a great deal of attention to the fitting of ex-Regulars, officers and men, into civilian life. My Service colleagues and the Minister of Labour, with representatives of both sides of industry, have given unremitting attention to this. But despite all these efforts, we have not so far obtained the numbers of men we need, whether for initial or extended engagements. It must be recognised today that the Services require men capable of undertaking highly skilled jobs, and the training required to produce a fully qualified soldier or airman for specialist duties takes a long time. It is in view of these circumstances that we decided on the measures to be put before the House.
These measures have two objectives, short-term and long-term. The long-term objective is to build up the Regular content of our Armed Forces by increased recruitment and by inducing men to extend their engagements, for we particularly need non-commissioned officers and skilled specialists. The White Paper sets out a scheme of bounties for men, a scheme for flying pay and a major scheme of pay increases. Everyone has had an opportunity of studying this White Paper, and I do not think that the House would wish me to go into details. If there are any questions on details, the Minister of Defence, who will, I hope, be speaking later, will deal with them.
We believe that the scheme now set out is fair, and even generous, and that, with the recognition of the needs of the nation and the desire to give service to our country, it should result in achieving our purpose. It is, of course, never possible to make more than an approximate comparison between the conditions obtaining in civil life and those in the Services. What we try to do is to ensure that the young man who enters the Services can feel certain that his prospects are at least 957 as good as, and in some cases better than, they would be outside. It is too early at present to say what the result of this will be, and I shall not make any prophecy, but I can say that the preliminary reports from the Services are encouraging. In the case of the Army the number of firm applications for enlistment in the first week after the announcement has been more than four times the weekly average. In the Air Force the number of inquiries has increased five-fold. What is particularly interesting and important is that in both services there has been a very high percentage of men with previous training among those applying.
Now let me turn to the short-term problem which cannot be met by recruitment, however good, because it is essentially the shortage of fully-trained men in our Forces at the present time. As the House knows, we have had to suspend the discharge of time-expired Regulars in the Army and Navy, and we have called up some Regular Reserves. The Air Force, too, is making some deferments. We are proposing, as the immediate and the most practical step which can be taken to meet conditions at the present time, the lengthening of the period of full-time National Service from eighteen months to two years.
This will have two immediate effects, both very important. First, it will mean the addition to the Forces over the next six months of some 77,000 men; 55,000 for the Army, 18,000 for the Air Force, 4,000 for the Navy. Secondly, the increase in the length of service will give a more than proportionate increase in the effective service given by each Service man and that will make for greater flexibility and greater efficiency. I do not think there can be any doubt as to the efficacy of this measure as an immediate means of strengthening our Forces.
It is naturally with great reluctance that we have had to decide to introduce this temporary increase in the length of service. We know it must cause hardship and disappointment to the young men affected, who made plans on the assumption that they were serving only for 18 months. But this hardship is infinitely less than that which would be incurred if, by failure to take action now, they had to be called up for war service later. A great number of us in this House, and a great number of men and women in 958 Britain, have had four or five years of their life taken up by military service in one or other of the world wars. I think we would have been glad if by six months' service, we could have been spared those years; and I believe that the majority of the young men—who, I must say, I think are far better acquainted with world affairs than were the young men of my generation—will recognise the need, and cheerfully bear their share of preserving peace.
I now turn to the question of re-equipment. After the war we were left with a great deal of equipment, and in view of the economic position of the country ever since then the Services have, to a very large extent, been living on these accumulations. It may be suggested that there would be no need of re-equipment if we had handled wisely what we had. The answer is that we are still using, and still have in reserve, a great deal of the equipment produced for the last war. But the development of weapons does not stand still. Weapons soon become obsolete, especially in these days of the application of science to warfare, and we cannot afford to send our people out with obsolete arms.
It is not possible in peace-time, without extravagant waste of manpower and storage space, to maintain all the accumulated stores built up during a great world war. We have disposed of much equipment. We have sent arms to our friends in the Commonwealth and our allies on the Continent. We have scrapped obsolete or obsolescent arms and much equipment has been used up by the Services in addition. I do not think that the charge, which is sometimes made, that we wasted that which we had is supported at all by the facts. As was indicated in last year's Defence Estimates, and in the Defence Debate in July last by the Minister of Defence, we are now embarking on a policy of arms production. My right hon. Friend informed the House that an immediate programme amounting to £100 million for the re-equipment of the Services was being put in hand.
The make-up of that programme, which is designed mainly to deal with immediately deficiencies, has been agreed. Orders have actually been placed for aircraft, military and naval equipment to the value of more than £50 million, and 959 many others are in process of negotiation. This programme can be achieved by the expansion of our existing capacity. But the question may be asked, why, having announced this programme, do we now come forward with proposals of far greater magnitude? The answer is that since the Debate of July a new factor has arisen.
We in common with our allies of the North Atlantic Pact, were approached by the Government of the United States. Reference was made to the request of the President to Congress for additional funds to help to establish and maintain the common strength of the United States and other free nations at an adequate level, and we were asked what we could undertake. Our reply was that it was physically possible for us to undertake a programme which would, over the next three years, increase expenditure on Defence in the United Kingdom to a total of £3,400 million; but that how far it would be possible to attain that level would depend on the amount of assistance forthcoming from the United States. Since that time the increases in the pay of the Services and their numbers will bring the total to £3,600 million in the next three years.
This great expenditure represents the maximum that we can do by expanding and using to the full our industrial capacity without resorting to the drastic expedients of a war economy. Discussions on this programme are proceeding with the United States Government. They are not yet concluded, but I would inform the House that, in addition to the £100 million in the initial programme, we are proceeding with measures which will involve the expenditure of another £100 million. The House, I know, will realise that a programme of this magnitude takes time to materialise, but if we are to carry out a three-year programme we have to introduce far reaching developments now, the full cost of which will fall to be met in future years.
For obvious reasons of security, the House will not expect me to give details, but I should like to mention some of the larger items. There is the production of aircraft, tanks, weapons, ammunition, naval vessels, clothing stores. There will be some building for Civil Defence, some Service accommodation, airfield improvements and other 960 defence works. I will deal later with what this will mean in relation to industry and the economy or the country.
I should now like to come to what these measures will mean in increasing our armed strength. Our first objective is to bring our existing fighting units up to full strength and to supply them with the necessary supporting arms; there is some leeway to be made up here. The full effects of the measures we are taking with regard to manpower will not be felt till next year, but, subject to this limitation, our increase will be on these lines. In the Navy the main effect will be a substantial additional programme of new construction, of modernisation and conversion. Anti-submarine frigates, minesweepers and motor torpedo boats will be among the first items.
With regard to the Army, the House is aware that we have large Forces overseas; in fact, we have troops equivalent to six and a half divisions. We are proposing to increase the strategic reserve so as to include a complete infantry division, an armoured division and an infantry brigade, all fully armed and stationed in this country. An additional division will be stationed in Germany and the two divisions there will be brought up to strength. We shall, therefore, have rather more than three fully trained divisions in Germany. At the same time, it will be possible to bring up to full strength the four existing Regular divisions stationed in other parts of the world.
During 1951 there will be a flow of fully-trained National Service men into the Territorial Army, and by the autumn many units will have done their collective training. In total, we should have the equivalent of twelve Territorial divisions, which, subject to the provision of equipment and the requirements of home defence, will be able to take the field after a short period of formation training following mobilisation. The House will see that we shall have something like ten Regular divisions and twelve Territorial divisions after mobilisation, but it will take time to build up—
§ The Prime Minister
I have mentioned what we shall have on the Continent, but there are also the forces which are in 961 effect a further Reserve; we have other obligations and there is pressure all round the world. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we cannot commit all our reserves at once to one particular theatre of war. Steps are also being taken to make substantial additions to the strength and preparedness of Anti-Aircraft Command.
I now come to the Royal Air Force. We have to build up our air strength and increase our jet fighters. We have to increase the production of the Canberra bomber, which we believe to be a quite outstanding aircraft, which would be of very great importance in any campaign in Western Europe. Further orders for aircraft, with their wide and complicated range of vital ancillary equipment, are being worked out. The full capacity of our aircraft and associated industries will be made use of, but it cannot be expected that we shall immediately make spectacular increases in our front line forces. There will be increases in Fighter Command, and certain additional squadrons are being formed in the British Air Forces of Occupation as our share of the increased Western Union Tactical Air Force.
It is, of course, obvious that the provisions of aircraft and aircrews must move forward together. In this regard, I should like to call attention to the generous provision made by the Royal Canadian Air Force for the training of some of our pilots and navigators. It recalls the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme, which made such a notable contribution to our victory in the war.
There is then the improvement of our radar defence in this country, that is the network of posts that detect the approach of aircraft, and the controlling system which directs our fighters and guns on to their targets; and this is being given a high priority. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has emphasised the importance of this, and I am fully in accord with him. He has mentioned areas of particular strategic importance, but he knows well that the defensive network must be organised as a whole.
As I have stated, one of the objects of our proposals is to strengthen the forces available for Western Defence. Accordingly, as soon as we have taken our decision, my right hon. Friend the Foreign 962 Secretary got into touch with his colleagues of the Brussels Treaty. We were anxious that what we were doing should be part of a joint effort by the Western Union Powers, and the response to this approach has been very encouraging. The French Government have announced their intention of increasing the period of National Service progressively from 12 to 18 months, and propose to make available for the defence of the West an additional 15 Divisions. In addition, they have recently announced a five-year aircraft production plan. The Belgian Government have decided to increase National Service from one to two years and will make a substantial increase in the defence Budget, while little Luxembourg, with a population of only 250,000, has also doubled its period of service. The Netherlands Government have said that they are prepared for further financial commitments and if it is thought by the Atlantic Treaty Powers that the international situation demands it, they will take further steps.
On all these important questions, there is the closest consultation between the Defence Ministers and Staffs of the Brussels Treaty Powers, and our other European allies in the Atlantic Pact are all planning increases in their defences; but I am sure that it will be realised that what is being done by the European Powers is only part of the general defence of the Atlantic area. The fullest cooperation with our friends in the United States and Canada is essential.
On Saturday last, President Truman, in speaking of the great increase which is to be made in the Armed Forces of the United States, said that he had approved substantial increases in the strength of the United States Forces to be stationed in Western Europe. I am sure that this statement will bring great satisfaction to our friends who are partners with us in the North Atlantic Treaty and to the people of this country. The President said thatthe basic element in this decision is the degree to which our friends match our actions in this regardand I have given indications of what our European allies propose to do and I am describing the steps that we ourselves are taking to this end. The President added that the United States Government had taken powers to control the supplies of 963 raw materials necessary for the defence programme. In this country, we think we possess all the controls we need, but should we need more we would not hesitate to come to this House.
We are, in fact, now seeing the coming into being of what we have been striving to create—a European Defence Force, made up of the forces of Western Union and the North Atlantic allies, fully knit together to defend the democracies. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is about to discuss defence problems in New York, first with M. Schuman and with Mr. Acheson, and then with the Foreign Ministers of the other Atlantic countries. Meanwhile, experience has shown that there is room for some simplification of the planning and higher command organisation under the Atlantic Pact. Proposals are being put forward to this end. They will be discussed at the forthcoming Atlantic Council in New York, and subsequently at a meeting of Defence Ministers in Washington. We recognise that it is not very easy to work out these things with a number of States.
I should like to say a word or two now on another difficult problem—the participation of the German Federal Republic in the defence of the West. Today, the security of the Federal Republic against external aggression remains the responsibility of the Occupying Powers, and any armed attack on the occupying forces of those Powers will bring the Atlantic Treaty into play. In this connection, I must say that I am unable to envisage an armed attack from any quarter on territory under the control of the three Western Powers which would not involve the occupation forces of those Powers.
We hold the view that the eventual participation by Germany in the defence of Europe can be considered only within the framework of the common defence of the West. Clearly, this is a very difficult problem, and it will need careful consideration by all the parties. I prefer not to say any more on that point at the present time. [Laughter.] I do not know what is very funny when three Foreign Ministers—[Interruption.] If any of the hon. Members who laugh happen in due course of time to become Foreign Minister and are going to discuss certain problems in another country, they would 964 not be glad if the Prime Minister of the day anticipated them by making a statement beforehand.
I should like to refer to the problem of internal security. The Federal Chancellor has asked the Occupying Powers for authority to raise an armed Federal Police Force. There are strong reasons for this. The Federal Republic is constantly faced with the threat of Communist-inspired disorders provoked by propaganda from the East backed by the so-called People's Police in the Soviet zone. The existing police forces are not adequate either in numbers or organisation to deal with widespread disturbances, and it would be most undesirable if the occupation forces had to be diverted to the keeping of internal order. The Federal Government needs to have at its disposal some force which could act swiftly in an emergency. What is envisaged is a gendarmerie or mobile guard under proper democratic control, and not an embryo army. That, again, is a matter which is being discussed at the meeting in New York which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is attending.
I would not like to leave this part of my speech without referring to Commonwealth Defence. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence lately laid great stress on this point in his speech in the last Debate. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff recently paid a visit to Australia and New Zealand and carried out there a very full review of defence problems, both with Ministers and with their Service advisers. Later on this month we are to have a visit from Mr. Erasmus, the South African Defence Minister; we have also welcomed recently visits from Mr. Menzies and Mr. Spender which have given us the opportunity for further talks on defence problems. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence hopes to pay a short visit to Canada in the near future.
I would now like to say something of the effect of these proposals on our economic position, and what they will mean to the citizens of this country. The effect must be great and must cause some degree of hardship, because this added effort is not being undertaken by a country with a lot of spare capacity and with a lot of spare labour, as was the case when the rise of Hitler made it 965 necessary to rearm in the 1930's. We are having to rearm when we are devoting all our resources to rebuilding our economic position, and we have very few unemployed who can be brought in to increase our production. We have been working at full stretch and with good effect. Britain was paying her way for the first time since some years before the war. Along with our sterling area partners, we were in approximate dollar balance. We were, indeed, making some increase in our reserves. We had had some relaxation in the austerity imposed on us by our economic circumstances, and we were all looking forward to more. It is hard now to have to take steps which must mean some set-back to that recovery. The task before us is to provide for our Defence without injuring the economic strength and stability which is an essential basis of all Defence. This was recognised clearly by the United States Government in the note they sent to us wherein it was stated thatthe continuance of economic recovery in the near future, though possibly at a less rapid rate than heretofore, will be essential not only to the attainment of the broad objective, but to the attainment of the immediate objective of greater military strength.We started this year with a level of defence expenditure higher in terms of national income than that of any other of the Powers in the North Atlantic Treaty. Since then we have done, and are planning to do, much more from our own resources. There was first the July programme, then the increase in Service pay, and the first steps were taken in Civil Defence. We are reaching the limit of what we can do unaided without impairing our economic position. In particular, we have to consider always the problem of our balance of payments, especially of dollar payments. We are going ahead with a three-year programme, but as I have said, before we can decide the exact extent of our effort we must know what assistance will be forthcoming from the United States of America. The full utilisation of our capacity depends on aid from the United States in two forms—materials and components from dollar sources, and assistance to maintain our economic strength. Over the last month there have been constant discussions with the United States both directly and through the meeting of deputies of the Atlantic Powers in 966 London. Again, I am afraid I cannot report final conclusions because the talks are still going on. But in the meantime we are not hanging back; on the contrary, we are going forward with our programme.
I should like to give some indication of where in our economy this increased activity will fall. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Economic Affairs will, I hope, speak later in the Debate and be able to develop this part of the subject at greater length. But it is clear that the main weight of the additional production we are proposing to undertake must fall on the industries making capital goods, such as machinery, vehicles, ships, aircraft and electrical goods. Estimates are being made of the extent of that burden on each industry, but I cannot at this time be too precise. There are uncertain factors—the question of American aid, and there is also the working out of co-operation in the rearmament field with the various North Atlantic Treaty Powers, and that is not yet complete.
But one fact stands out quite clearly. Those industries which, as I have said, will be most affected account for over 40 per cent. of our export trade, while much of the rest of their production goes to essential home industries. It is indeed, precisely in this field that the competition between the needs of economic stability and of Defence is greatest. We shall require increases in the labour force in some directions, although I think that in shipbuilding the new orders will fill a gap which was beginning to show itself in unemployment. There will have to be restrictions in the home market; there cannot be an increase in the number of private cars available; there will be a decline in the provision of radio and television sets; a decline in the availability of various products of the engineering industry. There will be some demand on the textile, chemical, and building industries.
As to raw materials, it is not considered that there should be any serious shortages, but I would make a special appeal to all concerned in industry not to increase their stocks beyond their actual needs. If necessary, the Government will have to introduce control and allocation. We do not wish to do this unless it is absolutely necessary. We hope it can be avoided, but, if necessary, it will be done. 967 There will obviously, as the programme gathers momentum, be an increasing demand for labour, possibly amounting at the peak to an additional 250,000 workers engaged in armament production, but this increase will be gradual. There has also to be considered the withdrawal from civil employment of the additional men in the Armed Forces. There will have to be a diversion of labour from civil employment, but here every effort is being made to place the orders in areas where there is labour available. It is not possible right the way round, but wherever possible we shall put them in those areas where there is either unemployment or threatened unemployment. I am quite sure we shall need and get the goodwill and co-operation of employers and trade unionists in all these difficult adjustments.
It will be realised, of course, that other countries besides ourselves are increasing their defences, and the impact of all this is bound to affect the prices of raw materials and some equipment. While the gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area will probably benefit from the increased prices obtained for goods from the Colonial Empire and the Commonwealth, the overall effect will be adverse to the balance of payments position of the United Kingdom because of the higher prices we shall have to pay for our imports. On this general problem my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Economic Affairs will be speaking at greater length. I would only say that the maintenance of our economic stability depends on a continuance of the effectiveness of our export drive.
One of the effects of the situation will be an increase in the prices of our imports. That, I am afraid, is bound to have an effect on the cost of living. We shall be devoting to the production of war material energies which would otherwise be producing goods and services for civilian use. There will be fewer commodities available to meet the home demand unless we can increase production to fill the gap. We have, during these post-war years—I think it is generally recognised—seen a remarkable increase both in production and productivity. I do not think the possibilities of further advance have been entirely exhausted. With full co-operation by managers and men, I am sure they can do a great deal.
968 But everyone will realise that there is an increased danger of inflation and as much need as ever for restraint in increasing personal incomes. This applies not only to wages but to salaries and profits. We need the willing co-operation of all classes of the community to avoid the danger of an inflationary spiral. I recognise how much restraint has been shown and how greatly it has helped us. That policy of restraint has stood this country, and not least the workers of this country, in good stead.
I have noted the resolution passed by a small majority of the Trades Union Congress last week. I am sure that, in the difficult situation with which we shall be faced over the coming months, the country can rely upon the co-operation and moderation of the unions in pressing claims for wage advances. Equally, I am sure other sections of the community will show the same spirit. It is evident that these proposals are bound to affect the standard of life of the people of this country. It will be the object of the Government to ensure, by all the means in their power, that these burdens are fairly borne; but I should be deceiving the House if I were to suggest that these burdens will not affect everyone in this country.
There is one particular matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the question of our export of goods of potential significance for war purposes, which has been raised in various quarters. In particular, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition called attention to a complaint by Messrs. Craven Bros. I have made a statement on that, but I would like to deal with the matter at rather greater length. The export of arms from this country is subject to export licensing. It is controlled by the Government, and such exports are restricted to the Commonwealth and other friendly countries, with many of whom we have defence arrangements. A great deal of surplus arms was disposed of after the war, and there have also been sales of some newly-manufactured equipment, including aircraft no longer on the secret list. These sales were of advantage to us at the time as, without them, we could not, in the existing circumstances, have maintained the war potential which we required; and we are reaping the benefit now in the capacity available for our expanded programme.
§ Mr. Churchill
Let us get this clear. Is the right hon. Gentleman speaking about the sale of jet aeroplanes and saying that without that we could not hope to preserve our economic balance? I think that matter should be put very clearly.
§ The Prime Minister
Not without very heavy additional expenditure, which would have to be met by increased taxation, and I doubt if that would be welcomed by the other side of the House. In 1949 restrictions on the export of goods of strategic importance were increased, as announced to the House in February, 1949; but they were not applied to contracts placed before the new arrangements came into force. Some of the goods take a long time to produce, and some orders placed before that date have not yet been completed. These restrictions have been kept under constant review, in consultation with friendly Powers, and during the past few weeks we have been re-examining the whole matter in the light of the international situation and of our own needs.
We have to take account also of the position of our friends and allies, to whom we have obligations. The House may be certain that wherever it is necessary to ensure the availability of goods needed for our increased war effort or for that of our friends in the North Atlantic Treaty organisation, or, of course, in the Commonwealth, the requisite action has been and will be taken. There is one further matter to which I should like to draw attention. A number of manufacturers have recently sought advice—
§ Mr. Churchill
Are the big boring machines that were to be made for Soviet Russia by Craven Brothers, which have not yet been completed but which were ordered before the restrictions, to be sent still on their destination or not?
§ The Prime Minister
I am having inquiries made about these particular machines, but I am informed they are not for Soviet Russia. I am not sure, but I am told they are for Poland. [Laughter.] It does not make any difference whatever except this—if hon. Members wait for one moment. As a matter of fact, what we are sending to Poland is subject to a particular agree- 970 ment. The terms of that agreement have to be looked at very closely. It is not exactly on the same level. It does make a difference what exactly the terms are. We are looking at them and if we need that boring machine, it will be retained in this country; but, as a matter of fact, it is not due for completion for some months yet. We are looking very fully into that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not have looked before now?"] We have not the information on everything that has been ordered long ahead. If, however, there are any other points on that, I am sure my right hon. Friend will be pleased to answer specific points. Perhaps it would come better in the course of the Debate than at the end of what I am afraid has been an unduly long speech.
Recently, manufacturers have sought the advice of the Government Departments concerned about inquiries for unusual quantities of material not at present subject to export control but which might be helpful to the North Korean Forces in their military activities. In some cases the manufacturers concerned have been advised not to accept these orders. We are anxious to do all we can to prevent the export of such goods as are likely to reach North Korea. It is, therefore, desirable, to obviate subsequent difficulties, that manufacturers and traders receiving such inquiries should consult the Departments concerned before making quotations.
I should like to make one general observation on this matter. It is not easy to know exactly where to draw the line between goods designed to meet civilian needs and those which may increase war potential. There are extreme views which I do not share. We are engaged in an effort to prevent war. Our object is to convince disrupters of the peace that agression will not be allowed to proceed, and to persuade all nations that the way to prosperity and happiness is through cooperation and friendly intercourse. Our trade with Eastern Europe has benefited us and them. We have had very welcome supplies of feeding stuffs and timber. We are not in a period of total war. We are engaged in building up defences for peace. There was in yesterday's "Times" an extremely well-balanced leader on this subject which I commend to the notice of hon. Members.
971 I have endeavoured to give the House as full an account as I could of the measures for which we are asking approval. I have stated what we hope to achieve in the strengthening of our Forces. I have tried to show how what we are doing forms part of a collective effort by the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty to prevent aggression, wherever it may appear. My right hon. Friend will supplement what I have said and make good omissions, but I would repeat, yet again, that the Forces which are being raised are designed to preserve peace. They threaten no one. They register the firm determination of democracy to preserve its way of life. Today I ask with confidence for the full support of the nation and of this House for these proposals.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
We shall on this side, of course, support the Motion which you have just read, Sir. We shall vote for it and we shall help to resist any Amendment which may be moved to it. We shall also support the Bill to extend the length of military service which is to be introduced. Several points may well arise upon that Bill for discussion in Committee, but I should hope that it can be passed through this House, certainly without any hindrance if not, indeed, in a single day.
I shall not on this occasion ask that any of our Debates should be in Secret Session. I just mention this to relieve any anxiety that may prevail on the benches opposite. Looking around, I cannot on this occasion spy any strangers participating in our debates. I must, however, make it clear that our approval of the Prime Minister's Motion is not a vote of confidence in the Government. We could not, on this side of the House, give a vote of confidence in the present Administration, least of all in its handling of military affairs. Although in all questions where the safety of the country is concerned we continue to give our support to His Majesty's Government, it must not be supposed that we are in any way ready to share their responsibility, such as it is, for the present condition of our affairs. We recognise that Ministers are by no means wholly responsible for the situation in which we all now lie. They have made many needless mistakes, 972 but much that has happened has been outside their control.
Both Governments and Oppositions have responsibilities to discharge, but they are of a different order. The Government, with their whole control over our executive power, have the burden and the duty—and we can all see that it is a very heavy one—to make sure that the safety of the country is provided for; the shape, formation and direction of policy is in their hands alone.
The responsibilities of the Opposition are limited to aiding the Government in the measures which we agree are required, for national safety and also to criticising and correcting, so far as they can, any errors and shortcomings which may be apparent, but the Opposition are not responsible for proposing integrated and complicated measures of policy. Sometimes we do, but it is not our obligation. In voting for what the Government propose, which we are going to do on this occasion, we in no way limit our right and duty to comment with the fullest freedom upon their policy and the course of events.
The Prime Minister has appealed to us for national unity on Defence. That does not mean national unity on mismanagement of Defence. In our view, which I shall endeavour to sustain, the present Government, although right minded on essentials, have shown themselves conspicuously lacking in forethought, conviction and design. It was never in their power, as I have most frankly declared, to prevent the sombre deterioration of our affairs which has resulted from the Russian-Communist aggression upon so many countries and the poisoning or infection of so many more.
We are in full accord with the Labour Party, as I call them on occasions when I am in a good humour with them, in their resistance to Communism in all its manifestations. We can hardly compete with the Prime Minister in the language he uses on this subject, but we rejoice with them that the Trades Union Congress should have so decisively ranged itself, as was only to be expected by those who understand the solid qualities of British trade unionism, with the unaltering and unflinching defence of the free way of life of the Western parliamentary democracies. A vote was given last week 973 at Brighton—I think the Prime Minister referred to it—which ranges the overwhelming mass of the British trade unionists with His Majesty's Government and also with the Conservative and Liberal Parties—[Interruption]—these last two, for all the jeers and mockery of hon. Members, comprising a majority of nearly two million of our people, according to the recent election.
In giving faithful and fearless support to the United Nations organisation in confronting totalitarian tyranny, whether it wears the garb of Communism, Nazism, Fascism, or Russian Imperialism—on these supreme issues Britain can indeed present a united front, not only for this island but for our sister nations throughout the British Empire and Commonwealth. However grave our differences are in domestic matters or however sharp must be our criticisms of ministerial handling of affairs, that is the message of unity which we are resolved to send at this juncture from the House of Commons to the world.
Having made this clear, I will give the House a short narrative of what has happened, so far as I am aware, since we separated six weeks ago. We had then received from the Minister of Defence a most serious statement of the immense preponderance—seven or eight to one—of the Soviet forces in active divisions, in organised armour and in air power over the Western allies in Europe. The Government proposed that we should spend £100 million on additional preparations for defence and this was, of course, accepted, so far as it went. However, five days after we parted the Prime Minister asked me to come and see him and read to me the text of the statement which was to be published the next morning on an entirely new and greatly enlarged defence policy, namely, the three years' plan involving an additional expenditure of £1,100 million. Quick work, it seemed to me.
After this interview I wrote him a letter dated 6th August—before I had to go to Strasbourg—thanking him for informing me of the measures which he was now taking in concert with the United States, and saying:We shall give our support to all measures proposed by the Government which we ourselves deem necessary for national defence. This cannot, however, limit in any way the right and duty of the Opposition to criticise, 974 either in public or secret Debate, the existing state of our defences, or the rate and methods with which the necessary increases are to be effected. However, we do not, of course, know anything about the Government's new plan, except what has now been published. It is certain that we are in a condition of great danger, and that surprisingly little practical results have followed from the immense outlay of money and control of manpower used by the Government during recent years. It seems to me and to those of my colleagues I have been able to consult that Parliament should be called together if possible before the end of August. I propose to hold a meeting of my colleagues on or about 15th August, and it is probable that we shall then make a formal request for the recall of Parliament.We were impelled to think of the steps made possible by the very full assurances given by the Lord President of the Council before we separated.
In the note which I enclosed to the Prime Minister on the military position—and it is that military aspect with which we are dealing today—I said:I do not myself see how the British contribution can be achieved without holding existing men with the Colours and increasing the length of service. The urgent need is to form efficient combatant units, of which we have hardly any at the present time. Should the Government bring forward well-conceived measures of this kind, I should recommend the Opposition to support them both in Parliament and in the country.That is what I wrote before I knew of the decision that the length of service was to be extended. That is what we now propose to do, and I hope the assurance given was of assistance to the Government in the extremely difficult problems which they are called upon now to face, and about which, of course, they have to agree among themselves.
I must say that it looks as if a meeting of Parliament in the last week of August would have given the Prime Minister a very appropriate and convenient opportunity for presenting not only his new proposals for the increase of our military expenditure to £1,100 million under the three years' plan but also for telling Parliament of the Government's decision to prolong compulsory National Service from 18 months to two years, as well as the welcome statement, so long pressed for on this side of the House, of the increase in the pay of the Regular Forces. However, the Prime Minister, without any further contact, even through the usual channels, announced the recall of Parliament for today, 12th September. So here we are.
975 This was an emergency recall, and it seemed odd to announce it nearly a month before, and with such timing as to make it necessary that the important declaration of the lengthening of the period of National Service should be given over a broadcast rather than presented, according to normal constitutional practice, to the House of Commons.
But these are not large matters. [Interruption.] Still, after all, Parliamentary usage is something which is quite important to consider. I repeat, these are not large matters compared with the vast and glowering facts by which we are encircled. I put them to the House only to illustrate the sudden and inconsequent changes in Government policy which are now before us.
Why was it that, when we were last gathered here, we were offered the £100 million plan whereas a few days later this was superceded by the three years' £1,100 million plan? What happened in the interval to make such a sweeping change desirable? I gather from the Prime Minister's speech that the Americans appealed to us to take some further action. But surely all these matters should have been well known and familiar to a Government who have been for over five years in office? Surely we do not need the prompting of a foreign country, however friendly, to show us where our duty lies? What happened, I say? Why was it that only, perhaps, a fortnight elapsed after Parliament rose before the new, formidable decision was taken, namely, to prolong the period of National Service?
When we were last together the Minister of Defence told how completely undecided the Government were, when he said:In present circumstances, we are not satisfied that an increase in the period of whole-time National Service would solve our problem. But this is a matter we intend to keep under constant review."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 478.]That was only a fortnight before this tremendous change was proposed and put forward and given to the nation. All we were told at that time was that we must keep the matter under continuous review. I may refer to that phrase about keeping things "under continuous review" a little later. What happened, I ask, to make so 976 complete a change of plan in the military structure of our country necessary?
This is the kind of quick, impulsive change in the dominating issues of our Defence policy which makes it difficult to have confidence that our vital affairs are being conducted in accordance with any clear and persistent theme. What new facts, I ask again, had arisen between our separation for the Recess and the £1,100 million plan? All right: it is said America appealed to us. What new facts had arisen between the declaration of this plan and the declaration of the lengthened service and the other proposals which form the subject of the Prime Minister's Motion today? Surely, these are fair and, indeed, unavoidable questions? I do not feel that the Prime Minister has given any adequate answer to them in his speech today.
But this is not merely a matter of the last few weeks. I do not know of any great change in the balance of world power or the imminence of world danger that has occurred since the dark day when the Government informed us that the Russian Communist Government had gained possession of the secret of the atomic bomb and led us to believe they had produced it. But this was a year ago. It is quite true that the Soviet-impelled aggression in Korea, and the vehement and valiant action of the United States, in pursuance of the United Nations mandate, and the fierce and enlarging war now proceeding in Korea, had made everyone realise and pay attention to dangers which were quite well known to those who follow these matters, and were certainly well known to His Majesty's Government.
The dread balance has not been changed. It is only that the flare of actual war in one distant theatre—out of several that may be opened—has broken upon the public. But the Government must have had the whole picture before them for two years past or three years past. As I have said, it is for five years they have been studying all these matters—with responsibility and power.
If the Motion before us this afternoon had been made two years ago, how much better off we should be at this moment. The facts disclosed by the Minister of Defence, before we adjourned, about the position in Europe did not spring into existence overnight; they must have been known to the Prime Minister and 977 his principal colleagues long ago. The war in Korea has only made the ordinary people in many lands understand what must have been plainly visible, nay, obvious, to those who were entrusted with the sacred duty of guarding their safety and who had all the knowledge that was available.
Why, then, were the necessary measures not proposed in good time? That is another question to which I cannot feel that the Prime Minister has given us any answer this afternoon or in his broadcast; but then, no doubt, he was occupied with more important topics. It is quite true that, unhappily, in this country we are deeply divided about internal politics and that first-class issues affecting the whole character of our country and its economic life are raised thereby. But the Socialist Government have been in a position of great advantage compared with other British Governments we have experienced. Compare their position, for instance, to that of the Baldwin and Chamberlain Governments before the war—[Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite had better listen to what I have to say, then they will know which side to cheer.
The present Socialist Government have known that they could rely upon the whole-hearted support of His Majesty's Opposition, comprising both the other parties in the State, in any steps they might think it necessary to take for national defence, and international duty. At any time they could propose, with the certainty of our support, unpopular steps. They knew quite well that the Conservative Party in the last Parliament, as in this, would vote with them if, for instance, they demanded a prolongation of National Service, and would not vote against them, as the Prime Minister led the Socialist Party into doing on the same issue four months before the outbreak of the Second World War. I hope they will not indulge further in that propaganda of "Guilty men" which has played so large a part in their platform talks in recent years. Such discrepancies of conduct—I can hardly use a milder term—will not affect our action or the course we are bound now to take in the national interest. But they cannot be, and ought not to be, excluded from our minds in judging the record and character of the present Administration.
This indecision and these sudden changes, without any new material facts, 978 in what ought to be long-term policies and, shall I say, "supra-party issues"—I am always willing to endeavour to throw myself into the mood of those who, at any rate, we shall be supporting on this question—this indecision and these sudden changes have aggravated the inevitable perils and burdens of the position to which, with the nation's eyes at last opened, we have now come. That is why, in supporting the Motion now before us, we do not in any way absolve the Government from the just censure which lies upon them for their conduct of affairs.
Let me turn to another and more precise aspect of this indecision and hesitancy in regard to fateful but also simple issues. On 27th June, the United Nations organisation declared the Soviet-impelled invasion of South Korea to be an act of aggression and called upon all its members to render support to the United States in resisting it. Accordingly, British warships and some local air squadrons were very rightly ordered to participate. But when, after nearly a month, the Government made up their minds to send a military force from this country to stand in line with the Americans, the question arises: Why had they not been able to send it out before? It certainly was what is called an "eye-opener" to the vast majority of our people that, after all the money and control of manpower and control of administrative arrangements that the Government have enjoyed for five years, it should take months to organise even a strong brigade group from this country. It is not ready yet.
I thought myself that a token force should have been provided much earlier from Hong Kong and replaced by reinforcements of troops from this country, who need not be capable of going immediately into battle, but who would rapidly mature and fill the gap in the Hong Kong garrison. But the Government decided otherwise. Let me ask the Prime Minister a question: What was the date when he changed his mind and decided to send a force from Hong Kong to Korea? What was the date?
§ The Prime Minister
I am afraid that I have not that date with me. I did explain in a broadcast that the original request was that we should send a balanced force, and stress was not laid on sending them immediately; but, subsequently, we 979 had an urgent request to which we at once responded by sending a force from Hong Kong.
§ Mr. Churchill
It certainly was a great surprise to me, and I am sure also to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and to the Leader of the Liberal Party. [Interruption.] I hope that members of the Liberal Party all over the country will take note of that cry of derision. No one counts at all except those who are managed by the Labour caucus; no one else counts at all, yet they come forward appealing for national support and unity.
It was a great surprise to us after our interview with the Prime Minister on 16th August to learn on 20th August that a force was to be sent from Hong Kong. The Prime Minister does not remember what was the date of the decision, but, at any rate, I have given him fairly limited brackets in which he will be able to make his further investigations.
§ The Prime Minister
I cannot quite make out what is the right hon. Gentleman's special point about this date. What is he hanging on the date that is so important? I have told him the facts.
§ Mr. Churchill
I am hanging on it the fact that these great matters which are continually before us and before the nation appear to swing about between one day and another, almost upon caprice, at the hands of the Government.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has more experience in conducting military affairs than anyone in this House. He has been accustomed, no doubt, to receiving advice from those who are responsible for running a campaign. The campaign in Korea is being run by the Americans. We respond to their requests, and if the request changes from what it was before, it is not the fault of His Majesty's Government. We have responded to the request made to us.
§ Mr. Churchill
No, Sir. I do not feel that that is so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I think the Americans are bitterly disappointed. [Interruption.] Why is the Prime Minister's colleague shouting? He does not know anything about it. That is my personal view. I do not mind noise in the least. Please go on, although we 980 gave the Prime Minister a very silent and patient hearing.
It is my personal view that the Government and their military advisers, having rejected this project for many weeks, suddenly made a right-about turn and did what they had hitherto declared to be impossible. There was really nothing new in the situation, except perhaps the growing disappointment of the United States that we were so long in sending them anything from anywhere. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] The tangled story of sending and delaying sending, and changing of plans in the method of sending, what could only be a token force, and rightly could only be a token force, to Korea, is a culminating example of the incapacity to take decisions and of living from day to day, which casts its shadow on all our military affairs at a time when small-scale issues are sharp and urgent, and when potentially mortal perils gather their clouds around.
Now let me speak of another aspect. I do not think it will be any more agreeable to hon. Members opposite. Let me speak of another aspect, not so much of indecision as of disconnection in policy—I mean the continued exportation of machine tools and other appliances to Soviet Russia and Poland. Our British industries are very short of machine tools. Diesel engines, electrical plant, and many other kindred high-grade manufactures have been pumped out of this country in the last few years although they are greatly needed at home. This was done in the name of dollar balances or in unrequited exports. The sending away of machine tools which are needed here at a time like this is like selling the seed corn in the lean years, which in bygone days was regarded as an unwise thing to do.
We see the same kind of want of foresight, the same defective sense of values and proportion, which I have already mentioned in the military sphere, the same system and habit of indecision in this question of the export of machine tools as we have seen in the military sphere. Of course, the crowning example is the sale of hundreds of jet aeroplanes which were needed so imperatively for our own self-defence and security. The Prime Minister has referred to it today, and perhaps the party opposite will allow me to comment on his remarks. He said, out of doors, that this is an "old story." But 981 there has never been a satisfactory answer to it.
One hundred and ten jet aeroplanes were sold or given to Egypt, and what we read in the papers seems to show that it has not at all improved their good feeling towards us. Fancy sending them away. Then, 100 to the Argentine. These are sent away at a time when our auxiliary air forces are hopelessly lacking and eagerly longing for these machines. The right hon. Gentleman said that it would have upset all our financial and economic arrangements, or words to that effect. What nonsense. The aeroplanes that were sold to the Argentine were, I believe, credited for about £2 million or £3 million. We are dealing with a Budget for which we voted £700 million or £800 million, and now we come forward into these colossal figures. This £2 million or £3 million, for an absolutely vital asset which we require, is brought up as a reason for this very gross neglect.
The Government have now, according to the broadcast of the Prime Minister, definitely decided that any machine tools, no matter how vital their war potential, which have been ordered by Soviet Russia or its satellites before the British restrictive regulations of 18 months ago, must, when made, be delivered to Soviet Russia. I have heard a lot of vague language from the Prime Minister, but I could not see anything which countered or contradicted that quite definite assertion he made in his broadcast.
§ The Prime Minister
What I said was that the machinery and tools were being delivered in respect of contracts already entered into, and the statement made in 1949—I think in February—by the President of the Board of Trade to this House was that that was the practice we were following. I did not say that if at the present time we required these we should not step in and take them over. I was referring to what the practice was then. As a matter of fact, a whole lot of trading goes on which is outside the control of the Government.
§ Mr. Churchill
It is very extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should take 982 the tremendous step of proposing a £1,100 million three-year plan, announcing to the country the lengthening of service from 18 months to two years, and no one in the Government should have seen that at some time a stoppage should have been put on vital military materials leaving this country. No, Sir, what I gathered from what the right hon. Gentleman said led me to preserve this particular phrase: "The matter is to be kept under continuous review."
Surely, if the Government's view is maintained this altogether ignores the position. These tools take a long time to make, and the British machine tool industry has for years been pressed with orders which it can only fulfil in sequence. There is an endless queue of orders for machine tools, and only comparatively few firms and craftsmen can make them. We have now reached the point where vital war-making materials are to be sent in an increasing flow for some time from this country to Soviet Russia. We think that is wrong and ought to be stopped. It is surprising that the Government, in other directions so prone to retrospective legislation, should find themselves puristically and pedantically hampered in the matter of war materials when an entirely new situation has arisen and become acute.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was endeavouring to stop certain materials being actually sent to North Korea which would help the North Koreans to shoot down our soldiers. We should all approve of a step of that character. The Prime Minister can commit himself to it without any fear that he would be severely criticised in the House. It is intolerable to think that our troops today should be sent into action at one end of the world while we are supplying, or are about to supply, if not actual weapons of war, the means to make weapons of war to those who are trying to kill them or get them killed.
I was astonished when I was told what was going on. I was astounded by the attitude that the Prime Minister has taken. I should think that the feeling of the great majority of those in this House would be that no more machine tools of a war-making character and no more machines or engines which could be used for war-making purposes should be sent from this country to Soviet 983 Russia or the Soviet satellite nations while the present tension continues. I do not intend to go into details this afternoon, though they are all available and can be produced if there is any challenge. I do not suggest that this is done out of any ill-will on the part of the Government. It is only another example of the disconnection between the various Departments arising from lack of grip and control.
§ Mr. Churchill
No, I will not give way; I must endeavour to get on.
I will return to the purely military aspect of this Motion, for which we intend to vote. The arguments for it are very strong. The imposition in time of peace of 18 months' compulsory service was a severe departure from our past customs, and a heavy burden on our people. The Government deserve credit for having discharged their duty in this respect. However, as has now been realised on both sides of the House, a period of 18 months was singularly awkward for our affairs. It gave us a very heavy burden for a very small result in combatant units. It is true that a great reserve of well-trained men for the Territorial Army is being built up, and I wonder that the Prime Minister did not emphasise that a little more, because certainly, it will be a very different kind of Territorial Army filled with men who have served 18 months in the ranks. It is being built up, and if the other elements are provided, this gives a strong foundation for military defensive power after a considerable interval.
But the need of producing a number of effective combat units speedily, and maintaining them abroad or on the continent of Europe—not quite the same thing in my opinion—is most unhandily met by a period of 18 months' service. Our Regular formations are drained and also burdened by the need of training the large flow of recruits coming in throughout the year. I presume the Minister of Defence will look into the question of whether they are called fortnightly throughout the year or at longer intervals. I am not sufficiently informed to make up my mind.
We lose our men just at the period when they really are useful for foreign 984 service and for fighting formations. Our considerable sacrifice has given us the worst of both worlds. Clear thinking and clear policy on this question have, no doubt, been hampered by the harsh conditions of political and party strife which, however regrettable, now exists between us. There is no doubt that the proposal of this Motion for two years' compulsory service and a well-paid Regular Army will, if properly applied, bring a swift, solid and substantial increase in our defensive power. It ought to be possible under this system rapidly to build up a very good Army if the weapons are found for them.
There will be a marked improvement even in the next six months if, instead of reaching a discord at a great cost, we reach a harmony for a somewhat heavier period. There can be no doubt that this is a wise measure, and also that in spite of all its difficulties, it ought to have been taken before. All of us hate the idea of another war. Is there anyone in this island who can think of any country that we wish to attack or invade? But we must make ourselves capable of serving the great cause to which we have pledged our faith, and in which our own survival is also directly involved.
There can, therefore, be no question, so far as we here on this side of the House are concerned, that this measure should go through, and if the Government gain credit for it—however belated it may be—so much the better for them. We need not at this time grudge anybody the credit of doing anything, anywhere, anyhow for anyone. That is the position to which he have got today. The military chiefs should in my opinion be held strictly responsible for making the best use of the extraordinary, unprecedented measures of State which are being taken to help them in their task.
The Prime Minister has spoken, not today but out of doors, scornfully about a European army—apparently, it would have been all right if I had said "a European defence force"—and about the Germans being included in our Western defence system. Where does he stand about these matters now? Are they being discussed? No, they are being kept under continuous review. Where does he stand about these matters? Is he still opposed to Germans being armed as a part of 985 the Western defence forces or as part of an armed German police force; or does he still think the only Germans to be armed are the Communist Germans, whom the Soviets have formed into a powerful army in the Russian zone? Again, I think the right hon. Gentleman was very guarded and very obscure when he said he was keeping the matter under review, and what he said about the Germans was so very vague that one could hardly understand it. Still I must say that I was encouraged on both these points, and I feel that the normal process of belated conversion to the obvious is still steadily going forward.
Let me here say, again, that the fact that the liberated German representatives voted at Strasbourg for sending a quota to a European army, while not seeking to raise a national army of their own, is a most helpful fact, and has been so regarded throughout Europe and the United States. This has rendered it far easier for the French to welcome them and for the closing of a thousand-year quarrel in the historic gesture of French and German soldiers standing in the line together against the Russian-Communist aggression and menace.
I feel sure that all this process of bringing the Germans back into the family of united Europe and enabling them to take a part in a European army or European defence force for the defence of freedom and civilisation—for which some of us on this side of the House have worked so hard for several years—has been helpful not only to the free world but even to the British Socialist Government. The Prime Minister should welcome it instead of discouraging or even disparaging it. But whatever his feelings may be he would be wise to accept it, because a European army with a strong German quota is going to be formed quite quickly and very soon—that is to say, if we are given the time. That is a fact that none can challenge or deny.
I have never seen an occasion when what is going on in Europe generally is more uncertain and what we ought to do is more clear. Never was the future more inscrutable and never was our policy and duty more plain. We have to form, as fast as possible, a European army of at least 60 or 70 divisions to make some sort of front in Europe to close what 986 I have called "the hideous gap" in the protection of Western Europe from a Russian-Communist onrush to the sea. For this purpose every nation still enjoying freedom from totalitarian tyranny should make extreme exertions. Each of the countries ruled by parliamentary democracies must dedicate their quota of divisions. Since these matters were last debated in this House, in March, the French have resolved to contribute 20 divisions, I understand, but it may be 15 divisions. I rejoice to see the famous French Army lift itself again into the vanguard of freedom.
There should certainly be 10 divisions from the United States, two or three from Canada and six or eight from this island. I must say that the suggestion of three from Germany and 1½ or two available here does not seem to me to be a proportionate contribution, even making allowance for the fact that although we have got rid of India we have still important obligations to meet in tropical countries. I do not think that that should be accepted as a full and complete contribution on our part. Germany and Italy should also contribute eight or 10 divisions apiece and the Benelux countries, comprising ancient and characteristic States, at least four more. Then there is Scandinavia. So here are 60 or 70 divisions which can be produced and organised.
§ Mr. Churchill
Hon. Members opposite are laughing at their own Government for seeking to lead them into doing something right, for once.
If such an army can be deployed on our gaping Eastern front, the greatest danger of a third world war in the next three or four years will be substantially diminished, if not indeed removed. We shall become free from the present horrible plight in which the American possession of measureless superiority in the atomic bomb is our only safeguard against what might well be the ruin of the world. This will undoubtedly give the Western democracies the best chance of securing the return to the normal relationships of States and nations. Whether we shall have time or not, no one can tell. There are two factors which we cannot measure, let alone control, either of which may 987 prove decisive. They are the following: first, the calculations and designs of the Soviet autocracy in the Kremlin, and, secondly, the anger of the people in the United States at the treatment they are receiving and the burden they have to bear. Neither of these is within our control.
It is my firm conviction that while there is a real, solid hope of building up an effective European army the United States will forbear, and that while American superiority in atomic warfare casts its strange but merciful shield over the free peoples the Soviet oligarchy will be deterred from launching out upon the most frightful of world wars yet waged in this unhappy and distraught world. It may well be that the vast masses of human beings, who ask for so little, but only to be let alone and enjoy the fruits of peaceful toil and raise their children in the hope of a decent and improving future, can still be rescued from the melancholy and frightful fate which has seemed to be, and now seems to be, closing in upon them.
We cannot control, and no one nation can control, the march of destiny, but we can at least do our part. It is because the Motion now before us offers a minor but none the less considerable makeweight to the peaceful settlement of world affairs that we on this side of the House, Conservatives and Liberals alike, will give it our united and resolute support.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The Prime Minister, in the opening passages of his speech, thought fit to make an apology for the length of time he thought the speech might occupy. There was no need whatever to apologise. It was not only right and proper but necessary that a full review should be given by the Prime Minister of the situation as he sees it and of the proposals which he is putting forward on behalf of the Government for dealing with that situation. I should like also to add that I agree with the Prime Minister that it is indeed tragic that after two world wars the people who cherish their own freedom should still be held up to ransom and still be threatened with devastation and war. It is, in my view, a crime against humanity that is being perpetrated by these aggressors.
Without a doubt the international situation has deteriorated, and gravely, during 988 the last three months. The invasion of forces armed, trained and equipped by Russia, from North Korea into South Korea was, and remains, an act of deliberate, premeditated aggression, which could not be allowed, and fortunately has not been allowed, to pass unchallenged. We must realise that the battle between aggressors and defenders of freedom is being fought out now, and that that battle must be fought out to the point where the aggressor has to admit that aggression cannot succeed and is certain to be met with the full resistance of the free nations of the world.
The aggressor, at all times, hopes for a quick victory and a short war. He plans in secret and builds up huge forces, regardless of the cost, so as to achieve this quick success. The aggressor knows also that the free democracies act independently and are reluctant at all times to spend vast sums of money on armaments; so he relies on his own preparedness and the unpreparedness of his victims, in order to secure that quick victory. The aggressors of 1914 and again of 1939 relied on those factors. I believe that Russia is relying upon them today.
So, since 25th June, it has become clear beyond doubt that we have two worlds instead of one world—the one free, peaceful world—that we all desired. There is, on the one hand, the world dominated and enslaved by the men of the Kremlin who would extend their power, as the Prime Minister very rightly said, over all of us. There is, on the other hand, the free world, the nations who answered the call so readily when it was made by the Security Council. Moscow is determined to push forward her boundaries until all of us are engulfed. That is the declared policy of Lenin and of Stalin—to push forward ruthlessly that policy, through slaughter and through war.
The question that has dominated all out minds is: Can a third world war be avoided? I think, I believe and I hope that it can. I am, however, convinced that the only hope for peace is for the free nations of the world to unite, to make themselves strong and present to the aggressor a united, powerful and unconquerable defence. We of the free nations must make it abundantly clear that any attempt to settle international disputes by aggression will be met by force, and a combined force of all of us which will 989 be incapable of defeat. No one of us can offer in this mutual aid, for the defence of each and all of us, anything less than the maximum that we can put forward.
World war and further acts of aggression can be prevented only when we have done this, and that is recognised as a fact by Moscow. Then, I believe, we can for the first time talk to the Kremlin upon equal terms. We have in the past made it clear, and shall continue to make it clear, to Moscow and her satellites that if there is any indication from any of them that they are willing to settle disputes peacefully and amicably, they will at once be met by maximum goodwill and a desire for co-operation on our part.
I have said that in these circumstances each one of us must contribute the maximum to the common Defence, and therefore the question arises of what is the maximum strength that this country can contribute. Obviously, as the Prime Minister very rightly said, we must maintain a fair balance between what we can contribute towards Defence and what is needed to uphold ourselves in a sound economic position. Already there are ominous signs of an increased inflationary pressure. I hope that the Government will take control of that, and take control quickly, before it goes too far.
The atmosphere today is charged with urgency. There are needed, and needed quickly, for the Army operational divisions, for the Navy more submarines forces and more mine-sweepers and for the Air Force more fighter and bomber squadrons. We need these as quickly as possible, and we need better and larger air defence and a Civil Defence which will give us home protection. At last the Government have recognised that in order to have an efficient fighting organisation in all the Services they must be based on long-term Regular volunteers. We on these Benches said that over three years ago, and we were right, and now the Government are admitting that we were right.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Did not the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends vote against conscription?
§ Mr. Davies
We did. If the Government and the House had not only listened to us but followed the advice that we then 990 gave, we should not have been in this predicament today. We urged the Government then to give better pay and improved conditions—
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind my interrupting, but it would be very unfair for him to suggest that he was the only person who had suggested that. Speaking from these benches on behalf of the Opposition at least three Defence Debates before the right hon. and learned Gentleman even mentioned the matter, I asked for higher pay for the Forces. If he wishes to take credit to himself, I hope he will include a few of us, humble as we may be, in that credit.
§ Mr. Davies
If the noble Lord would listen, he would realise that I did not say "I." I said "we." Moreover, even before the right hon. Gentleman raised it, we as a party had put it forward. We were considering this before the war ended. We had actually formed a committee in 1944 to consider what should be done so that the Regular volunteer forces might be maintained. Moreover, we were emphasising the need for this as the method which would best provide the right force, instead of relying upon conscription.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be kind enough to tell us whether his party has changed its attitude to conscription since the General Election?
§ Mr. Davies
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue and to make my speech in my own way. I am coming to other reasons which I think are the right ones today. I always prefer to state my reasons first, and my conclusions are then based upon them. We urged the Government at that time to give better pay and improved conditions to the Regular volunteers—in short, to do what the White Paper says the Government propose to do, to offer them terms which are not only commensurate with but will compare favourably with what men might expect to get in civil life. Neither the Government nor the House, in spite of the assistance which I might have had from the noble Lord at that time, paid much attention to our arguments—
§ Earl Winterton
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been good enough 991 to refer to me, may I say that I am looking forward to that portion of his speech in which he explains why he and his party, including that celebrated soldier, Colonel Byers, were opposed to conscription two years ago and are now voting for it.
§ Mr. Davies
If the noble Lord will just wait, he will realise what I am saying. Today the Government are proposing to do what we asked them to do in the spring of 1947 and we have therefore lost three years in building up what is now recognised to be our best defence. The figures speak for themselves. They are set out in the White Paper. The number joining the Forces voluntarily on normal Regular or short-term bounty engagements was 95,000 in 1947, 67,000 in 1948 and 53,300 in 1949; and the Government knew that the whole time and took no other steps whatsoever to increase the numbers until this month. They now admit that the figures for the first six months of this year show a continued downward trend. Of course, we welcome the scales which are now set out in Command Paper 8027. Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) wish to say anything? Does he object to the White Paper?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Not in the least. I did not intend to interrupt, but since the right hon. and learned Gentleman invites me to do so, I would point out that in those days he was saying, "Let us have a Regular volunteer Army, and in order to get it let us pay proper wages. If we do that we shall not need conscription." Today he is getting that, and now he is going to vote for conscription.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman seems most anxious to anticipate what I am going to say. So far, I have dealt with the increase of pay and the need for improved conditions so that men can be encouraged to volunteer because they will have terms which are commensurate with what they might get in civil life, and I have said that I welcome the White Paper and these proposals. We hope and believe that those increased emoluments will attract recruits, and I sincerely trust that they will bring in the full quota of what is required. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] No one seems to object to that. The aim should be to build up in the 992 shortest possible time efficient Regular Fighting Forces perfectly trained and perfectly equipped. I hope that this is the true aim of the Government. I believe that that aim would have been achieved by this year had they adopted in 1947 what they are now proposing in September, 1950. Otherwise why put forward these proposals now? Unless they expect them to be successful, they should not put them forward. Why did they not put them forward in 1947?
Now I come to the other proposal, the one about which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and the noble Lord seemed to worry—the extending of the period of conscription from 18 months to two years. As those hon. Members who have interrupted me already know, we opposed conscription in 1947 and again in 1948. We did so because we preferred the other method?
§ Mr. Davies
The voluntary method, with improved terms. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not think that the improved terms were given in 1947. We preferred the voluntary method with improved terms which the Government have now adopted. I would remind the House that conscription was then also in force as an unfinished legacy from the war, and when the Government were asked by us to increase and improve the terms so as to get the volunteers in, they had at least two years in which to build up the Regular Forces, because at the beginning of 1947 the period of conscription was two years, so that they would have had that period with these improved terms in which to build up their Regular Forces.
We dislike conscription in time of peace. We were of opinion then, and are of opinion now, that we should rely for our defence upon Regular volunteer forces, and I hope it is the true view of the Government as a whole—I am afraid it is not the view of some individual Members of the Government—that they do not intend to rely upon conscription as the basis of our defence system. There is some indication of this in the White Paper and in some remarks which the Prime Minister made, but I should like to have a definite assurance, either from him or from the Minister of Defence, that they will not rely upon conscription as the 993 true basis of the defence of this country. The position today is that since 1947 the Government have relied on conscription to provide the men, and it is only now, at this moment of extreme urgency, that they have turned to the method of trying to get the volunteers with improved conditions.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I should like to get the position clear. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously maintain that the Government can get all the required forces by recruiting Regulars, and that they can get the millions of men we need in the Reserve in that way?
§ Mr. Davies
Everyone is so anxious to anticipate what I am about to say. I must take the matter step by step and point by point, and I am now coming to the very question the hon. Gentleman is asking. The answer was given by the Prime Minister. It will take time to build up the Regular Forces to the size required. Of course, it will. Having relied upon conscription and not put forward these improved conditions in 1947, having wasted three years, the Government cannot possibly expect the men to come forward overnight. What is more, in 1947 I pointed out to the House that though conscription may be imposed overnight, it cannot be removed overnight. Once we have relied upon conscription, until other forces are built up to replace it we must continue to use it. For those reasons, I find myself compelled to support the Government on this occasion in their proposal to extend the period of conscription so as to give them an opportunity to build up the Regular Forces and to place our defence upon a proper basis; that is, upon a long-term voluntary system which would give us the best-trained and best-equipped defence force.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that if in 1947 the Government had proposed to increase the pay of the Regular Forces to the extent they propose today, he would have voted for conscription in 1947? If he does not mean that, will he tell us what is the difference between 1947 and today?
§ Mr. Davies
I thought that I had already made it clear to the hon. Gentleman. I am not going over my arguments again; he can read them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
994 I regard this proposal of the Government as a temporary stop-gap measure in time of extreme urgency—or perhaps the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne does not recognise that there is any urgency—while a better system is being developed and built up. As the Regular Forces are being built up—and this again I want to put particularly to the Minister of Defence—I take it that the conscripts will be reduced until we have the forces necessary to meet our commitments and to bear our fair and proper share with our allies in defending the free world. I take it that that is the meaning of the phrases which have been used in the White Paper.
It must be recognised that the aggressors, who hold sway from the East of Europe to the China Sea, are under one command. There is one controlling power having one purpose, and having all the strategical and tactical strings in the one hand, and that is in the hand of the power at the Kremlin. The free nations, on the other hand, are over 50; they are independent States, and in spite of the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Pact each is inclined to follow its own independent course. The Prime Minister has said that now an attempt is being made to bring us to work closer together. Surely unified command is essential for the free nations, otherwise we shall be killed off piecemeal, one at a time. I should like to see the Chiefs of Staff brought together; that would be only the first, but a very necessary, step towards unity of control as well as unity of purpose. Also foreign policy and economic policy should from now on be linked with defence policy. We shall have to do that until peace is assured, otherwise we may be undoing the very unity we are doing our best to achieve in Defence.
The Prime Minister dealt very, very lightly with the attitude of the Government towards free Europe, especially with regard to Western Germany. I greatly fear that there is on the Continent, especially in Western Germany, a feeling of despondency and helplessness which amounts almost to despair; a feeling that now they can do little, if anything, to help themselves, that the first blow will fall upon them, and that they will be left to their fate. There must be from all of us agreement with regard to a unified policy, not only for Europe but especially for Western Germany and the small 995 nations, so as to build up their confidence both in themselves and in us and our stronger allies.
Let me now say one or two words about stocking up. Much has been written recently about this. I want not only to see stocking up in this country, but to see it put upon a global scale, for we all have to work together. Of course, as part of this free Europe should be organised and encouraged to play her part in this necessary measure for common defence.
On the other point dealt with by the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), even at this trying and grim moment I do not wish to see an economic blockade of Russia. Nevertheless, there must be proper safeguards so that neither we nor our allies, the free nations, export to Russia or her satellites materials which may be used against us when we are struggling to maintain our freedom and independence. The challenge was thrown out by the right hon. Member for Woodford about what is being done now and what is being sent out to Russia. Some of us recall what was being sent out to Germany prior to 1939 and the efforts that some of us made to put a stop to the stock-piling of oil and rubber that was going on in Germany. I well recall, as will other hon. Members, that telling cartoon by David Low after the invasion of Norway showing the exports of Norway coming home to her. She had exported iron ore to Germany and it was coming back in the form of shells and bombs.
To ensure that proper safeguards are set up, I should like to see an international body created, composed of representatives of the free nations, charged with the duty of seeing that we all play the game fairly and squarely by one another. For the true aim should be conjoint defence, all of us contributing all we possibly can to the common fund of defence.
Then comes standardisation of armaments. That must come, but until it does, might I put this suggestion to the Minister of Defence? Would it not be possible for the United States, the Commonwealth, possibly France and the other signatories to the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic 996 Pact, to agree to the creation of formations—designated as the International Reserve—trained in the use of one an other's weapons? If this were done, we could rely on mobile forces capable of quick movement, whether by air or otherwise, to the area where they were required, picking up their heavy equipment at the spot nearest to the place for which they were destined. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence looks puzzled—
§ Mr. Davies
Let me take the case of Korea. If a force of ours were trained in the use of American tanks and arms, they could be sent there and, if the Americans were sending their own material, could pick it up and use it at once.
The situation is one undoubtedly of extreme gravity. Some incident may occur which can have dire consequences. The task facing the Government is a heavy one. No difference in domestic matters, no difference on party lines should divide us at this moment on this mighty matter of Defence which is of such supreme moment to us one and all. Let us show that we are united as one family in our determination to preserve our liberty. There is not one of us who does not hate war, hate its slaughter, hate the agony and the destruction it causes; but there is one thing that we free people hate even more than war and even more than death. That is slavery. So it is, to use the words of the leader in "The Manchester Guardian" this morning, that we should unite, and we do unite, and will unite in one common front, not in preparing for war but in using our very best efforts in preparation for the defence of the peace of this country.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
If there is one reason more than another why this country has been able to keep going for a thousand years it is because in times of crisis we usually manage to be Englishmen first and party politicians afterwards. This tradition has been continued, in the main, by the two speeches from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies).
997 I have just returned from a 2,500 mile "Go as you please" round Western Europe. I took a car over and went virtually where I felt disposed, trying to get a line on the psychology that obtains on the Continent. I did so because I see grave dangers in confining our appraisal of the future to purely military terms. If people have to fight once more they will want to know what they are fighting about, and I rather fear that one of the troubles in Korea has been that the United Nations forces have not been at all certain what they are fighting about. For myself, I am quite satisfied that the battle in Korea will have to be carried through until the United Nations have been justified. Here, the issue is quite clear. It is not whether the Government of Syngman Rhee was a good Government or a bad Government; it is whether the principle of collective security is to be upheld and the security is to be upheld and the sanctity of international law maintained.
It is important that we should not talk airily in this House about 60 or 70 divisions in Western Europe without taking into account the morale that will be required in those who are to provide the divisions. I am not happy about the morale of Western Europe at this moment. There is much airy talk about arming the Germans. The time to talk about arming the Germans will be when we have armed ourselves and when we have demonstrated not only our determination but our capacity to defend Europe, not from the Pyrenees but from the Elbe. At the moment everyone knows that there is not enough armed force in Western Europe to stop a clock, never mind stopping the Red army. In consequence, the Germans talk in these terms: what hope would there be if the Russians did come over the Elbe? The first line which there would be a dog's chance of defending would be the line of the Rhine. That means that nine-tenths of Germany would pass into Russian occupation without a blow being struck.
In those circumstances what would the Germans have to look forward to if they did put up what could only be a token resistance? I will tell the House what they could look forward to—liberation after liquidation. What Hitler did to the Jews would be nothing to what the Russians would do to all the friends of 998 Western democracy in Germany. They would be wiped out to a man, and if one day, by the grace of God, we were able to liberate Western Europe, there would be nothing left; it would be a desert. So I hope very much that we shall make a determined effort now to get into Western Europe, into Germany, such highly trained, well armed and highly operational units as will give to France and Germany the confidence which at the moment is lacking. As soon as we demonstrate not only our determination but our capacity to defend the line of the Elbe, there will be a completely new psychology in Western Europe.
To this important end we have to provide at least five operational divisions. In what I will call "my war" we used to reckon it took three men to keep one man in the line. Of course, when in line we did not accept that figure but said it was much greater. Generally, however, I think it took three men to keep one man in the line. I do not know how many it is today but it may easily be seven or eight, for it is said that mechanisation of war has inevitably meant more non-combatants. I do not know. I have yet to be convinced that horses "under the bonnet" require more man hours than those on the hoof. In any case, I am sure that the Minister of Defence and the Government will go into this question of the ratio between combatant and non-combatant soldiers, because I believe that there may be already in the Army sufficient manpower to provide the operational divisions to be formed.
Now I want to go to the other side of the world. It seems a terrible thing that, five years after a war in which the Russians were our admired allies and friends, we should now be considering the proposals which are before the House with a view to defending ourselves against those who such a short time ago were our friends and allies. We must all hope that common sense will obtrude itself before too long. There are three reasons why I do not think that another war will start. The right hon. Member for Woodford is quite right in his assessment of the effect, as a deterrent, of the atom bomb. The argument about whether we should supply machine tools to Russia is quite unreal, because I think that within three months at the most of a war breaking out, every centre of production in Russia would be flat. That is my opinion 999 based on the number of atom bombs that, I understand, are now in American possession.
In any case, if the Minister of Health wants timber to build houses—and everybody wants him to do so—we must be prepared to swop something with the Russians and the Russian colonies in Europe. They will not take dolls' eyes or radios—radios are the last things they are prepared to have. If they say, "We want some Cincinatti milling machines or Alfred Herbert lathes and you want some animal feedingstuffs and timber for your houses," it is very difficult for us to say "no," especially when that is the only way we can emancipate ourselves from the dollar thraldom. Really, the Opposition ought to be honest in this matter. I hope that the Government will not be panicked into any ban on the export of machine tools and electrical apparatus to Iron Curtain countries. I am fully prepared to defend the Government, both in my constituency or anywhere else, if they stick to their guns.
The deterrent effect of the atom bomb is playing a very important part in keeping the Russians on their side of the fence, but there are two other considerations which, I think, must be weighing with them very heavily. The first is that if we should have another war, there will not be only a fifth column in Europe: there will be the other four, and they will all be on our side. The last place where I should want to be in another war would be in the Russian lines of communication. That would be a very hot seat indeed, because, from all the information coming to me, there will be considerable trouble in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I think that the Russians are smart enough to know this and, for that reason, will hesitate.
There is another reason, which some people may not think so strong but to me is not unimportant. I do not think that the Kremlin hierarchy will be very anxious to turn three or four million Russian citizens loose in Western Europe, there to see an immensely higher standard of life than that to which they have been accustomed; there to see living evidence that all the propaganda to which they have been subjected for 30 years has been a lie and a fraud.
I remember talking to the Prime Minister of an Iron Curtain country in 1946. 1000 He and his Foreign Secretary had just returned from Moscow, where they had been trying to obtain some alleviation of the reparations burden. After the arguments had been going on for three days, Molotov, in front of Stalin, had said to this Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, "We do not want to be hard on you, principally because, if there is another war, we want you on our side. But you must understand that we have a problem at home. Millions of Russian soldiers have been into Europe and there seen a standard of life which has come as a great shock to them, and to which they now aspire. Every farm labourer's cottage, with a fireplace and table, a couple of chairs, and a few pots and pans, is to these men a palace. Now they are coming back home and we have got to improve living standards in our own country very rapidly; otherwise, there will be a serious political problem for us. While we will do what we can for you, we really must ask that you continue to send us the goods which you are scheduled to send us."
I have never forgotten that conversation, because it was within seven days of that Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary conducting negotiations in Moscow. For that third reason, therefore, I think that the Russians will be loath to start the third world war which is so much feared.
It will bring a lot of relief to the Government Front Bench when I say that I support their proposals which are now before the House. I support the United Nations action in Korea. Indeed, the free world owes a debt of gratitude to President Truman, his advisers and the great American people, who stand four-square behind that decision. There, for the first time, is an attempt to establish the sanctity of international law and the principle of collective security. It may be that at present it suits American interests to do so, but one cannot establish and fight for a principle in one instance and then abrogate it in another. It seems to me that if the principles of international law and collective security are finally established, henceforth all of us will be committed to that law. I welcome that, because it is the only hope we have of maintaining a peace and laying the foundations of the world in which happiness and security are present for all. For that reason I am behind the Korean business 100 per cent.
1001 I am not very happy, however, about other aspects of Far Eastern affairs. We are having to find men, money and blood to support United Nations' policy. Regretful as we all are to do so, we do it with our eyes open and with a firm consciousness that what we are doing is right. But if we only think in terms of military defence we shall make a great mistake. The United Nations must now have a global social, economic and military strategy. To throw the North Koreans back on to the 38th Parallel will not solve the problem. It will have established the sanctity of international law and will have upheld the principle of collective security, but it will not have assured peace and prosperity in the Far East or, indeed, anywhere else.
It is a terrible indictment on those responsible for the conduct of the social democracies' forces in the Far East that after five years in which purposeful guidance, advice, and if necessary, direction could have been given, the soldiers of Syngman Rhee have proved no more willing to fight for him than Chiang Kaishek's soldiers on the mainland were to fight for him. Here is the weakness; social democracy must find a new dynamic. The teachings of John Stuart Mill and Thomas Jefferson are quite meaningless to a man with a large cavity in his stomach and of the thousand million people of the East, who are now waking up for the first time, the great majority have just that large cavity in their stomachs. It is no good talking to them about abstract principles—abstract to them—of liberty and toleration if we refrain from doing something about that cavity.
So I say that social democracy has to find a new dynamic. It is a terrible thing that all the time we find ourselves tied to utterly discredited regimes. That is a terrible sign of weakness. Chiang Kaishek is as dead as a door nail; he is flatter than Firpo was after Dempsey had finished with him. Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall and all Mr. Snyder's dollars and MacArthur's men cannot put him back again, but what worries me is that I am not at all sure that General MacArthur understands this. One thing which worries me at the moment is the qualifications of the U.N.O. Commander-in-Chief to assess the political niceties of the present situation in the Far East. 1002 After all, he has been surrounded by genuflecting orientals for five years and for 10 years he has been denied the salutary and chastening influences of democratic discussion carried out against the background of a world revolutionary situation. He has been denied all these things and it is a serious handicap to him in arriving at judgments which are of such profound importance to the world at the moment.
We have to find a new dynamic. We have to copy the Kremlin. They take young people to Russia and school them in their philosophy and doctrine. I believe we have to bring from the Far East people who believe in our philosophy and doctrine, the philosophy and doctrine of social democracy, the best in the world. We have to bring them here and take them to the United States and we have to tutor them in the things we believe. Only then will the ideas, ideals and influences and, indeed, interests of the Western nations be secure in the Far East.
It would be a terrible mistake if, in the next three days, we restricted our thoughts and discussion on Defence to rifles, bayonets and guns because the armies of Chiang Kai-shek and Syngman Rhee have registered a definite vote of censure on the Administrations they were required to serve and they have done it with the safety catches on their rifles. They have left them undisturbed and, unless we have regard to the social and economic aspects of our Far Eastern strategy, I fear that our success in clearing the North Koreans out of South Korea may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.
We have to ask ourselves many difficult and dangerous questions and our friends over the Atlantic have to do the same. I hope to goodness we are not going to judge all these very important issues on the basis of how certain votes are going to be affected if there is a change of policy. We are in great danger of elevating vote catching to too high a moral plane. Every democracy before ours committed suicide. There is no special reason why ours should not do the same. If we start off by considering these very important problems of defence and of global social economic and military strategy in terms of what is to be the effect on 200 votes in Oskosh, Wisconsin, or Abbots Bromley, England, if we make a change, inevitably we shall arrive at the same position. But, if we 1003 do look at all these problems carefully and objectively, then, personally, I do not think we shall be baulked in our task of laying the foundations of a world from which peace, happiness and security for the common man are not absent.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
While I do not wholly follow the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) in his surprise that the South Korean troops do not go into action under the somewhat tattered banner of John Stuart Mill, I think he was—I am sure unconsciously—very unfair to men who, according to the reports which reach us, are at the moment fighting most gallant battles in defence of their native land with every disadvantage, the disadvantage of being taken by surprise, the disadvantage of the lack of equipment and the disadvantage of overwhelming numbers against them. I believe that the South Korean divisions have fought with courage and with devotion and, if he will allow me to say so, it seems wrong that it should go forth from this House that hon. Members here believe that those men who at this moment are fighting and dying are doing any less than men could possibly do.
There is no dispute at all that the Defence problem which is causing concern on both sides of the Channel and both sides of the Atlantic is the lack of immediately available operational forces, in particular, the shortage of formed divisions and air squadrons of the Western Powers, and nothing the Prime Minister said this afternoon struck me as being comparable in scale with the needs of that problem. The two and a half divisions, which, as I understand it, are to be available at some uncertain date, do not really begin to be in scale with the size of that problem. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House realise that if we are to have the slightest chance of rallying the nations of Western Europe to exert themselves to the full in their own defence it is absolutely essential that we should have, and be ready to place in the line alongside them, very much larger forces than those to which the Prime Minister referred.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Wednesbury, in putting forward quite a modest figure, put forward one which 1004 was practically twice that which the Prime Minister of England thought sufficient. I hope that one of the results of this Debate, when it ends on Thursday night, will be that there will have been such a corporate expression of opinion by Members on both sides of the House on this subject that the Government will find themselves forced to recast their plans in favour of schemes providing for very much larger immediately available forces. Frankly, it seems to me that two and a half divisions are simply not good enough.
I should like to refer to a matter which I have, with complete lack of success, been pressing on His Majesty's Government for the last three years, a matter that has increased in urgency by reason of the very circumstances which we are discussing this afternoon, and by reason, in particular, of the lack of immediately available operational forces. There are still in this country quite a number of men who served in the forces of our Allies during the war, trained and practised soldiers, who would be available should His Majesty's Government decide to recruit a Foreign Legion. They are not so many in number in this country as they were when this proposal was put forward but there are still some—and many of them are men with not merely military training but battle experience of the highest type—trained professional soldiers. It seems to me that now, when the whole safety of the Western world depends upon the provision of large adequate forces in the quickest possible time it is wrong to neglect any possible source from which even small contributions towards those forces can be found.
This matter was raised in the last Parliament, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as he now is, who was then Minister of Defence, gave most courteous consideration to it. On 28th February last year I received, in reply to certain representations I had made, a letter. I should like to read from it the relevant paragraph. In it the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster says:A good deal of thought has been given to this suggestion, and the conclusion I have reached, which is shared by all my Service colleagues, is that it is far better to distribute the aliens in question throughout the Army and R.A.F. rather than to segregate them in a Foreign Legion. The main argument which leads us to this decision is the fact that certain restrictions would necessarily attach to the 1005 employment of a Foreign Legion which would not apply to British units even though they contained a small percentage of aliens. Flexibility of movement being such an important consideration where our Armed Forces are concerned, we feel that on these grounds alone there are strong objections to the formation of a Foreign Legion.With great respect to the noble Lord, as he now is, that is not good enough.
The fact remains that we cannot recruit into British units more than a very limited number of aliens without altering the character of those units fundamentally. It is equally a fact that no appeal to these aliens has been made publicly. No attempt has been made to suggest to them they will be welcome, in any numbers that cared to come, into the Armed Forces of the British Crown. Then there is the objection, which is less valid now than it was then, that there will be limits upon the places in which such units could be employed. I can see no restriction possible upon those units other than perhaps their use in industrial disputes in this country. But there is no form of service abroad, whether in Korea, Malaya, the Middle East or in Europe where such men could not be used. It is utterly wrong at a time such as this for any possible source of recruitment not to be used.
All Members are aware of the fact that the French make full and successful use of precisely such a unit, and their Foreign Legion is fighting for France at this moment in Indo-China. If the administrative and other difficulties that undoubtedly exist can be overcome by our French allies could they not be overcome by our own Government? I hope that we shall hear a good deal more about this matter than merely to be put off with difficulties about flexibility such as apparently defeated the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 18 months ago.
There is nothing new in this proposal. Hon. Members will recall the King's German Legion, which served this country with great success and loyalty in the 18th century. As I see it, a British Foreign Legion today would welcome not only Poles and Czechs but also German recruits. Officered by British officers and N.C.O.s it would provide us more speedily than by any other known method with men already trained in the school of warfare and available for service in any part of the world to which they could be sent. We must ask the Minister of 1006 Defence not merely to give this question the courteous consideration which his predecessor gave but, unless he can show really valid objections, to tell us what steps to this end will now be taken.
I do not wish to detain the House on this issue. There are, however, one or two other matters to which I desire to draw attention. The Prime Minister told us that the strength of Anti-Aircraft Command was to be increased. In the present situation that should hardly require to be said, but how is it to be increased? Hon. Members will appreciate that one inevitable effect of the increase in the period of National Service is that no National Service man will come out of the Regular Forces of the Crown into the Territorial Army during the period between 1st October and 1st April next. As Anti-Aircraft Command depends almost exclusively upon the Territorial Army, and as we know that the voluntary recruitment to the Territorial Army is comparatively small, it would seem, unless we are told a great deal more, that the first result of the policy which the Government are now taking will be not to increase but to decrease the effective strength of Anti-Aircraft Command.
This is not the occasion to stress what have always seemed to me to be the disadvantages of depending mainly upon the Territorial Army for our anti-aircraft defence, but it is a vivid illustration of the difficulties into which the Government have got themselves if one of the results of their taking this very necessary step of extending compulsory service is to be that they will deprive the vital antiaircraft defences of this country of much needed reinforcements during a very critical six months. I hope we shall hear from the Government what steps are to be taken not only to implement the Prime Minister's undertaking that our antiaircraft defence will be strengthened but to prevent weaknesses and deterioration arising from the very measures which the Government are now taking in another sphere.
As for the much belated pay increases, as has already been said with great truth by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), the idea of increasing the pay of the Army, Navy and Air Force as a means of stimulating recruiting is not a bright idea which has newly originated in the mind of His 1007 Majesty's Government. It is the specific which has been recommended again and again from these benches during the last few years. [Interruption.] I need only remind the hon. Gentleman opposite of what was said on 30th July, 1947, from the Opposition Front Bench by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden):Recruitment has fallen steadily in each successive month. … What do the Government propose to do? … how do they propose to achieve the minimum figures for the Regular Army which they themselves laid down? … Do not please leave it to the very last minute when you are approaching 1950 and then find it is too late to get the men.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1947: Vol. 441, c. 505–507.]In the same speech my right hon. Friend pointed out how low was the pay of the Armed Forces of the Crown when compared with current rates in civilian life. So, while we welcome this belated acceptance by His Majesty's Government of the proposition put forward three years ago by His Majesty's Opposition, this does not and cannot palliate or excuse the failure which the delay in adopting these proposals has produced.
I have never read a more damning self-condemnation of a Defence policy of a Government than that which is contained in paragraph 2 of the White Paper, Cmd. 8026, in which figures for voluntary recruiting are given. They show that last year these figures were only just over half those for 1947, and although we are not given figures we are given the encouraging information that in the present year they have gone further down! Why has that happened? This afternoon the Prime Minister gave two possible suggestions. He said, first of all, it was the result of full employment. But employment was just as full in 1947—except during the period when the Minister of Defence had a little difficulty with fuel and power—as it was in 1949.
The Prime Minister then said, "Oh, reaction from the war." But the war from which this reaction came was two years more distant in 1949 than in 1947. Obviously, we have not been given the cause of this, because both those reasons, while they might explain the 1947 figure, cannot excuse or explain that for 1949. If he were here I would, with respect, venture to ask the Prime Minister this question: Is 1008 he really satisfied that the men with whom he shares the supreme responsibility of Government, responsibility for our national defence, are the men best qualified by their record, character and personality to stimulate and encourage other men to join the Armed Forces of the Crown? If they are not—and these otherwise inexplicable figures in the Government's own White Paper demand an answer—if these men are not the best qualified within the ranks of the party opposite, then no question of the feelings of the individual or the delicate equipoise of the internal economy of the Socialist Party should prevent the right hon. Gentleman putting—and I say at once there are people within that party fully qualified—in these vital positions men who have the capacity to appeal to their fellow men to join the Armed Forces of the Crown.
I wish to say one thing more in connection with these pay increases. Why have the increases applied only to the rank of brigadier and below? Why are the higher ranks excluded? It seems to be tampering with what, in another sphere, are called the differentials. When considering a career, the ablest and best of men are apt to look at what are to be the rewards if their success is conspicuous. Why then limit the inducement only to the rank of brigadier and below? There is no justification for it, and with the small numbers involved above that rank, the financial element is not appreciable. It does seem to call for some explanation as to why the substantial increases for the lower ranks should terminate at the level of brigadier.
Far more substantial and important is the fact that, as I understand it, nothing whatever has been done at the same time to deal with the equally important question of pensions. If the rate of Service pay is to be raised, surely the rate of pension much rise with it. The particular case I have in mind is of the widows' pension. Most responsible men, if they have a family, consider, when contemplating any steps they are taking in National Service, what will be the effect on their family if their service with the Crown results in their death. A family man with responsibilities has to think of that. To show what happens at the moment I will quote by way of illustration a case from my own constituency in connection with which I have already been in touch with a right 1009 hon. Gentleman opposite. A man who lived in my constituency and who served in the Royal Air Force during the war was employed in a civilian vocation at a salary of £620. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was killed while flying. His widow receives the sum of 37s. a week. She therefore lost not only her husband but the whole economic basis of her life; because hon. Members will appreciate the gap which yawns between the level of a £620 salary and 37s. a week. If it is thought right, and I am sure that it is right, to encourage men to join the Armed Forces of the Crown by offering them reasonable rates of pay, it must equally be right to secure that their widows receive comparable pensions.
In this particular case I was a little distressed when, having taken the matter up with the Minister of Pensions, who, as he rightly told me, under the law as it is at present can do nothing, I put a question to him on the general issue. In a Written Question I asked the Minister of Pensions:whether he will undertake a review of the rates of pension payable to widows of members of the Armed Forces killed on duty.The reply was:The pension provisions for the widow of the Service man are much better than those applicable to comparable widows under the National Insurance Act. In the Government's view it would not be right to increase this difference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 36.]That seems to me a case of doing the wrong thing for the wrong reason.
It cannot be right to say that the amount we will pay to the widow of a man who dies in the service of the Crown should be restricted because of a totally different system affecting people who, although they may well die in tragic circumstances, die in different circumstances from this. It cannot be right to say, which is what it really means, that because one series of payments are inadequate that is a reason for perpetuating the inadequacy of another. I hope that when we are discussing the question of the rates of pay the question of pensions will not be omitted, because it cannot be omitted from any rational consideration of this issue.
I follow that with one observation further on this question of pay. I must 1010 confess I am very disturbed by the provision that the new rates of pay are to be applied to National Service men only after 18 months' service. Let me illustrate from another case affecting one of my own constituents what happens. A constituent of mine is at this moment serving in Korea with the 1st Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. As he has served for 15 months only he will continue to receive the lower rate of pay. On the other hand, a National Service man who serves, shall we say, with an Army pay office in this country after 18 months' service will receive the higher rate of pay. It cannot be right, within the same category of compulsorily conscripted men, to pay a man in a fox-hole in Korea something like half what we pay to a man in an Army pay office in England. That cannot be right, and it cannot be right to have in the same unit in the line, at the same time, fighting against the same enemy, men of the same rank paid on different rates of pay.
I am not suggesting, at this stage at any rate, that the whole of the National Service intake should receive the increased rates of pay. What I am saying is that where a man is, in the opinion of the War Office, so proficient a soldier that he can be sent into actual operations then there is no conceivable excuse for giving him any less. It introduces anomalies of the kind illustrated by the particular case affecting my own constituent. Whatever may be the solution—it may be the abandonment of length of service as a criterion for another one, shall we say, proficiency—or it may be better to—provide that the National Service man shall always receive the higher rates of pay when he is sent into a theatre of operations.
I do not know which of these alternatives might be better, but what is clear is that it simply will not do to send a man into action with a fighting unit and pay him at the lowest rate, while other men, not undergoing that strain and not having demonstrated their military proficiency in that way, are receiving very much higher rates. Hon. Members opposite often talk of the rate for the job. I think that the soldier who is fighting in action is entitled to the rate for that grim and deadly job.
The position of our country and of the world is one which all of us view with 1011 concern, if not with apprehension. Certainly, my concern and apprehension have not been in any degree diminished by what the Prime Minister said this afternoon. It is essential that this House should assert its corporate will upon the Government and make it clear to them that, not only in matters of detail, such as those to which I have referred, but, still more, over the whole wide sphere of our defence, more vigour must be applied.
I sometimes doubt whether the Government have in their hearts this issue of Defence to quite the same extent as, I freely admit, they have in their hearts the cause of social advance. I cannot think that they have the fire, the flame and the determination to take the drastic, grim and difficult steps which must be taken if this country and other countries of the world are to remain free. It is not enough, three years later, to adopt measures put forward by the right hon. Gentlemen in front of me. It is not enough, years late, to adopt measures which, taken years earlier, would have saved the situation.
Leaving the past aside, what is abundantly clear is that right hon. Gentlemen opposite at this moment lack the determination to use all the available resources of our nation speedily in the time that may be given us to prepare ourselves and the world for the ordeal that may come. The one wholly irreparable error which a Government can make, the one unforgivable sin, which a Government can commit, is to leave the nation for which it is responsible ill-prepared to resist foreign aggression. All of us, whatever our views, pray in our hearts that that charge, at any rate, may not be brought by history against His Majesty's Government.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), in his very eloquent peroration, went right to the heart of the difference of approach in this matter of national security between the members of the Tory Party and hon. Members on these benches. The hon. Member rebuked us for having a warmer flame in our hearts for social advance—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I know the hon. Lady would never misrepresent me. What I said was that I felt that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not have as warm a feeling 1012 in their hearts for this issue of Defence as they had for other issues.
§ Miss Lee
Exactly. The hon. Gentleman says that we have not as warm a feeling in our hearts for national security as for social advance, but the very beginning—indeed, the beginning, the middle and the end—of the view of Socialists in dealing with the defence issue is that an important part of our Defence lies in what people think of us in every other part of the world. Every time a British citizen meets people of a different race, and particularly of a different colour of skin, and behaves well, that person makes friends for us and strengthens our defence position. Every time he behaves with old-fashioned arrogance and assumes that there is something intrinsically superior in people, irrespective of their personal qualities, who belong to a particular race or religion or nation, in that way he is weakening our position in the world.
Hon. Members opposite thrust aside that argument too lightly. Even yet they do not seem to understand that if we had pursued the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in relation to India, it would have lost us many divisions. Wherever, in any part of the world, we have tried to apply the enlightened, twentieth-century principles of human brotherhood and of aiming at fair shares between nations, as well as within nations, we have been using what is perhaps the most effective type of resistance against Communist aggression. Soviet Russia backs its satellites with guns, planes and armed men.
§ Miss Lee
Hon. Members opposite must treat with sufficient gravity and give sufficient consideration to this basic position of the Socialist. All the armies in the world and the extension of conscription to 10 years cannot save us from a 1013 third world war unless, both in this country and abroad, the great majority of mankind truly believe that their dignity and liberty as individuals, their dignity in terms of national independence, their hopes of bread for their children and of roofs over their heads can best be realised in co-operation with us.
I now wish to refer to the piecemeal way in which we are being presented with the defence problems of Great Britain today. I am asked to agree to spending more than £1,000 million a year on Defence. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has criticised that sum as inadequate. He said—and I listened to him on that point with a certain sympathy—that we will have to reconsider the pensions of soldiers, as well as the rates of pay, and we may have to reconsider the pensions of widows. I hope that on another occasion, when some of us talk about pensions for miners and widows of miners and for extra inducements for dangerous industrial tasks, I shall have the same sympathy from the right hon. Gentlemen opposite as I now extend to him on this matter of soldiers' pensions.
I am asked to agree to the spending of all this money, but at the same time the industrial movement of Great Britain state that they cannot go on much longer with thousands of men, railwaymen, engineers, miners, Post Office workers, and others living on or about the £5 per week margin. Have these two facts any relationship? Can we seriously treat defence expenditure in a vacuum? Can we shrug our shoulders and say that we do not have to take too seriously the Trade Union Congress demand for improvements in pay for the lower-paid workers, the demand that women should be paid the same as men doing the same job, and particularly women who are working for far less than £5 per week and are not even being paid the rate for the job which they are doing? I am not able to separate those two forms of expenditure.
I think that the Government should, with the greatest possible speed, explain to us from where they are going to get the resources to meet both those demands; or, if they do not intend to meet both of them, then we ought to play fair with the organised workers of Great Britain and say to them, "You have got to stand back; we are not really taking you seriously."
1014 Then we are told that we have got to build up munition works in Great Britain beyond our economic resources. I find it very hard when I am told that we have to stop paying for our imports with our exports which has been our great pride recently. The defence programme means that we must so re-arrange our factories and our raw materials that we shall not be able to pay for our imports by our exports. Then, apparently, America is going to come to our aid by giving us a substantial loan or grant. I do not know at this moment whether it is to be a loan or a grant, or how much it is going to be. In fact, all the positive factors in the defence equation are what we as a nation are going to give, and too many of those not yet defined are what other nations are going to give.
I would like someone to explain to me why we should be asked to build up munition expenditure beyond our resources, and then get America to help us pay our way. Why should not each country, including America, pay according to its resources? If we have the types of factories in this country that can quickly contribute to our common defence, why should not we sell arms to America in the same way as, at one time, America sold arms to us? I see nothing unco-operative or unfriendly in that proposition. It would certainly be a much more dignified relationship between Great Britain and America.
The other issue about which I feel even more strongly is the decision to ask the young men of this country to serve in a conscript Army for two years. It is serious enough when we are talking about a nation's material resources and its finances, but when we are talking about what we are going to do with its young men, then we are talking about the most precious factor of all. Why are our young men being asked to serve for a longer time than Americans? Because we are poorer than the U.S.A. and they can therefore coerce us? But that cannot be the reason because some of our European allies are poorer than us. So here we are, a kind of little Lord Fauntleroy of the western world telling everyone to lean on us. Quite frankly, I do not think that we give the impression of strength when we try to do more than we have the resources to do. Rather, we should say to the other United Nations Powers, "Let there be fair shares in all this. Our 1015 position in Great Britain is that we are willing to ask our men to serve as long as those in America, France, or in any other nation, and no longer—not to do more and not to do less."
I believe that had we approached the problem in that way, it would not only have seemed fairer to the ordinary man and woman, but it might also have helped to educate opinion throughout the world, particularly opinion in certain sections of the American Press, for from all the reports, even while we are doing more than some of our neighbours, we are credited with doing less. I am not suggesting that we can now retrace our steps. Also I would be the last to start arguing about the length of conscription on technical military grounds. But this much I insist on, that if it requires two years to train our men adequately—since they are certainly not more stupid than other European or American recruits—for an efficient Army, then plainly other nations need that length of service, too.
I would like to ask whoever is to reply to this Debate to answer one question in relation to the length of conscription. I understand that the two years' service is a temporary and not a permanent measure, and that the effect of recruitment to the Regular Army will be taken into consideration. Could we be told just how strong the Regular Army must become before this additional six months' service can be withdrawn? As a Socialist Party, we believe in planning, we believe in fair shares, and we know well that one cannot separate social issues from defence issues. Yet we are being asked at this moment to vote and to give our decisions in this House when we do not even know on whose shoulders the burden of meeting the additional expenses of Defence are going to fall, and when there does not seem to be any vigorous and clear effort being made to establish the principle of fair shares in terms of service among the United Nations Powers. In my view what the young men of one nation are asked to do, the young men of other nations should also be asked to do.
I conclude by saying that the Government's record in China has been immaculate. They have done everything possible to rescue America from some of its mis- 1016 takes in Formosa. I think it absolutely essential that the North Korean forces, backed as they are by Soviet Russia, should be taught that they cannot be allowed to gain new territory by physical aggression. It is because of those convictions that the Government will have the support of all of us, but I would ask our own leaders not to take us so much for granted; and, above all, when asking for anything so serious as a two years' conscription period and an armaments expenditure of more than £1,000 million a year, they should as quickly as possible fit the other pieces into the programme and show us that they really believe in their own policy of Socialist planning and fair shares.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
I agreed with a number of things said by the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). For instance, I agreed with her that the Government owe us a much fuller explanation of the economic consequences of their action than they have so far given us. I think we are certainly entitled to that. However, I cannot say that I altogether agreed with her about how to deal with America. When she talks about equal shares, it is only fair to remember that the Americans are bearing the brunt of the fighting in Korea, and that daily they are seeing in their newspapers fairly heavy casualty lists. That means a lot to people. I thought, too, that she was a little harsh about Service pay. She said she did not like to consider it in a vacuum, and that if Service pay was going up other pay would also have to go up. Surely, the difficulty is that it has been considered in a vacuum.
§ Mr. Birch
I accept that. The hon. Lady also talked about Service pensions being co-ordinated with those for civilians. I think that the trouble hitherto has been that Service pay has been considered in a vacuum and has been too low. That, I believe, is generally accepted by the Government.
We hear from almost every speaker that these are difficult and dangerous 1017 times. For my part I do not believe they are any more dangerous than any other time during the last five years. They may be better because we are clearer in our minds. Indeed, I think there is a growing need for clarity about our true position if we are to preserve the peace. The other day I looked back through all the foreign affairs Debates since 1945. This is a very depressing and morbid thing to do and I do not want to go into them deeply. But I was cheered to find that there are certain things that hon. Members opposite will never be able to say again. They will never be able to say again that capitalism is the only thing that starts war, that Socialism and Communism are peace in themselves. They will not be able to say that Socialism, if imposed upon a country, brings about a fundamental moral change. There used to be an idea that everybody was going to be much better and behave quite differently all over the world because the Socialists were in. Human presumption like that I find very terrifying. We heard expressions of many sentiments and it is hard to believe that those who expressed them really believed in them.
The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Foot), speaking in the Debate on the Address in 1945 said:Britain stands today at the summit of her power and glory, and we hold that position"—not because of what we had done in the war—because today, following the election, we have something unique to offer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 340.]I do not exactly know what it was, but it does not appear to have come off.
Then we have the strange inverted snobbery of the Foreign Secretary. After one of his exchanges of Billingsgate with Mr. Molotov he said, on 21st February, 1946:After all, those who make up the Soviet Union are members of the proletariat and so am I. We are used to hard hitting, but our friendship remains. I do not think an exchange of views of this kind does any more harm than exchanges of views at a Labour Party conference."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1359.]All I can say is that Labour Party conferences must be rather more unpleasant than I had supposed. At times, the right hon. Gentleman almost echoed what fellow-travellers said in the last Parlia- 1018 ment. Fellow-travellers in this Parliament are conspicuous for their personal prudence. On 23rd November, 1945, the Foreign Secretary said:But we must try to understand what the real progressive forces are doing. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 764.]He was talking about the satellite countries.
There is one last quotation from those old Debates. There was a very brilliant speech at the beginning of the 1945 Parliament from the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply. He was moving the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech. He said things which were typical of the time, and were frightening. He started by saying that the Allied High Command in Berlin, the Four-Power Kommandatura, was "a type of the hope of the future." It was at that time completely broken up. He ended his peroration with the words:Today the strategy begins to unfold itself. Today, we go into action. Today may rightly be regarded as 'D-day' in the Battle of the New Britain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 73.]What distressed me about that speech was that when it was made it was already known by anybody who knew anything about foreign affairs that there had been no genuine co-operation with the Russians during the war, and that there was at that time no genuine co-operation. Ministers must certainly have known it, because they were members of the Cabinet during the war and had every means of knowing all about it. But they went on cherishing the illusion that Left would speak to Left, and the Government refused year after year to face the fact that Europe was divided. We kept on being told it was not really divided.
It is always rash to presume to read the cards in the hands of Providence, but what we can do, at any rate, is to notice what is going on under our noses; and that is what they refused to do. So we heard about "D-day of the New Britain." I have not worked this out exactly, but I guess that it is now about D-plus 1850.
It is time that hon. Gentlemen opposite looked at their beliefs and cleared their minds. I fully admit that many legitimate and noble aims have been pursued by hon. Members opposite, but with it there has been much dross: and some of the 1019 things that have been said in the past about conscription and about Russia take a lot of living down. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite must be doing penance for the disingenuousness of years. At any rate, now we are clearer about some things. We are clearer about the true dangers and the realities we have to face. I do not think we shall get people again crying "Peace" where there is no peace. One can always get applause with cheap sentiment. It costs nothing and may do one good at the time, but those who trade in them have much blood upon their hands.
One of the points I wanted to make on further steps to clarity, was to discuss for a moment the idea of collective security of which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) was talking. People are still talking in terms of collective security as they talked about it, quite wrongly in my opinion, before the war. As I understand it, the doctrine of collective security was that an analogy was made between a police force and a few criminals working in the same country. It was said that if one could have a sufficient police force they would have no difficulty in dealing with the criminals. It was this conception which enabled hon. Gentlemen opposite to call for sanctions and, at the same time, to call for disarmament. I say that in prewar times no such relation of forces existed. The analogy of the police force and the criminals was not valid.
Let us take an issue which was discussed at the time and used very much on the hustings—the issue of Manchuria in 1931. At that time Russia was not a member of the League. The United States were not members. Our nearest base to the scene of action was 2,000 miles away. We had no aircraft carriers at all, and there was no sign of enthusiasm among other members of the League for collective action. It is possible that, after two months, some Power very keen on collective security might have sent two battalions. Somehow, I do not think that would have swayed the balance. Yet, again and again, we have been blamed for not going to war. If we had gone it would have been a costly failure, and would have encouraged Germany rather than deterred her. Costly failures encourage rather than deter aggressors.
1020 There are, today, far more criminals about than policemen. Therefore, no collective security exists. What we have now is a grand alliance upon the side of right. But a grand alliance is not quite the same thing as collective security. It does imply that one has much more against one than was presumed to be the case with collective security.
There must be a Combined Chiefs of Staff organisation. There must be central planning of the defence forces. We all see how costly in manpower and resources Korea is. There are many other places where a similar struggle might easily be started. Only Combined Chiefs of Staff can appreciate the situation and weigh our resources against our commitments. Without such an organisation I cannot possibly see how we can know when to fight and when not to fight, when to commit our resources and when not to commit them. If we go on as we are now we run the risk of leaving ourselves undefended in the really vital area such as Western Europe.
There is a second point on clarity upon which I should like to say a word and it is on the strategic consequences of the atom bomb. Every time anybody mentions the atom bomb a deep sigh of boredom goes round the House. The speeches of most people boil down to, "A big pop and everything will be all over." But I do not want to talk in those terms: I want to quote a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn), when he was senior Burgess for Cambridge University, as long ago as 1945. He was talking about the consequences of the atom bomb, and this is what he said:It may prove that atom bombs will be the means of getting away from total war. It may prove that total war was compatible with the human mind only so long as it was not felt to be destructive beyond a certain point. It may be that the next wars are going to be indirect wars, and in some respects like the old wars used to be. They used to be for a specific point; if you lost the war, you surrendered that point, but you were not utterly destroyed. We have seen such wars in our time, but not fought openly. Russia and Germany fought such a war in Spain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 642.]Is that not exactly what is now happening in Korea? We are seeing an indirect war, a limited war and infiltration on a far more extensive and subtle scale than 1021 we have ever seen it before. I think we must not under-estimate the results that flow from successful indirect wars and successful infiltration. I think we sometimes under-estimate the rapidity of progress in the century of the common man and it is the case now that if there is successful infiltration and a successful indirect war is fought, then friends of ours of the Western way of life will pay for their defeat with their lives; they will all be butchered. Once such a thing takes place, that country is lost for good, because history shows that persecution is successful; if it is sufficiently ruthless, persecution is successful.
That brings me to the question of the strategy which we ought to adopt to deal with indirect wars, one of which has started and others of which may very well start. I do not believe these things can be dealt with unless we have men on the ground. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) during the war once said that we must not call People "bodies," and I think he was right. People were saying, "You must have more bodies"—As if the soldier died without a wound. As if the fibres of his God-like frame were gored without a pang.We need more men on the ground, more immortal souls if you like; for we cannot do it from the air, we cannot do it from the sea, we cannot do it with atom bombs. We cannot in those ways deal with this indirect strategy. Where are the men to come from? Producing men is a great strain on the Western Powers, a great strain on the United States. Even to produce three divisions in Western Europe which, after all, is a pittance, has placed an enormous strain upon us and our economy.
How are we to deal with the situation? Surely we must come back to the vital area. The vital area is Western Germany, and I believe that what the Western Germans do is infinitely the most important thing we have to decide. In 1945 the hope and the plan was that Germany should be neutralised under Four Power rule and Four Power agreement. I never thought much of the plan myself; it never looked like working, and it has not worked. Throughout the Russians have tried to achieve their supreme objective, which is a Communist Germany. If they get a Communist Germany, if the Iron 1022 Curtain is on the Rhine and everything beyond the Rhine is going to be the dark side of the moon, then I think an extreme degree of pessimism is justified. The hopes for Christian civilisation, I think, would not be great.
I believe we have been foolish in our treatment of Western Germany, and I have said so many times. Many hon. Members opposite have said so too. Professor Webster once wrote:The attitude of conquerors to the conquered is the greatest of all tests of national character and capacity.We have failed in the test in Western Germany. I will not go into all these matters again, but for example there was the retention of prisoners of war, the scale of denazification, the prolonged trials for war crimes, and the treatment of what we called militarists, whom we shall now want.
Incidentally, as we left them no hope, quite a number of German soldiers are infiltrating the other way and joining in the paramilitary police in the Eastern Zone of Germany. There was the dismantling of factories pursued when the Germans already had their own government and, one last point, only now are we proposing to stop blowing up German air raid shelters. When we march round saying, "We will fight for you; we are responsible for your defence; we will shed the last drop of our blood for you, but we are going to blow up your air raid shelters," how can one justify that to a German? How can we pretend we are both sincere and sane? We may be; I do not know. I have not been able to think of the answer. There may be one. It is that sort of thing which makes the Germans think we are simply mocking them, and I believe the deepest injuries are often more easily forgiven than being mocked. After all, you cannot unpull a man's nose. The Germans have committed crimes; I am very conscious of that, but I believe that some of the things we have done have been morally wrong and I believe that they have been politically damaging.
Why have we done them and why have we run such frightful risks in doing them? I gather from what the Prime Minister said that he is still opposed to the creation of a German army. Reading between the lines of his speech, I thought he was in favour of a German police force but 1023 that he was strongly opposed to the existence of a German army. I may be wrong, but that is what I read into his speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary said in 1947 that he was "obsessed" by the danger of reviving Germany. Of course, Germany is a potential danger, but I think that to be obsessed by anything is to confess that one's judgment may possibly be faulty. He used the phrase "sloppy sentiment" at a time when the Germans were starving.
Personally, I do not believe that an independent Germany—and I stress the word "independent," and not a Germany under Russian control—is really a major danger to the world. The Germans have no all-conquering idea like Communism. If they fought a war they could not go in for the system of infiltration. In such a war the atom bomb would be used. There is no country with less dispersion, no country more vulnerable to atom bombs. The whole of their wealth and industrial power is concentrated in the Ruhr, which could easily be obliterated by modern weapons. I do not think an independent Germany can really tackle the world again.
In addition to that, it is desperately important to keep them on our side because, by their history, they are part of Western Christian civilisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I think that the things the Foreign Secretary says about Germany are very often foolish. After all, we want them as our friends, and he is like the elephant in the battle—quite as likely to trample down his friends as his enemies.
There has been an idea that we cannot allow the Germans to revive again because we must have absolute security and we can run no risks. But there can be no absolute security in the world, and, by pursuing it, more often than not we run far greater risks than by taking a more balanced view. To live dangerously is a condition of being alive at all. In great affairs one has to wager it is not optional. I believe the risks we run in treating Germany as we have treated her—the risks of allowing her to fall to Communism and come within the Russian orbit—are far greater than any risk we should have run in giving her the status of a nation and letting her play her part in the defence of the West.
1024 We have had one or two other objections. We have been told that the Russian satelites would not like it if Germany were re-armed. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) said that just now. It was only on 27th October, 1947, that the Foreign Secretary, talking about the Marshall Plan, said:Reference has been made to linking Germany with the Marshall Plan. May I say that nothing would have been more fatal to the Marshall Plan itself than to have done that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 605.]However, Germany was linked with the Marshall Plan. I would say myself that the one thing likely to put the satellites on our side would be a tilting of the balance of power in our favour. I do not believe there is force in that argument.
Then we were told that France would not have it. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), on 16th March, 1950, said:I say it quite bluntly. The French people, in the event of the re-arming of the Germans, would rather be on the Russian side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1308.]I do not believe it is true. There has been a tremendous swing in French opinion over the last two years, and that swing is accelerating now, and if we do not succeed in wrecking the Schuman Plan I believe that the French will be perfectly content to go in with the Germans in a joint defence force. The only thing that will put the French on the Russian side is the idea that it is impossible to defend Western Europe. If enough people get that idea, they will say, "It is not worth being liberated again. We will go in and make the best terms we can." That is the real danger, and not one from Germany.
Then we are told we must do nothing about the Germans because arms are short. Certainly arms are short, and we certainly have not at the moment enough for our friends and not enough for ourselves. But when we speak about arms we are not really thinking of the moment. If the Russians advanced with their armies now nothing could stop them. But we are not really making our plans for an immediate attack. It is at the future we are looking and not at today; and in the future, in two years' time, is it certain that arms will still be short? In two years' time, with all the vast productive machinery of America, will they not be able to 1025 turn out arms on something like the scale on which they were turning them out in the last war? All this will take time, but in not a long time we shall be able to arm the Germans. It seems to me that the argument from arms is not a strong one.
We must look at the long-term as well as the short-term. I do not doubt that the Germans will try to play off one side against the other. We know they are never easy to deal with, never tactful, but these are difficulties we have always to face in foreign affairs, and we have faced them a hundred times before in our history. I believe the best course is to give Western Germany back her status as a nation, and let her play her full part in the defence of Western Europe, and I believe that it should be done on honourable terms and without further niggling.
If we do that, and have courage in our hearts, I believe there is hope. But we cannot do it on the cheap, and we cannot do it in the way that the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who is now sitting in his place, suggests. I should like to quote one sentence from his favourite paper, the "New Statesman," of 19th August, where he was talking about the re-armament of the Germans, in an article called, "Mr. Churchill's Army." He said:What we should do instead is to aim at a strictly defensive force which (with some financial aid from the United States) is within our economic capacity, but which is sufficiently substantial to ensure that, if the Soviet Union launched a military attack against Western Europe, the operation would involve a big-scale military effort whose 'nuisance' cost, to put it at the lowest, would be a considerable deterrent to the Eastern Bloc. Thus limited, Western re-armament could not be said to be provocative; and it might reasonably be expected to strengthen our ability to negotiate and bargain with a Power which has a healthy, realistic respect for strength.A healthy, realistic, respect for strength! This is what the Russians have, and if we have strength we can negotiate with them. It is not true the Russians never keep their treaties. It is not true at all. They kept their treaty with Hitler; they kept it with him, not because he was wicked, but because he was strong. If we are strong they will keep a treaty with us, not because we are righteous but because we are strong. If we show the weakness of that sentence I have just quoted we shall lose our allies and our friends. We shall lose America, and France, and Western Germany. If we show courage, if we show 1026 sense, we shall keep them, and we shall win friends to our side, and the right will prevail.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), who by his banter caused considerable amusement on this side of the House. However, he did attack the actions of the Government in recent times, and called them disastrous. Well, I have listened to every speech today, and I think the attack on the Government has been the dampest of damp squibs.
We heard the Leader of the Opposition recall the events of early August, when he wanted the House to be recalled in the Recess. I listened carefully to what he said, but I could not discover any argument which he used today to prove the value of his request for an earlier recall of the House. He told us that the Prime Minister had told him five days after we had broken up for the Recess that the Government were going to spend not £100 million only but a much larger sum on Defence; and that therefore it was necessary to recall Parliament. Why? It was necessary to recall Parliament when all the details were ready and concrete proposals could be put before the House, as they have been today.
Then the Leader of the Opposition rebuked the Government for their military policy in Hong Kong. What happened was that when the war broke out in Korea, Britain was first in the field, except for America. Britain had very considerable sea forces there, and Britain was the first country, apart from America, to send land forces to Korea from Hong Kong. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that forces should have been sent from Hong Kong long before. Would that have been right? It was extremely risky, and a bold policy, to send troops at all from Hong Kong even when they were sent, because Hong Kong is also a danger point, and it must be defended as well as South Korea.
Then the Leader of the Opposition compared the patriotic action of the Opposition today with the action of the Opposition before the last World War. The Opposition today, quite rightly, support a sound policy of resistance to Communist aggression. Before the last World War there was a complete split upon foreign 1027 policy between the two parties. Who led the attack on the Governments of those days—the Baldwin and the Chamberlain Governments? The present Leader of the Opposition. And he was quite right in the criticisms he made. Does anyone dare to assert now that the Labour Party of that day was wrong in opposing the then Government's policy towards the rape of Abyssinia by Mussolini? There was a conflict of opinion then on the foreign policy of the Government of those days, which could not be defended by anybody then or today. The Labour Party was quite right in opposing it.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I was very active at that time, and the Labour Party only talked of joint proposals.
§ Mr. Reid
What the hon. Gentleman says is quite misleading. There were sham sanctions imposed; and, in fact, the Government and the French Government were in league with Mussolini to try to keep him from falling into the hands of Hitler. They pretended to be in favour of collective security while trying to appease Mussolini at the same time.
The Leader of the Opposition criticised the Prime Minister up hill and down dale. He does not, however, remember events that occurred in the last Parliament three years ago. He advocated that we should retain our power in India and Burma, and that we should fight it out. How many divisions should we have had to send to India and Burma, and how many divisions should we have had there today, perhaps, if the House had followed his advice? It would have taken 20 divisions to conquer and keep India quiet, and probably ten divisions to conquer Burma and keep it quiet. His policy would have been disastrous in India and Burma. And he comes here today and blames the Government.
The Government saved the country from serious expeditions in India and Burma. Today these countries have been given self-government, wisely and justly, and they are opposing Communist imperialism which they would perhaps not be doing if they had been deprived of responsibility. These are some of the charges made against the Government. The deeds of the Government which have saved the country for the last five years are not mentioned at all by hon. Members on the other side.
1028 Let us cast back our minds to Greece in 1945 and 1946. Who preserved Greece from the Communists in those years? No one more than the Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] When we kicked out the Germans, we kept our troops there at the request of the Greeks. Finally, we said that we could not carry the burden any longer, and we got America to help us. If Greece had fallen, where would Italy have been now and where would Turkey and the Arab States and the strategic position of the Middle East be now? The Labour Government are largely responsible for the preservation of that strategic area from Communist imperialism in the years 1945 and 1946.
§ Sir H. Williams
Does the hon. Gentleman remember the Debate in the House of Commons before the war in which Members of his party did all they could to prevent these things from happening?
§ Mr. Reid
I was not in Parliament then. Again, when the critical situation arose in Germany and the Politbureau tried to get us out of Berlin, did our Government fall down on the job? We managed to keep in Berlin and remain there without starting a war, by means of the Berlin air-lift. Why not give us some credit for all that? It was a wonderful achievement. Again, have hon. Members opposite forgotten that the Foreign Secretary went to Dunkirk after the war and made a treaty with France which led to the Brussels Treaty and to the Atlantic Pact. Are these negligible achievements?
Were these things ever done before the Second World War? Has any Government been more successful in bringing the western democracies together and keeping them together than the Labour Government, assisted by America and other States? Surely to goodness, hon. Members opposite have the generosity to acknowledge that in our foreign policy since 1945 we have done a colossal job. Then, hon. Members opposite have made no mention of the fact that this Government introduced a most unpopular and 1029 expensive amenity—conscription. Did hon. Members opposite or their party before the Second World War introduce conscription? It is a most unpopular thing to do; and to ask the taxpayers to pay up to £780 million or £800 million a year on Defence is another most unpopular thing to do. Does that show that the Government have neglected foreign affairs?—and foreign affairs and military affairs are practically the same thing.
The Government's foreign policy since the war in resisting Communist imperialism has been magnificent, and it has achieved magnificent results. The hon. Member for Flint, West, condemned our policy on Western Germany. I do not know the details, but I think that I am pretty right in saying that if any attempt had been made to rearm Germany until quite recently, France would have resisted violently. I think that is a fact. Again, in the case of Western Germany, hon. Members on all sides know how difficult politics have been there between the German parties, the general political confusion that exists in Western Germany, and the immaturity of Western Germany. In spite of that our Government and other democracies have succeeded in inducing Western Germany to enter into the Council of Europe and take her seat among the civilised democracies of the world. That is another great achievement.
The hon. Member for Flint, West, talked about collective security. I could not understand whether he was in favour of it or not. Our party has been in favour of it all these years and is in favour of it still. As collective security all round could not be established owing to the opposition of the Russian Politbureau after the war, our Government and other democracies have set up under the Charter a system of regional collective security. Whether the hon. Member for Flint, West, likes that or not, it is a fact. It is only regional collective security that can save us from disaster.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that the Prime Minister's speech did not correctly envisage the size of the problem. He referred to the few divisions mentioned by the Prime Minister today and said that they were quite inadequate for the size of the problem. I quite agree. All the divisions talked about are quite inadequate. When we talk of what the 1030 French are going to do and what the Belgians and the rest are going to do, it is utterly inadequate; but the system is not Europe against the Communists but collective security against the Communists. America, Canada and the rest have to come in, and then perhaps the programme will not be quite so inadequate. In my opinion, the Government's action in placing before the country the ugly facts of the situation, the disagreeable things that have to be done and the sacrifices that have to be made, has won the confidence of practically the whole of the people of Great Britain, a few Communists excepted. That, again, is an enormous achievement.
The Leader of the Opposition justly praised the T.U.C. for their solidity. This body representing tens of millions of workers in this country has come out solidly against Communist imperialism. Well, the T.U.C. is part of the Labour movement and like the Labour Party itself, it has stood out boldly against Communist imperialism. I do not think that many other countries in Western Europe can make a similar boast. That is because the T.U.C. and the people in the country generally have complete confidence in the Government today.
We have been frequently charged with dragging our feet and going too slow, and I know that a lot of criticism exists in Europe and in the western countries of Europe on this head. By our action, which is exemplified by the Motion before the House today, we are taking the lead in Europe once again. We have done it in foreign policy since the war and we are now doing it in a time of desperate danger. We have not waited for other countries to say what they are going to do. We have gone ahead with a huge rearmament plan without waiting for theirs and asking them if they are going to join. We are giving a lead to Europe which I hope will be followed by France, Belgium and other countries.
In the Debate today I have listened in vain for any solid and real attack on the policy or actions of the Government. I prefer, however, to leave all that aside. We are now in an extremely dangerous position. Everyone on both sides of the House realises that. I prefer to feel that the moral of this Debate is the fundamental and complete 1031 unity of the British people. The Opposition and the House are united in resisting to the death the aggression of Communist imperialism. I commend this fact to the notice of the Russian Politbureau and the other Politbureaux of Europe. If they think that they are going to split us or the other democracies by a handful of Communists, then they are riding for a fall. One good thing about this Communist aggression is that it has forced the democracies and the peace-loving countries of the world to come together and pledge themselves to undergo any sacrifice rather than submit to Communist tyranny.
I have tried to answer some of the criticisms of the Labour Government made in this Debate, but I would prefer to carry away from it the feeling that this country is united, and that Britons never will be slaves.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I welcome the fact that the Government, in my view and in the view of my hon. Friends, have done the only thing possible to remedy the deficiency of Regular Service men. As was so often urged from these benches, they have increased the pay, although I wish they had also abolished taxation of allowances—the giving by one hand and the taking away with the other is one of the most unpopular things in the Services—and had also given some increases in retired pay and pensions. The extension of National Service was absolutely essential. The period of 18 months was an uneconomic one, with many of the National Service men spending far too long a period of their nominally useful time in travelling to and from stations abroad.
I hope—and I am encouraged in doing so by what the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) has just said—that at last the people are beginning to realise the danger of the position, the inadequacy of our Forces to deal with the situation, and the necessity for immediately strengthening our Forces. I hope the people realise that defeat would mean the ruin of industry, and that our social services would become non-existent. There is the old proverb which we might do well to remember, that if you want peace you must be 1032 prepared for war. We must therefore be prepared for war, and, I would add, for successful war. That means adequate preparations, as it is no use preparing for anything other than a successful war.
The number of our Armed Forces is very considerable on paper, but mere numbers do not win wars. What we must aim at is numbers of trained, disciplined men, organised in operational units and formations, with adequate up-to-date equipment and adequate available reserves behind them. Our Forces must not only be organised, but they must be balanced, which means that there must be in the Army a proper proportion of the different arms of the Service; in the case of the Navy, a proper proportion of the different types of ships; and in the case of the Royal Air Force, a proper proportion of the different types of aircraft, and for both the Army and the Navy adequate air co-operation and support. Incidentally, I would point out that the sending of two battalions to Korea is a departure from the principle of balanced formations. They have no support from other arms, and no supply services of their own. This seems a very unsound thing to do.
Apart from all these requirements, there must be readiness. The Navy, the Royal Air Force and our ground defences must have a proportion of their forces ready for immediate action. The rest of our Forces must be ready, if not immediately, certainly at short notice. The Army and the Royal Air Force, although the Navy is probably in better shape, are not at present ready for service at short notice. They are certainly less ready than in 1914 or 1939. The Army at home is nothing more than a collection of training schools for recruits, and lacks the requisite stiffening of Regular non-commissioned officers and trained men. No organisation above the battalion level—certainly not a division—could be put in the field for a matter of months. We have the equivalent of a few divisions in Germany, Austria and in other parts of the world, but we have no divisions available at home as organised, balanced divisions for service at short notice.
The Prime Minister speaks of forming one division at home. That is not enough. Certainly our reserves are considerable in numbers, but not a few of these men are rusty and out of touch. We have a 1033 Gurkha division and some unorganised and excellent African troops scattered throughout Africa, but nothing has been done to replace the gallant and efficient Indian Army which has now been lost to us. I have previously suggested the raising of African divisions which would get us somewhere towards replacing the Indian Army. I repeat that suggestion, which I believe to be a practical one that would be of very great use. In the Army at home, units that are nominally service units are really only recruit training schools. These units must be re-formed as operational units, and they must be organised in operational formations. Recruits must be trained in training establishments and not in what are nominally service units.
As I have said previously, the fortnightly intake into the Services of National Service men is unsound. It results in recruits dribbling in and having to hang about until sufficient recruits are available to form a squad for training, or their being left in all stages of training with a corresponding drain on instructors and staff. I suggest that the intake should be either every three months or every six months. The Secretary of State for War, in reply to me on this point, has said that one of the objections is that under the present system it would denude many units of too many men at the same time. I think that objection can be got over by the increase in the period of service to two years. Certainly it will enable training units to be formed instead of the present unsound arrangement of using service battalions for training purposes.
The Prime Minister also spoke of forming 12 Territorial Army divisions. I ask where the men are to come from for these divisions. One of the first results of extending the period of service from 18 months to two years will be an immediate reduction in the number of men passing from their National Service period to the Territorial Army. The Prime Minister also referred to increases in anti-aircraft defences, which are also Territorial. I would again suggest that a certain number of men should be allowed to volunteer for the Territorial Army with a much higher liability for drills and training, and that at the beginning of their service with the Territorial Army there should be an essential three or four months' continuous training. The big difficulty of those who had anything to do with the Territorial 1034 Army in the past was to give them their elementary training. We were always having to deal with trying to teach men to run before they could walk. It is essential that they should have three or four months' continuous training to begin with to teach them elementary work.
I would suggest, therefore, that a certain number of men might be allowed to volunteer under such conditions for the Territorial Army. It would fill up the ranks quickly, and I believe that in such a way they could be made, with a much higher liability for training, into efficient Territorial soldiers. Such a system would cater for persons like university students, apprentices, men in certain special trades, and so on, as to whose military service under present conditions all of us have knowledge, for in the past we have been inundated with letters asking for them to be freed or in some other way catered for. If these men were allowed to volunteer for the Territorial Army under the conditions that I have outlined, it would not only meet the difficulty but would produce reasonably efficient soldiers. The only real objection I have heard is that it would be contrary to the principle of equality of service. Already there are deferments and a large number of exemptions, and I would suggest that equality is immaterial so long as service is what the country requires.
I hope that definite plans exist for Empire co-operation, especially in the Far East; that the tour of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff has proved fruitful in that respect; and that definite agreements have been or will be come to with the Commonwealth countries concerned as to the forces and equipment which they will provide. Here, too, organisation and preparedness are essential.
We have heard a lot of talk about the need of a European Army, which I take to mean a number of national contingents organised for serving together in furtherance of the Brussels Treaty and under some form of unified command. I believe the House would like to know how far any such organisation has proceeded. An organisation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff ought to be reconstituted, if that has not already been done, and it should at once proceed with the necessary organisation and plans. We are the only nation amongst our European Allies who did not suffer defeat and occupation in the 1035 late war, and they look to us for an example and a lead in this matter. We must give them a lead and such an example by contributing a substantial and well-organised force.
In any such European Army, composed of contingents from different nations which have to work together and sometimes have to relieve one another, some form of standardisation is desirable. I do not say it will be easy to bring about but it may be less difficult now because our Continental allies are starting, so to speak, from scratch, and importing equipment from America. What I mean by standardisation is in the first place standardisation of arms and equipment. This facilitates the supply of ammunition and also replacements. That I agree is a big thing, but I believe we ought to aim at it as far as possible. It is a very difficult position for an army to be in if there are a whole number of different forms of ammunition. If the wrong ammunition is sent forward for certain guns, it is no use at all; it is as bad as no ammunition.
There should be standardisation of the composition of military formations. That is easier. What I mean by this suggestion is that a division or a battalion ought to mean the same thing to each contingent in this army, which will have to work together. One contingent will have to relieve another some time, and they will have to occupy certain frontages. If the supreme commander has to think whether the division of one nation can do what he wants to be done or whether it has quite the number of men of a different organisation, it makes things extremely difficult for him. There should also be assimilation of staff methods, duties, and training. That is very desirable, if it can be brought about, for the men of those nations who have to work together.
As regards the participation of Western Germany, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that we should seriously consider the re-formation of the King's German Legion. In the 18th century and in the early part of the 19th century it was a very good part of the British Army and of the British organisation, and it fought very well. It might 1036 be the means of solving difficulties in the future.
I would add one other thing. Today we hear a good deal about the atomic bomb and its dangers. There are methods of minimising and modifying its effect, and they must be aimed at and dealt with by an efficient Civil Defence organisation. But the basis of Defence is offence, and I hope that plans exist against possible enemy launching points, nerve centres and enemy installations. That, to my mind, if the worst should come and war actually be upon us, is a thing which is absolutely essential for dealing with the dangers of the atomic bomb.
Finally, if there is to be this great extra expense, there ought to be compensating economies. There cannot be compensating economies in the Services up to anything like the scale of the extra expenditure, but there can be economies on services and personnel who are not absolutely necessary for war purposes. I suggest that there can be economy in civil expenditure as well, and in the circumstances there ought to be such economies.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
As the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) has put forward in the course of his speech a suggestion that has been brought to the attention of this House on more than one occasion, I will first deal with it. He stated that the call-up should be spaced out at wider intervals than the present fortnightly basis. He suggested every three months or perhaps even longer. On reflection I think he will agree that this would result in a large number of serving men coming into the Forces at the same time while at the other end a large number of trained men would be going out. That particular exit may be taking place just at the moment when we cannot allow such a large effluxion of trained men to take place. I have no doubt that this point will be dealt with by some Front Bench spokesman who is a greater authority on the subject than I am.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
No, I will not give way at this stage. The other point he made was in reference to standardisation of arms and equipment. If he has followed the discussions and announcements made in recent months, he will 1037 agree that considerable progress has been made in that direction. It is public knowledge that that is one of the topics that has received the attention of the Governments of this and of other countries who are associated with us in Western Union and the Atlantic Pact.
The course of the Debate has shown that we have to examine the problem of Defence in a much wider context than the purely military one. There is no such thing as a perfect defence scheme, least of all at the present time. Whatever the expenditure we incur for defence, the aggressor must inevitably have an initial advantage. Our problem is to reduce that initial advantage to the narrowest possible limit. That entails factors broadly of three different kinds: political, economic, and, last but not least, moral. These three categories of influence are operating at the present time, and they cannot be determined by Chiefs of Staff. It is the job of Governments to decide upon the broad implications involved in those three factors.
So far as the political factors are concerned, we have to recognise this fundamental change in our whole defence policy. The defence of this country is now part of an international plan of organisation. The days of self-contained national armies are dead and buried, whether we like it or not. That fact has to be faced. The other point which is worthy of being borne in mind is that we do not stand alone. We are in a much better position, with respect to the political conditions in the world today, then we were in 1938 and 1939. At the present time we know that we can depend upon certain allies to a very much greater extent than we could in 1939. Not only that, but this country is much more united in its general attitude to the problem that now confronts it than was the case just before the outbreak of the Second World War. At least, there is in this country no influential fifth column of would-be appeasers capable of obstructing or acting to the disadvantage of the people and of democracy as a whole.
In connection with the economic factors I would like to deal with the subject of pay and allowances, which has been referred to by more than one hon. Member in the course of today's Debate. No hon. Member opposite has told the House when the question of pay became a relevant one in regard to recruiting. 1038 The answer to that question remains a mystery on the part of hon. Members opposite. When did inadequate pay become a hindrance to, and begin to retard, recruiting for the armed Services? That question has not been answered. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir H. Williams) did make some interjection just now, but I could not gather what it was.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I shall proceed to deal with that point. I would ask hon. Members to compare what has been done during the past five years in respect of Forces' pay with what has happened in any comparable period in peace-time. Let me take the five years after the First World War. The party represented by hon. Members opposite, so far from considering an increase of Service pay, was actually considering its reduction. I think it was in 1923 that the Conservative Party definitely went on record as wanting to reduce the pay of the Forces. Only the advent to office of a Labour Government in that year held up the plan that was in the mind of the Conservative Government before that time.
In 1925 a reduced rate of pay was introduced for the Forces, which remained in operation until 1945. I had the honour for a while of drawing the basic rate of 2s. a day, when the Territorial Army was embodied for service just before the outbreak of war in 1939, so I am not very much inclined to accept the rebuke of hon. and hon. gallant Members opposite about what the present Administration has been guilty of, in regard to Services' pay. As a matter of fact, even excluding the proposed increases which we are discussing today, the present Government have done more since 1945 to improve Service pay and allowances than has any other Government in any similar period in peacetime in the history of this country. I make that statement publicly and I invite contradiction from anyone sitting in this House.
Reference has been made in a recent editorial article in the "Sunday Times" to a committee set up in 1923 under Lord Haldane to consider the education and training of officers. This point is relevant because it shows that the problem of recruiting for the Regular Forces is not new. 1039 The committee finally reported in 1924. It urged the necessity of making the Army a career for the young man joining the Forces of the Crown. The editorial which appeared in the "Sunday Times" had the comment to make that it was small wonder, since that report had been neglected since 1924, that the rate of recruitment to the Regular Forces was serious before 1939. The point to which I invite attention is that it was pointed out in the report of the Haldane Committee in 1924 that from the year 1919 to 1922 inclusive there was no promotion from the ranks to a commission. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. The Labour Government since 1945 at least cannot be accused of not having tried to remedy it.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) drew attention to what he considered a grave omission in the White Paper on Service emoluments. He was very concerned that there was no statement about the pay of officers above the rank of brigadier. That seems to me to show a false sense of priority. Apparently he omitted to notice that paragraph 4 of the White Paper said that a further statement will be made shortly about officers above the rank of brigadier. Therefore, even officers above the rank of brigadier are not to be excluded from the benefits which the increase in pay will bring to those serving in the Forces. I hazard the guess that even after five years of Socialist rule there is no shortage of men in the Army at present willing to accept a rank higher than that of brigadier even at the rate of pay which existed before the increase.
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the Haldane Report. He seemed a bit confused about it. He spoke about the cost of living and I did not see the relevance of that. If the date was 1923, Lord Haldane was the Lord Chancellor in the Socialist Government of 1925, so what did he do about his own Report?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
That question can very easily be answered by reference to the political situation at the time. I have no doubt that had a Labour Government with a majority been in power then something might have been done about it. However, in the 15 or 16 years which elapsed from the time the Report was 1040 published until the outbreak of the Second World War nothing at all was done about increasing Service pay.
That leads me to one of the remarks which I want to make on the economic aspect of the problem. My submission is that the present Government are to be congratulated upon having at last abandoned the long-established Conservative tradition that the people engaged in the Armed Services of the Crown should be treated like a sweated industry. Right up to the increases which are now under discussion it has always been the case that the pay earned by those in the Services was very much less than that which could be obtained in civilian life. For the very first time in the history of this country an attempt is now being made to equalise the amounts which civilians and Service men can earn. The Government are to be congratulated upon their endeavour to remedy what has always struck me as a gross inequality between civilians and Service men.
It may be asked why these increases were not introduced two or three years ago. Events have shown that if these increases had been introduced two or three years ago at a cost of £60 or £70 million the economic stability which the Government have been trying to build up since 1945 would have been very gravely imperilled. The answer to all the complaints which have been made about an earlier extension of compulsory military service and an earlier introduction of higher rates of pay is that it was a vital necessity and an over-riding priority that in the first few years after the end of the Second World War the country's economic stability should be maintained. We now have evidence that that policy has abundantly justified the result. If we had lost the cold war we should not have been in a position even to consider the possibility of engaging in a hot war.
Further evidence of that is that as a result of the priority given to the economic stabilisation of the country, we can congratulate ourselves upon having the smallest Communist Party in Europe. The two things are not disconnected, because Communism depends upon and arises from the primitive economic conditions, low standards of life and bad physical and moral conditions in which people live. I believe that there is some connection between the fact that we have 1041 made economic progress and the fact that we have the smallest Communist Party in Europe. Either in defiance of the Cominform or to its disgust, the Communist Party now announce that they intend to support Labour candidates at the next General Election and that they are not putting forward candidates of their own. One can place on that what interpretation one likes, but it is unique in European politics that there should be a so-called Communist Party which is prepared not to put up candidates in opposition to the Government when the next appeal is made to the country.
Moral factors are of supreme importance because, as others have pointed out, force alone is insufficient. I hope that the Opposition will begin to realise what a rich harvest is being reaped as a result of the historic act of granting independence to India and Pakistan. The alternative would have been the handing over of the whole of Asia to Stalinism. Our friendly relations with those countries have created bulwarks of freedom in Asia which are worth at least as much as all the divisions which we are capable of raising in this country.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has spoken a great deal about friendship, but has he considered the relations which exist between Pakistan and India as a result of the partition?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The present Administration of this country cannot be blamed for the difficult situation which exists between India and Pakistan—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that by staying on in India we should have achieved better results, he is entitled to his opinion, and nothing that I can say will disillusion him. I insist that as a result of our policy in India and the neighbouring countries we have increased British influence and prestige not only in Asia but also in the United Nations. The fact that we have so very largely recovered economically, or at least achieved some balance of trade since the war, strengthens our position in the United Nations and strengthens the influence that we can exert upon the United States and other countries who think with us.
I do not think it can be denied that, for example, the reprimand by President Truman of General MacArthur on the 1042 subject of Formosa can be attributed in some degree to the influence this country can still exert in the councils of the nations. That, I think, is sufficient answer to those who consider that we are mere pawns or tools in the hands of the United States or any other country. I know that some hon. Members opposite think that nothing the United States says or does ought to be criticised. I say that the United States are just as capable of making mistakes or incorrect assessments of the factors operating in the East as any other country. This country still holds an important position in the world; as a result of our economic progress we can still exert an influence which might otherwise have been out of the question.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the proposals he asks the House and the country to accept will involve sacrifices. We know that, so far as it is humanly possible, under this Government the demands that are being made will be based upon equality of sacrifice. We have created a sound economic basis upon which we can embark upon this unpleasant task of re-armament. If that re-armament entails more planning and more controls of a Socialist character than the past has proved necessary, then I know that even hon. Members opposite will be prepared to accept them in the future as they have had to accept them in the past.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) referred to the moral factors involved in our defence preparations, and as I listened to him there came to my mind the thought: "What has been the story of Russia in the past? Those who invaded her, such as Napoleon or Hitler, have been defeated through their failure to overcome two obstacles: measureless numbers and measureless space.
I feel today, as we vote increased money for re-armament and as we increase our Forces, that day by day and week by week we should emphasise one point in our wireless broadcasts: we are not against the Russian people; we do not want to take an acre of their land from them; we do not want to take the bread out of their mouths; we do not want to destroy their factories, nor to impose our form of government upon 1043 them. What we do want is to resist the aggressive spirit of their Government, which is using the Russian people as the servants of a cold and calculated ambition. I believe that if we once emphasise this point we shall do a great deal to strengthen the cause for which we all stand.
Recently I was fortunate to have the opportunity of witnessing the air exercise "Cupola" in Western Europe, and as I did so I felt that I was back again in the operations room of Fighter Command, or in No. 11 Group during the Battle of Britain. For the organisation is ours. The common language of European defence is English; the information arrives in the operations room in English; the controller gives his orders in English, and the pilots talk to each other in English. At the same time, while I felt that the organisation was good I could not help recalling the last words of Cecil Rhodes: "So little done. So much to do." While the organisation is good, we are desperately short of two things: numbers and, above all, time.
I believe that, in the few years which have elapsed since the end of the war with Germany, the pattern of Communist aggression has clearly unfolded itself. We have seen small wars in various parts of the world. A large French army is fighting Communist bandits in Indo-China; a large British army is fighting Communist guerrillas in Malaya; now an American Army is fighting Communists in Korea. But I believe we must remember that, whatever happens now or in the future, Europe is the main centre of interest. If the Red tide overwhelms Europe, everything is lost; but if Europe holds, then in the long run all else can be regained.
People abroad have expressed to me the opinion that they think some people in England hold, "We know that at the present moment Russian tanks could be at Calais in 48 hours. We therefore think it is hopeless to defend Europe except from the Channel and the Pyrenees. Why send our best troops to defend a hopeless cause? "I believe that to be a counsel of despair. Imagine for one moment that the Russians had occupied Europe. Imagine the population, the resources, the industrial skill and the brains of Europe united with those of Soviet 1044 Russia. We might well believe that even the resources of the United States, and the steel, iron and manufactures of Pittsburg and Detroit might be outmatched by those of the Ruhr, France, Sweden and Soviet Russia. I therefore believe that above all we must realise that, come what may, Europe is the main centre to be defended.
What is the mood of Europe at the present time? I may be wrong, as a superficial observer, but I sense that the mood of dull despair which seemed to infect Europe in the past is slowly passing away. France, under the energetic leadership of M. Moch and M. Pleven has pledged herself to raise 20 divisions, and Holland and Belgium are to raise three divisions each, which leaves nine of the proposed total of 35. Those nine divisions or more will surely have to be found by ourselves and the United States, and this fact, I believe, will do more than anything else to reassure Europe and build up morale.
The fact of British and American troops being quartered in increasing numbers on the soil of Europe would likewise do more than anything else to solve the German problem. The Germans have been beaten in two wars, and I can well imagine them saying to themselves: "Next time we have got to be on the winning side." If they see British, American and other allied troops in their cities, if they see aircraft overhead, if they see anti-aircraft guns defending their towns, they will then believe that there is a chance of defending their territory, and will come as partners in a new European enterprise rather than as bosses in the past.
Speed is vital. Suppose next spring the Russians say to themselves: "We must strike now before European preparations are ready." If this should be the case we must work hard during the whole winter in order to be ready at that moment of crisis. On the other hand, suppose the Russians say to themselves: "We still believe orthodox Marxist teaching. We believe that the West must inevitably collapse; that all we have to do is to wait to be the heirs of tomorrow." If, fortunately, time is thus granted to us, then the period of anxiety will be all the shorter if we press ahead now and are ready as soon as possible with 35 or more divisions on the Elbe to defend the soil of Europe.
1045 Above all else, time is the factor. I believe that these facts must remain uppermost in our minds. Come what may, Europe is the vital centre of interest. If Europe falls, all else goes. The one thing to revive Europe quickly is to send increasing British and American divisions there. Above all else, speed, speed, speed.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I trust that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) will excuse me if, instead of following in the orthodox way the end of his speech, I refer to the beginning, in which he was saying that we should make it perfectly clear to the people of Russia that we are not anxious to take the bread out of their mouths or to interfere with their system of government. It would have been a contribution to the Debate if he had made it clear how that can be done.
I do not believe for a moment that the people of Russia, the ordinary men in the street, are any more anxious for war than the people of this country or of any country. The facts regarding preparations and conditions all over the world are completely unknown to the man in the street. We cannot over-emphasise that the purpose of this Debate is not preparation for war but to make sure that we are able to defend ourselves in the event of war. In the 1914 war this country was quite unprepared, and in the 1939 war the same happened. John Citizen, the ordinary man in the street, has been called upon twice, not only to defend the freedom of this country, but to win through; and I have little doubt that in the event of a third world war, which we are trying so hard to prevent, the same thing would occur again. Nevertheless, we must be more prepared. Weakness in the face of a possible opponent is an encouragement to that opponent to become active. We must show some signs of strength and the mere increase in emoluments to the Services is not enough in itself.
One of the things which we must understand, and perhaps one of the reasons why we have always been unprepared for war, is that we are a peace-loving people. It is true that during at least part of my life soldiers could be recruited when there was a lot of unemployment in the country and there was no other alternative to being unemployed. Perhaps even before 1046 that, many of the Regular soldiers were men who had reasons for leaving their towns, and they were never held in very high regard.
§ Mr. Hubbard
Possibly, or someone else's wife. In my lifetime professional soldiers have not been held in high regard and today soldiers, sailors and airmen are not held in high regard in some quarters. I happen to have seen some service in the Navy and I have heard hon. Members opposite chiding the Government about lack of encouragement given to recruiting, but there was little encouragement given to me and less to my father before me. If this is a belated increase, it is a remarkable fact that it had to be left to this Government, which has been so much criticised from the other side of the House, to make that increase.
We must make ourselves stronger than we are. I am sure that although John Citizen came to the rescue of this country twice during my generation, the relatives of those who were at Dunkirk and in Norway realise how much we lost in human life and suffering because we were unprepared in the inter-war years to meet aggression. Although we do not like war, we must be prepared to defend ourselves and to show that strength which seems to be the only way to turn off the aggressor. If we eventually reach war, which we all hope we will not, and which we must do our utmost to prevent, it would be wrong if John Citizen as a part-time soldier were to be paid less than the Regular soldier. Those taking part in the defence of the country, whether as part-time or Regular soldiers, ought at any rate to have equal pay if there are to be equal shares, and I regret that that difference still remains between the National Service man and the Regular soldier. I agree that in one case we want to encourage the men to make a career of the Army, but we cannot go too far with that idea, because the National Service man and the fellow who has been a war-time soldier is the man we need in industry.
As we ask that even further sums may be spent to make the increases in emoluments available to all who serve in the Forces, we have to keep in mind the burden which will fall on the remainder 1047 of industry. I hope that when we are talking about equal sharing of the burden, we really mean it. I cannot help remembering how in the early '20's when the Geddes Axe fell and we spoke of equal sacrifice, I saw a cartoon of a number of people on a ladder leading out of a flooded dock. The low-income fellow on the bottom step had his chin just above the water and those with greater incomes were on higher steps. The man at the top was saying, "One step down, equal sacrifice"—and the fellow at the bottom was then completely submerged. I hope that in spreading the burden that is not the way it will be done this time.
I agree that it is not something which can be placed on the shoulders of any one group of people. If it is to be shared equally, it should not be shared according to the numbers, but according to ability to pay. I shudder to think of the burden of increased services and equipment of our Forces being on a flat rate and of what would happen to old age pensioners and low-wage earners. They can contribute nothing at all, and I hope the Government will keep that very much in mind when apportioning the cost of the increase.
Then there is the apportionment of the burden as between country and country. We do not know whether assistance from America and other dollar countries is to be by way of grant or loan, but we think that all countries ought to contribute according to their means. We know that if there is not to be a lowering of the standard of life of the people of this country when we increase the amount of material and manpower for the making of equipment for Defence, there has to be increased production.
Twice within a short period there has been an emergency when our people have been asked to increase production. We had to do it quite recently because of the devaluation of the pound, and because we required to bring in goods from abroad and raw materials which we could not grow in this country our goods had to be sold at a cheaper rate and we were victims of the dollar exchange. If again we have to step up productivity, it would only be fair, keeping in mind the sharing of the burden between country and country, that much of our dollar difficulties should be 1048 removed. We have already produced more to make up for the shortage of dollars.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I am addressing my remarks to the House and I am assuming that my right hon. Friends are listening with equal interest to that of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). These burdens fall far too much on producers in industry, and I hope that next time profits will be used to meet a larger share of the burden.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I hope there will be a spread of the system which was adopted when the mines were taken over and that a better share of the products of industry will reach the producers.
I trust that whatever negotiations we may have with other countries in the United Nations and whatever blocs take up particular attitudes on defence against the onrush of Communism, the sharing of the burden between countries will be raised. It is very wrong to expect this country to increase productivity with the disadvantage of dollar exchange, and perhaps the time has come when a fresh conference ought to be held with the dollar countries, as we are in a common struggle against the advance of Communism. We have to have a revaluation, as we need a tremendous amount of raw materials in order to equip the Forces. I hope that we will not be placed at that disadvantage.
A clash of arms, while it may stave off an aggressor, will not put an end to Communism. The big task facing all countries of the world today is to see that the breeding-ground of Communism is destroyed for all time. No one can tell me that many of the people of China accept Communism as an ideology. They do not know anything about it; they have never considered it. All that happened was that when the Communist forces marched through China, the Chinese people were enduring such a low standard of life that anything was better than what they had known in the past. That is true of many of the Asiatic countries. The United Nations Organisation must get 1049 down to the problem, as this country and Government have done so far as India, Burma and other Asiatic countries are concerned. It must let them know what freedom means, and remove hunger, squalor, and want. In that way we shall put an end to the spread of Communism and go about our ways in peace once again.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
This Debate suffers from the defect of all Debates the subject matter of which is too wide. I have heard most of the Debate, and it would appear that everything is in order except what won the St. Leger last Saturday. Very few of the speeches have had any relation to one another. It would have been very much better had we spent three days debating three separate Motions each dealing with one part of the subject. We might then have come to some conclusion or other.
I do not know why the Minister of Defence is pointing—it is rude to point. He may be pointing at someone who is absent. I do not know whether he means to suggest something about the terms of the Motion, but they were drafted by the Government and the Motion was published by the Government before it was decided how many days it would be debated. I am not objecting to a three days' Debate on the grave situation with which we are faced. I am objecting to the fact that we have a Motion so drawn that nearly everything is in order in debating it. Therefore, this is not a Debate but a lot of philosophical or historical contributions.
I have listened to a great deal of confused history. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) talked about the Geddes Axe and about some cartoon he had seen. I suggest that he goes into the Library and reads the three volumes—they are not very big, about 70 pages each—of the Geddes Report. He will find that the economies were not calculated to injure the people at the lower end of the income scale. The hon. Member believes it—
§ Mr. Hubbard
I was not speaking about what was calculated to be done but about what happened when the 10 per cent. reduction was suffered by all. That reduction left a person at the bottom end of the income ladder with insufficient on 1050 which to live, whereas a 10 per cent. reduction in the case of higher incomes still left those people with an abundance upon which to live. I was not concerned with the intention, and I spoke not after reading three volumes but from the unfortunate experience of myself and many other people.
§ Sir H. Williams
I thought that the hon. Member was wrong. He is talking about the May Report, which was published in 1931, which is contained in only one volume. The 10 per cent. had nothing to do with the Geddes Axe. The unfortunate thing is that members of the Labour Party will read the pamphlets written by Transport House. It was not the Geddes Axe, it was the May Committee—
§ Sir H. Williams
But there is a 10-year gap between the two smells. The May Committee was appointed by the Socialist Government. It produced its Report in July, 1931, and that Report contained many proposed cuts, some of 10 per cent., and some of 15 per cent. The Labour Government accepted 90 per cent. of the proposals.
§ Sir H. Williams
They accepted without being a minority in their own meetings. What they accepted included a cut of 15 per cent. in the pay of teachers which the subsequent National Government reduced to 10 per cent. Let the hon. Member go and read the facts before he comes here and produces an inaccurate impression which has been imposed upon his own mind. The volumes are in the Library. I stand to be corrected—
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) says "Get on." I would say in reply that if I am being challenged, I am entitled to reply in my own way. I do not need the hon. Member's assistance. When anyone says "Get on," it always means that my points are going home.
We have some absent friends. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has gone. He produced an immense amount of totally inaccurate history, but I will not go into that in great detail, as he is not here. He completely 1051 muddled the thing up, which does not surprise me. It was an almost completely incoherent speech.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The hon. Member speaks of absent friends. Will he look round and realise that his own party takes so little interest in this Debate that there are only 15 Members on the benches opposite?
§ Sir H. Williams
I am replying to a specific speech. Then there is the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who made a speech. Thirty seconds later he handed a Question to the Clerk, and we have not seen him since. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton left three minutes after making his speech. The customary courtesy is that if one is not too hungry, one stops to hear the major part of the speech that follows one's own.
From a lot of the talk we have heard, one might suppose that there is a fundamental difference between Communism and Socialism. There is none at all. Let us be realists. A little time ago the Labour Party published the Communist Manifesto with a foreword by someone connected with the Labour Party. Both Communism and Socialism propose to abolish private ownership of property and propose that it should be owned collectively. It may be done suddenly by a revolutionary method or it may be done slowly. Something has been said about the opposition of Socialism to Communism and there has been something about the robust attitude of the T.U.C. I remember when they gave a gold watch to Tomsky. They cannot get it back because he has been "bumped off" since then by his fellow Communists. If we are to talk about these things, let us have them correctly stated. I have a fairly good memory and I remember these things.
The hon. Member for Swindon gave a completely misleading account of what happened in the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia and on the question of sanctions. I had not intended to talk about these things, but I have been provoked by listening.
I wish to follow what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys), to which the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton subsequently made reference. For more than 1052 two years I have been saying in public and in private conversation that the present system of call-up and the present methods of training the National Service men are a complete muddle. The Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War, who are responsible are not producing trained soldiers; they are certainly not producing formations.
My attention was first drawn to this matter by the experience of my own son. That led me to talk to many other young men who were, or had recently been, in the Forces, and to talk to their parents. What is being produced today is a detestation of the Army by a lot of young men when they leave it. It is very sad; they do not like it. The fortnightly call-up has not, so far as I know, ever been adopted before in any conscript country in the world. Yet other countries have had conscription for generations while to us it is new, except in war-time. The young men are called up by classes. I know what is worrying the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Defence; attention was drawn to the point by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton. A class is called up and when all the class leaves the Service, all the trained men in it go simultaneously. If we have a call-up once a year, we run that risk.
If sufficient numbers are called up every three months, there is available a sufficiently large unit to be trained, Far fewer instructors are needed. After all, there is a complete analogy between this and children going to school. What would we think of an education authority that had new children coming into the class every week and an equal number leaving school every week, the effect being that the teacher was trying to teach simultaneously children from the age of five to 15? That is what the Army are doing. I am not blaming the politicians. I think that they have been glossly misled by certain eminent soldiers who have never applied their minds to the problem of conscription in this country in peace-time.
Here we have I do not know how many men in uniform in the Army in this country at the moment. Leaving out the Territorials, I presume the number is about 275,000. There are 400,000 altogether, according to the Estimates. The Minister of Defence has suggested 125,000. All right. We have Gibraltar, Malta, Aden; a certain number in Egypt, 1053 Malaya, Korea; India, I do not know—I presume not—and in Germany and Austria. They total 125,000; far more than that, 200,000. They are organised in seven and a half divisions, so the Prime Minister told us earlier on. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, he said seven divisions and one part of a division.
§ Sir H. Williams
All right. I do not mind one or two in a calculation of this size. The right hon. Gentleman says six and a half; and the strength of a division is, I believe, 10,000 men. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am not talking about communications. It used to be. [Interruption.] All right, I very much sympathise with and support the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It would be most useful in this discussion if we knew what a division meant.
§ Commander Pursey (Hull, East)
Would not the hon. Member do much better if he went into the Library and looked these things up before he came here into this House and talked such arrant nonsense? He has not the first idea about the organisation and yet he has the cheek to criticise statements made by other hon. Members.
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey), is terribly pleased with himself, but the awkward thing is that to the best of my knowledge he cannot tell me in what book in the Library I can at this moment learn what is the composition of a British division. Will the hon. and gallant Member be good enough to tell me?
§ Sir H. Williams
No, will he tell me in which book I can find the information? I know of no book, and therefore his intervention was not only discourteous but was stupid. I do not know how strong are these divisions which the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Sir H. Williams
I know, and that is why I am asking questions, though we have not the power to ask Questions at Question Time for at least three days. 1054 I do not know what is deemed to be the strength of a British division today. I would like to know. I am trying to find out how many men we have in this country. I hazard it at 275,000—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member finds himself so confused about this matter, because the facts in relation to this subject have been stated frequently in the course of Defence Debates. I myself have given the figures as Secretary of State for War, and I have given them as Minister of Defence in a Debate quite recently. The numbers are almost equally divided. There are about 190,000 men in this country and about the same number abroad.
§ Sir H. Williams
That is quite simple. I hazarded a guess with a view to finding out the proportion in this country. Is it about 125,000—
§ Sir H. Williams
I am talking about men in soldiers' uniforms, which is not quite the same thing. Two hundred thousand. And then there are 200,000 outside this country which comprise six and a half divisions or the equivalent thereto, plus the odds and ends which an Army now gathers round itself. [Interruption.] Well, the Minister of Defence has said the equivalent of six and a half divisions. He has told us they number 200,000 men. What I am driving at is whether, out of 200,000 men, we are getting enough effective formations. In the years back, a division used to be 20,000 men. In recent times it has been very much cut down.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
On a point of order. Is not it out of order for an hon. Member to come into this House and make a speech and frankly admit he does not know what he is talking about? Many hon. Members make speeches and it is quite obvious that they do not know what they are talking about, but they do not admit it. Is not it an affront to this House that an hon. Member should actually admit that he does not know his facts and does not know what he is talking about?
§ Sir H. Williams
That intervention is quite ineffective and I do not mind it. We are trying to find out something which, apart from those on the Front Bench, hon. Members opposite have not the foggiest idea about and do not know where to find the information. I think the public ought to know, because we should remember that in the four years ended on 31st March last we have spent £1,500,000,000 approximately on the Army. That figure anyone can get by looking at the official statements for the various years past and adding them up. That is a vast sum of money and all we have in exchange is the equivalent of six and a half divisions which total 200,000 men overseas. Here we have 200,000 men and no divisions. I notice there is no interruption at this stage. We have 200,000 men and no divisions.
I know there are always a lot of trimmings attached to Armies these days. There are a lot of people doing jobs which ought not to be done at all, but surely out of 200,000 men, if the system of call-up were intelligent and the subsequent system of training were intelligent, we ought to have more organised formations than we have. I saw what seemed to me a most admirable letter written by a major-general whom I have not seen or heard of before, Major General Whitefoord, which appeared in "The Times" of 8th September. I presume he is of recent military experience. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield is not so recent, though he held high rank. A great many other people with whom I have tried to discuss this matter seemed to take the same view, that the method of call-up is wrong. It certainly has not produced results.
I believe I mentioned in one Debate the experience of my own son, about which I was horrified. It will take only half a minute to relate. About four and a half years ago he enlisted as a volunteer in the Rifle Brigade six months before his liability to service. He found himself ultimately a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. It did not seem a very intelligent way of running an Army when one recalls the esprit de corps of units and battalions and the rest of it. He was very proud of being a second lieutenant—I saw him pass out—and he was sent to Dover. Later on he said, "It is marvellous." I said, "What is marvellous?" He said, "It is marvellous; I have an income and 1056 no work to do." Six weeks later he said, "It is more marvellous than ever." I said, "What is?" He said, "In our unit there are 12 officers, six N.C.O.s and no men at all." I do know that, and I have not to go to the Library to find it out.
There is something ridiculously wrong. I do not profess to be an expert—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, I did swear the oath of allegiance to His Majesty King Edward VII in 1902 as a Royal Engineer, so I had a little bit of it a long time ago; but we were not too bad even in those days before the Territorials.
I have been trying to make inquiries. I am horrified at the failure of the system of training and the failure to produce formations which are battle-worthy. That is the fundamental reason why we are all so anxious at this moment, and it is no good hon. Members who do not know very much wanting to stop a speech because it may be getting home, by indulging in totally irrelevant and not very interesting interruptions.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds (Dartford)
I am very well aware of my own limitations, and I do not think it will be necessary to apologise for not following the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), but, at the risk of incurring his displeasure and probable censure, I propose to speak now more as a realist, and, from that point of view, say without any qualifications that I support the measures taken and proposed by the Government.
There are two aspects of the situation that rather disturb me. One of them has not been mentioned in this Debate, and I believe it to be of some importance. Although the hon. Member for Croydon, East, may not agree with me that it is connected with this Debate, I think it is exceedingly important. I believe that, in a situation such as we now have, it is not in the best interests of the people of this country that certain very high political leaders and one or two trade union leaders should be very loud in their unqualified denunciation of Communism. I would probably not have dared to have made this speech but for the fact that a gentleman who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a "fellow traveller"—Mr. Morgan Phillips—has visited a Com- 1057 munist country, Yugoslavia. I too have visited it on many occasions, starting with the elections in November, 1945, while my last visit was some months ago.
I am also indebted to the "News Chronicle," which yesterday made a big feature with some of the words used by Mr. Morgan Phillips. He said:We have been surprised by the complete frankness of the Yugoslav leaders. This is really a straight, honest, cards-on-the-table discussion which may well lead to results of the very greatest importance.Another part from which I would quote contains this:Here we go where we like, say what we like and our hosts speak freely. They argue everything on its merits and contradict each other vehemently when necessary.That is a statement made by Mr. Morgan Phillips, and I would only like, in support of the statement which I made a few minutes ago, to say that it does not do justice to our cause or help our cause when, without qualification, someone denounces Communism because it is Communism. I believe that these people who hold these views, if they were to go on the spot, would be quite satisfied that the people of Yugoslavia are not stooges or dupes of Stalin, but they are Communists. Furthermore, their progress since 1945 in the peculiar circumstances is something upon which, in many respects, we should compliment them and not condemn them. I bring that forward as a clear-cut example of the kind of thing that is not in the best interests of the country. I believe that as the weeks and months go by, and particularly after this visit, there will be more and more qualifications about the type of Communism being practised in that country.
Nobody can convince me that the tens of millions of Chinese persons have thrown out Chiang Kai-shek purely and simply because they want to please the men in the Kremlin. As a Co-operative Member of Parliament, I am supported in saying this by a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury in which he speaks very favourably of some developments in Communist China. Those who have studied that part of the world will recognise that it is the application of the co-operative principle in Communist China that has influenced many of the Northern Chinese to break with Chiang Kai-shek.
I would make this further point. I spoke in the Lobby with an hon. Mem- 1058 ber who makes brilliant speeches in this House, and I asked him, before I entered the Chamber, if he would explain to me how to generalise about Communism, in view of this particular experiment in Yugoslavia, and I feel that I am entitled to say that he himself could see the point that I was trying to make. I felt that I should make that qualification in this House because I believe it is in our best interests on this particular aspect; I think it will be much more likely that others, who might possibly follow the Communist banner, will be more inclined not to follow the Moscow version if in this country there is more understanding of some of these people who follow the Communist banner in Yugoslavia, believing that it will take them out of the misery and poverty which many of them have for so long had to endure.
It is a very heartening aspect of the situation that certain editorials in the American newspapers speak so confidently on another aspect of the matter which has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members—this business of the anti-Communist crowd. I have here the "New York Herald-Tribune" of Saturday, 2nd September. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] When one makes a point that goes home, hon. Members opposite interrupt, because they are feeling a little sore and want to stop the speech. I have not got the background of the hon. Member for Croydon, East, but I have observed him on a number of occasions and am beginning to turn that way myself. In the few lines which I want to read, the paper says this:As for the Point IV idea and its promise of help in the development of backward areas, this is perhaps our best single weapon against the free and easy promises of Communism. We cannot hope to appeal successfully to the millions of Asia if we do not offer something better than a return to their diet of rice and misery.I think it is essential at this juncture, when we are getting geared up for a maximum effort, that at least there should be some thought given to the problem of offering to the tens of millions of people in Asia and Africa something better than they have ever been offered before. Whatever the benches on which we sit, whether on this side of the House or that, I think it is of importance that at last we should be giving some thought to getting something constructive done, so that sooner or later, and I hope sooner, we will work 1059 with a greater enthusiasm than we have done in the past on furthering this particular point of view.
A few weeks ago "Reynolds" also made an interesting point. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is as much truth in "Reynolds" as there is in any other Sunday newspaper. The suggestion was that the free nations of the world, which have an aggregate annual income of £120,000 million, should contribute 5 per cent. of that sum through the agency of the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organisation for the purpose of allaying the misery in the world and in that way combat the seeds of Communism and the state of unrest. That would mean that this and other countries would use much of the wealth created by the sweat and toil of their peoples to get rid of hunger and misery instead of to keep those elements in their place by armaments.
Walter Reuther, the President of the Automobile Workers' Association of America made a statement which I believe can help the cause of America and Britain and which, if backed up by action, can have a tremendous effect. There is a greater need for the encouragement of co-operative organisation in some of the more backward areas, as was mentioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Finally, I believe that if we endeavour to create among the people of Africa and Asia the feeling that they are citizens of the world, the sooner we shall get world government.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. George Ward (Worcester)
I hope that the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) will forgive me if I content myself by congratulating him on being such an assiduous reader of the Press and for not following him into the very complex social problems of the Asiatic peoples. I wish to turn my attention to defence problems a little nearer home.
I am afraid I cannot share the apparently unbounded admiration of several recent speakers opposite for the fine achievements of the present Government in the field of defence. What they mainly seem to forget is that these Measures which the present Government have found necessary to introduce have received the support of every hon. Member on this 1060 side of the House, and that in the constituencies we have been able to make their task of passing Measures which are not popular with everybody in the country very much easier for them. If hon. Members opposite will cast their minds back a little—and they are very fond of doing that, as we know—they will discover that on every occasion that right hon. Members on this side of the House attempted to introduce an unpopular Measure they had to contend not only with popular opinion in the country, but with the entire party opposite going into the Lobby against them. So really it is not fair to compare what happened before the war with what happens now.
One hon. Member asked when it was that the pay of the Forces became a pressing and important problem. He asked when was the moment when it became so necessary to raise their pay. The answer to that is that it never becomes necessary at any one particular moment of time. It becomes necessary as a result of the rise in the cost of living making their lives progressively more and more difficult. It is entirely the fact that the present Government have allowed the cost of living to rise so rapidly that has brought this problem into sharp relief. That is another thing to be borne in mind when hon. Members opposite look back, as they are so fond of doing.
As long ago as three years, it was perfectly clear to hon. Members on these benches that two things were going to happen. The first was that the Russians were going to become more and not less difficult. The second was that the cost of living was going to rise and not fall as long as the Socialist Government were in power. For both those reasons it seemed to us essential that we should do something to make the lives of people in the Armed Forces a little easier. We have advocated that for three or four years. Now that the Government have decided to do something, they have brought great satisfaction not only to members of the Forces but to those on these benches who have been begging and pleading with them for so long.
In connection with my own Service I feel particular satisfaction, that having advocated the restoration of flying pay in the Air Force in every Air Estimates Debate for the last four years the Government have now seen fit to do it. But 1061 there is one point connected with that subject that I would like to make. While the pilots in the Royal Air Force are getting their increased pay for increased risks, as they should, the Government have forgotten one type of pilot whose case I would like to plead very briefly now, lest he should be entirely forgotten. He is the civilian flying instructor in the civilian schools which train the Volunteer Reserve pilots.
These instructors have never been adequately paid and they are now left further behind than ever. These men, who have a great deal of flying experience and do precisely the same job as many of the flying instructors in uniform, get something in the neighbourhood of £600 to £700 a year. We should compare that with the new scales of pay for the Forces. The senior flying officer, who roughly corresponds to the civilian pilot, is getting, with marriage allowance, £913 a year, and the junior flight-lieutenant, who also roughly corresponds in experience and age to these people, is getting £1,031 a year.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that this is a matter for their civilian employers. When the Government ask for tenders for training facilities for V.R. pilots, they are submitted in detail and the lowest one is generally accepted. They are scrutinised very carefully, and if the pay of these pilots is too high and, therefore, the contract is too high it is rejected by the Air Ministry. I implore the Ministry to look at this matter again and not always to accept the lowest tender from the civilian flying schools, but to pay something for the remuneration of these civilian instructors who are doing a very fine job.
If I may turn to the Air Force for a moment, it has always seemed to me that, for two reasons, a powerful air striking force is perhaps the most important defence of all. I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree with that. First, I believe it to be the most important deterrent. Secondly, it is the Air Force which will bear the first brunt of any war in which we may unhappily be involved. I think it is generally agreed that the turning point in the last war was when our bombing force compelled the Germans to stop building bombers and to devote their entire resources to fighters. The moment they 1062 were on the defensive to that extent the war was virtually won. We must, therefore, give the highest possible priority to our striking force.
Let us look very seriously at what makes up that force. I must frankly admit that I found the Prime Minister's speech today disappointing in that he told us absolutely nothing which we did not already know. He said that the production of the Canberra was proceeding and expanding. Of course, we knew that already, and in any case the Canberra is not a heavy bomber; it is a light bomber roughly similar to the Mosquito but much faster. What are we doing about a heavy bomber striking force? In the last Air Estimates Debate it was suggested by many speakers, including myself, that the Government should come into the open and tell us whether there was any truth in the reports that the bomber force of this country was to be provided by America while we concentrated entirely on fighters. If that is so, I should like to warn the Government of the great dangers in that policy. I agree that it is attractive and tidy on paper, but there are great dangers.
When the Americans first arrived in this country in 1941—I think it was No. 9 Bomber Group which first came over—they arrived with aircraft which had been designed solely for day bombing. That meant that they were very heavily armoured, carrying a lot of guns and protective armour, but that they carried a very light bomb load at a not very high speed. It was a very courageous decision which they took when they said that, because they had these bombers and because it would take at least two years to convert them to night bombers, they would do the daylight bombing. They did it for that reason and not because it was the best strategic policy. We started by choosing night bombing and we built up an extremely efficient night bomber force and all that went with it—path finding, flare marking and all the rest.
The Americans still have bombers suitable only for daylight work. If we find ourselves involved in a war and we find that night bombing is the best thing to do, we shall be completely sunk unless we start building night bombers now. It would be no good altering the whole of our plan in the middle of the war. I implore the Government to think very 1063 carefully on this matter. If there is any likelihood at all of our wanting to use night bombers, then we cannot possibly permit the Americans to say, "We will provide you with your bombers." They have no night bombers. It would be different, of course, if we said, "This is the night bomber we have developed; this is what we want to have built. Now start and build it for us in Detroit or Canada." That is a different matter, but do not let us abandon the night bomber altogether.
We hear on all sides of the dangers of the new and extremely large Russian submarine fleet. I am not an expert in submarine warfare, but I have been told—and I am willing to be corrected by my naval friends—that the speed of these submarines is so great that it is becoming more and more difficult for surface craft to intercept and destroy them. Therefore, it seems to me that the importance of Coastal Command will be even greater than it was during the last war—and we know the wonderful work it did then. Let us not say we can deal with these submarines by surface craft and that we need not bother about Coastal Command. Let us start now to build up Coastal Command and give it really good anti-submarine aircraft, really good anti-submarine equipment and really good antisubmarine training. I think that both Bomber Command and Coastal Command have been grossly neglected in the past few years, and that we must concentrate on building them up.
I am going to touch very briefly on one or two other Commands. Transport Command: there again the policy of the Government—two years ago, I think it was—was to cancel all the transport aeroplanes we were making; and we assumed that the Americans would provide us with our transport aircraft. I do not think that that is a very good policy. Why not use for carrying out a great deal of the transport duties in this country the civilian charter companies, some of which are struggling to exist in competition with the nationalised airlines? In them we have the complete nucleus of a transport organisation, which would save us the need of a great fleet of transport aircraft and of training a great number of young transport pilots.
1064 The Fleet Air Arm is already using civilian pilots for ferrying. Is the Air Ministry considering anything of that sort? In these days, when every pilot is precious and cannot be wasted, we cannot allow highly trained R.A.F. pilots to ferry aeroplanes from the makers' factory to the airfield. That must be done by civilians, as the A.T.A. did during the war, and I believe it could still be done if we started now to build up an organisation such as Fleet Air Arm already have.
I must stress the vital importance of the radar chains—the early warning system. We really depend upon that for the whole of our defences, because fighters are no good without fighter control units. I have heard really alarming stories from people who have visited or seen these stations. I must admit I have not seen them myself, but I have heard from highly reliable people that many are now completely deserted and have no equipment at all, with, perhaps, only one civilian guarding a rusty gate or a tumbledown shed. There is an awful lot of work to be done there, and we must get on with it now. One hears of radar equipment being sent off to the manufacturers with mould—penicillin—growing out of it, because of neglect. We must consider these things because they are very important.
I will not detain the House now with this purely parochial subject of the Air Force. I think I have made the most important points for that Service. Let me finish on this note, that to build up our Air Force for our own service only in this country is not enough. What we must do is to build it in close collaboration step by step with the Dominions. At every step we take we must, in my view, take full consultation with the Dominion countries. It is they, surely, who, right from the beginning, must help us with our Air Force by means of their dispersed factories—in Canada and elsewhere. They have to provide a great deal of our training. I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister say today that already the Canadians are carrying out some of our training for us. They have to provide their contribution of pilots, and of equipment, and so on.
Beyond that, everything we do must be done in close co-operation with the Western European countries, so that the Air Force we develop shall be, as far as possible, fitted with standardised equipment, 1065 manned by men with standardised training, and serving under a unified plan and a unified command, so that everybody knows exactly what he has to do.
If the Government approach the matter on those lines, I feel certain that they will get from this side of the House all the support they need in these new defence measures which we, after all, have been advocating for some time. I think that what we need more than anything else in the next few weeks or months is unity of purpose in this House. We can only get it if the Government take us into their confidence, pay attention to what we say and act on it, knowing that we are putting suggestions forward not for any party gain but for the good of the nation and the whole civilised world.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Booth (Bolton, East)
I want to be brief. I am prompted to enter this Debate because when I made my first speech, in the Debate on the Address, I said that I was glad to see that the Government recognised the need for supporting the United Nations. I went on to say that it seemed to me that it was futile to rehouse our people, to build up the finest Health Service in the world and to maintain full employment at the risk of it all being swept away in the event of a third world war, maybe without any warning of the first blow, if we neglected to put all the strength and influence we possessed into the building up of the United Nations. I am glad to see that this is being implemented.
I came back from the First World War, like many more, believing that it was the last major clash between civilised peoples. Like so many more, I plunged into the League of Nations with a great hope, but found in the end that it had no power and only passed resolutions; and, in spite of myself, I had to recognise that any international order would, in the event of aggression, have to meet it with force and show the aggressors that we would not stand for aggression and that it would not pay.
If there was one thing above anything else in which I agreed with the Leader of the Opposition today, it was his demand that the Service chiefs use the men that they are to get into the Forces with greater efficiency than they have 1066 done in the past. I think that is very important. There is nothing that grieves me more every time that Britain goes to war—that sounds as if we did it regularly, but it is often enough for me—than to know, as was the case when I came out of the line in the First World War, that able-bodied men, because they played for Bolton Wanderers or some other team, were kept out of the line and never got nearer than 40 kilometres to it. That was their touchline.
The Prime Minister said that we must have regard to weapons and economics, but there has to be a spiritual urge, too, if we are to fight the menace that confronts the world. In my own constituency, there is a young man who has committed himself to the highest calling of all, in my opinion—the Church. He finishes in the Services in February, 1951, which is not a long way off. He has so far advanced in his studies during his spare time and through his sheer love of the cause, that, if released in October, he could take his place at Durham University. He is prepared to join the Territorial Army in the city of Durham. I have tried three times to get him released, but the application has been turned down. When they talk to me about the need for spiritual and moral rearmament, I contrast the case of that man with that of a cricketer. They are not releasing him, we are told, but are merely giving him leave. I may be asked what one man matters among millions, but it is the effect it has on the other men. I know men in the country, and so do we all, who will say that if that sort of thing is going on, they will have nothing to do with it even if we pay them £10 a week. That is what they will say if first things are not put first.
It is no use indulging in recriminations. When I heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) about the export of these essential tools, remembering that they can be obtained through third parties, my mind went back to the time when I was not a Member of this House but was sitting in the Gallery listening to the right hon. Gentleman speaking in a Defence Debate in 1936. The first Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, Sir Thomas Inskip, had been appointed, and the right hon. Gentleman, with his 1067 wonderful command of language, impressed us in the Gallery and the Members so much that when I got outside I felt that this Metropolis was at the mercy of the Luftwaffe. I also remember that in 1939, when we were still considering the imminent entry of Italy into the war, scrap metal was on the high seas on its way to that country. The present Government, at least, have not wasted three or four years, but have come in pretty soon when the red light showed itself.
We shall not get very far with recriminations. We can all cite instances where there has been delay and refusal to face the facts, but I am glad that the Government and the people have decided to put their trust in the United Nations and are prepared to say that before we talk with anyone, we will see that aggression is stopped and that the aggressor is behind the parallel before we even discuss the rights or wrongs of the case. All I ask is that we make better use of our manpower.
On the question of pay, my mind goes back to the time when, if I had eggs and chips behind the lines for five francs, I was flat out for the rest of the week. If we ask men to volunteer for the Services we are asking the greatest service a country can demand from any man; we cannot pay them too much, because we shall always be in their debt.
If this thing is to go on and is not settled in the next three months—and let us pray that it will be settled—and we require a long-term programme as well as a short-term programme, I wonder whether we are thinking enough of the Territorials. I would rather think of a citizen army. I know what it means from the point of view of the family budget if we can visualise the possibilities of 100,000 men getting £1 a week, men who are really Territorials and not just men doing the minimum number of drills. What would be the bill for a Territorial Army of 100,000 men? It would be £5 million out of the £800 million we are discussing today, which is to be swollen to unheard of amounts.
Remember that these men would also be in production. They would be living an ordinary domestic life. It is time we started to think about things like this 1068 rather than about swelling the professional army, which we must have. After all, it has always been the citizen armies of the world that have decided the destinies of the nations. It has been said of the British people that they are the least military-minded people on the face of the earth, but the most martial when called upon. I believe that to be true. We have seen to it that men can be soldiers of necessity if the need arises, and husbands, fathers and producers at other times. I commend the suggestion which I have made to the Government, and I hope they will consider it in the long-term programme that faces us.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Booth) on many points, but I should like to endorse what he said about the Territorial Army. The idea was a tremendously good one, and I hope the Minister of Defence will take some notice of it, because if this country could get a trained force of 100,000 men at an expenditure of £5 million, it would be well worth while. The advantage of that Territorial Army is that it would be recruited very largely from men who would be exempted in any future war, such as the men from the countryside, who are fit and ready to do a job of work. They would get this opportunity of preparing themselves for war should it come, which would be a wise step for an expenditure of £5 million.
I do not want to continue on those lines, because I want to concentrate this evening on the question of stock-piling. In any preparation for war there is always a great deal of stock-piling, such as is going on at present all over the world, of the necessities of war material. This country, in particular, has an interest in stock-piling which no other nation has got, and that is the conservation and storage of food supplies. Twice in the lifetime of most of us, this country has nearly been defeated in war through starvation. If half the reports which we hear of the submarine force of our potential enemy are true, it presents an alarming state of affairs. If war comes it will come suddenly, and if that big submarine force is actually in existence and is as fast and powerful as it is reputed to be, the result might very well be that we should be starved almost before the war started.
1069 There are two ways of stock-piling food. One is by increased production from our land all over Great Britain and the other method is the conservation of our grain stocks. I do not want to be ungenerous about the work of the Ministry of Agriculture in endeavouring to get increased production, which is possible and necessary; nor do I want to raise any party point. I hope the House will excuse me if I appear to do so. The increased production from the land of this country is not possible, no matter what the Minister of Agriculture may do, unless he gets the co-operation of the other Ministries. I raised this point before in our economic Debate four years ago, when we were in trouble, and I want to make it again.
It is quite understandable that each Minister should work for his own Department. The Board of Trade has one object and that is to export as much as possible and get a good target. The late Minister of Food repeatedly said that the object of the Ministry of Food was to buy food in the cheapest markets in the world. If Ministers carry on in that way, all the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture are entirely wasted.
I suggest to the Prime Minister, with respect, that he should call his team together and tell them to play as a team and not turn round and put the ball through their own goal every now and then. Not only has the President of the Board of Trade been exporting war potential badly needed by this country, but he has been exporting to overseas markets essential goods that we want, in order to bring back goods that we can produce. I will give one instance, that of tin. Why is it necessary to export tin to countries overseas in order to bring back tinned fruit, while our own fruit is unsaleable? I suppose I shall "come across" some of the economic experts in asking that question, but I would like to have enlightenment. Such operations may raise the export figures, but if there is any sound economy at the back of that system, I should like to hear what it is.
I should like to give two instances of sabotage by the late Minister of Food in the last 12 months. One concerns those wretched frozen rabbits which he imported by thousands of tons. They were of such wretched quality that the housewives of this country would not eat rabbits of any sort or description. The result is 1070 that farmers are fighting the biggest plague of rabbits that they have known for the last 50 years. It is not worth while catching the rabbits because they will not bring as much money as it costs to catch them. Another instance was last autumn, when the farmers had piles of fruit, and the Ministry of Food went out of its way to buy a million pounds' worth of Italian apples. The result was that our apples rotted in store because those wretched things were blocking the market and we could not get our apples sold.
Those instances may not seem to have much relevance to the stock-piling of food—[Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but I want to call their attention to the fact that one of the essentials for an increase of production from the land of this country is that the farmers should have confidence in the future. We can have no confidence in the future, as agriculturists, when we see what the Ministries are doing at the present time. The Prime Minister should put a stop to that sort of thing.
Another method of building up our supplies of food is to take steps towards retaining on the farm grain that we have threshed out at harvest time. Under the present method of harvesting, which increases gradually each year, we are threshing out in the fields an increasing amount of grain with combine-harvesters. That grain is taken straight away off the farm, dried when necessary, and probably consumed quite quickly. The consequence is that if war broke out in the autumn, as wars have a habit of doing, we should not have the reserves of food that we have had in the two past wars. I suggest to the Government that they should take some steps to see that the food is stored on the farm. The way to do that is to make it worth while to the agriculturists to keep the stock of grain in silos on the farm and to give them an increased price or a differential price as between wheat sold in the autumn and wheat sold in the spring. There have been several very interesting letters in "The Times" recently in regard to this matter and I make no excuse for bringing it forward again because it is a matter which requires serious consideration.
It is objected that the Government could not find the money to erect the silos. We do not ask the Government to find money to erect silos. All we suggest 1071 is that the Government should give the farmers a differential in price of £2 to £3 a ton between those periods, and then our farmers, although they are said to spend most of their time on feather beds, would be prepared to put in the driers and erect the silos to keep the grain in store ready for the better price which would come along. In that way we should have a storage of grain on the farm away from any possible attack by an enemy. There need be no vast expenditure of capital. Many farms could make use of storage capacity resulting from a slight reconstruction of existing buildings.
I beg the country to realise that the export trade which sends goods abroad in order to bring back to this country something which we ourselves can produce is out of date. The time has arrived when we should send abroad something which other countries want in order to bring back something which we want but cannot produce here. Our present methods are not closing the import-export gap. The way to do that is to produce what we can produce here. We can produce more than food. We can produce the healthy, virile men who are the lifeblood of the country. In the last two wars strong, fit men who ought to have been called into the Army have been reserved because of the necessity for food production. If this country wants to survive, it must return to the conditions which existed when agriculture was looked upon as a worth-while industry and not the lowest form of life.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) upon his determination to stick to his own subject in this Debate. We may have thought it a little wide of the issue before us at times, but he was, at any rate, dealing with a matter of great importance and to the extent that he was dealing with realities, he was assisting me in my desire to get a very real approach to what I believe is considered very much in the realm of fantasy at present.
I believe that we are all in a state of nerves and fear—including the Government and hon. Members on this side of the House as well as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite—to such a degree that it is difficult for us to determine exactly what is the danger in the world 1072 which we variously describe as the "Soviets," "Imperial Russia," "Communism," "the remnants of Marxism," and so on. I believe that we have managed to whip ourselves into a state of anxiety about Russia which would not have been possible a generation ago, at any rate on these benches. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite will allow me to state my case. The advocacy by the Communists of a materialist philosophy leading, as it has done, to an advocacy of the class war in such forms that it is today used to bolster up every sort of wicked imperialism, was inherent in the teachings of the materialist philosophy which ran throughout the Socialist movement for the last two generations.
I have attended international Socialist conferences before the emergence of the word "Communism," and my blood has run cold at hearing the extreme views then preached about what could be done by the organisation of material, overpowering, blasting force in the world. I did not believe, and I knew that Socialists in this country did not believe, that anything effective could be done that way. I knew that the Socialism which had grown out of the teachings of Christian Socialists like Kingsley and Frederick Dennison Morris, and afterwards heard through the voices of Keir Hardie and George Lansbury, had nothing in common with the teachings of the materialist philosophy to which we listened at those old international Socialist conferences. Yet we managed, and rightly managed, to find comradeship and to meet in a friendly way with those whose views were so materially different from our own.
I listened today with interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) and the warning that he gave us concerning the wickedness of judging all Communism on the same basis, and telling us that in Yugoslavia he had seen for himself that Communists were able to accomplish the things that we are trying to accomplish here. He said that therefore Communism should not be judged as a mere expression of militarism in all circumstances; that Communism is capable, if we really understood it better, of playing some part in the development of the world towards a better state of things. It is difficult for me wholly to accept that. I believe that the philosophy 1073 which will save the world is not a materialist philosophy; that the teachings of Him who said that we "should do unto others what we would they should do unto us," rather than applying any process of superior blasting force, is the philosophy which will save the world.
Therefore, I wish to introduce into this Debate a document which I, and I expect a great many other hon. Members, have received from a little body of people whose influence in our midst has been very considerable—the Society of Friends. In this document they say:The extension of conscription in one form of re-armament and war preparation, but it is the one that most invades the individual conscience and moulds a war mentality. We re-affirm our conviction that conscription is an evil thing that adds to the burden of suspicion in the world and is in danger of becoming accepted as inevitable in our national life.Then, after further animadversion, they conclude:Evil will not cast out evil. Mankind must seek God's guidance in learning to overcome evil with good.I know how irrelevant that must seem to many who listen to me now when they consider the state of the world in which we live; yet what this little body of people say is true, for if we could devise a policy based less upon our fear of what Communism is and more upon our belief in the power of good to overcome evil, we might even yet make progress in a world that is today so much given over to forces of evil and violence.
I know I speak of things which are not supposed to come very much under our political consideration. I know that a great Quaker, perhaps the greatest Quaker who ever come into politics and certainly the greatest who ever sat in this House, John Bright, on one occasion called attention to the fact that he did not very much refer to Scriptural teachings or to the words of the Saviour when he was addressing Parliament or public meetings on the question of war and peace. His arguments, he said, were based on the necessity to get the people to understand that, despite all the arrangements that we might make to meet force with force and evil with evil, in the long run our efforts would fail and war itself would always be proved futile from the point of view of the best instincts that move the hearts and minds of men.
1074 I realise that perhaps it would be better that I should not have quoted the whole of that statement, and yet, listening as I have done to all these preoccupations and to the reference of the hon. Member for Leominster to this point and that point in his agricultural interests, I felt that surely there might be ground for reminding the House of what these Quakers said, that if only mankind would seek God's guidance in learning to overcome evil with good, we might be nearer to some successful solution to our problem.
May I turn particularly to the Prime Minister, because I am quite sure he understands the validity of the claims I am making, even if he finds the world a difficult place in which to advance those claims. I have noticed, for example, today in his address to the House on two occasions that he referred to the fact that a sound economic position is absolutely vital for defence, and in another place he went on to say that economic strength and stability are the essential bases of all defence.
If it be so for us, is it not so also for the Russians? Is it not one of the reasons why the Russians are doing so badly today, why they are so afraid of the world, why they must draw down the Iron Curtain, that men may not discover the realities of the situations that exist there? Is not the reason for all that that they are placing all their trust in violence to the extent that they have drawn their manpower away from the reconstructive efforts upon which a real defence might be devised in order to build up a great army corps, armament works and stockpiles of atom bombs that they are supposed to be trying to create for themselves? Is it not that the Russians are showing by the position they are now in, that instead of being an object of fear in the world with their threats of aeroplanes and bombs and arms, it is rather truer to say that they have undermined the economic foundations upon which a real stable defence system could have been built up?
I agree, turning back to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dart-ford, that any effort we can make in the world to build up economic arrangements by which the people's needs for food, shelter and clothing are met, is far more likely to establish confidence and a sense of true defence than any of the 1075 methods we are now taking of trying to provide ourselves with greater forces and still greater forces to overcome the Russian menace about which we are so uncertain.
I do not know whether hon. Members saw that in one of the statements that has come to us from the American newspapers recently, it has been pointed out, for example, that the United States has an annual coal production of 435 million tons. What need then has the United States to be afraid of Russia, which has an annual production of 250 million tons? In 1949 the United States had an annual steel production of 78 million tons; in the same year Russia had a production of 35 million tons.
Stalin himself five years ago remarked on the fact that this economic insufficiency was itself a cause of weakness and that it might take one more five year plan before Russia could arrive at what he called a safe position, a position in which, to quote his own words:we could regard our country as immune against accidents.What was the position which, in the matter of the production of steel, he saw would make him "immune against accidents"? It was an annual production of 60 million tons. At the present moment it is 35 million tons. Or, if one may turn to another and far more realist aspect than even armaments, and conscripted men and women, there is the question of oil, that great basic necessity in modern war. The United States in 1949 produced 315 million tons and Russia produced 35 million tons.
What is there in this bogy of Russia, with its great armies and with its threatened stockpile of bombs, with its trained men in the air, but which cannot rely effectively upon a proper economic organisation of coal, steel and iron, to make us swing away from our best traditions, forgetting all we have said about conscription and the evils of militarism and telling ourselves that if only we have great armies and new army corps and new stockpiles, we can meet this Russian situation? I submit that the facts I have given to the House prove that if the House had confidence in itself and really saw the necessity of getting down, with the rest of the peoples of the world, to build an economic foundation 1076 both for ourselves and for other people, we should be in a far better and safer position than that in which we are at present.
I have only one more word to say about this matter. I feel frankly that, at any rate, so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, our greatest mistake is being made. I say that because we in the Labour movement have managed to convince ourselves in the last 20 years that if only we make our armies strong enough that will be a deterrent that will keep us out of war. The Romans said:If you wish for peace prepare for war.If there is one old slogan that has been proved to be a lie it is that one, for throughout all history those who have prepared for war have got war.
§ Mr. Hudson
The hon. and gallant Member has a different reading of history from my own. I will leave that to him. I submit that this belief in the deterrent power of armaments is a mistaken belief, whether the armaments are held in the hands of individual nations or whether they are held in the hands of a great composite authority such as the United Nations.
I know we have come to believe that it is better to put our trust in the use of composite force. Well, look where it is getting us at the present time. Look at the statement of General MacArthur. He sees quite clearly what is his duty from a military point of view, and if we agree that under the United Nations it is necessary to give him control as Commander-in-Chief, at least we must have some regard for his opinions. It is his opinion, and he says so quite frankly—though President Truman was very annoyed that he did say it—that from his point of view the only way to deal with the defence of America in the Pacific is to build a great chain of defences from the Aleutian Islands down to Singapore including the Mariannas and Formosa, and that Formosa will be absolutely essential for the defence of Western democracy; and if we lose that defence we lose the whole position.
That is the view of the man under whom we have placed the rule of our 1077 own men, our own soldiers. The Middlesex Regiment, about whom at any rate I have the right to speak tonight, coming as I do from a Middlesex constituency, is out at this moment in Korea under the command of a man who has revealed quite clearly what he regards as the policy that should be pursued. Although I may be told that President Truman is a wiser man than General MacArthur, he has not been able to get rid of General MacArthur, any more than the Conservative Party have been able to get rid of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill)—[HON. MEMBERS: "We do not want to."]—who has been advocating a policy before this Debate started. At any rate, the Tory Party has not been wise enough to keep its secrets to itself. He has been advocating a vastly different policy from the one which has been put forward in the House tonight, and I am suggesting that so long as we have men like the right hon. Member for Woodford on this side of the world and men like General MacArthur yonder in the Pacific, this talk about hostilities and collective security in order to deter the world into peace, is futile talk.
It would be better to revert to what the Society of Friends said in the document that I read, that it is better to seek the methods of trying to overcome evil with good. All the attempts that the world has made through its long history to meet evil with evil has led to the growth of confusion, misery and tribulation. I sympathise with the difficulties of the Government, and I am not going to add to their difficulties—[Laughter]. Well, I have trust in the Government and believe they are at least willing to listen to a spiritual truth, even though it is badly expressed. I have been trying to express what I consider to be a fundamental spiritual truth tonight.
I believe that the Prime Minister is feeling his way constantly towards the thing I have been describing. Although I deeply regret a further extension of conscription and the increase of our military preparations, I am still hoping that we may get rid of our fears, and see Communism in a clearer light with less fear than we have done in the past few months. If that were so, I am quite sure we should arrive at a better condition of things.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
The House has listened to a typically sincere speech from the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson). Of course, I think the hon. Member is entirely misguided; I think he needs pity more than attack, but, generally speaking, the House does recognise that he speaks from his heart, if not from his brain, and that he does desire something that we all desire, that is, a world at peace. It is a question that simply depends on how we seek that peace and how we hope to obtain it. I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman's remarks, and I do not expect that he would wish me to follow them any further, except to pay that tribute to the honesty with which he has addressed us.
After the wide survey which the Prime Minister gave us this afternoon, which was elaborated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), it might almost have seemed to the House that there was very little more to be said, but there are two or three points to which more specific reference should be made and upon which more specific information should be received. I propose to refer to these few points in the very short speech that I intend to make.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister referred to the fact that the pay improvements which he was proposing to the House would not, in his opinion, be enough to secure the additional forces which this country requires, and he further stated that some extra amenities, as he put it, would be necessary in order to get us the number of men we require. I agree with him, and I would therefore like to devote a minute or two to that particular point. How can we get the additional number of men that the country requires at the present time? At one time, it was thought that a high rate of unemployment led to a high rate of recruiting, but, of course, the statistics published by the right hon. Gentleman from the War Office disproved that illusion, because it was established that, during the period when unemployment was at its highest—from 1929 to 1931, the last time we had a Socialist Government in office—recruiting declined. Therefore, one hopes that that stupid and irresponsible charge which has often been 1079 made by hon. Members opposite will now be dropped.
If that is so, one is driven to try to find out what is the cause of the present low intake into the Regular Services, having, of course, discarded full employment as a possible reason. Undoubtedly, pay has been a very definite cause, and by pay I mean the disparity between the pay packet of the soldier and that of the civilian, apart altogether from other benefits they might receive. Although that disadvantage has been largely rectified by the decision to which the Government have come, there are in my opinion other factors which affect the desire for soldiering, and here I would like to deal solely with the Army, which is the Service about which I know most.
These factors are, first, a dislike on the part of ex-Regular soldiers to return to the discipline from which they have so lately been released. I think that is perfectly reasonable. Then there is the resentment of any form of discipline amongst the young, who, largely since the last war, and, in my opinion, owing to the last war, have known little or no discipline in their home life. Then there is the fear that their service will hinder, defer or prevent marriage altogether, and the feeling, which I am sorry to say is well justified in many cases, that the local authorities will not accept Service years as a claim towards priority in housing.
Finally there is the fear that when discharged or retired the soldier will find himself both workless and unqualified to compete in the ordinary civilian labour market. I am told that uniform, with its present lack of glamour, has also a deterrent effect, but about that I am not sure. If those reasons are correct, we should consider what steps we can take to overcome these drawbacks in the mind of the potential recruit. Therefore, I suggest one or two proposals which have already been made in this House during the last Parliament and this one, but which have so far been ignored.
First and foremost, we should aim at making the Army a career of honour, dignity and reward—especially dignity. I remember when I was a very young soldier we used to have on Saturday afternoons what we called the "swagger parade." It was to teach the young recruit how to behave himself in uniform 1080 and in public, how to have a pride in the Service and how to behave with becoming dignity and yet with modesty, but all the time with a pride in himself and in the uniform he wore. That might not be a bad idea today in this Welfare State. It could be done, I believe, by suitable propaganda and also by the very tangible means to which I am coming.
The second step is to make the general conditions of service more attractive. I know it is difficult to draw the line between undue discipline and undue softness. That has always been the problem, especially of late. I believe, however, that if the advice of experienced regimental, as opposed to staff, officers and of regimental commanders with long experience of regimental life were taken, we would find that that line could be defined. Again, I would train—and I know that steps have been taken in this direction—every officer, N.C.O. and man for some job or profession while they are still serving. This would naturally be done according to their desire, their bent and their capacity, and, of course, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) said some time ago, we should guarantee them a suitable job on retirement. After all, as he pointed out, we have the nationalised services and industries which give plenty of opportunities for that to be done.
Then, of course, there is the final and by far the most important of all the points I have mentioned, the guaranteeing of a home to the retired or discharged soldier. I admit, of course, that we may have to get rid of the present Minister of Health in order to do this, but that would be a small price to pay. If these suggestions were adopted, I am convinced that in a very few years we could dispense with the present National Service system altogether, which would be a highly desirable result.
The Government may say that this is all very true and very nice, but how are we going to pay for it? I understand that at present National Service costs the taxpayer something like £350 million a year. Surely, it would be possible to slow down the National Service intake and, at the same time, to step up the recruitment for the Regular Army to such an extent that their might be very little, if anything, to fall on the taxpayer. I entirely agree, of course, with the increase of six 1081 months for National Service men, as long as that army has to be maintained because, in the experience of professional soldiers, it has been found quite impossible to train a first-class and useful soldier in 18 months.
I have only one doubt about this increase, and that is about where we are going to find the instructors without detriment to the Regular Army. That is a problem which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has faced, but whether he has overcome it or not is an entirely different thing. I would much rather see compulsion applied to the Territorial Army than to National Service men. We have done it already by the transference of conscripts to the Territorial Army. If these suggestions are accepted we should have a first-class, competent, perhaps small, but compact and happy Regular Army, and at the same time a Territorial Army—due to compulsion being applied without any reservations—on full establishment, ready to play its full and proper part as our second line of defence.
Why are the Government so "cagey" about the European and Atlantic defence plans? Why are they so reluctant to tell us the whole facts, the whole truth, and to give us full details about plans for Atlantic defence and for Western European defence? Why do they not give us the precise requirements? We have heard from the Prime Minister today certain figures about the numbers of divisions which it was hoped to form, and which might be required. But the country wants to know more. This people of ours, as we have found already, are ready to face any challenge provided they know and are told the truth. It seems to me that at present all we know is that there are plans on paper for Atlantic and Western Union defence, but plans on paper, and the paper itself, cannot fight guns. At any time, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite know, by some stupid and unintentional act by some stupid and irresponsible soldier we may find ourselves at war again; and we do not really know what we have got and how we are prepared to fight such a war. Let us know how we stand.
Finally, may I repeat a suggestion I made on three separate occasions during the last Parliament, and which has been recently reinforced, repeated and strengthened by far more important 1082 figures than myself. That suggestion is that the leaders of the three allied nations, the war-time allies as we used to call ourselves—and what a cynical commentary that makes on the purity of that alliance—should meet personally: Mr. Truman to represent the United States, the Prime Minister, supported by the Leader of the Opposition to show a united Britain, and, if necessary, bring in a French leader, and let them meet Mr. Stalin personally. It can be done, I am told. It has been talked about not only in this House but elsewhere, and it has been suggested in the wider debates that go on in Europe. Having met Mr. Stalin let them say, "We know you can destroy us; you know we can destroy you; but we are going to destroy civilisation in doing so. Who is then to be the gainer"? It may not succeed, but surely it is worth while trying, if only to prevent the possibility of the world destroying itself.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
I need hardly say that I agree entirely with the peroration of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), and I naturally put it down to the fact that he has been reading some of the speeches of the hon. Member who represents him in South Ayrshire.
Throughout this Debate there has run one complete delusion. It is that we are going to get security and safety for this nation by continuing an arms race and piling up armaments and building a greater Army. I regard that as a delusion and I challenge it completely. I put this point recently in what I think is the most intelligent newspaper in this country—"The Manchester Guardian"—and I put it in this way: if we have more conscription, if we call up more men, if we increase the number of our divisions, what will be the reaction in the U.S.S.R. and in the countries behind the Iron Curtain? Will they say, "That finished us"? Or will they say, "We must protect the U.S.S.R. and our own country by piling up more armaments and having more conscription"?
Suppose they do that—and Poland has already done it; then we shall find that next year the relative position is just as it was. Indeed, we may find that, if Moscow has decided to call up more conscripts, to call up the Mongolians and the Siberians and the 1083 people from Turkestan, then from the point of view of the relative manpower in our armies we shall be worse off than ever.
When the Prime Minister says all this is for peace, I reply that there is no sign to be seen from reading history that we shall achieve more peace by piling up our armaments. The inevitable result in other countries will be that they will say from their point of view, "We need more men, more armaments, more bombs, more tanks; we need all these ways and means of defending ourselves against the aggressor"—and the aggressor, in this case, happens to be us.
§ Mr. Hughes
Certainly Germany was in fear of being encircled. The hon. Member is entitled to his opinion. If he is so afraid of Germany, perhaps he is not in favour of a policy of rearming Germany, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
I put this question to the editor of "The Manchester Guardian," and I received no answer. I have been waiting. Probably some of the hon. Members who wish to follow me in this Debate will supply the deficiency. If Russia and China and the Communist countries decide to call up their manpower, where shall we be in 1951? I do not see any solution in this policy at all, and I regard it as fraught with the gravest economic possibilities to the future of this country.
It will be argued that we shall get more soldiers as a result of increasing their emoluments. That is in flat contradiction to what the previous Minister of Defence told us. I believe that when we suggest to the soldier that we will increase his pay, when we offer all these bribes and inducements, we are perpetrating a fraud upon the people whom we are asking to enlist. I want to know how it is possible to increase the real wages of the soldiers at a time like this when the supply of goods for consumption will inevitably decrease and when we find ourselves facing a problem such as that with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was faced in the crisis after devaluation. There is only one cake; and if we are to add £70 million to the pay of the soldiers we are making 1084 complete economic nonsense of the arguments that were supported by the Government and the Opposition in the Devaluation Debate. How are we to increase the real wages of the soldier? We may say to him that we are going to give him so much pay, but suppose the cost of living rises? Then the pay increases are already wiped out.
§ Mr. Hughes
We provide him with food and clothing, but I have too much respect for the intelligence of the Minister of Defence to suggest that he does not see the superficiality of the argument I am about to examine. What happens to the rise in pay of the soldier? Will the rise be subject to Income Tax? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] If so, we are going to take the money back in the other hand. Are there to be higher taxes on beer? Are there to be increased taxes on cigarettes? These are the things the soldier buys mostly, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us how he is going to pay the bill we shall be taking the increases in pay back either in Income Tax or in taxation on the commodities the soldier consumes.
At home, will the soldier's wife be any better off? We have already increases in the prices of wool. They will be reflected in increases in the cost of clothing. We shall have increases in the cost of clothing, boots and food. There is no escape from this economic dilemma, and I say it is a sham and a fraud and an imposition on the soldiers of this country to say they are getting any real increase of wages as a result of these proposals.
The plain fact is that the soldiers of the last war are so sick of the very idea of war that they are telling their sons and their friends to keep out of it if they can, and that is why they are not flocking to the recruiting centres. The Prime Minister has told us that there was an increase of four times in the previous figures. What were the previous figures? Why cannot we be told what were the recruiting figures in the last months before these proposals? They were very low. Why cannot the actual figures be told to us? Although there may be a certain impetus in recruiting as a consequence of the announcement of these proposals, we shall 1085 not have increased numbers of men when the impetus fades away.
I do not believe there is any solution of this manpower problem. I am prepared to be judged by events. We cannot tell in the next week or the next fortnight or the next month what is the real effect of these proposals on recruitment. I do not know what it will be—and events will show whether I am right or wrong—but I do not believe that there is in this country the manpower, in either volunteers or conscripts, to build up the armies which the Service chiefs say are necessary.
What about the proposal to build up German forces again? I spent a considerable time recently in Berlin, and I talked to the young people there. There is every justification for the statement made by the German Socialist leaders—and I wish our Socialist leaders had as much sense and realism as the Socialist leaders of Germany—who say, "We do not believe in handing over the youth of Germany to be cannon fodder in another war." Millions of them went into Russia; many of them have been prisoners in Soviet Russia; and I do not believe that we shall get the youth of Germany today to go into the armies. I believe we are going to get steady resistance to any attempt to enlist the Germans in another war.
Surely, if we are asked to accept the point of view of the Government, we should remember that their prophecies on this manpower problem have been completely wrong. Their estimates of expenditure have been wrong. I want to point out that the Foreign Secretary when he introduced the Atlantic Pact in this House—and I am glad to say that I voted against the Atlantic Pact—said at the time that we could look forward to decreased expenditure as a result of the Atlantic Pact.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.