Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th September]:
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."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
In resuming this Debate, perhaps I should explain that I am not beginning on behalf of the Government. It was due to an accident that I was on my feet at ten o'clock last night, and I wish to elaborate a few of my remarks and to outline some more points in the White Papers on Defence.
I understand that there is no opposition from the other side to these defence proposals, and that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are really fellow travellers on the road to rearmament, which I believe will not lead to national security, but may be the will o' the wisp, the delusion, that may lead to the Slough of Despond and indeed to the City of Destruction. Throughout the speeches from either side, this has been the main theme. The leaders of both parties have argued that this is the way to prevent war; that if we go on increasing the Armed Forces on the lines suggested in these White Papers, if we increase the armaments of this country, we will then be in a position to carry out a policy which will cause any possible aggressor to hesitate to go into a possible war.
I have a very great doubt about that whole conception of policy, because in the past we have seen, especially over the last century, that two groups of great Powers have carried out the policy of power politics and both sides have explained to their peoples that they need their armies and armaments purely for defence. And so the race has gone on until it ended in the tragedy, the calamity and the horror of war. I remember on 1104 12th May, 1949, when the present Foreign Secretary, in putting the case for the Atlantic Treaty in this House, said that the Atlantic Treaty created a new situation which might well lead to a final settlement. His argument in asking the House to support the Atlantic Treaty was that once the Atlantic Treaty had become a recognised fact, it would mean a change in the policy of the Soviet Union. He even argued that as a result of the Atlantic Treaty we could look forward to a reduction in armaments, and he told the House that:instead of the old method whereby each nation provided great and expensive services, the pact will allow us to consider this problem … and rationalise it, and in the end provide for a reduction in the cost of armaments through comprehensive arrangements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1950; Vol. 464, c. 2018.]That was said on 12th May last year, but we do not find today that the Atlantic Treaty has resulted in a diminution in armaments. We are now asked to agree to increased expenditure by the United Kingdom to a total of £3,400 million during the next three years. We have to face that expenditure and to admit frankly that the Government's foreign policy, as embodied in the Atlantic Treaty, has not resulted in the Russians saying, "Yes, we must now change our policy." On the other hand, they, too, have built up their armaments, and there is now the possibility that, when the Russians come to consider their attitude as a result of this increased rearmament programme in all the western countries, they, too, may say, "Yes we must have greater strength and increase our armaments in order to deter the possible aggressor." They will use precisely the same arguments and put before their own Press and people the very arguments that are being advanced by the Government and the Opposition in this House today.
I understand that we are to have some statement from the Government about the economic effect of this increased armaments expenditure, and I should be very glad if we could have some further explanation of what the Prime Minister said yesterday about the effect which it is likely to have on the social life of the people of this country. He said that there was to be a diversion of labour from civilian employment and that this would mean a decline in the provision of radio sets and 1105 television sets, and a decline in the availability of various products of the engineering industry. He said also that there would be some demand on the textile, chemical and building industries. I should like to have some explanation of this last sentence.
How will this diversion of labour affect the building industry? To what extent are labour and material to be diverted from housing, which is the greatest social problem that we have to face? Does it mean that the people of this country are now to be told, "You have to be content with fewer homes in order that labour may be diverted to arms production"? Are the building trade workers still to be retained in the Armed Forces? Are the people on whom we rely to supplement our building labour force engaged on housing schemes to remain for a further six months in the Armed Forces, and does this mean that housing will recede? Certainly, we ought to have some greater indication of how these proposals will affect the social and economic life of the people of this country.
I have here a letter from a soldier at present in Korea; he says:Korea may be a side-show or it may be the start of a big war. I would not know, but I ask this of whatever Government is in power when it is over. If you make us promises this time, keep them. If you promise married quarters, give them to us, even if they are only 'prefabs.' Not having a home or a chance of one stopped me getting married two years ago, but I cannot blame the lass for that. Now, I may never get the chance.This letter comes from one of the soldiers fighting with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Korea. The soldiers who are at home and who have no chance of getting homes for 20 years have the right to know exactly how these rearmament proposals will affect the building trade of this country.
Then, we ought to know what is to be the impact of these proposals on the social services. In the "Daily Telegraph" of 4th September, on the front page, there appeared a paragraph headed "United States may ask for cut in our social services." Under this heading, we were told:The discussions between the three Foreign Ministers which open in New York tomorrow week will be aimed at reassuring Western Europe on Anglo-American defence intentions. America's expectations of full co-operation, even at the expense of social policies in other Treaty countries, will be considered.1106 Does this mean that an American politician is saying to the Government of this country, to the Governments of France and Western Germany, as well as to other Governments of Western Europe, "You have got to curtail and cut down your social services"? If that is so, I foresee that as being the greatest possible argument that Communism will have in Western Europe, and I ask the Minister who is to deal primarily with the economic effect of the rearmament programme to give us some idea how it will affect the social services, and to reassure those of us who believe primarily that the welfare State should not be subordinated to the warfare State.
I ask how this policy of increasing the rates of pay for the Armed Forces will affect the industrial worker. How is it likely to affect the policy of the wage freeze? I believe this is very important. I should like to know, as representing a mining constituency, what is to be the Government's attitude towards the claims of the lower-paid miners. I believe that the miners in my own constituency—the people I saw going down in rescue squads last week—are just as brave and courageous as anybody who happens to be in military uniform. I want to know what is to be the impact upon these industries. Are the Government now going to say, "We are prepared to consider an alteration in our policy towards the lower-paid workers"? Anybody who has read the White Paper must realise that the question that will inevitably be asked by engineers, miners and lower-paid workers is: "Are we not also entitled to an increase? If the Government can increase rates of pay in the Armed Forces, why should we be expected to stay at the same levels and get no response to our demands?"
Then there is the question of the women workers. I suppose that the Minister of State for Economic Affairs has read the decision of the Trade Union Congress last week. In the White Paper it is stated that women are to get an increase of wages comparable to three-quarters of the increase for the male soldiers. Are the Government now going to agree to the decision of the T.U.C., arrived at democratically? Are they going to say, "The women in uniform, who will be posted at the anti-aircraft stations and who, perhaps, in the war will get into the firing 1107 line, are to be paid three-quarters of the rate paid to the soldier," or are they going to accept the democratic decision arrived at by the T.U.C.?
I will now deal with some of the points raised yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman has been arguing in favour of rearming Germany and of Germany playing its part in a European Army. He says that here we have the Russians in Western Europe and that we need a greater potential military force to hold Western Europe against them. What I want to know is what part the Leader of the Opposition played in bringing the Russians into Western Europe. If the Russians are in Berlin today, if the Iron Curtain stretches along the banks of the Oder, and if our frontier is on the Rhine, then one of the architects of this policy is undoubtedly the present Leader of the Opposition.
I certainly do not subscribe to the idea that on matters of military organisation and strategy concerning international policy we must accept the doctrine of the infallibility of the right hon. Gentleman. The best military brains in the world do not do so. For example, Mr. Hanson Baldwin, the military critic of the "New York times" says:Unconditional surrender was an open invitation to unconditional resistance; it discouraged opposition to Hitler, probably lengthened the war, cost lives and helped to make an abortive peace. Unconditional surrender meant the complete disappearance of any European balance. War to the bitter end was bound to make Russia top dog on the Continent, to leave the countries of Western Europe weakened, and to destroy any buffer in Europe.As I have said, if the Russians are in Europe today, that is largely a result of the policy of the Leader of the Opposition, for which he must accept a great responsibility. I remember during the war hearing the same lurid descriptions of the Germans that we now hear today of the Russians. Having got the Russians into Europe in order to kill the Germans, the right hon. Gentleman now wants us to organise the Germans to kill off the Russians.
Let us examine some of the arguments which he put before us. He told us that the atomic bombcasts its strange but merciful shield over the free peoples."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950, Vol. 478, c. 989.]1108 That is the most remarkable description of the atomic bomb that I have yet heard. One can imagine a Russian military critic reading reports of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and saying, "If this merciful shield is spread over the Western democracies, then surely we are—"
§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address me, and not turn his back on me and address those behind him.
§ Mr. Hughes
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I certainly had no intention of committing any affront to you at all. I thought when you rose that I was out of order.
I want to come back to this argument about the atomic bomb. As I was saying, if the atomic bomb is a merciful shield over Western Europe, we can quite imagine the Russians living in Leningrad and Moscow saying, "Well, if the atomic bomb is a merciful shield, why cannot we have some of these merciful shields so far as the U.S.S.R. are concerned?" Therefore, we get the situation of two nations preparing for the atomic bomb race and with that weapon in the possession of both potential enemies. The Leader of the Opposition seems to argue that the benefit is all on our side, but that is not the opinion of some of the greatest military writers in this country. For instance, it is not the opinion of Captain Liddell Hart who, writing on the strategy of the atomic bomb, said:While it may be difficult for Russia to catch up with the Americans' lead in the production of atom bombs or match them in a Russo-American bombing duel, she might more effectively use any atom bombs that she has produced to retaliate on Western Europe if the Americans bomb her centres.He points out that far from the atomic bomb being a military advantage to us, a few atomic bombs dropped on the capitals of Western Europe might cause much greater paralysis in those countries than a larger number dropped on the Soviet Union. If that is so, I fail to see the force of the argument which has been the keystone of much of the war strategy and advice of the Leader of the Opposition during the last five years. I do not think it holds good.
The next suggestion is that we should build up a huge European Army, but nobody seems to face the fact that the Russians may do the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "They have already got it."] 1109 Then they may increase it. If they look at the decisions in this White Paper and see that there is to be a new European Army built up with German assistance, is there not every reason for supposing that the inevitable result will be that the Russians will increase their divisions, will call upon their bigger reserves of manpower, with the probable result that we shall be precisely where we were before?
I would point out that the position regarding manpower is worse than was stated by the Minister of Defence. General Bradley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America, stated last autumn that Russia had 175 operational divisions. That has been the figure quoted from both sides in this House. He went on to say that Russia could increase this total to 300 divisions within 60 days and to 500 divisions within a month of mobilisation. If that is so, we have not only to face the fact that we have to build up a European Army to face 150 divisions, but that Russia and other countries east of the Iron Curtain can call up huge reserves.
If that is to be the reply of the eastern countries to the preparations of the western democracies, then the inevitable result will be that we shall not be in a position of greater superiority in two or three years' time; indeed, we have to face the fact that we may be even worse off than we are today with this huge crippling burden of armaments on our shoulders, and no nearer reaching superiority or even equality with the Russians. This creation of a Western army is not so easy as it sounds, because we have been told that the French armoured division are still to make do with obsolete tanks.
The impact of all this rearmament on Western Europe will have grave economic and social effects which will create conditions that will inevitably breed Communism. The immediate result of getting more divisions from Germany will be that the Governments of Roumania and Hungary and all the other occupied countries will say, "Yes, this is the German menace coming again." So I do not see at the end of this road any real security at all and I believe that this thing cannot be stated in nearly such simple terms as those in which it was presented to us by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech yesterday.
1110 I do not believe that this world can be divided into peace-loving democracies and aggressor countries which are in favour of war. If one reads the Russian Press and the American Press these days and listens to and reads the comments from American generals, one will find that from the point of view of bellicosity the Americans can beat the Russians every time. I want to quote the views of Major-General Orville Anderson, commandant of Maxwell Field Air War College at Alabama. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not the commandant: he has been sacked."] I want to read the passage for which he was suspended, not sacked. He said:Give me the orders to do it and I can break up Russia's five atom bomb nests in a week. And when I go up to Christ I think I could explain to Him that I had saved civilisation.He was suspended, and rightly so, but that does not dispose of the fact that he stated, in crude and brutal terms, one of the essential aims of American strategic policy. President Truman has to repudiate some general every other day. He has actually had to repudiate General MacArthur, and I do not believe that if we follow blindly the policy that is practically dictated by the United States of America we are really making our contribution to the solution of this great international problem.
I warn the House that a good many of the fundamental ideas behind American strategy have been made nonsense by what has happened in Korea. Some of the greatest publicists in America are issuing this warning at the present time. There is, for example, Mr. Walter Lippmann, the famous commentator of the "New York Herald-Tribune," who has said:The additional forces we plan to raise do not begin to meet our new obligations. Measured in money the effort is almost a continuation of business as usual. Measured in military manpower, which is the acid test, it may not be enough to deal with the North Koreans. And yet our obligations have become greatly inflated because we have allowed ourselves to be drawn into a war on the ground on the Asiatic mainland.Mr. Walter Lippmann warns America and the world that, far from having reached security as a result of these so-called security policies America is in a more dangerous position than ever. He says:We are in this most dangerous position because the President and his Secretary of State 1111 have lost the control of United States foreign policy. They are captives of their critics.Let the Government beware that they do not become captives of their critics here, and that they do not have to play up to the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Walter Lippmann said:They are carrying out unhappily and ineffectively a policy imposed on them by their political opponents. And they, in turn, though they are dictating the policy, have neither the power to make it work nor the responsibility if it does not work but leads to a kind of global Korea.With this prospect of a "global Korea" in front of us, is it not time we tried a new kind of diplomacy, a new kind of appeal to the so-called aggressor country and once more asked them to face the fact, as General Marshall has admitted, that neither side can possibly win another war? I believe that, even in the realm of diplomacy, it should be the business of the Government at the present time to outline a new world plan in which it could be clearly stated how the economic and financial resources of the world could be used for the benefit of all the nations of the world. I believe that is the main line on which we can hope to deal with this problem.
There is certainly no hope at all in the line that the Leader of the Opposition suggested yesterday—the further boycotting of Russian goods. We send machine tools to Russia, and, presumably, he wants that to be discontinued. Now, machine tools can be used for practically anything in industry, and if that argument is to be carried to its logical conclusion we are going to isolate East from West and create economic chaos in Europe. Economic chaos in Europe means hunger and poverty for Europe's masses, and inevitably conditions in which Communism will thrive and flourish. So I say that if the objective of our policy is to discourage Communism, we have to find an alternative policy to Communism, a policy which will appeal to the idealism in mankind. That will not be done by proceeding with the policies and methods that are outlined in this futile policy of bigger armies and more armaments.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
We have listened to a very individual view from the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and, in my 1112 experience, the House always listens with respect, and even sympathy, to any view which is sincerely held. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not reply in detail to his points. Some of his very relevant and indeed searching questions on economic affairs no doubt will be dealt with by the Minister of State for Economic Affairs when he speaks. As for the animadversions upon the administrative and military qualifications of the Leader of the Opposition, I will certainly convey them to my right hon. Friend, who will no doubt deal with them.
Whatever differences may or may not emerge between us in the course of these Debates, I think we must all agree that they do throw a revealing if sinister light upon the state of the world today. We are met here for one purpose only. That is to devise measures to resist, if that be still possible, the most ruthless and heartless application of power politics that the world has known in its long history.
These measures are urgent, for desperate ills require desperate remedies and, as was clearly stated by the Leader of the Opposition, they will have our full support. There has already been general approval for the steps to improve the pay and conditions of our Regular Forces, with the double purpose of stimulating recruitment and inducing men completing their first term of regular engagement to extend their service; and I think the latter objective is by no means the less important of the two. It is also important to attract back into the Forces the right kind of men who can serve as instructors and non-commissioned officers. These changes in pay and conditions are long overdue and I am particularly glad that, after four years of pressure from these benches—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—wait until I finish the sentence—the Royal Air Force is to see a restoration of flying pay. We have asked for that in every Service Estimates Debate in the last Parliament and in this.
I do not intend to enter into the familiar argument as to whether recruitment in the past rose or fell with the general economic situation, particularly the employment situation. It is certainly arguable from the pre-war figures that large-scale unemployment did little or nothing to increase the flow of recruits. The graph which was debated shows that. I do not want to argue that, how- 1113 ever, for the point which I am making is this. Since the Second World War, whether because of or in spite of a Socialist Government—I do not pause to argue that—there has been what is called full employment. That is agreed. Yet during this period, as the White Paper informs us, recruitment fell from 95,500 in 1947 to 67,000 in 1948, to 52,000 in 1949, and in the first six months of 1950 to the annual rate of 44,000-odd. That is, from 95,000 to 44,000. The re-engagements are equally disappointing. Yet there has been little or no change in the employment situation in those years.
What, then, has changed? Is it not obvious that since 1947 the relative advantages, after proper allowance has been made for food, clothing and so forth, between what is being offered by the Services and what can be earned in civilian life have undergone a substantial change? In December, 1945, the Government White Paper, Command 6715, claimed that there was "a broad equality" between Service and civilian pay. That is not my claim—I have not the means to make these calculations—but it was the Government's claim. Whether this calculation was absolutely correct or not does not really matter; what matters is the relative changes which have taken place since then.
By October, 1949—and I quote the Ministry of Labour figures—civilian pay had increased by 28s. 6d. a week, but the pay and allowances of the average, married private soldier had increased in the same period by only 10s. 6d. a week. Surely the falling off in recruitment by half since 1947 must have some connection with this radical change in the position. Certainly, the Government now believe that there is a connection for the new scales provide for the same man—I take the average, married private soldier—increases of some 21s. a week; and, in the case of n.c.os. and warrant officers and skilled tradesmen, where the difference was no doubt greater between Service and civilian remuneration, the new rates, in my opinion, go some way to meet this by giving greater pay increases to these classes.
If that course is right now, why has it been delayed so long? As long ago as July, 1947, when this disparity between Service and civilian remuneration was becoming pronounced, my right hon. 1114 Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) called the Government's attention to this problem and prophesied the disastrous fall in recruiting which would follow. He made this appeal three years ago:Do not, please, leave it to the very last minute when you are approaching 1950 and find that it is too late to get the men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 507.]Ministers have left it to the last minute. They have left it to 1950. They have left it until it is too late to get the men, as their own White Paper shows—from 95,500 three years ago to 40,000-odd today. Those are, indeed, alarming, appalling figures. If increased remuneration is the cure for this malady, why does it take three years for the Government and all the planners to diagnose the disease and apply the remedy? Why this obstinacy? Why this delay? I think the answer is clear: they preferred to spend the money on other schemes more politically advantageous or more in tune with their Socialist philosophy. Now, by these proposals on which they are relying, they admit their error and stand, in a sense, self-condemned.
It is from this initial and fundamental failure that much of the confusion and frustration connected with the National Service system springs. Hence this chopping and changing—first 18 months, then a year, then extended to 18 months, now two years. In the Debate in July the Minister of Defence took some credit, and I think with perfect fairness, in that a Labour Government decided to keep National Service in peace-time. I agree. I think that decision showed courage and statesmanship. But he went on to doubt whether a Conservative Government would have done the same. Perhaps he will allow me, in turn, to doubt whether a Labour Opposition would have given a Conservative Government loyal and full support to Such a Measure. Indeed, I sometimes wonder what would have been the attitude of only a few of them, two or three, if the positions had been reversed. What if, after five years of a Conservative Government, we had come to the House with Measures similar to those proposed today? What would have been the scenes in this House about sending British lads to Korea and extending compulsory service to two years?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place and we all much regret 1115 the reason, but what was his advice to the nation in similar circumstances two years before the last war?
In 1936 he said:Every possible step should be made to stop recruiting for the Armed Forces.He told the workers in 1937:Refuse to make armaments; refuse to use them. That is the only way to keep the country out of war.I think that is the view of the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South.
The failure to recruit sufficient Regulars necessarily results in lack of operational formations and the failure to make the best use of the National Service men, and perhaps the most dramatic truth of this lies in the fact that, with 364,000 men in the Army, we can hardly scrape together one operational field brigade group to send to Korea from this country today. The Prime Minister gave us—and we are grateful—some reassurance on this vital question of operational formations. We are to have one more division in Germany, one infantry division and one more armoured division here.
When will these rather modest ambitions be realised? Can we have an answer when the right hon. Gentleman replies? Will it be a matter of months or years. Then there will be 12 Territorial divisions—
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Shinwell)
To save trouble and to show that there will be no delay on this matter —a matter of months.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Well, I am very glad to hear that assurance. How many months? Six or nine months? All right, in a year? All right. We shall have 12 divisions in a year—
§ Mr. Shinwell
No. The right hon. Gentleman, now that he has got the answer for which he asked, must not confuse the issue. He asked, quite explicitly, as I understood him, about the division—the additional division—for Germany.
§ Mr. Shinwell
He asked about the two divisions—the strategic reserve—in this country. The 12 divisions was not what he asked about.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The new divisions will be within the year. Right. That is very satisfactory, and I am very glad to have that reply, and I acknowledge it. Now we come to the 12 Territorial divisions of which he spoke. When will they come into being? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us, either now or later —I do not press him—when they will come into being, up to strength and fully equipped.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I could, of course, tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House. It will take rather longer to tell him, so I shall tell the House tomorrow.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. Of course, it will not be forgotten that the additional six months of National Service will make a corresponding break—that is one of its disadvantages—in the flow of recruits to the Territorials. Meanwhile, this new and heavy burden of two years' service is to be placed upon our young men and—it is no good shirking this issue —two years is indeed a heavy and harassing burden for people in every class and walk of life, from the student to the labourer.
Moreover, there is already a feeling in many homes—and I think the Service Ministers ought to know it—that a great deal of the present 18 months is not altogether profitably employed. The Service Ministers have here a very great obligation. They must see that there are radical reforms in the organisation and training in all the Services. The frightful disease of bureaucracy, which has already invaded our civil administration, has not spared the Services. The tail, however often docked, seems to grow again with alarming and continuing strength.
I must also confess that I think something more than reform in pay and conditions is necessary if the Services are to retain their full vigour. The Regular soldier, sailor and airman, must feel something of the old pride and something of the old panache. We need bands and uniforms; pride in oneself and one's comrades; regimental tradition; smartness; discipline; confidence in n.c.o.s and officers; and, if I may add it, the consistent duty upon fighting officers to take care of the interests of their men—a duty which is not to be shuffled off upon welfare or educational specialists, however necessary they may be.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Let there also be an end to the continued disparagement of the military tradition, the denigration of the long and glorious history of our Fighting Forces, which has for so long been the stock-in-trade of what is called progressive thought.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I think this has gone far enough. Perhaps I may ask of the right hon. Gentleman whether he accuses the Government of having disparaged the military Forces of this country?
§ Mr. Macmillan
No. I would not accuse the Government of any progressive thought. In many respects they are very reactionary. I meant the "New Statesman" and all that sort of stuff that they rely on.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Not the right hon. Gentleman. He has done very well.
We had a good example of reform last night. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) end his speech by singing to us the refrain of "Rule, Britannia." I was very glad to hear it. He may remember that the last Parliament was begun by hon. Members opposite singing "The Red Flag." [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I hope there is one other point upon which I may have—for I am sure it is agreed—a full assurance. I assume, that is, that any National Service man, however short his length of service, who is sent to a theatre of actual war will receive the full rate of pay—if he goes to an actual combat theatre—for I do not see how we can have men fighting side by side with different basic rates of pay.
Now I come to equipment; and on this I am naturally at some disadvantage, for although we have been denied a secret Session we have had since the war a series of secret estimates so far as equipment is concerned, and in the name of security the House of Commons has been given only 1118 the barest information on this vital head. I only wish that this self-denial had achieved security. We have, no doubt, made good progress on research and development. But what about production?
How far is the Navy fully equipped to meet the submarine threat? In 1939 we had 205 destroyers, frigates and corvettes; today, 276. In 1939 the Germans had 30 submarines. Today, the Russians have 360 submarines—or so we are informed, and so we believe. How many of these are capable of high submerged speed I do not know. I can only hope that very few are. Does the new programme, of which the Prime Minister spoke yesterday, mean new anti-submarine frigates and the like, or does it mean merely bringing these vessels out of reserve?
Have definite orders been placed for the construction of new types recently developed and based upon the latest designs? We have 13 aircraft carriers. At the time of the Navy Estimates, we had, I think I am right in saying, five on the active list. Can we know the number now? The construction of three aircraft carriers was suspended in 1946. Is the work starting upon them again? How many of these existing carriers are fast enough to operate now that new jet fighters are on order?
As regards the Army, the Minister of Defence admitted, in the very wide speech he made last month, weakness in antiaircraft guns and predictors, anti-tank weapons, specialised vehicles. Have new vehicles been purchased since the war? I understand that £15 million was spent last year on reconstruction. This is a large figure, and it may well be worth following the suggestion which was made by the Estimates Committee. This policy should be reconsidered. We have 6,000 tanks or tank engines in reserve. How many are serviceable? What guns have they got? Are they guns that can operate against modern heavy tanks? The new Centurion is described as being "in full production." How well I recognise this vague phrase of the old Ministry of Supply days.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is what we used to say. I remember it well. I know the figure now, and except in secret Session, which we are denied, I would not state 1119 the actual production figure of the Centurion. If the Minister of Defence wishes to tell us, we shall, of course, be grateful. But I would ask him to make every effort —and I am sure he will—to achieve a very substantial increase in the number both of tank engines and of Centurions over the present figure, as I am sure he will agree that it is ludicrously below our need.
Now, as to the equipment for the Royal Air Force. We had a fairly searching Debate on this year's Estimates, so far as our information allowed. Moreover, I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman is worried about crews and maintenance staff, and getting a well-balanced force. I am, however, concerned about the strength in machines of Coastal Command. Are there enough Shackletons? We were surprised at being told that the Hastings was to be used for the job of Coastal Command in anti-submarine war, for we had always regarded that as a transport machine. Are the 15-year old Sunderland flying boats still in use; and will they be replaced by a new design? What about the auxiliary squadrons of Fighter Command? They are still, in spite of what the Secretary of State tells me, 50 per cent. under strength since they consist of one flight instead of two flights. They have got jet fighter planes, but not new ones. To the extent that they have them, they are old ones which are coming out of Service use after many flying hours.
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Mr. Arthur Henderson)
I should like to correct the right hon. Gentleman on one point. I understood him to say that the Regular Fighter Command squadrons—
§ Mr. Macmillan
No, I was talking about the auxiliary squadrons. To the extent that they have jet fighters, they are ones that have been used in Regular squadrons and have been given to the auxiliaries. Yet the auxiliaries are a vital part of any rapid mobilisation. I know this is an old story, but it is none the less a very sad story. The jet fighters have gone to Egypt and to the Argentine: they are part of the sterling balances or unrequited exports, of which the Prime Minister told us yesterday the chief purpose was to stave off Communism by helping the development of backward areas—although how the standard of life 1120 of the Argentinian peon or the Egyptian fellah is to be built up by sending him jet fighter aircraft passes my simple comprehension.
Finally, we are very much concerned about the radar position, especially about the man and woman power required to operate the system of control. We were told in the last Debate that the reservists could be called up; but having regard to the fact that a great part of this system was operated in the war by women I feel that we cannot rely upon getting these reservists, for many of them will be quite unable to leave their homes.
I pass for a moment to materials. What stockpiles have we of strategic materials? How do we stand for lead, tin, zinc, rubber, molybdenum and the rest? What arrangements are we making, remembering the desperate struggle of two wars against the submarine? Before and since the last war, and now again, Sir Arthur Salter raised this matter with all the weight of his authority and knowledge. Can we have some reassurance upon this vital point?
Judged, therefore, by their defence policy in its narrower field, the Government have failed and the nation has to pay the price. What of the wider aspects of defence? I do not intend to discuss at any length economic aspects, or the economic consequences of rearmament. So far the main contribution to this theme has been made by the Secretary of State for War in the rather infelicitous terms to which we are becoming accustomed, and which I suppose the Prime Minister has to bear with what patience he can command. I understand that the Minister of State for Economic Affairs, who has agreed to follow me, will deal with that subject. I shall therefore confine myself to one or two reflections.
We were carried through two great wars, broadly speaking, by the accumulated wealth of more than a century of uninterrupted economic progress and expansion. We lived upon the fat; but then, the nation had that fat to live on. How do we propose to finance this new expenditure? It seems that we have asked the Americans to pay for nearly half of it—to provide hard currencies, I think, is the technical expression. It is said that we have asked for £500 million in three years. What has been the reply?
1121 The Prime Minister was very cautious, I thought, upon this part of his subject yesterday. In any case, how do we propose to raise the huge new sums from our own resources? By more taxation? But indirect taxation, already a terrible burden upon all classes, can hardly be increased without becoming subject to the law of diminishing returns. Moreover, indirect taxation increases the cost of living, and, consequently, the demand for increasing civilian wages. But if these are granted the inflationary pressure grows, and the balance between the civilian and Service remunerations, which it is the Government's purpose to restore, becomes once more destroyed. By direct taxation? Does anyone suppose that large sums can be obtained by increases of direct taxation? Can anyone doubt that these burdens must fall upon the vast class of workers by hand and brain on whose energies we must most of all rely? Would not such increases destroy that very incentive which we wish to support?
I see that it is suggested in certain quarters that the reserves of industrial companies should be seized, not, it is true, for the Treasury but to increase the amount available for wages. It seems to me almost inconceivable that after all these years responsible trade union leaders should be ignorant of the need and purpose of industrial reserves if industry is not to fall into obsolescence and decay. We enter upon our task overtaxed, with excessive national and local expenditure, with no clear plan of priorities even in the field of social service, with all the fat gone and already down to the bone. No wonder the Prime Minister confessed in a moment of candour that it might have been better if we had had a greater concentration of effort, that it may be that we tried to do too much in too short a time.
We are seriously undermanned in our Fighting Services, ill-equipped in our armaments and materials, impoverished and overtaxed. How do we stand in regard to the creation of that grand alliance which it must be once again, as so often in our history, our peculiar task to organise and to lead? In the last Debate the Minister of Defence told us, with complete candour, that when the Socialist Government was returned to power in 1945 any question of rearma- 1122 ment or building up of military forces for defence against aggression would have been regarded as completely irrelevant. Of course; for those were the honeymoon days, when the Socialists were best fitted, in the words of the Minister of Health, to co-operate more and more closely with Russia; when it was only the wicked Tories, led by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition who would inevitably quarrel with Russia, who did not understand how to deal with or negotiate with the Kremlin.
It was a good line while it lasted; it won hundreds and thousands, even millions, of votes. "Left can speak to Left," I think the phrase ran, "in comradeship and confidence." I suppose the idea was that there would be a natural sympathy between two Socialist States-one, it is true, in esse and the other only in posse—just as there is a natural affinity between beer and shandygaff.
Nevertheless, it is true that all of us hoped after the last war and the joint resistance to Nazi aggression that the governors of Russia might have somewhat softened the asperity of their Socialist fanaticism; that they might have learned at least some measure of tolerance from experience, and that, enjoying all the benefits of conformity, they might adopt a new latitudinarianism, or even scepticism, as regards the application of their strict doctrine. In a word, that they might become content to preach Socialism but not to practise it. After all, the thing is not unknown elsewhere.
Certainly, this was the hope of the British people, the most generous and the most sanguine in the world. Yet all of us, of all parties, who had any inner knowledge of the events of the closing months of the war had, I am sure, feelings of foreboding and even of alarm. The Russian claims at Yalta, the brutal attitude towards Poland as the war drew to its close, were at once a warning and a shock. Potsdam did nothing to remove these apprehensions. There came the winter of 1945, and by the spring of 1946 the growing danger had become apparent. Yet so blind are those who do not wish to see that the Fulton speech, laying down the basis of what has since become the Atlantic Pact, was solemnly denounced—I have the words—as "inimical to the cause of world peace" in a pompous Motion signed by 100 Socialist Members. Some 1123 of them are, happily, no longer with us, and others have executed a series of breathless acrobatic manœuvres, leaving no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored, no cross undoubled in the search for the party line.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If all this is true, why was it that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition advocated a more speedy demobilisation?
§ Mr. Churchill
I advocated a more speedy demobilisation because I thought we were wasting vast sums of money in the first two years in keeping an inordinate number of men with the Colours, but the figure to which I said we should reduce is far higher than the one that the Government fell to in the years as danger grew.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I think it would be better if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister would leave his interruption to the Prime Minister. I am better trained than he is. We come to the next problem. The Zurich speech, pleading for the unity of Europe, or what remains of Europe, received similar treatment. Two years later the Brussels Treaty was signed, and in spite of all the petty jealousy and negativism which have caused such astonishment and dismay in Europe, the Council of Europe, with all its faults, but with all its possibilities, has come into being. Now, four years after Zurich, the Minister of Defence in a Debate on 26th July, used these words about the Atlantic and Brussels defence systems:A great deal of hard work and planning is proceeding and more will be required. But already it implies the acceptance by the participating nations of some modification of their sovereign rights to decide for themselves the kind of forces they should maintain."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 473.]"Modification of their sovereign rights" —I wish that the Minister of Town and Country Planning would do a little joint planning on this question of "sovereign rights" with the Minister of Defence before he compiles and let loose upon an indignant world his next pamphlet on European unity.
All this time, the German problem has been awaiting solution, and once again 1124 the Government have shuffled and procrastinated. Once again, as so often before, the Leader of the Opposition was taking the necessary preliminary steps towards that reconciliation of Germany and Western Europe on which the survival of both depends. In the first meeting of Strasbourg, in August, 1949, at his instance and largely due to his insistence, representatives of every country agreed to the admission of Germany to the Consultative Assembly as a matter of urgency. They demanded a meeting, not later than January, 1950, for this single purpose. As usual, they were blocked by that veto which the Foreign Secretary finds so intolerable at Lake Success, but uses so freely at Strasbourg.
So the months went by, and in the same way, when the question of German contribution for the defence both of Germany and Europe was raised in March, 1950, by my right hon. Friend, he was dismissed by the Prime Minister with a peevish gesture and a querulous phrase. Even as late as July, 1950, the Minister of Defence seemed to be quite unaware of the realities of the situation. He said that the defence of Western Germany is at present in the hands of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Security is thus provided for the Federal Republic and for Berlin.
At first sight, it is not apparent why it should fall to the victors to provide security for the vanquished against a new and common danger. It seems somewhat paradoxical that armies of occupation should be transformed into armies of protection without any corresponding contribution by the ex-enemy beneficiaries. Why should the British boys have to serve two years to "provide security for the Federal Republic," and German boys not be allowed or even asked to serve? In any case, what is this security? To those who live between the Elbe and the Rhine, and to those who live between the Rhine and the Atlantic coast, and—we may as well speak it frankly to ourselves and to the world—to those who live upon this side of the Channel there is no security.
The word is a hollow mockery, and it is to meet that situation that we are meeting here this week. In that task we dare not refuse aid wherever we may find it. In the interests of both Germany and of Europe, we must find some method by which the great population and great 1125 resources of Germany can be put into the common pool, without endangering the liberties of the German people or of ourselves by a revival of German militarism.
I assure the House that the Germans feel as acutely on this subject as we do ourselves. That is what their representatives meant when they declared at Strasbourg against a German army, but in favour of a European army, it is easy to criticise and make much of all the difficulties of a European army, to ask for precise information as to its organisation, supply and command—to underline the difficulties; yet with the immense variety and interdependence of modern weapons and ancillary services by land, sea and air, it is surely not beyond the wit of man to devise a system by which a combined force may be powerful and effective to fight as a whole, and yet so contrive that even if ill-will or treachery supervene no single part can be a menace to the other.
To me, the declaration at such a moment of British, German, French, Italians, Greeks, Turks, Belgians, Dutchmen, Danes and Scandinavians that they will serve together in a European army; above all the declaration of Frenchmen and Germans, the feuds of centuries forgotten, that they are ready to stand together in defence of all that 2,000 years of humanist and Christian civilisation has meant for the world—to me, such an event, even as a gesture, is a matter not for cynicism and sneers, but for deep thanksgiving.
Once more the Government follows the lead. I understand that now the raising of police forces in Western Germany is agreed in principle, and will be put in hand. It is believed that the question of German contribution to our joint defence will be at least discussed at the forthcoming meetings of Foreign Ministers, not on British, but on American initiative. The Prime Minister was rather indignant at being pressed on this matter yesterday. He said that it was very unwise to ask him to give any reply, that talks were just beginning. When I went out and read the evening papers I found that the Foreign Secretary had no such scruples, for while the Prime Minister trod, like Agag, delicately, the Foreign Secretary plunged in with both his feet: he told the Press reporters crowding on 1126 the Queen Mary what the House of Commons was not allowed to know—his opposition to German participation in a Western defence force.
Although the visible links which bind together the British Empire and Commonwealth are strong as ever, much needs to be done to mobilise in its most effective form the strategic and economic resources of the Empire. We heard with great pleasure what the Prime Minister told us of the visits and discussions which are going on, but I think something more than this, some permanent machinery, may be required to be devised. Certainly, if Britain's task is to lead and to inspire European resistance, her first duty and prime strength is based upon her position, not as an island fortress, but as a centre of that vast and unique combination of nations and peoples of which she is the head.
The situation is grave. We shall support these measures, by our votes if necessary. They are late; but better late than never. We are not asked for a vote of confidence in Ministers—that we could not give—but we cannot refuse to Ministers, even Ministers in whom we have no confidence, measures which they assure us and which we certainly agree are a contribution, however tardy, to the safety and survival of our people, and to the defence of freedom against the sinister combination of Marxist socialism and Russian imperialism.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. Gaitskell)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) was mainly concerned with the military and political aspects of the matters under discussion. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will deal very adequately indeed with such points of substance as arise from his speech. I have another task to perform today, but, before I begin it, I am bound to say this to the right hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his impressive survey of the position yesterday, was at pains—[HON. MEMBERS: "Impressive?"] Yes. It impressed "The Times," and most of the country, too. My right hon. Friend was at pains not to provoke in any way any party feeling on these matters. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, prone as he is to great temptations in 1127 these matters, kept, I thought, a very reasonable control over his tongue. It is left to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley to make a really party speech in this Debate. We all of us believe in the party system, and no one objects to the cut and thrust of Debate, but I must say I think that on an occasion like this it is as well that criticisms put forward should be weighty and constructive, rather than mere debating points.
The Prime Minister explained yesterday the reasons why the Government have felt it necessary to put this new defence programme before the country. I shall be concerned today almost entirely with the economic consequencies of that programme, with the special difficulties it creates and how we think they should be handled. I realise, of course, that up to now the interest of the House has been mainly concentrated upon the military and political aspects of this question, but I hope the House will agree with me that we must devote some time to the economic aspects, which is my justification for intervening at this stage.
It will be apparent to the House, as the Prime Minister explained, that there are still major uncertainties which affect our planning, and that at the present stage all we can do in this matter is to present an interim report. The programme put forward for this, if one looks at it from the economic angle, divides itself into four parts. There is, first of all, the increase in Service pay, then the increase in Service manpower, then Civil Defence, and finally the greater production of military equipment and stores. The House will, I imagine, wish to know in the first instance how much we expect each of these will cost. I say "we expect" deliberately, because at this stage there are still too many uncertainties for me to be able to give a precise estimate in every case.
First, then, Service pay; the increase here, on the basis of the numbers in the Forces as they were a few weeks ago, will cost about £21 million in the current financial year and about £35 million in a full year. I should like to emphasise, in passing, two important aspects of this particular change. We must not forget that these extra millions of pay are being deliberately given to enable the men and 1128 women in the Forces and their families to enjoy a higher standard of living, to buy more food and clothing, more of other things in the shops, more of what the rest of us produce or of what we import. We hope, of course, that some of the extra money will go into savings, but some, increased claim on consumption goods there is bound to be, and we, the rest of the community, have to honour that claim. We can only honour it either by producing more or by cutting down correspondingly our own consumption.
I realise that this may seem obvious now, but there is, I am afraid, a regrettable tendency, when additional public money is spent in this way, to overlook the real costs which have to be met by the rest of the community. This brings me to the second point. These pay increases have been introduced avowedly to attract more men and women into the Forces by making the conditions of employment there more favourable relative to those of other occupations. Their whole purpose, therefore, will be frustrated if they are taken as a signal for demanding and conceding higher pay everywhere else. For the rise in prices will cancel out the effect of the improvement in pay; the claim will not be honoured and we shall have failed in our efforts to make the conditions in the Forces relatively more attractive. I am not at present concerned with the vexed and difficult general issue of personal incomes, of which I hope to speak later on. If is, of course, I recognise, closely related to this. The fact remains that if the improvements in the Services are followed by corresponding general increases in the rest of our economy, this measure which was intended as a bold move to increase the strength of our Regular Forces will not merely have no such effect, but will also prove to have pushed us back along the dangerous incline of inflation.
Next comes the cost of increased manpower. This arises from several sources-National Service men serving the extra six months, reservists recalled, time-expired men retained, either voluntarily or compulsorily, and finally the new Regular recruits we hope to obtain. The totals cost of increased manpower from these sources will, we think, amount to about £11 million in the current fiscal 1129 year and £34 million next year. I should perhaps add that these figures include pay at the new rates, allowances and emoluments in kind, such as food, clothing and maintenance, but not, of course, the cost of equipment. The total cost of higher pay and the increased manpower in the Forces thus amounts to £69 million, or, say, £70 million in the next financial year, which is the first full financial year.
The Civil Defence measures, which were announced shortly before the Summer Recess and were designed principally to provide for the basic needs of a Civil Defence organisation, such as command posts, the protection of communications and other essential services, should not add appreciably to this year's defence expenditure, but their final effects will come later, and must be covered in our estimates of the total defence effort that will be made in the next three years. We must allow in respect of them over the next three full financial years approximately £100 million. Finally, there is an increase in the programme of arms production and other military supplies and works services, the cost of which for various reasons is very much more difficult to estimate.
The Prime Minister explained yesterday the circumstances in which we made our proposals of 4th August for a total defence effort with United States aid of £3,600 million in the next three years. I need not go over the ground again, but I ask the House to note three things about this figure. First of all, it involves an increase of £1,260 million gross over three years, compared with our current rate of defence expenditure of £780 million a year—an increase of over 50 per cent. Secondly, one-third of this increase is due to the cost of pay, maintenance of the Forces, and Civil Defence, while about £850 million, or two-thirds of the increase, is attributable to the proposals for the additional production of armaments. In effect, this will mean that as the production programme gets under way, we shall be producing considerably more than double our present equipment for the Forces.
Thirdly, the full realisation of this programme, and therefore of the maximum effort represented by the £3,600 million, depends on two qualifications; first, we have to be sure that our capacity is 1130 correctly matched against the requirements not only of our own Forces but of the Forces of the other North Atlantic countries. In the second place, it depends on what United States assistance we can obtain.
We made this qualification regarding United States aid first of all because the invitation of the United States was precisely, "What could you do if you had assistance?" We made it, in the second place, because we felt it underlined certain developments with which we were faced First, the programme of rearmament itself to some extent will depend physically on acquiring the necessary special machine tools and other components from the United States. We may well need the assistance of the United States Government in obtaining the necessary priority for these things. Secondly, we must, I think, accept the fact—and I shall be dealing with this in greater detail later on—that the programme is certain to have an adverse effect upon our balance of payments. We have to import more in the way of dollar and other materials, and at the same time some interference with the development of our export trade is inevitable.
I feel that the House will agree that we were right to draw attention to these consequences. I do not believe it is the wish either of our own people or of the United States that, in addition to the sacrifices which must inevitably come upon us, we should also find ourselves at the end of this period, as we did at the end of the war, with our reserves depleted and our international debts increased—a problem to ourselves, a burden to our friends, and a major obstacle to the full restoration of world trade and exchange.
I will now try to sum up additional burdens which all these things involve First, there is the prospective effect on the expenditure side of the Budget. For the current fiscal year there will be the need for Supplementary Defence Estimates which will amount to at least £70 million. This does not represent by any means the whole cost of the work which will have been undertaken by the end of the financial year, but only that part of it for which payment must be made before 31st March. In the three following years, if the full production programme is carried out we shall have to spend on the 1131 average each year over £400 million more gross than at present. The incidence on the Exchequer will not be evenly spread throughout the years, but will rise as payment has to be made for work in progress and for completed equipment.
I have tried to give the House the fullest information available at this stage on the financial side, but hon. Members will realise that at present anything like firm forecasts are impossible. I have already referred to the two major qualifications —the uncertainty about the amount of United States aid and the adjustment of our production to match the requirements of North Atlantic Defence. There are other uncertainties which I must briefly mention. We cannot say exactly what change in costs and prices may occur over such a long period. The net charge on the Votes is clearly materially affected by our expenditure on arms for North Atlantic and Commonwealth countries and the sums we may receive in payment for such supplies. So I give these figures with the warning that they should be treated as pointers to the order of magnitude involved and definitely not as advance copies of Defence Estimates.
The process of financial scrutiny will take place on the Estimates of the Service Departments in the usual way over the next few months to try to secure all possible economies consistent with security. Subject to this, I see no prospect of the final figure for this year's Defence Estimates being less than £850 million, and no chance whatever that next year's Defence Estimates will fall short of £1,000 million. Indeed, they may well be substantially higher.
§ The question has been raised in some quarters whether in these circumstances there should not be an Autumn Budget. We do not feel that this is necessary. Although nobody would say that a £70 million Supplementary Estimate was small, in relation to the total budget of £4,000 million it is not a very large sum. Moreover, quite a large part of this is not likely to fall on the Exchequer until very much nearer the end of the present fiscal year.
§ It may be that some inflationary tendencies might develop in the meanwhile, but it is easy to exaggerate the extent of these influences and indeed they have often been notably over-estimated in the past. These are, however, likely 1132 to be on a small scale at present, and are not such as would, in our view, justify us in an additional Budget. There is, of course, the further point to which some importance must be attached, that we should hope to be in a very much better position next spring to measure more precisely the extent of the strain upon us, and to devise the necessary measures in detail for dealing with the situation.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
Is it one of the principles upon which American aid is sought, that the non-military expenditure of the Government at present is untouchable and must continue exactly as it is?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
No, I do not think that comes into consideration. The reason we have asked for American assistance is because of the additional strain on our balance of payments—on the foreign trade position.
So much for the new programme and the direct costs which it involves. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday complained of the sudden change in our plans. I do not at this stage want to get involved in a long argument, because I have a great deal to say on the economic side, but I venture to point out one or two things to him. He has surely forgotten what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence on 26th July in announcing the measures which cost an additional £100 million. My right hon. Friend informed the House:… this is no more than a small part of the cost which would be involved fully to equip our Forces to fight. Much larger sums would be required in order to put our Forces in a condition of readiness. Plainly, we can do no more from our own resources than make a beginning on such a programme."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 481.]I should have thought that was a clear pointer indeed to what, in fact, subsequently took place. The statement surely indicated two things—that much more was needed, and that our own resources could not cover it. We were engaged at that time in discussions with our other North Atlantic allies in assessing the requirements of our common defence plan to match it against our requirements, and to ascertain what were the deficiencies and what share should be made between us. But on 26th July, the very day on which the Defence Debate took place, the United States Government 1133 took a new initiative with us, and, of course, with the other North Atlantic countries, by requesting information regarding the additional military production programme which could be initiated with their assistance. We were pressed to reply and to give this information within 10 days. We did so. We sent our reply on 4th August, indicating that with assistance the defence expenditure could be increased to £3,400 million. I am bound to say that I cannot see that there is anything very worthy of criticism or complaint in an extraordinarily swift reaction to this very welcome development from the American side.
There is one other passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which I feel bound to refer—his strongly-worded comments, delivered with more than usual vehemence, on trade with Russia and Eastern Europe. It seems to me that, in making those comments, he had not properly understood what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The right hon Gentleman is certainly wrong there, because on this side of the House we understood perfectly what my right hon. Friend said. At any rate, he will now have had an opportunity of reading HANSARD.
My right hon. Friend made it clear that we shall stop the export of particular items of equipment, including machine tools, which we know to be required for our own defences and those of our allies. This means that, if necessary, and having due regard to any treaty obligations involved, we shall not hesitate to use requisitioning powers for this purpose; but we are not aware at the moment of any such equipment which we need for our own defence or that of our allies which has actually been exported to Russia or Eastern Europe.
This does not mean that this is the only type of control exercised over exports of this character. On the contrary, the export of a wide range of goods needed by ourselves for security or for economic reasons has been very strictly controlled since the war, it will be recalled that 18 months ago the President of the Board of Trade announced that the range subject to this control was to be substantially widened. What he said at the same time 1134 was, I agree, that this additional list should not apply where orders had been placed before February, 1949. In other words, he did not wish the ban to apply so as to involve firms in breaches of contract.
I do not recollect that when this announcement was made some 18 months ago—it is not very recent—there was any sign of criticism from the Opposition side that these contracts would be fulfilled. Recently, of course, the agreement of our Western European friends has been reached to a further list of goods to be subject to this export control. The necessary amendments will be made shortly to the control Order. It may even be that this process will have to be carried still further, but we cannot really charge into these decisions, which seriously restrict an important export trade, without paying due regard to all the possible consequences. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 982].What the last sentence means exactly, I cannot say. I really do not see its relevance to the subject of trade with Eastern Europe in the slightest degree.
The fact is that those exports were sent in exchange for very valuable and important supplies of timber, foodstuffs and other things we needed and which it would have been extremely difficult to obtain elsewhere except at high dollar cost. We cannot get all our supplies of timber from Sweden. If hon. Members imagine that, it is obviously untrue. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends would have been the first to complain if the farmers had been told to reduce the number of their livestock because there were not enough feedingstuffs. One can quite well imagine what they would have said to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health if the housing programme had had to be cut. We really must look at this undoubtedly complex and difficult problem in a sensible and reasonable manner.
It is surely obvious, too, that it is useless for us to pursue policies in this country in isolation There is no point in 1135 cutting down our exports, breaking contracts and imposing economic blockades, and risking the delivery of vital supplies, if the only effect is that the orders go elsewhere to other countries. We must, therefore, as far as possible, march in step with others. That is precisely what we have done and what we intend to go on doing.
I tried to give the House a few moments ago, before I was drawn aside from my main theme to deal with those two points in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, a general idea of the scale of the increased expenditure involved. It is not my business to discuss this afternoon how precisely the funds necessary to meet these expenses will be raised. That, obviously, will be the job of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he introduces his Budget next spring. I want, first, to put before hon. Members some of the practical issues which the scale of rearmament involves and, later, some of the broader economic implications which follow.
I think that none of us would deny that the new programme must, as far as possible, be carried out in such a way as to damage our economic recovery as little as possible. We would surely all agree that if we can produce the additional equipment required from the extra resources of manpower and from unused capacity, so much the better. Clearly, too, we must also see to it, in so far as production has to be switched from civilian work, that as little damage as possible is done to our vital export trade or to the supply of key items of equipment for investment at home. Desirable as these things are we must beware of seeking a too great perfection in this matter. If we do, there is a very real danger that we may sacrifice what, in the present circumstances, is especially vital, namely, the speed with which the extra arms can be produced.
It is because we attach so much importance to this point that, as the Prime Minister has said, we are not waiting to see how much assistance we can obtain from the United States, but are proceeding at once to arrange for the production of a further £100 million worth of equipment beyond the first £100 million announced at the end of July. We cannot decide the exact character of our 1136 full programme until we know the extent of United States aid and what the requirements under the North Atlantic Treaty will be.
Here, too, we have to have regard to the time factor, and since we know that much of what has been included in the United Kingdom production programme put forward in August is certain to be needed either by ourselves or others, we can safely push on with the production not only of the short list of high priority items agreed at the Deputies' Council but with other items as well. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are they?"] I do not think I can be expected to go into details. The Prime Minister referred to a number of these items when he spoke yesterday. There are obviously security items involved as well. I should like to turn to some of the practical and administrative problems with which we are faced in carrying out the programme.
It is obvious that with an unemployment rate of about 1½ per cent., and with the number of unfilled vacancies reported to employment exchanges at nearly 400,000, the supply of labour is bound to present difficulties not so much in the earlier stages of the programme as when the industrial system begins to take the full load. Apart from anything else, some 77,000 young men will be withheld from industry for a further six months, and more will be lost, of course—and we welcome it—through increased recruitment to the Regular Forces. In addition, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, there will be a progressive increase in the numbers engaged in military production, rising to about 250,000 at the peak. Some of this will fall on industries which would otherwise have been declining in size, such as shipbuilding, and in such instances there will obviously be a minimum of industrial and social disturbance. Indeed, it is in a sense a beneficial measure and will ease a problem which might otherwise have given a good deal of trouble on the North-East coast and elsewhere.
Secondly, it will be necessary to find labour for certain specialised capacity not in the ordinary course of events fully used, for example, certain aircraft assembly works and the Royal Ordnance factories for which we must have additional supplies of labour, and we shall want them fairly quickly. In the third place most of the additional demands will fall upon 1137 the various sections of the engineering industry and will have to be met in the first instance by the transfer of manpower from civil to military types of work, much of it within the same firm.
How, it may be asked, are we attempting to meet these problems? I should like to tell the House what we have in mind. The ordering Departments will endeavour to place their contracts in such a way as to involve the minimum necessary transfer and the minimum interference with other essential work. Arrangements have been made for the closest consultation between these Departments and the Ministry of Labour, both regionally and at headquarters. Wherever it is possible, contracts will be placed in areas where the labour supply is relatively easy. Where that cannot be done, special precautionary measures have been taken already to minimise difficulties. For example, the Ministry of Labour has to be consulted before any order is placed which involves the recruitment of 100 or more workers in areas where manpower is extremely short and of 500 or more in areas where the situation is rather easier. For some time to come these measures should meet the principal difficulties but, later, when these difficulties become more acute, as they must, we hope that it will be possible to ease the position by the employment of more part-time workers in particular areas; but I must tell the House that the number of those already occupied in part-time employment is no fewer than 750,000, which is not very far short of the war-time peak.
Now I come to materials. We do not think that this programme is likely to give rise to new and serious difficulties in raw material supplies, though there were, of course, some problems in existence even before it was put into operation. Coal output should be sufficient for the increased industrial output envisaged, though I am bound to say that exports may very well suffer unless the tonnage mined goes up appreciably. Electricity shortages, again, should not interfere with the rise of output programmed, but there is this qualification, that it is obviously more than ever necessary that domestic consumers should not compete with industrial needs by piling on their own demands at peak hours.
We believe that any difficulties with steel will probably show themselves in 1138 relation to particular types of finished steel rather than total output, but it is difficult to say more about this until the impact of the new defence production on particular sections of the industry is known. Certainly, sheet steel should cause no difficulty once the new Margam works are in operation. Again, cement may give rise to some problems and we shall have to weigh very carefully the respective claims of export and home demand. The timber difficulty has been raised on more than one occasion in this House during the summer and we shall certainly have to pay very special attention to it. In other materials we do not at present foresee special difficulties, though, obviously, in a matter of this kind, with rearmament activity going on throughout the whole world and driving up demand everywhere, it is very unwise to speak without great caution.
Some people have asked why we are not going forward now with a scheme of controls. I dare say they have noticed the, measures announced by President Truman in the United States. I must emphasise that the situation here is totally different from what it was in the United States. As my right hon. Friend pointed out yesterday, we still have in operation a very large number of controls. Many commodities are still rationed, we still have building licensing, a number of raw materials are still subject to allocation and we have exchange control and import controls.
What the United States is now contemplating doing already exists in this country for the most part and so we do not need to take new steps in the same way. Even when the controls are not actually in operation, we still have most of the powers and could certainly reintroduce the controls themselves at short notice. In fact, it can be said with confidence that in this respect we enter this new phase very much better equipped by reason of the policy of economic control which we have followed—not without criticism—since the war. However, if circumstances make it necessary we shall not hesitate to re-impose any of the controls which it has been possible to lift in recent months. We shall do this if we need to do it, for example, to guide the economy towards the objectives now before us—if it is only in this way that 1139 we can get the necessary arms production and the essential export.
Equally, the House can be assured that we shall use controls wherever necessary to ensure fair, distribution of essential consumer goods to the people, but we have never been wedded to the idea of controls for control's sake, and if we can get the results required without them so much the better. Indeed, much of our effort—I want to emphasise this point— must be directed to avoiding as far as possible some of the circumstances which have made controls necessary. For example, controls have been necessary in the past over quite a wide field because of shortages of materials. Given the shortage, it was essential to have the control, but—let us have no illusions about it—the shortage was a thoroughly bad thing. There is no doubt that the ending of shortages of this kind in the last few years as our production and trade has steadily developed, as it has in other parts of the world, has played a significant part in aiding the increase in productivity. If the shortages return the contrary will be true and the reaction on productivity will be equally bad.
There is one other matter with which I can deal conveniently at this point, and to which the right hon. Gentleman made some reference, and that is the question of stockpiling and the international allocation of materials. The importance to this country of accumulating as soon as possible stocks of food and raw materials to provide some insurance against the risk of interruption of shipping and port facilities, to which past experience and future calculations alike suggest that we might be exposed, has recently been underlined in the Press. The same considerations have been in the mind of the Government and we fully recognise the strength of the arguments which have been used.
There is, clearly, everything to be said for taking any steps that may be expedient, in consultation with our friends, whose position in this respect varies to some extent but in other respects resembles our own. I cannot, of course —I hope the House will not expect me to—report exactly what we are contemplating and what we are doing—this is clearly a matter in which secrecy is essential—but we are also well aware that 1140 joint consultation may become necessary regarding the current use of commodities of which there is a great shortage. I must leave the matter there, assuring the House that this is not something that has been overlooked in any way.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Are our negotiations with the Americans intended to persuade them to keep a substantial proportion of their stocks in England? It seems to me that in the event of interruptions, stocks which they will be distributing here eventually would be much better kept in England.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I must ask my hon. and learned Friend to leave the matter as I have stated it. I took some pains to say what I have said and I would prefer not to go beyond that at the moment.
The third main problem with which we shall have to deal is the avoidance of bottlenecks—I hope I may be permitted to use that very convenient word—in plant or capacity and of clashes between arms orders and exports of particular importance. I shall have something to say later about the general problem of exports, consumption and investment. There is no doubt in the mind of the Government about the priorities which, as a matter of general policy, we consider must be acted upon. Defence and exports to dollar markets must now rank together at the top of the list, exports to other Commonwealth countries coming a close second.
I want to emphasise that this policy cannot be implemented or carried out by a mere statement of priorities of this kind by the Government—by laying down general rules. All our experience in the war, as right hon. Gentlemen on the other side as well as on this side know quite well, is against that. It is, and must be, a matter for detailed examination and decision by the ordering Departments and for the active co-operation of industry itself. It will be the first duty of the ordering Departments to try to bring to light during their investigation of capacity for defence contracts any possible difficulties and clashes. In the case of direct orders, especially those placed with large firms, this will go a long way towards enabling the necessary measures to be taken.
1141 In contracts put out to tender, all invitations will be accompanied by an instruction to the contractor to report any clashes or labour difficulties which his acceptance might involve. Even with orders placed direct, however, Departmental initiative cannot go all the way. As we know, much of the work is done by sub-contracting to a wide variety of firms. Here, the Departments themselves cannot assume the main responsibility. They have not the large regional staffs they had during the war which were in close touch with these firms, and in present circumstances I do not think we have reached the stage when these staffs should be built up again.
Considerable responsibility, therefore, lies, and must lie, with industry itself. We ask all firms, large and small, not to accept arms orders which involve the abandonment or postponement of high priority exports or which may lead to labour difficulties, without referring back to the Departments with whom they are accustomed to deal. It is a matter of great importance to the national policy of achieving rearmament and economic recovery side by side that firms should accept these responsibilities and should set out to discharge them, not only individually, but through the various consultative bodies such as the Engineering Advisory Council.
In this and other important respects, it is obvious that close consultation between Government and industry is essential. This will have to be carried out not only through individual Departments, but also centrally between the Government as a whole and representatives of the national bodies of employers and the trade unions. Some weeks ago, as the House knows, I had preliminary discussions with these national bodies and arranged to meet them again later this month on some convenient basis.
Another extremely important matter about which I must say a few words is the question of increasing productivity. At a later stage I must deal with the question of the claims which will be made in the coming months and years on our increased production. There is no doubt that a big contribution can be made by still greater achievements in the sphere of productivity. Nevertheless, it would be far too optimistic to suggest that all our problems can be solved in this simple way. Some of the extra demand for production will fall in places where we may 1142 expect it to make a positive contribution to higher productivity—places where extra labour ensures the fullest employment of capacity—but it is also true that much of the extra demand is bound to be felt by parts of the engineering and vehicle industries already at full stretch and working at full capacity. Where that is so the danger is, of course, the opposite. The danger lies in the interruption of production and of the smooth run and flow of materials and components.
It seems inevitable that any arms programme on the scale contemplated is bound to give rise from time to time to bottlenecks in the production of this or that component. All our war experience shows that to be so. Moreover, there is bound to be some dislocation and temporary slowing down in the course of changing over from civilian to war production. We can, no doubt, expect a continued rising tendency in the index of industrial production, but whether it can maintain or surpass the rates of increase is quite another matter. Measured by normal standards, our economy is already rather fully stretched. Measured by the standard of its own inherent capacity, there may well be still some slack in it— a reserve of unused knowledge and skill here and there, perhaps some reserve energy, and in certain critically important places a failure to use manpower and equipment to the full.
The time has come for further searching of heart about these matters on both sides of industry, and as between industry and the Government. The days have certainly come again for dropping arms length methods of communication and discussion, where these exist—and they do still exist in some places within industry and between industry and the Government. Far too much is at stake. Far too much can be achieved by concerted action to allow of anything less than the fullest co-operation all round.
I now turn to the major issue of the general economic implications of all these developments. In the early months of this year we could fairly claim, I think, that the economic recovery of the country was proceeding in a reasonably satisfactory manner. Despite the rather extraordinary comments of the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the economic situation, we had reached a position where, as a nation we were paying our way. We were in 1143 overall balance in the United Kingdom, while the sterling area, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, was earning enough dollars to meet current outgoings.
We were, of course, conscious that we had not gone far enough. We knew that Marshall Aid would soon come to an end. We had to aim at a surplus on our balance of payments sufficient to enable us to repay obligations contracted during the war, to finance development in the Colonies and the Commonwealth, and to build up our gold reserves, which, despite their considerable increase over last autumn, were still, judged by pre-war standards, and, indeed, any reasonable standard, in relation to our liabilities, at far too low a level. But we hoped, from a continuing increase in production, to be able to expand exports still further and thus earn year by year this necessary surplus. We reckoned that, given the rate at which productivity was rising, we might achieve this and also a modest improvement in our standard of living at the same time.
One other development of a less favourable character, however, was already beginning to show itself, even in the early months of the year. The prices of our imports were rising much more rapidly than the prices of our exports. The terms of trade were turning against us, not by any means wholly due to devaluation but due to world movements. By June of this year, the import price index had risen since the previous August from 111 to 132, whereas the export index had increased only from 113 to 119. Since then, import prices have gone up still more rapidly, and when so large a fraction of the world's productive resources is switched from civilian to war production, no country can expect to contract out of the general economic cost involved.
We in Britain pay the cost in these higher import prices, and we must assume that the rise is likely to continue. It is bound to absorb, through the greater volume of exports which has to be sold to purchase a given quantity of imports, quite a large proportion of the benefits we might otherwise be enjoying from higher productivity. Even before we begin to count the consequences of our own rearmament programme, therefore, unless it can be accompanied by a still 1144 greater increase in productivity, there can be no doubt that the prospects of achieving the trade surplus that we need and of raising our level of consumption at home are no longer so bright.
Exactly what the position will be it is, at this stage, not possible to say, but one thing we can say—indeed, it is obvious that we should—is that the armament programme, unless it is accompanied by a still greater increase of productivity, must be at the expense either of our balance of payments or investments at home or consumption—or, of course, all three. Increased pay for the Services means higher demand for consumer goods and withdrawal of manpower from industry will be spread generally, but the demand for additional armaments, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the total expenditure, must almost entirely fall on industries supplying a high proportion of our exports and a great part of our investment requirements. The additional orders for aircraft, tanks, guns, ammunition, and so on, cannot have much immediate and direct effect on the flow of consumer goods and it follows that whatever we may desire we cannot avoid some adverse effects both on our export trade and on the level of home investment.
It just will not be possible so to enlarge the capacity and manpower of the engineering vehicle and shipbuilding industries as to enable them, in the next year or two, to meet in full the new demands made upon them—the full additional demands made upon them—as well as their existing commitments. It is mainly because of the effects on our foreign balance that we have stressed the need for substantial aid from the United States. It is one thing to face the fact that some adverse effect on exports and investments is inevitable, but quite another thing to encourage these things as an act of deliberate policy.
I have seen it suggested, for example, that we should consciously sacrifice our ideas of a trade surplus and decline to proceed with any repayment of debt or overseas investment—both of which are sometimes misleadingly called unrequited exports—and, indeed, if necessary, go further and finance a trade deficit by borrowing from other sterling area countries. The Government cannot accept that view. No doubt there are extreme 1145 circumstances when such a course would be justified, but, with Commonwealth representatives about to assemble in London to discuss with us plans for helping in the reconstruction of countries in South-East Asia, it will surely be very evident that the last thing the Government could contemplate, or think right, is the abandonment of all our responsibility for the economic development of South-East Asia and our Colonies.
We cannot contemplate declining to finance capital development in Commonwealth countries and attempting to pass on to them the immediate burden of defence in this way. Of course, our capacity for doing these things and for building up our gold reserves is obviously affected by the burden of defence, but we certainly have no intention of making a virtue out of so unfortunate a necessity.
It has also been suggested that we should find the extra resources for defence by reducing home investments. This too, is a policy which, in other circumstances, might commend itself, but in present circumstances there seem to me the strongest possible objections. While, no doubt, there may be some reductions in investment which may be made here and there without serious consequences, it is surely of the highest importance that our industries should be properly equipped and modernised, whatever lies ahead of us.
In many cases—electricity, gas, transport—we still have to catch up on wartime arrears; and it would be the height of folly to plan for a big increase in our military equipment while ignoring as war potential an efficient and modern transport system and an adequate level of generating capacity. Nor must we forget the vital connection between industrial investment and increased productivity upon which, after all, the whole programme must rest.
I have no doubt, therefore, that in this present situation we ought, as far as we can aim, to shield both our exports and investments from the heaviest burdens of rearmament. As far as we can we ought to take on the burden ourselves as consumers. Even if it involves, as it almost certainly will, no further advance in our standard of living for the time being, even if it involves some reduction, as it well may, I feel sure that from the point 1146 of view of the future military and economic strength of our nation that is the better course to pursue.
It is true that the direct effect on consumption is not likely to be large. But we must be sure at least that the additional burden of the higher Service pay and of the direct diversion of consumer goods production to armaments is fully carried by consumers. We should attempt to divert, as far as we can, a higher proportion of consumer goods for export to take the place of, say, engineering exports, which may fall. Above all, and more generally, we must take firm measures to prevent the inflationary effect which will follow increased expenditure, monetary expenditure, on consumption. Far from contributing to our trade balance this would have precisely the opposite effect by increasing the pull of the home market, both for imports and for goods which otherwise would be exported.
I make no apology, even at the end of a long speech, for emphasising this point still more, for there is in some quarters a rather defeatist attitude about the inevitability of inflation. No doubt it is almost impossible to fight a major war without inflation—though there are degrees and the way in which we kept inflation in check here in the last war was remarkable—but in any case that is not the situation in which we are placed. We are making ready to defend ourselves if we are attacked, but at the same time it is our duty to increase the economic strength on which our future must depend. The quickest way in which to undermine that strengh is through inflation. The extent of the burden we shall have to bear is still uncertain, but on any calculation I suggest that it is not intolerable. The question is whether we shall bear it consciously and fairly, or allow its weight to fall by the arbitrary redistribution of incomes at home and by putting as much as we can on the future by the decline in our industrial capacity and by piling up debts abroad.
Surely there can be only one possible answer. The evils of inflation are well known and have often been put before the House by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The burden falls most heavily on those least able to protect themselves, the pensioner, the salaried worker, those who live on small fixed incomes, and those 1147 workers who are slowest off the mark or in the weakest position in the scramble for higher wages. Wages will rise, but they will not keep pace with the rising prices. Those who are most certain to benefit are the speculator and the spiv. Progress on the spiral, once we have started it, is always in danger of getting faster. Our external stability, which we have struggled hard to achieve over the last five years, would disappear even faster than stability at home.
But if we decide—as I believe we should—to try to carry the extra burden of defence on our own shoulders as far as possible now and to carry it fairly, we must all be clear what this implies. Supposing, for example, it is possible to do this by being content to maintain our present standard of living. We could understand that this means that by and large there is no increase in total consumption so that if one group of consumers gets more, others must get less.
We must remember, too, that the very process of expanding production through higher productivity inevitably generates some expansion in incomes and to some extent this must be accepted as a necessary element in industrial expansion. Normally, it would be offset by the higher volume of consumer goods. Rearmament will now interfere. We shall not get the same increase in supplies. Not so much will be produced for the home market and the volume of imports we can afford may well not be so large. In this situation I am sure the House will agree that we must do all we can to prevent fortuitous increases in incomes and expenditure beyond those which are absolutely necessary as a measure of social justice and as an incentive to bring about economic adjustments and the expansion of production required in the national interest. The Prime Minister referred yesterday to the resolution passed by a small majority at the T.U.C. What this resolution does, in effect, is to bring home very emphatically the fact that the continuation of the policy of wage restraint is closely linked with the control of prices and profits. With the spirit underlying this resolution we can, I should have thought, all agree. The Government have every intention of maintaining and, if necessary, extending price controls wherever this is necessary, desirable and practicable.
1148 The Chancellor too has always emphasised, and the House has accepted, that restraint in wage claims must be matched by restraint in dividend payments. Further, it would be wholly out of keeping with the spirit of the country at this time that anyone should profiteer out of the new production for defence which events have forced upon us. Indeed, any such development would lead quite inevitably to the renewal of inflationary pressure which we are determined to do everything we can to prevent. Nevertheless, this resolution of the T.U.C., together with the decisions which have been announced, do represent the opening of a new phase in the economic situation. The Ministers concerned will, therefore, be discussing this new situation with the trade union leaders and the employers in the near future so that we can try and work out a common policy for dealing with this part of the inflationary problem.
But I must again emphasise to the House the great difficulties in this matter. It must always be remembered that some prices—those of our imports, for example —are not within our control, and further, that the prices of the goods which we produce are to a great extent dependent upon the costs of production, and that administratively the sphere of effective price control is limited. We cannot price control say the whole engineering industry. Nor can we overlook the fact that any idea of a complete rigidity within the field of wages and profits except over a very short period is impracticable and indeed unwise. There is, therefore, no ready made solution, no single mechanism, no plan in the pigeon-hole ready to hand which just needs putting into operation. We are dealing here with difficult human factors; we can achieve the end required only by the consent of all those affected, and this calls for a great deal of understanding on the part of everybody.
Nevertheless, I say we can approach these difficult tasks with confidence because of the courage, wisdom and steadfastness shown by the trade union leaders and the management side of industry in their collaboration with the Government over the last few years. I have no doubt whatever that they will be the first to see the national need, to appreciate the general nature of these problems, and to work with us in finding and applying the best solution we can.
1149 In facing these new economic burdens, which come upon us after 11 years of strain and effort, just when we were beginning to see unmistakable evidence of the success of our post-war recovery, we can all be sustained by one fixed and fundamental fact. It is quite obvious, and we can take it for granted, that whatever has to be done and borne to defend their country, the partnership of free nations to which it belongs, and the principles on which their lives are founded, the British people will do. If they are satisfied that more effort and sacrifice are required, they will respond. Indeed, if they were satisfied that there was need for total mobilisation, for the end of all our economic recovery, the sacrifice of our economic gains and the re-imposition of the grimmest war-time austerity standards, they would certainly accept it.
That would, however, be a last resort, justified only by the strong probability of impending major war. It is not, fortunately, in the view of His Majesty's Government, the situation in which we find ourselves. We are not making preparations on the assumption that war is inevitable and that nothing else matters. We are increasing our armed strength because we believe that it is the only way to make war less probable. But in doing it we cannot disregard all other aims and objectives. We cannot be indifferent to the question of whether as a nation we are strong or weak economically any more than we can be indifferent to whether we are strong or weak militarily.
Our military power, our effectiveness as an ally, are obviously dependent upon the vigour and capacity of our industrial system. So is the contribution made by our exports to the strength and progress of many countries in many continents, some of them key points in the strategy of the democratic world. We must bear this in mind in all the decisions we make so that as far as possible we may emerge from this period of uncertainty, sacrifice and danger not crushed and crippled and bankrupt and disorganised, but with our economic power and position, if not unimpaired, still considerable, still great enough to enable us to play our full part in world affairs.
The British people will expect, therefore, to be fully satisfied and convinced or four points. First, that this programme is necessary, and of that there is, 1150 unhappily, no doubt in any of our minds. Second, that it will be speedily and efficiently carried out; and this the Government will make every effort to ensure. We cannot be certain that mistakes will not be made I have emphasised the clash that sometimes exists between speed and efficiency, but we shall do our best in this great and complex administrative task to ensure that these mistakes are kept to a minimum. Third, they ask that the burden of rearmament on the community should be fairly distributed and fairly borne. This just requirement we shall meet.
Finally, the people of the United Kingdom will wish to be assured that they are playing their fair and proper part with the other free nations, neither falling short of their due share of effort and sacrifice, nor, on the other hand, finding themselves out on a limb, saddled with responsibility and burdens unduly heavy in relation to their resources and the other claims upon them. This demand, too, the Government, in no niggling and reluctant spirit, but frankly and generously in their discussions with their allies and their conduct of affairs at home, will try to see fairly met.
None of us would, I think, disagree about any of these points. On the fundamental issues of policy which they imply we in this House and virtually the whole of the community are at one. So we enter this new phase strengthened by our ability to count with certainty upon the steadfast common sense, the political sagacity, the unity of feeling and the patriotic devotion which the British people invariably display in a situation in which moral principle and the national safety alike point unmistakably to the job which has to be done.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
The whole House has listened to the Minister of State for Economic Affairs with great interest, and it will be necessary to analyse very carefully many important points which he made. His speech was packed full of points with which I feel pretty sure the majority of Members agree.
There are one or two aspects of the whole of this problem as regards industry which must be mentioned because we are now at a stage when it is absolutely necessary to have complete confidence between 1151 both sides in industry and the Government, and to take stock of the situation in regard to questions such as research and development. The Select Committee on Estimates has gone into this matter with some care. Since the end of the war more than £250 million has been spent, very wisely, on research and development work. I believe that it is now necessary for the Chiefs of Staff, and indeed for the Government themselves, to say to the scientists, "Have you not reached a stage when something could be done to put into effect through industry as quickly as possible the recent results of your investigations?"
Probably all of us know about inventors and their ways. They are, very properly, never satisfied with any present situation; they are always going to achieve an improvement. If we have spent this money on research and development in connection with war equipment, weapons and stores, surely the time has come when someone must say, "Now is the time for production and for getting on with the business as quickly as we possibly can." Nobody has done more for research and development than Sir Henry Tizard who is chairman of the two committees concerned. He is in a unique position to decide what are the most valuable suggestions and how they can be most quickly put into operation without unduly upsetting the ordinary production capacity of the country. It is very necessary that we should call attention to the wonderful work which has been done in research and development, but unfortunately the time has now come when we have to make the best use we can of the investigations already made.
We want the assistance of the trade unions concerned in the skilled industries in regard to the way in which components are made up so that the assembly of any aircraft or tank or any form of equipment of that nature may be of such a character that components can be taken right off and sent home for repair and maintenance, thus avoiding an enormous amount of maintenance in the field, which is never so satisfactory. But that means a complete change from the practice during the last war. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the designs of the prototypes, and the various stores which are the result of these 1152 scientific investigations, should be less complicated than they used to be.
All of us taking part in this Debate feel that we have to speak exactly what we think, and try to indicate some of the ways in which we believe the production of the country can be continued with the least disturbance. In these matters I shall say things with which people will not agree, but I hope they will realise that experience in industry leads one to believe that no harm is done by telling those with whom one is working exactly what one feels, and why one feels it. Where people go wrong is when they induce suspicion by making other people believe they are holding something back and not being perfectly frank about problems and difficulties.
As to the highly skilled trades in this country, there is no doubt that if we are to get our work done, someone has to think about the five-day week. Nobody has mentioned it today. Trade unions and managements must get together. It may be very unwise to do anything about it in certain industries, but it is ridiculous to say that this is a matter which does not need to be considered. It is very important. I do not know what the solution may be, but I do know that many men are now finding that their Saturdays are days of boredom. Many of them want to come back and do some work. It would help them and their families. Anyway, I put it forward as a question which must be gone into, industry by industry, and worked out and agreed with the trade unions concerned.
There is another matter which the right hon. Gentleman never mentioned and which I had hoped he would mention. Is it right for us to assume that in the event of another war, the productivity of this country will be interfered with more or less as it was in the last war as a result of long-distance weapons? What is the whole situation as regards dispersal? Are we taking into account the vital importance of a large proportion of our requirements being built in Canada, or other Dominions, and, if possible, brought across here? Are we really considering what can be done in the Dominions and Colonies? Are these questions of production really being considered on a Commonwealth basis, or only on a United Kingdom basis? In any future war we 1153 shall be under very heavy bombardment in these Islands by weapons never contemplated, or rather never used, in the last war. That is a matter of tremendous importance which was not dealt with at all by any Minister, and it should be dealt with. It means that the question of the underground construction of certain key works and assemblies must be gone into.
I beg hon. Members opposite, especially those connected with labour organisations, to consider the matter of full employment. We all welcome it and we all believe it is a good thing, if it means that we are achieving the full production a man is capable of doing. I believe that in this crisis no tolerance should be shown to any firm which does not introduce the most up-to-date machinery. Having brought in the most up-to-date machinery— batteries of new lathes or whatever it may be—they should then encourage the craftsmen handling them to turn out the maximum production. We are not yet tackling that in some trades, and if we are to carry out what was the whole burden of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, we have to take up all the slack there is in regard to the production of war materials, and try to combine that with the vital need to maintain our standard of living by keeping up our export trade. That can be done only by the provision of a fair reward for those people in charge of these most expensive machines which must be kept in operation in order to secure from them the maximum output. Labour-aiding machinery must be used, and, as was mentioned at the Trade Union Congress, I hope that the old Luddite complex will go once and for all.
Are we right in assuming that we can anticipate something in the nature of Lend-Lease? If we get something in the way of Lend-Lease, surely it will alter very largely our whole position here. I think it is right that somebody in this House during this Debate should say that we welcomed Lend-Lease in the last war. We believe that Lend-Lease having been tried, it is one of the quickest, easiest and best ways of getting that co-operation between allies which is so essential.
There is another point in regard to technical manpower which is one of the most serious things with which we are confronted at the moment. The call-up for National Service has proved that this 1154 country is suffering tremendously from an insufficient number of technical schools and technical colleges. If we take a hundred ordinary men called up in the United States we find they can, with very little further instruction, be put to operate the most complicated machines. Our natural aptitude for machinery enables our people to pick up that knowledge very quickly, but it is unfair that they should not have the same chance as people in other countries who have the amenities and facilities for technical instruction.
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will suggest that those firms who start technical schools as part of their establishment, shall not have this frightfully heavy burden of taxation put on them which would prevent them from doing that. It is as important as modernising a factory with new types of machinery that we should do what we can to encourage boy apprentices, and women too, to obtain the knowledge to help them become proficient. The technical manpower required in the Services is lamentably short and these reports which the Estimates Committee produced, show what a serious situation this is.
There is nothing more desperate or futile than ordering an enormous number of aircraft if we do not at the same time make sure that we have the ground staffs in a state of high proficiency to look after them. It is no use humbugging the public by talking of a large armament programme unless we have the equally important thing—the skilled men who can handle the equipment on which their lives and ours depend.
That means two things—a complete alteration, as is indicated in the Report to which I have referred—in the attitude of the Ministry of Labour and of some —I emphasise "some"—trade unions in regard to the apprenticeship system, so that, when boys are trained in a particular trade and are later called up, they are fitted into the Services in the most appropriate branch, and, when there, are given a modern form of instruction—not instruction of the sergeant-major type— to make them still better craftsmen, in order that, when their period of service is over, they can go back to their industry and be fitted in without difficulty by the trade unions to the jobs which they are even more competent to undertake. That means that the reserves are still better, 1155 because the tendency today is for ever increasing complication in industry and not towards simplification.
Mentioning that point prompts me to say a word or two about the "the poor British infantry." Nobody seems to regard the infantry soldier as highly skilled. How many people realise that in the last war an infantryman had to be trained in 20 different weapons? We must see to it that the infantryman is given proper training and is provided with weapons and proper maintenance arrangements. I beg the Secretary of State for War, who I see is present on the Treasury bench, to read this Report and try to implement some of the recommendations made in it, which might enable a better system to be introduced.
May I say an extra word or two on that point? The experience which we have all had has revealed a tremendous mistake that has been made in doing away with the regimental system. If we want to create an efficient Army quickly, we must restore the regimental system. The corps system is much more expensive; it destroys esprit de corps and discourages competition. Most of us remember from our service in the Home Guard the spirit that was illustrated when men claimed that the regiment in which they had served was better than that of the other man. It is a very good thing to be keen about. The restoration of the regimental system is most necessary for the revival of this spirit when men are engaged in this complicated business of modern warfare.
There are two other points that I would like to mention, one of which was never mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. What about reserved occupations? What a confused position that matter is in. What is the use of recruiting a man for the Territorial Army and counting him as a "body," a member of a particular battalion, when it is known at the same time that he is in a reserved occupation and is not available? Is it not rather stupid to count people twice over? Surely, something must be done to tell the public what is the position regarding reserved occupations. I am one of those who do not want to see a man switch from one industry into another because it is reserved in order to escape his service to his country. Therefore, I see no reason 1156 why there should not be some modified form of service for every man in a reserved occupation. This matter of reserved occupations must be looked into quickly, because I do not believe that the House realises the futility of the present situation.
In the last war, it took 22 men to keep one man in the field, on the sea or in the air. Nobody has yet calculated how many men will be required in the next war, if it comes, but it might be 25. The time will come when a complete reorganisation of formations will be necessary in order to maintain the forces, their weapons and stores and the production of war potential. It has not been looked at yet, and it is quite impossible under this present uncertainty of reserved occupations. I hope the Minister of Defence will shed some light on this matter to the country, because we cannot expect our industry to keep up its production when people do not know whether they are in reserved occupations or not.
Again, there is a very serious situation existing in this country in regard to the radar network. This is one of the most important matters in the whole field of defence. We may not have much warning when the next war comes, if it is to come, and we have got only a very small proportion of the forces that will be necessary. It has been suggested by a committee, of which I was chairman, that the time had come, if indeed not passed, when the Ministry of Labour and National Service ought to find out how many people were willing to volunteer for instruction at the present time in some of these technical occupations. We asked Dame Smeeton, who is a very able and remarkable person, and who has done wonderful work in the Ministry of Labour, whether there was any power in the hands of the Ministry now to find out how many men and women had proved their skill in technical work during the last war. There is no such power, and the Ministry can only wait until an emergency occurs and the people are called up, when they can ask them for the information.
I am convinced that there is a large number of people, men and women, who, without getting into uniform, would willingly come forward at the present time. If they were radar operatives during the last war, I am sure they would 1157 be only too glad to take another opportunity of becoming proficient. Why should they not be given the chance to make this voluntary effort? The difficulty would be to provide instructors and equipment in order to teach them, but why should we allow that difficulty to prevent these people being instructed in up-to-date equipment and becoming of very great service to the country? What is holding back such a scheme? It seems completely foolish to me, and I was astonished to hear the evidence given before this committee to the effect that there is no power in the Ministry of Labour to contact these people.
My very last point is perhaps the most difficult to talk about, but I do not see how we are going to avoid it in this Debate. I am sorry to say that, although I have been in this House for a long time and I remember many Debates of this kind, there has never been a period when we had to think of a Fifth Column in this country. What are we doing about it? What is the security position? This is not an easy matter to talk about, but I read the Report of the Trade Union Congress at Brighton and I realise what is being done to undermine the trade unions in all the vital industries. Who is afraid of saying this? Everybody knows that trials are being made in small sections of every one of the great industries which are vital to our war production.
How many hon. Members in this House has read the White Paper published by the Ministry of Labour which lifted only one corner of the curtain on what is going on in connection with the Communist "British Commonwealth Waterfront"? That strike in London was organised by Communists in Canada. Nobody who took the trouble to read this White Paper could fail to see and understand what is happening now in many of these great industries. There is a "try-out" being made in transport, and another has been made in the electrical industry. I beg the Government to realise that it is no use having security officers unless they give them power to act before something has gone wrong, and not afterwards.
Harwell is in my own constituency, and some people may recall the unfortunate affair concerning a particular person who was arrested and very properly sentenced, and whose actions are partly responsible for our troubles today. How was it that 1158 that affair occurred? Was it because the Government of this country failed to give sufficient power to act in time to those who are placed in authority concerning the country's security?
I beg the Government to appreciate the great spirit that exists in this country. I should think that 99 per cent. of all the operatives and workers in the country hate this Communist evil that is creeping in, but it is something that we must now face up to. If one talks about it in public, one is very often threatened, but, surely, it is our duty to face up to it. What is the use of pretending that we can get our war potential ready when all the time there is some agency trying to check it?
One of the basic things of our life is coal. I do not believe for one moment that the British miners want to see this country suffer, but they are being got at by people who say to them, "Reduce your production." The right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon about the need for increasing electrical power. Obviously we want it for all our production. Are we satisfied that that organisation is clear of Communist influence? I think that the Government should restore to the security authorities the power they had at the end of the last war. Our situation is far more serious today because the menace is underground, and is working day and night.
It is not usual to talk about Intelligence and M.I.5, and all the rest of it, but I am not satisfied that M.I.5 has ever been capable of dealing with industrial problems. I believe that a new situation is being created, and I think the time has come for the complete overhaul of these Departments and for them to modernise their methods for meeting these new dangers. I am certain that the people of this country would welcome anything that would stop this canker of Communism which is eating into everything we are trying to do in defence of our lives, our families and our homes.
I think that the gravest charge that can be made against some of the Governments of our Allies is that they are weak, and have not stood up to the dangers of Communism. If we send anything to those countries, how long is it before the secret reaches Russia? Those are the hidden dangers which are far more dangerous than what we face in action, and far less British. The sooner we eradicate this 1159 menace from this country, the greater will be our chances of final victory.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, Northfield)
Before I enter upon my own speech, I would like, with great respect, to support what the hon. Baronet the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has just said, both about the need for an increased output of technicians and about Communist infiltration in the trade union movement.
Some three weeks ago, having resigned from the Labour Party, I offered to resign my seat if the Labour Party asked me to do so. That offer not having been taken up, I now intend to be an independent Member and to speak and vote in accordance with what I believe to be the true interests of the country. But if I should feel obliged to vote against any part of the programme for which the Labour Party stood at the last Election, I should immediately offer to resign my seat.
§ Mr. Blackburn
This is a matter which must obviously rest between myself, my constituency and the divisional Labour Party. I know of no hon. Member who, having left or been expelled from the Labour Party, has offered to resign his seat if the Labour Party wished him to do so, as I have.
§ Mr. Poole
All I wanted to ask the hon. Member, in fairness to himself as much as to anybody else, was this. Surely he does not agree for one moment that any political party has the right to ask a Member of this House who has been duly elected by the electors in a division to resign his seat? Surely he knows that is the stand which the Birmingham Labour Party has taken? Any demand for his resignation must come from the people who elected him.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I am not aware of that fact, but I have received no communication of any kind from the Labour Party or anyone else. I have made my position perfectly clear. As I pointed out, I have gone a good deal further than some 1160 predecessors of mine who occupied this unenviable position.
I do not believe that this House of Commons, let alone the Government, has measured up the gravity of our dangers or even considered the measures which must be taken within the next few months if war is to be avoided. The decisive events of the world take place when men are asleep. By the time they awaken to their danger it is too late to prevent disaster. The last war could not have been prevented in 1939; it could only have been prevented years earlier than that, when aggression first started. By the same token the next war could have been prevented in 1947. It may be that war can still be prevented. I hope and pray that is so, but the whole difference between this period and any other comparable period in our history is that today time marches against us with relentless rapidity.
Within a year or two from now the Soviet Union is bound to possess so many atomic bombs that war with her would mean the destruction of the ports and main centres of this country. We must have a settlement with the Soviet Union before she possesses so many atomic bombs that war would mean the end of Britain. That is the formula which I have advocated for a long time, but, surely, the time now is exceedingly short. If I am right in that proposition then the present emergency is desperately grave. As the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery) said in his maiden speech, it is later than we think. In my view, we must achieve victory over Communism throughout the world within the next few months, and then inaugurate personal talks on the highest level, for that course alone can hold out any possible prospect of peace.
It will rightly be said that it is impossible to turn our present weakness into strength within a few months. If the Government and this House continue to adopt the attitude which they have shown in this and previous Debates, then I agree, but I believe this attitude must be changed. We must plan for a complete reversal of the tide of events to take place within the next six months. To achieve this will require a full awakening to our danger and a common unity with the resolve that the century of the common man shall cease to be the century of the concentration camp. If, indeed, it is true that the great issues are once again at stake, 1161 then all party interests should be subordinated to the interests of the country. There is, I believe, an overwhelming case for the formation of a National Government to demonstrate to the world the temper of the British people in face of this supreme challenge.
I must fairly admit that it is much easier for me to advocate this because the main purposes for which the Labour Government took power in 1945 have largely been fulfilled. I can understand ardent spirits among the official Opposition who naturally feel that it is their turn to take the helm.
§ Mr. Blackburn
No doubt, the hon. Gentleman's claim has been duly noted. But this is no time for party politics. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who started it?"] The hon. Gentleman opposite may laugh from his lofty position on the Government Front Bench, but I can assure him that the majority of people in this country already think that this is no time for party politics. An increasing majority of the people of this country will speak in those terms as the months go by. The nation did not like the personal animosities which passed between the leaders of the two parties, for both of whom, they have, regardless of party, the deepest admiration and respect. Party wranglings at Strasbourg have shown Englishmen in a most unfamiliar light in the eyes of foreigners. I do not think anyone, in any quarter of the House, can like the spectacle of hon. Members disagreeing with one another, more or less on party lines, at what is supposed to be the Council of Europe.
In view of the marked hostility of some hon. Members opposite, I will add something which I had not intended to say. When the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) went on a visit to Strasbourg, as he was entitled to do, he no doubt consulted his friends in the Government and was obviously more or less in sympathy with the general ideas of the Labour Party. Yet, when he came back he committed himself to writing in a notable organ of the Press, "The Sunday Pictorial," that if a war occurred, the French would not fight. How on earth are we to succeed in rallying the peoples of Western Europe to our cause, how are we to believe that we are genuinely fight- 1162 ing a crusade against Communism if Labour Members are going to talk to their friends in Strasbourg and then write that kind of thing in the Press? I would only add one form of consolation to those who love France and that is that—
§ Mr. Nally (Bilston)
This is rather pathetic but, even for what the hon. Member is, for his sake we had better correct him. There are two hon. Gentlemen who represent Coventry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three."] There are two hon. Gentlemen who represent Coventry, and an hon. and very delightful lady. One of these hon. Gentlemen was one of our representatives at Strasbourg—a representative of the House—and the other was not. What the hon. Member is doing is confusing the two Members.
§ Mr. Blackburn
If the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) will be good enough to read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow he will discover that I was quite right. I was talking about the hon. Member for Coventry, East, all the time. Those who love France can at least get some slight consolation in the fact that there is no major issue that I know of in the past five years upon which the hon. Member for Coventry, East, has taken a distinctive line and failed to be proved wrong.
I believe the march of events will move men of good will in the direction of a national Government before many months are passed. We are using military conscription to force young men— and in principle I agree with it—to sacrifice their lives in Korea. It would be unthinkable for hon. Members to be willing to sacrifice young peoples' lives for the national safety and not, at the same time, be willing to put their own party political interests in subordination to the interests of the country as a whole. I recognise that at this stage I cannot carry the House with me upon this proposition.
But recognising that, for the moment, a national Government is not practical politics, I beg the House to consider what can be done, short of the formation of a national Government, to take defence out of party politics and to achieve unity in defence. In the proposition I am now going to put forward I am not, in any way, attempting to reflect upon the present Minister of Defence: but I believe that a Minister of Defence ought to be 1163 appointed who stands entirely above party—[Interruption.] Hon. Members might give me an opportunity—
§ Mr. Blackburn
The need today is for highly efficient volunteer forces to be switched to wherever the danger is great, whether in Malaya, Korea or elsewhere, and to strike terror in the hearts of our enemies. A non-party Minister of Defence would be pre-eminently suitable to appeal for volunteers, far better than any party man. Moreover, we have at least two men available, the appointment of either of whom would immediately hearten our friends in Western Europe and warn our foes that, in defence at any rate, we are united. I suggest Lord Mountbatten or Field Marshal Lord Alexander are individuals who would satisfy the test to which I have referred.
I feel now, as I felt in 1939, that it is morally wrong for a party Government to use military conscription to send young men into battle without taking every possible measure to remove defence from party politics. To leave in charge of defence men who have aroused bitter party feelings is not fair to the young men who are asked to volunteer and who may violently disagree with those Ministers. I am interested to see that America has already taken this step in the appointment of General Marshall as Secretary of Defence.
I come now to a subject upon which I am astonished that so little has been said on both sides of the House, namely, Korea. We ought to recognise that Korea has followed, so far, a familiar pattern. We have sustained a series of defeats in Korea, and, at the moment, we are in an exceedingly serious situation there. I have no doubt we shall maintain our position in Korea, but when one considers that we have complete air supremacy, a very powerful bomber force and that so much time has elapsed, no one, surely, can be satisfied.
It becomes more serious when one considers the British contribution. It is about 2,000 soldiers. I have asked the Secretary of State for War a question about this, to which I have not yet had an answer; but I am proposing to give my own estimate. My estimate is that, so far as the 1164 1st Middlesex Regiment is concerned, the average age of those boys is under 20. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have some evidence of this I will give him some. I will give him the name of a private soldier, Lionel Wragg. He was called up at the end of January, 1950. After just over four months' training, he was sent to Hong Kong to be attached to the Middlesex Regiment. His own regiment is the Queen's. He landed there on 21st July and exactly one month later, on 21st August, he was packing his kit to go to Korea. The day he embarked for Korea he reached the age of 19 years.
If anybody in this House is really satisfied with the fact that, where the flower of our troops ought to be, we have a hastily-skimped-together battalion, including a boy who has just attained the age of 19 and who has done only four months' training here at home—and some of us know what that means—then I think it is time we started to revise our opinions. I do not intend to blame the Minister of Defence on this matter because it goes a long way back; I think many people are to blame. But I say it is a shocking thing that we were not able to put a whole brigade of seasoned troops, of an excellent quality and experience, straight into action.
I will quote another source, the correspondent of the "Sunday Times," whose report I think many people will have read; and I do not think anybody will suggest that the "Sunday Times" is the kind of newspaper which tries to present alarmist reports on the subject of American or British troops. Mr. Richard Hughes wrote last Sunday—and I must say it is so disturbing that I hope he may be exaggerating:Nor is there any real soul to this war. No profound sympathy or even warm liking exists between the Americans and the South Koreans. The soldiers of the United States and Britain notoriously have little abstract opinion or articulate comment on why they are fighting, but they can usually detect in any war a menace to their country or their homes. They can perceive nothing of that sort in this war.I do not blame them if they are young conscripts of 19.
I can assure the House of this: I am certain that we could get 50,000 or 100,000 seasoned troops of first quality who do realise that we may be preventing the next war by fighting in Korea and 1165 who ought to be out there now instead of 2,000 chaps who have been sent at the last minute. I want to be absolutely fair on this. I am perfectly well aware of the fact that, as the Prime Minister admitted in an exchange with the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) yesterday, much of the responsibility for this rests upon the United States of America, who changed their minds at the last minute, but I say that that is not good enough. We ought to have everywhere throughout our spheres of operation reserves of volunteer, seasoned troops which could be called up immediately.
There is one other small point, but I think a very unsatisfactory one. The announcement of casualties is now apparently being made through General MacArthur's headquarters. What has been the result of that? I may be wrong, but my estimate is that there are 400 men under the age of 20–400 19-year-olds—in the 1st Middlesex. There was an announcement on the front page of the "Evening Standard" on Saturday night from General MacArthur's headquarters —"A boy aged 19 years in the 1st Middlesex has been killed but his name will not be disclosed publicly until his parents have been informed." Thus, the parents of 400 boys aged 19 read that this casualty had taken place and thought it might be their own son.
In order to show some of the mental agony which parents have to undergo, and how little sympathy I have for the Communists, I want to read a quotation. I have a friend on whose behalf I wrote to the Prime Minister, and his name appeared in the papers. He received this postcard—and this shows the agony of mind these parents have to endure:To Mr. Percy Bashford"—it was an anonymous postcard—Your son is one of the conscript British youths fighting for the Americans. The American gets"—and I cannot read the amount—Your conscript gets 12s. The Koreans are doing very well. Your son will successfully get his throat cut.It was signed "Winston Clem." That is the sort of thing the Communists are sending today to the parents of boys fighting in Korea.
I ask for a pledge from the Minister of Defence that at the earliest possible moment these men will be replaced by 1166 seasoned troops. I ask for that pledge. Is the right hon. Gentleman willing to deal with the point when he winds up the Debate tomorrow? It seems to me that on any view, whether we take it on moral grounds, whether from the point of view of national prestige or whether from the point of view of efficiency, we ought to have really first-rate and seasoned volunteers out there.
I do not wish to detain the House much longer, but I must refer to a matter with which the hon. Member of Abingdon dealt. I am absolutely convinced that an overhaul of the whole of our Secret Service is urgently needed. There is the case to which the hon. Baronet referred, that of Dr. Fuchs, who actually walked into the Soviet Embassy and handed over to the Soviet Embassy the most secret information about atomic energy—and our Secret Service knew nothing about it.
Let us take the case of Portsmouth. I am astonished that we have not heard more about it, because I believe that Stalin is flirting more closely with war at Portsmouth than in Korea. If it be the case, as the Government have informed us, that this was Communist-directed, then we know perfectly well that there must originally have been some instruction issued from the Kremlin. This is the most serious danger of all to us in this country. It is my opinion that Scotland Yard has not been called into the Portsmouth affair at all. The Portsmouth affair is being handled by the Admiralty officials who really should have seen that it did not take place.
§ Mr. Blackburn
It is a fact that in Scotland Yard we have some of the most efficient investigators in the world and I think they should immediately be given a chance to investigate this Portsmouth affair.
Again, I want to know—and I have asked this over and over again and had no answer—what steps are being taken now to screen our ports? The United States of America did this long ago. We are talking about 70 divisions. We are talking about the possibility of war in Germany; but if another war occurred, it would not start in that area. I do not believe that a war is imminent, but if Russia intended to fight another war the way it would be started would be 1167 this—last night a tug would have dropped a mechanism into the Thames with an atomic bomb with a time limit attached to it, due to go off at 3.30 p.m. Thus we should have lost not only the Government but all alternative Governments as well. That is the reality; that is, in fact, what would be done, and I say that immediate steps should be taken to screen our ports and to screen the whole of our reservoirs. This has already been done in the United States of America. I believe some new person should be put in charge of the whole of our counterespionage system.
We have concentrated in this Debate very largely upon purely negative matters. It is absolutely essential that a positive appeal and a positive message should go out. I listened to the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State and I must say that in general I agreed with him; but it is no good going to the British people and saying to them: "This is the danger; we are not quite sure whether this is it or not, but this danger is so great that you must accept these further sacrifices." I agree with Mr. Victor Gollancz, who wrote in "The Times," that what is needed is to convince the British people that if they make the sacrifices, we have a plan which may produce peace and prosperity.
I make three practical propositions on that. First, I do not believe great economic sacrifices are necessary if the whole country is prepared to work hard. The Prime Minister, in the course of a very important statement some months ago, made an appeal for longer working hours. I should like to know what has happened about that appeal. I suggest nothing at all. It has not been taken up by Members of the Conservative Party; it has not been taken up by Members of the Labour Party; but if hon. Members are prepared now to do their duty by their country they will go to their constituents and advocate longer hours of work in order to prevent these economic sacrifices which this country cannot afford. We cannot afford to cut down the housing programme in Birmingham. If an appeal is made to them, the workers of this country are perfectly prepared to work longer hours, upon proper terms to be agreed by the trade union movement, which will properly safeguard them.
1168 Secondly, I believe that there should be something in the nature of a new Ministry, first for immensely increasing our propaganda behind the Iron Curtain, which is of vital importance. We should double and redouble the expenditure upon it. I must say in fairness—the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence may smile, but I assure him that, as far as I can, I am trying to be fair to him —I must say in fairness that friends of mine, including M. Mikolajczyk, have told me that they consider that on the whole our services are excellent, but the point is that they ought to be doubled and redoubled. Along these lines we can hope, at least, to have some effect on the Soviet Union.
Third and last—and I believe this to be of vital importance—we ought to make clear that, as soon as we have achieved this clear, immediate victory, we will promote a conference at the highest level, between the Prime Minister of this country, Stalin, and President Truman, at which, in secret, there may be some possibilty of coming to a final settlement. The thing which absolutely staggers me is that there is no plan for peace. I quite sincerely say that I feel relieved, and have felt very relieved during the last three and a half weeks, because I no longer bear the very grave responsibility which hon. Members on that side of the House have, because at the moment, as far as I can see, we inevitably face a drift to war.
Let us assume that in two or three years' time from now we shall have improved our military position. By that time the Soviet Union will have developed enough atomic bombs. What practical plan have we got for the purpose of bringing this appalling tension to an end? I say it is vital to start a crusade all over the world now—here in ths country and all over the world. We must achieve victory within this period of six months, and indicate that, at the moment that victory has been achieved, we will do what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and many of my former colleagues in the Labour Party have urged —call a conference at the highest level, which may give some hope of peace. There is no time to lose, and no sacrifice we ought not to make to achieve that early victory which may lead to a peace settlement.
But if we continue to drift, to quarrel among ourselves about petty matters, to 1169 find no answer to Stalin's technique of using satellite States and twisted dupes for the fulfilment of his purpose, there is little hope. Unless a great new awakening occurs, we shall see modern industrial civilisation move relentlessly to its doom by methods of its own creation.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
As civil servants are fond of saying, I have very frequently controverted in the past what has been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn). If I do not do so today, it is not because he has ceased to be a member of the Socialist Party and become an Independent—because that does not concern me at all—but because I always admire anyone who can speak with courage and clarity as he has done today, holding the altogether intense attention of the whole House; and he has dealt with matters of prime importance, which cannot be passed away with a laugh and a sneer, because they affect the lives of everyone of us in this House, on whatever side he sits. I propose to deal with some of them in following him.
The hon. Gentleman made reference to the question of how it was possible to—as I should say—integrate the defence arrangements of this country in a nonparty or non-political sense. I was one of those who took part with three or four of my right hon. Friends in the discussions which occurred last year between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, I cannot on this occasion give any hint of what transpired then. I do not think that those conversations, by themselves, went far enough. I should like, following what the hon. Gentleman has just said, to refer to a matter which I have advocated in print—because all my life, I am proud to say, I have been a working journalist—advocated in print in more than one paper with a large circulation. I hope that as the principal jeerer has now left the House, I shall be able to make the statement which I am about to make without any opposition from the other side, because I am anxious to bring some hon. Gentlemen on the other side to my side.
I propound this question in the really desperate circumstances at the moment— and I have been 46 years in the House of Commons, and I do not remember that this House ever before accepted, almost as 1170 a matter of course, that we are going to have a third world war; and in these desperate circumstances I should like to ask this question. What is the objection to an approach by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition with the suggestion that there should be formed—as I have said, I have advocated this in print—a Council of Defence, composed of three or four right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, three or four right hon. Gentlemen on the other, and representatives of the Liberal Party? They would have no constitutional responsibility to this House, but they would have responsibility to the Prime Minister. I see smiles on the faces of one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite. Perhaps they are smiling at the individual and not at the proposal; but I should have thought that that would have been the logical sequel to the action which was taken in bringing Members of the Opposition into consultation. I believe it should be done.
The other matters to which I should like to refer, in taking up points put by the hon. Gentleman, is this case of the Forces in Korea. The House, even those hon. Gentlemen opposite who are antipathetic to the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, on personal grounds—and I am a pretty good judge, after all these years in this House, of the sense of the House—listened very intently and with considerable apprehension—or, perhaps, "apprehension" is not the correct term: but with considerable concern—very great concern—to the points which he made, and which was not controverted by the Government—that young men of 19 were being sent to the Korean front. I do not myself object to the age, because in the 1914 war I fought with people of 18, and there was one very distinguished man, who is now adviser to King Abdullah, who was actually 16, and called his age 18, when I took part in that somewhat over-advertised Arab revolt under King Abdullah. However, I strongly object to the fact that young men with no more training than that are being sent to the front. I say to the right hon. Gentleman, it is not a question of the age, but a question of the training.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The noble Lord has referred to his earlier activities, and to youths of 18 fighting. What training did they have?
§ Earl Winterton
Well, as the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to put that point, I will at once answer it, and I will say that at the front that I was on —Palestine—we did not have many of these people. In the case of the Arab revolt it was rather a special position. Mr. Kirkbride—I apologise for mentioning his name—had special knowledge of Arab conditions.
My answer to the right hon. Gentleman is a very clear one. He and I both remember those days. In particular, my right hon. Friends, a great many of whom served in the war, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember that there was the strongest objection, to which reference was made in the Press, to people being sent out to France in 1917 and 1918 with insufficient training; but at that time we were almost down to the last man. The right hon. Gentleman does not generally open his flank to attack, but he has very much done so by that interruption. Does he really pretend the state of the Army is such that, because in 1918 we sent men out to the holocaust of the trenches to be killed in countless numbers, it is justifiable to send to Korea a man with the training mentioned by the hon. Member for Northfield? I say it is not. I do not want to be controversial. I merely say that it wants looking into.
Although those who, like myself, are former Ministers and Privy Councillors, have, if I may say so with respect, certain priorities in being called, they should not use that privilege to the extent of speaking too long, and I therefore propose to deal only in tabloid form with certain matters. This House very properly usually greatly resents, or is bored by, a story, but the one I am about to tell is so pertinent that I cannot help telling it. It came into my mind only yesterday. It so happens that some 38 years ago I was the first person to rise in the House of Commons and advocate conscription in peace-time. I was a supporter of the late Lord Roberts—
§ Earl Winterton
I do not think that I was very wrong. If my views had been accepted, I believe that the 1914–18 war would have lasted only three years instead of four. But that is as may be. I was the only person to rise in this House and 1172 advocate conscription, and I remember as if it were yesterday that popular figure, whom we still all remember in this House with affection, Will Thorne, calling out in his well-known vernacular, "Working men aren't going to fight each other, guv'nor," and there were shouts of laughter from the Liberal Party, who were in the great majority, and from the Labour Party. I know what was at the back of that laughter: "Silly young Tory with his absurd ideas of war," when the great Liberal majority had just got in on a slogan of "Peace, retrenchment and reform," and the Labour Party and Lib-Labour Party on the equally powerful slogan of "Workers of the world unite."
Workers of the world unite! Today the workers of the world, as represented by Communists and anti-Communists, hate each other as bitterly as the mob hated the king and the aristocracy at the time of the French Revolution, and infinitely more workers have killed other workers in battle in the last 40 years than at any other time in history. So much, I say with all respect—and I hope this will produce neither laughter nor interruption —for the progress and the solidarity of the working classes. The South Korean and North Korean workers, the proletariat, are at this moment engaged in doing their very best to murder each other and to destroy each other's country so that Korea will be an impossible place to live in for the next 15 or 20 years.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I do not think that should go without correction. Is the noble Lord really suggesting that the South Koreans are setting out for the purpose of destroying North Korea?
§ Earl Winterton
I am not saying that they are doing anything of the sort. The hon. Gentleman, who has been a Minister, must presumably occasionally read the newspapers. I was not in any way criticising the South Koreans. Like everybody else in the House, except the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I happen to be on their side. What I said was that—if I may use a term which is so popular with hon. Members opposite—the workers of the world, the proletariat of South Korea and North Korea, are at the present moment engaged in cutting each others throats as quickly as they can. That is a fact which everyone realises, and I was 1173 merely pointing out that this great measure of human progress, about which we have been hearing from the benches opposite for the last 46 years, seems for the moment to be somewhat road-blocked.
Another point which I consider to be of enormous importance raised by the hon. Member for Northfield, which has scarcely been referred to in this Debate— I do not know why—is the question of Civil Defence. It is true that we had a Debate on Civil Defence some six months ago, but is it not a most extraordinary state of affairs that, with a menace in this country—and I presume nobody will contradict this—of ultimate war at least as great as that with which we were faced at the end of 1938, our Civil Defence arrangements are merely in embryo? I think that is not a wrong term to use in the circumstances. I was at the Home Office during the period of preparation for the last war and, whatever may be said about the much-abused Tory Government of those years—and as a former Member of it I admit that a great deal can be said—at least when war broke out we produced a pretty good Civil Defence system. Where is it today? Where is the evidence of its existence?
I would observe in parentheses that one of the things that astonishes me in this Debate—and I am not adopting a patronising or superior attitude towards hon. Members opposite in saying this—is the shouts of laughter which greet any reference to some serious matters. For instance, when the hon. Member for Northfield referred to the possibility— and it is a real possibility—of a bomb being planted in this country by Fifth Columnists his remarks were greeted with shouts of laughter as if it were a good joke. I remember the same sort of attitude in the House just before the 1939–45 War, but I noticed that people laughed less after the war had started. After the old Chamber was destroyed, people did not find these things so much a subject for laughter. I see nothing funny in the fact that today, as far as I can make out, we have an insufficient Civil Defence force. I am not attacking the Government. I think they have done their best by way of exhortation to produce one; but I hope that before this Debate is over we shall hear far more than we have done to date about what has been done.
1174 The hon. Member for Northfield also mentioned the Fifth Column. Here again, there is a most extraordinary state of affairs. I noticed, however, that nobody laughed at that, or at his reference to the explosion at Portsmouth. Hon. Members laughed at most of what he said, but nobody saw anything funny in that. Certainly I do not see anything funny in it, for it discloses a very serious state of affairs, when there has been an outrage, which in the opinion of the adviser to the Government was caused by Fifth Columnists, of the scope and nature of that which occurred at Portsmouth the other day, and yet it has not been possible so far to apprehend the people who caused it. I must say, I think that was an occasion upon which we carried English phlegm and refusal to allow ourselves to be hustled and alarmed to an extraordinary degree. There was very little reference to it in the Press or in this House. I support what was said by the hon. Member for Northfield. I should like to know what is being done to deal with it.
Before sitting down I want to ask just two or three further questions. First: Why has it taken the Government such an abnormally long time to make up their minds to raise Service pay? Somebody claimed yesterday—I think that it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party—that it was the Liberal party who first spoke of the need for raising Service pay. I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that he is mistaken. I initiated a Debate in this House as long ago as 29th July, 1948—and I was supported by many of my hon. Friends behind me—asking what the Government were going to do to make the Army in particular, and the three Services in general, more attractive to recruits by raising pay. I noted at the time that there was very little interest taken in the matter in this House; there was a very small attendance, and no one seemed very much to mind.
However, I must refer to one question which I put to the Prime Minister in 1949, because the answer was so characteristic of the answers that we always get, and have had constantly in this Debate, and, I have no doubt, will have in others. I asked then whether, in view of the fact that this was not a political party matter, 1175 he could give me some assurance that some committee or somebody in the Government, at a high level, was considering this urgent question of pay, and conditions in the Forces, especially in view of the fact that the Minister had said that they were going to consider it. The Prime Minister's reply was: "The matter is under constant consideration." I hope that we shall have from the Minister of Defence, who usually has some answers forthcoming to most questions, although he was not particularly forthcoming when he spoke in the last Debate on Defence, an explanation of why rises and improvements in pay and conditions, which we all approve, were not granted at least one year or two years ago. What is the explanation? Recruiting was bad then, and no one is going to persuade me that even the Government did not realise that the international situation was bad.
I also want to ask him who is to be the commander of the new Western European Force? Many of us have advocated for years, both in print and in speeches in this House, that it is absolutely essential that a supreme commander, with the greatest powers that can be imposed on anyone commanding an international force, should be appointed for the Western European Army. I myself have said, on more than one occasion, that I believe, for reasons that I, at any rate, would find too delicate to go into in this House, that it would be far the best thing to appoint an American; let us say, someone like General Eisenhower. The Government may try to stave off the matter, but it is going to be settled for them by our allies, the Americans, in a very short time.
I should like to ask a further question on the subject of Western European defence—a question as to the use of Germans. Here again, I do not believe that anyone on either side of the House can really object to the statement which I am about to make, at any rate on grounds of accuracy. How can this question of whether or not Germans shall be employed in an organised force—I leave aside the question of armed police because they do not appeal to me—continue to be shelved by His Majesty's Government?
§ Earl Winterton
Are we to be informed whether that arises out of the present conference in New York?
§ Earl Winterton
The right hon. Gentleman says it is settled. He has access to sources of information that I have not got.
§ Earl Winterton
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means. As I understand it—and the right hon. Gentleman forces me to say something that I did not want to say concerning our defence relations with the United States —there is a strong body of opinion in the United States which demands that there shall be at least two or three armed German divisions under the command of an American.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I understood the noble Lord to refer to employees—those Germans who were employed by the British Army on the Rhine.
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. If he is talking about German militarisation, that is something quite different. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was not speaking about the German Army, he was speaking about those persons employed by the British Army on the Rhine, and I said that that matter was settled.
§ Earl Winterton
The fault is entirely mine in failing to make the matter clear. I was being tautological, and not too clear. I said that I was not referring to those Germans who were employed by the Army on the Rhine or to the proposal or project now being carried out of giving certain arms to the German police. The point which I put to the right hon. Gentleman—and I feel bound to put it more directly than I had intended to do in referring to Anglo-American relations—is this: It is well known in the United States today that there is a determination which is supported by much public opinion in this country, including that of my right hon. Friend, to see that, within a comparatively short period, opportunity is given to arm and equip certain German divisions for use in German defence. The question I put to every 1177 hon. Gentleman opposite—and I hope that they will follow the old-fashioned custom of following up points put in debate—and which I put distinctly and specifically to them, is: What moral right have we, when we know that we cannot defend Western Germany, and when we know, as everyone knows, that with the present ground forces we have got there we cannot hold the country for more than 16 days in the event of an invasion— someone says 16 hours; that may be so—what moral right have we to refuse to allow the Germans to obtain arms when we know that every prominent man among them who co-operates with us would be shot or murdered in a concentration camp? What is the moral right for doing that? I hope that if anyone differs from that view, he will answer that question when the time comes.
My last point—and I apologise for keeping the House so long, but I had to answer the points put to me by the Minister of Defence—is this. A very able writer —we do not always agree with him on either side of the House, but I personally more often agree with him than I disagree —Mr. Walter Lippmann, has expressed a view which I would, with great respect, commend to both sides of the House, especially those who invariably use the phrase, without thinking of its true connotation, "We must oppose aggression wherever we find it." This is what he said, talking of the American people, although it applies equally to us.The earth is much too large and its troubles and disorders much too extensive for us to regard ourselves as the ultimate fixers of everything everywhere. We must exercise practical judgment, which consists in choosing to what ends the available limited means shall be applied.May I ask all the theorists, all the sentimentalists and all the ladies and gentlemen inside and outside this House who say that we must fight aggression wherever it occurs to ponder these words, because I feel that they enshrine an essential truth?
There is one place we cannot ignore to which there has hardly been a reference today, although it may be referred to later on in the Debate. It is a place which the United States and we ourselves cannot ignore, and that is the Middle East. I can say why in three sentences without, I hope, boring the House. We have there oil in great quantities—no one knows in what quantities. It is fascinating to me, as 1178 one who has fought over so much of these Middle Eastern deserts, to think that all the time when we were riding about on camels, wearing Arab dress, living the most primitive life, there was bubbling underneath one of the greatest oilfields in the world—the great focal point of all endeavour in oil today.
The Soviet want that oil, having none too much of their own. I should like to ask in a sentence or two what allies we have on the spot. Do let us use the right terms in this cold or hot war between us and the Russians. It is allies that matter and nothing else; allies who have fighting value, otherwise there is no help when it comes to a fight. What allies have we got? We have none of fighting value except the Turks. Their value is very great when they have the arms, but it is limited by the number of their population. I do not want to say anything wounding to my friends with whom I fought, the Arabs, but I am afraid that there are not many South Korean armies to be found among the Arabs, the Egyptians and among the Palestinian Israelites. I do not think we shall find people that are naturally so good troops in modern warfare as those we have today among the South Koreans. Does my hon. Friend wish to say something?
§ Earl Winterton
It may be that is so, but I certainly would not want to say anything which would be wounding to them, because we want every ally we can get.
I have a specific suggestion to make, which is this. If we choose to spend the money, we can raise and equip a corps, and probably an army, of West and East African troops which would cross the Suez Canal from their own territory in three to four weeks. They are some of the best troops in the world. I am naturally aware that objections would be raised by the Union of South Africa, but since these troops would not be coming from South African territory, they would have no case. In any event the fear of losing that source of oil would mitigate these objections. If we said that we intended to raise a large African Army in East and West Africa, it would be no one's business except ours. I ask the Minister of 1179 Defence to consider this point, which has been put before, I think by the Leader of the Opposition.
My last point is this, I commend the hon. Member who spoke below the Gangway for daring to refer in this Debate —I say "daring" because, as I see it, the House as a whole seems to have got into a state of fatalism which I have never experienced in my long experience in the House of Commons—to the sort of feeling that we are slowly sliding down, and we must get the best defences because war is inevitable—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I hope it is not so, but that is the impression I have got from the atmosphere. I am glad to have the assurance from hon. Members opposite, which shows that we are on the same side. There is no reason to be annoyed about it, because I am entitled to give my impression of the Debate, which I am glad to have corrected.
There is one possible and only way out, and that is the way referred to by the hon. Member for Northfield, a direct meeting between Premier Stalin and the leaders of the democracies. I think that it was slightly wounding—I am sorry to end my speech on this controversial note, although "wounding" perhaps is not the correct term—but I think it was lacking in generosity of the Prime Minister in his speech the other day when he attacked my right hon. Friend, which he was entitled to do in a party Debate, for failing to refer to the fact, just as I think it is lacking in generosity of hon. Members opposite in failing to refer to the fact, that my right hon. Friend was the first man who had the courage to advocate, as the only way to get an eventual settlement, discussion at the highest level with the Kremlin.
I know that when my right hon. Friend speaks, hon. Members opposite always treat him to a great deal of interruption, if not ridicule, but I might say to them, if they are not aware of it, that the rest of the country is aware of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is the mastermind, genius and guide of Western European defence, both politically and militarily, against Bolshevik aggression in whatever form it takes. He is none the less so because he enjoys no executive power in his own country. However much hon. Members opposite may jeer at him when he gets up to speak, they had better recognise the fact that he is recognised as 1180 their natural leader by millions of Western Europeans as no Briton, not even Pitt or Lloyd George, was ever so acknowledged. We have never had in this House or in another place a figure who has had the power in Western Europe that my right hon. Friend enjoys today. He alone has had the courage to advocate by far the best and perhaps the only hope of lasting peace, and that is a meeting between Premier Stalin and the constitutional leaders of Western Democracy.
§ Mr. Paget
I think every one of us everywhere believes and desires that that meeting should eventually take place. The only trouble is that we cannot negotiate with the Russians until we are in a position to offer them the alternative of war. When we have got our preparations ready, we can then negotiate.
§ Earl Winterton
I note with the deepest respect the contribution which the hon. and learned Member has made to the Debate, and with a certain amount of cynical amusement, which I am afraid is part of my make-up, the way it was received by his hon. Friend. Perhaps I may be allowed to finish my sentence. What I was going to say was that the sense of realism that such a meeting might produce would clarify the situation. The real facts of the situation were well put in an article I read the other day by Arthur Bryant, the well-known writer. I do not think that anyone will differ from me when I report and support them:The best preventive of war is the certain knowledge on both sides of the Iron Curtain that war would inevitably destroy not only the attacker but the attacked.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
The first time I addressed the House I remember that by a misapprehension I attributed 90 years' service in the House to the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I feel that as the first to follow him after the announcement of his retirement, I ought to say that all of us will miss his presence here. He has got the ability, lacking in so many hon. Members opposite, of saying what a Conservative really believes and really feels. In his speeches he expresses all those doubts, contradictions and confusion of thought which go to compose the Tory policy. Therefore, he will excuse me I am sure 1181 if I do not follow very thoroughly what he said, because so many of his arguments answered themselves in the course of his speech.
There is, however, one particular sneer to which I might perhaps refer, his reference about the workers of the world uniting. I think that all workers of the world should unite, and possibly it is a reproach to us that they have failed to unite. I would at least impress this upon the noble Lord—he should look to the traditions of chivalry of his own order, and he will see that while the workers of the world have been trying to unite for 50 years the noble Lord's order have been united in theory for the last thousand years, and yet have been putting forward one code of conduct and practising another.
§ Earl Winterton
I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will not mind me remarking that they have also occasionally fought for their country.
§ Mr. Bing
If the noble Lord wants to go back into history, he will probably remember that the origin of his order was that of a person who was able to produce so many foot soldiers to do the fighting.
I should like now to turn to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn). He has told us that he has given up the party which he was elected to support, for three reasons. The first was, as I understood it, that there should be a national Government formed, and that there should be a non-party Minister of Defence. He suggested for that purpose two noble Lords, but if he will consult with the Front Bench opposite he will learn that it is quite impossible for that office to be held by someone in another place. Therefore, if this National Government is to have a non-party Minister of Defence—there is only one Independent in this House and his choice is the mark of the foolishness of the whole idea when one considers who would be the inevitable candidate for the post.
The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that this was no time for party politics. I am not sure about that at all when it comes to a question of dealing with some of the things which have been said on the other side of the House. Perhaps the remark of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) that now is the time when 1182 we should speak our own mind, sums up the position better. Thirdly, so far as I can see the hon. Gentleman's reason for resigning was that there had been some particular cases in Korea of troops who were not well treated. If we are going to have unity or anything of that sort, surely no one wants to bring up in public Debate cases of that sort—personal cases, which obviously, the Minister is not in a position to reply to, and which are used as a slur to make an attack upon the good name of the Government.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister about a week ago warning him of this matter. I am not making any slur at all, and I am a little surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman should attack me, because I tried to make a strictly non-party speech.
§ Mr. Bing
All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that it looks as if he is going to be called to another place, because only people who are called to another place write these sort of letters to the Prime Minister. It is more usual to communicate with the Minister in charge of the Department.
Then the hon. Gentleman said he would be prepared to resign. A good many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House think that that is an offer which we ought to take up. I think the hon. Gentleman was less than frank with the House in not telling us in full the difficulties he had with his own party, and the circumstances which led the party to repudiate him shortly before his resignation.
§ Mr. Blackburn
There was no repudiation whatever. The hon. and learned Gentleman is telling untruths. That is why.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I have made a speech and I stand by my speech. I cannot see what all these irrelevancies have to do with the matter under discussion.
§ Mr. Blackburn
On a point of order. I have said as a fact on my honour, that my constituency Labour Party have done nothing of the kind, and that what the hon. and learned Member said was untrue. He is now attempting to reflect upon my statement of honour. I have said that his remarks are untrue, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, for your protection against the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Bing
I am not going to pursue this any further. If it is necessary to secure from the constituency party an exact statement of the affairs of the hon. Gentleman to be read to the House that can no doubt be done. Let me pursue this question of his resignation. If, in fact, the country are in favour of a National Government then all the hon. Gentleman has got to do is to resign and stand as the one National candidate, because obviously the party opposite will not put up anyone against him.
§ Mr. Boothby
On a point of order. We are having a very important three-day Debate on the subject of National Defence, and important as the hon. Member is, I think a discussion of his constituency must surely be out of order.
§ Mr. Speaker
As long as the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) are in order, I cannot interfere.
§ Mr. Bing
I do not wish to pursue this too long, but this is a House where there is a very narrow balance between the parties, and, therefore, when hon. Members change their position which they were elected to support, the House must know exactly the position. We have all responsibilities to our constituents, and, though there are some people on whom they sit rather lightly, there is no reason why we should not do what we can—
§ Mr. Blackburn
I was never a secret worker of the Communist Party; I never worked on the "Daily Worker"; and I did not sign the Nenni telegram, as did the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Bing
It is important to see what is the difference between the parties on both sides of the House. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham said he was surprised that everybody accepted the idea that we were going to have a world war. I do not think that there is a single 1184 person on this side of the House who entertains such an idea. Whatever differences we may have between ourselves as to how we are to achieve the aim, we are all agreed on one thing—we must have peace. These are serious days, and that is why irresponsible conduct or irresponsible remarks are all the more particularly reprehensible.
There is one fundamental fact. This country has far more to lose and far less to gain than any other, in the event of war. I am not certain that all hon. Members opposite see the matter from quite that point of view. The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) said yesterday: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1034.]I do not think that this country could have a successful war in any sense but the medical one, when it is announced: "The operation was successful, but the patient, unfortunately, died." It is possible for us to be on the side that wins the war, but it is impossible for us to achieve a situation in which we have not lost in the course of the war all the things which have made this country great.
Whatever else may divide hon. Members on this side in our approach to this situation, there is one thing that unites us. We are all determined to do our utmost to secure peace. Our first task is not to prepare for a successful war but for a successful peace. The first practical question is how we are to set about doing it. There are certain people in this country who think that the greatest single factor which would lead to war would be the return of the party opposite to power. That is a risk that we need not take. We ought to be fair to the party opposite, and say that many of them shout about the danger of war, not because they think there would be a war if they came into power, but because they think that that is the only way they can get into power. They would much prefer to have a war not against a well-armed enemy but against the ordinary people of this country. After all, what is their policy but to restore the "chaos quo" and to put forward the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) as the great war leader?
1185 There are two points that we ought to aim for. We should never allow our policy to be confused with the policy which has been pursued for so long by the party opposite. Secondly, by free discussion in public and in private, we should make sure that we ourselves are in fact following the correct Socialist policy. Let us test in practice how much the policy of the party opposite marches together with the policy of our own party. This might be a good lesson for the hon. Member for Northfield. Hon. Members opposite are always so willing to accept a policy but so unwilling to accept the consequences of their own acts. Let me give one example from the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) to show what he said about his own party and what he implied about ours. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1013.]When the party opposite were in power, what were those grim and determined steps that they took? Let me give a further example, which I have cited before. What was the one military question which raised the most interest in the months which immediately preceded the outbreak of hostilities with Hitler? It was whether the Scots Guards should or should not lose their chargers. There we have it in practice, and in fact. All is prepared for Armageddon. There is power, flame and determination, but what one must avoid doing is to sacrifice the social position of the British horse. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) is not here. He made a charming plea on that point. He is an ideal and charming sentimentalist. If we in our party could only bring ourselves to restore flogging for humans and really prevent all cruelty to animals, we might have the hon. and gallant Member on our side. But other hon. Members on the Opposition benches have more material aims.
What will be the first effect of the rearmament programme? Surely that great profits will be made in the steel industry. Are those profits to come into the pool for the common good? I hope that my right hon. Friends will have some announcement ready in regard to the steel industry before we return at the end of the Recess. 1186 When it comes to the question of who is to get the profits from the steel industry, that is where party politics come back. Will hon. Gentlemen opposite oppose, or not, the taking over of the steel industry into public ownership?
When there are wars and rumours of wars, it is good growing weather for the house of Vickers. I remember, when I was with my noble Friend, the Lord Chancellor, appearing before the Arms Commission, the famous remark made by Sir Henry Lawrence. He said, "I think that sometimes the sanctity of human life may be overestimated." That is what the Chairman of Vickers said, but perhaps the fact has been lost sight of that he said it in reply to a question about the use of Vickers' shells against British troops in the Dardanelles. In the years when they were in power, what did those hon. Gentlemen who are now complaining about the sending of civil goods to the Soviet Union do about the export of war material to Germany and other countries?
On our side of the House we also have problems to deal with. There is no reason why we should not use Parliament in its proper way as a forum for discussion. We have the difficulties connected with the increase of pay for the troops. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Economic Affairs said in his extremely brilliant speech, we are giving an increase of wages to the Armed Forces because it is desired to draw people into this particular pursuit. But we must realise that we might have to say the same in regard to the coal mines as we are now saying with respect to the Armed Forces.
This is the sort of problem which requires thinking out on this side of the House. We must be on our guard when considering and discussing such problems to see that we do not have in our own ranks dissensions of such a nature as would enable the worst possible thing to happen from every point of view, and that is the party opposite taking power, because it is clear that every type of grievance is exploited in the most unscrupulous fashion by them. I was surprised that the noble Lord, with all his experience in this House—it must have been very different in the Liberal days—felt he could get away with the idea that the Conservative Party had always stood for good conditions and 1187 increased pay for the Armed Forces. The only time the Conservative Party have ever stood for that is when they have been in Opposition; when they are elected to carry that out, they adopt the opposite policy.
One of the Conservative Party's most spectacular acts in regard to the pay of the Forces was the reduction which led to the Invergordon mutiny. Who are they to talk about that matter? When war itself was on us, what did they do to the allowances to the wounded and disabled? They cut them to below the rates paid in the previous war, and yet they now talk in this manner. We shall not solve any of the economic questions to which this situation leads, by following any of the policies of the Conservative Party. We must consider such questions as capital levy and matters of that sort if we are really to deal in a responsible way with the situation.
In regard to conditions in the Forces, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said that what we really needed was to restore the old smartness and the old regimental ideas. There was also a speech—in some ways, a very interesting one—by the hon. Member for Abingdon, who said that we needed more technicians in the Forces. I served for two years in the ranks as a technician in the Royal Signals. I was an old A class technician. I was an instrument mechanic in the days before R.E.M.E. was separated from the Royal Signals and, therefore, I had a good deal of the practical work to do. In the early days of the war I was engaged in servicing the very difficult III sets. What we had to combat most in those difficult operational days was that same "smartness."
We were only able to get over the trouble and do the servicing because we took the duty motor cycle, went to the neighbouring villages and bought up all the ladies' nail varnish with which we painted all the leather equipment which was supposed to be polished. The result was that it was said, "Look, this is a smart crew. These men are doing a good job of work." The conception that everything can be judged by the thickness or the freshness of the blanco, springs from having officers who know nothing of technical matters but want an easy lingua franca for use throughout 1188 the Service to show whether men are smart or not.
The situation is difficult and dreadful. I accept one thing which the noble Lord said, if he really meant it in that sense, and that is that what we must work for is the ending of the cold war. I do not believe that all questions of right or wrong can be solved by a cold war. I do not suppose that there is anyone in the House who endorses the present legislation in South Africa in regard to the coloured peoples and does not think that it is a gross oppression of the great majority of the people who live there and yet thinks that we could solve that by dropping an atom bomb on the capital of South Africa, by making armed threats against South Africa, or even by continually making attacks on her in this House. That is not the right method.
Let us try, because we must by some means or another bring the cold war to a close. It is not for us now to say whose responsibility it is and to spend our time arguing who was responsible for starting it or who was responsible for some of the foolishness which may have taken place. We are in a desperate position. The whole of humanity is in a desperate position. Our skill has evolved weapons capable of destroying not only this country but the whole of our civilisation. On all of us in this House there rests an individual responsibility to do our utmost to see that, as the noble Lord said with a sneer, the workers of the world are at last united, and united in peace and prosperity for the good of us all.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Commander Noble (Chelsea)
One thing about the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) which has always struck me is that he gets the best of both worlds in his speeches. If his jokes sometimes do not go over, he laughs at them so much himself that the House finishes by laughing at him. At the begining of his speech he said that he thought that this was perhaps a very good time for party politics in defence, and by the time he had finished he had left us in no doubt about it. It was a very great pity that in this most important Debate— perhaps the most important the House has heard for some years—he should have wasted so much time abusing his ex-colleague the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn). His speech bore very 1189 little relation to the facts before us today. He seemed to forget that we had men fighting in Malaya and Korea. His speech struck me as being more suitable for the market place at Hornchurch; no doubt he will make it there on Saturday night and we shall read it on Monday in the "Daily Herald." I make no apology for not following any more of his points. I want to bring the Debate back to the Motion which is before the House.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, what is happening in Korea might happen elsewhere. In a Debate like this, which covers the three Services and ranges over the whole world. I make no apology for changing the subject and saying something about the Navy. Although the Prime Minister said quite a lot about the other two Services yesterday, he dismissed the Navy in this short paragraph: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 962.]Until my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) asked some questions about the Navy today, that was the only time the Navy had been mentioned in the Debate. Although the position of the Navy today may be better than that of the other two Services, the Navy certainly has its problems, as my right hon. Friend pointed out. As I am now raising this matter, I am particularly glad to see the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty in his place.
When we have discussed the Navy and the Service Estimates in the last few years, the limiting factor has usually been shortage of money. Now that we have a three-year programme for building up our Forces, the money will be there, but there is still the shortage of time. We ought to be told a little more about the Navy; what I have quoted from the Prime Minister was not enough. Perhaps the Minister of Defence will tell us what really will be done to build up the Navy in the next three years. I am glad that the Prime Minister has put antisubmarine vessels at the top of the list. That is most important. In the Debate on the Navy Estimates this year, we were very glad to hear that the major portion 1190 of naval research had been directed towards anti-submarine work. At the same time, we were told that a new, fast antisubmarine frigate was under construction, and of the conversion of several ships for this kind of work. That was not really very much, however, and now we must be told a little more.
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) raised this matter very fully during the Debate on the Navy Estimates. When talking of our older escort vessels, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said in his reply:It has been said that they are largely obsolete, and that was the phrase to which I was directing my attention this afternoon.The Parliamentary Secretary then used this analogy:It is rather like my neighbour saying to me that my pair of shears for cutting my hedge are obsolete because nowadays the job is done with electric cutters. That may be true, but there are still far more shears than electric cutters.That analogy was somewhat at fault, because the question is not one of how fast the ships are to travel. To continue the analogy, one must consider that the hedge probably will grow faster and may well be of a different substance. The hon. Gentleman went on to say:What I was trying to convey was that the existing fleet of escort vessels, of whatever description, can, in fact, probably cope with the sort of submarine fleet with which we might have to deal if trouble overtook us now.I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is the situation today, and not the situation in which we may find ourselves in two, three, four or five years' time.To that extent"—the hon. Gentleman then said—therefore, our existing fleet of escort vessels is an asset of diminishing value."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1950; Vol.472, c. 2063–4.]That is a most important statement. Those two last sentences are well worthy of emphasis and of being borne in mind today. The Parliamentary Secretary was saying that our existing escort vessels were a diminishing asset and that at present they might be able to do what they were called upon to perform, but now today we are trying to decide what we expect to have to do in two or three years' time. Now that we are building up our escort vessel force, we ought to know what is being done. The problem 1191 is not really only one of providing fast ships, as seems to be the impression of some people, to deal with the fast submarine. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley has said, it is a problem also of anti-submarine equipment. Hon. Members who dealt with this matter during the war will know exactly what I mean.
I have already said that a lot of money has been devoted to research, but I think that we must be told now whether that research has been completed. Has it been decided what is required? Has production yet begun, and has the new antisubmarine equipment been ordered? I really think that we should be told. As my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has said, scientists and those engaged on research are always keen to try to find something which is a little bit better. Therefore, to use an expression I have quoted before, if we do not strike a line of "periodic finality" and go into production at intervals, we will not have the ships, weapons, guns or whatever it may be when the time comes.
§ Commander Pursey
Where are the majority of the submarines of which the hon. and gallant Member speaks? Are they not in the Pacific and a responsibility of the American Navy?
§ Commander Noble
In talking of the sort of submarine menace that we may have to face in the future, let me remind the House of what happened at the beginning of the last war; my right hon. Friend has already mentioned it. Germany had very few U-boats. I think she had only 54, of which 30 were oceangoing, but in the first year of the war, 361 ships were sunk; that amounted to over one million tons of Allied and neutral shipping. By the end of the war, that total had risen to 21 million tons.
My right hon. Friend referred also to the numbers of submarines which the Russians may possess. Estimates of their figures vary. "Brassey's Naval Annual" gives the figure as 250; "Jane's Fighting Ships" gives it as 360. Whatever the figure, there is absolutely 1192 no doubt that the number would be considerably larger than that of submarines operating in the last war, and of a much more modern type.
§ Commander Noble
Do not forget how we in this country will rely again, as we have relied in the past and rely today, on supplies from across the sea. With the building up of the forces in Europe, it is even more important to remember how much Europe will depend, not only on supplies, but on men and equipment from overseas.
I hope that the Minister of Defence will bear in mind some words of his predecessor on the subject of equipment. I very seldom quote his predecessor in support of the case, but I do on this occasion. In March, 1948, he said:It is well known that the intricate apparatus of modern war demands many months—even years—to get production in quantity of an accepted prototype."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 59.]I wish to refer also to other forms of naval equipment: first, aircraft carriers, which have a most important bearing on anti-submarine work. Is the modernisation of our existing carriers being undertaken so that they can operate the newest jet aircraft? How many are now operational? I think that we should be told some of these figures. We have read in the Sunday papers that "Category A" of the Reserve Fleet was being brought forward, which meant that it would be ready at 14 days' notice. Is this part of the Fleet modernised, or has it merely been preserved in reserve? In view of all the research work and the refitting of the Reserve Fleet, it is also relevant to know whether the Fleet at sea has been modernised and kept up-to-date, or whether it has simply been refitted and kept going as the months have passed.
On the subject of new construction, what types of ships were called for to go to Korea? They were mainly aircraft carriers and cruisers. Could the Minister of Defence tell us tomorrow night what part of the new building programme will be devoted to that type of construction? As far as equipment is concerned, a point arises in connection with the Merchant Navy, upon which again we shall have to rely. What progress is being made with the de-gaussing of ships for safety against magnetic mines? Some of these points 1193 may sound somewhat domestic, but in a broad Debate like this it is right that they should be raised before we go away for another month or six weeks.
I turn now to the question of personnel. We on this side are delighted that at last the Admiralty will no longer pay a bounty to men who go out of the Navy after 12 years, when what is really wanted is that they should stay in. I simply cannot understand why we have had to wait so long for this change. When I raised the question during the Debate on the Navy Estimates, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty rather criticised me for saying that I thought the existing scheme was "crazy." I am very glad now to find the Government have agreed with me and are making the change. I only hope that it is not too late, because there has been a tremendous drain and wastage of experienced senior ratings during the last few years.
As many other hon. Members have said, I am glad to know of the rises in pay, for which we have pressed for so long; but I hope that it is only an interim announcement because I feel that the Committees on the Navy, Army and Air Force which have been sitting must have carried their consideration further than that. I am not suggesting that pay should again be increased—I notice the rather frightened look on the face of the Minister of Defence: I think he has done very well in this matter, if I may say so— but that we should hear something soon not only about pensions but the continuation of a Service career after the actual period in the Service. When I was in Austria last week, I had the opportunity of talking to a number of n.c.o.s. Many of them said they hoped that they would hear something in the near future about pensions.
I turn to another matter. In the Navy there has been a great shortage of pilots, which has been a limiting factor in relation to the number of aircraft that we can put in the air. I hope that this new pay increase will produce more recruits for the Naval Air Arm. A further point concerns the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, who seem to have been omitted from these new increases. In the light of new construction requirements, it will be very serious indeed if there is a lack of recruits for that corps.
I wish to say a word about Reserves. We are told in one of these White Papers 1194 that the two years' National Service will mean an extra 4,000 National Service men for the Navy this year. I find that statement a little confusing because in the Debate on the Navy Estimates we were told that the Navy would take only 2,000. Then I think it was the First Sea Lord who stated outside this House that the Navy was not to take National Service men this year. That has an important bearing on the Naval Reserves because if all the young men who are not National Service men in the Navy are conscripted for the other two Forces, it means that there will be very few people available for Naval Reserves and the R.N.V.R. I have raised this matter before. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty knows what I mean.
I wish to say a few words about the Territorial Army. I apologise for trespassing in the brigadiers' territory, but this matter concerns all our constituents, and in my own constituency there is one of the largest Territorial headquarters in London. They are not getting now, and because of the extra six months of National Service they will not get, the men they expected. I imagine that the Minister of Defence will be conducting a review of the whole position and will be considering whether some lead should not perhaps be given to Class "Z" Reserve to help to fill the gap. When considering that, the Minister might also consider the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon that we should be told a little more about reserved occupations.
When I was in Austria last week, I realised what the decision of the United States and ourselves to base considerably larger forces in Europe will mean to those who, live so much nearer to the Iron Curtain than we do. Mere statements of Western unity were, I think, beginning to wear a little thin. We are seeing in the Atlantic area complete co-operation of the Western Union and Atlantic Pact allies, but I think that that complete cooperation must go far beyond the Atlantic area. Korea and Malaya have shown us that this is a world problem, and, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, we do not know where aggression may break out again. One thing that Korea has clearly shown is that, with modern equipment, the aggressor has a tremendous advantage when an incident like that occurs.
1195 The Prime Minister also said that various visitors from the Dominions had given us opportunities for further talks on defence problems. Again, I do not think that goes far enough. When I was in Singapore last year it did not strike me— I may have been mistaken—that there was very great Dominion co-operation or scope for co-operation in that very vital area. There must be complete cooperation of all the free countries of the world. If not, we shall be playing into the hands of the Kremlin by multiplying our commitments.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Miss Burton (Coventry, South)
I wish to raise a matter which has not previously emerged in the Debate either yesterday or today, a matter which I think is vital to Defence and which is entirely non-party. Yesterday, the day when both Houses of Parliament were called together, a telegram was received by Ministry of Labour officials in my constituency in Coventry. That telegram said:Reserve one £15 a week job. Arriving today.In using that telegram it would not be fair to let the House assume that I found that out for myself. I am quoting what other Members have probably read in today's "Daily Express" in which that telegram was mentioned. It serves to illustrate what I want to say.
I am sure that all the Ministers concerned will agree that in Coventry we have a city which will be vital in the production of heavy equipment in our defence programme. I wish to raise a question which has caused a great deal of concern in my constituency and in those of my two hon. Friends who, with me, represent that city. I refer to the question of the accommodation of workers who are concerned with the defence programme, and it must be put to the Minister of Defence. I expect he probably knows that ever since the end of the war, Coventry has developed and been added to week by week by workers from different parts of the country who have been attracted there by good wages and by stories of jobs to be had.
We have now reached a stage when I think we should inform the Minister of Defence, if he does not already know it, 1196 that we cannot squash even the thinnest additional person into the City of Coventry, however urgent his or her job may be. It is not the slightest use my getting up and saying that, unless I can inform my right hon. Friend very briefly what is the background to that situation. We have reached a stage in Coventry where there are no beds at all to be offered by the National Service Hostels Corporation, and for the last 12 days they have had to turn away an average of 20 people per day. When the war ended there were 17 of these National Service hostels in Coventry, and they provided more than 20,000 beds. Those hostels have now been reduced to five, and accommodation is provided in them for 3,854 people. I am not in any way criticising the closing of those hostels, but that is the position today.
As everyone knows there is no onus upon the Ministry of Labour's officials to provide accommodation anywhere for workers unless they are brought to their place of work by the Ministry of Labour. Our own local officials have said that where this is the case they hoped the workers would be billeted privately. All hon. Members representing blitzed areas must know that it is just about hopeless to secure billets anywhere. As a Member representing a blitzed city I should be very indignant—I do not care how urgent the need might be—if I felt that people who, for nearly nine years, had had to live under the most disgraceful conditions, were not able to find accommodation when it was their turn, because billets had to be found for people coming into the city from outside.
There is, in addition to these National Service hostels, one Coventry Corporation hostel which has accommodation for 1,040 people. But I am afraid I cannot raise any hopes there, because the only vacancies are for seven members of staff, and we cannot get people to come and fill the jobs. I am informed that in Coventry no hostel can add any further names to its waiting list, however great the need. I am quite sure that the House has no desire to be reminded of a maiden speech of a new back-bencher, and I apologise for referring to it, but in that speech, as reported in HANSARD on 8th March, column 335, I stated that if we took 1949 alone, in Coventry we had an increase in population of 255 per 1197 month. As anyone knows who realises anything about industry, that was an increase in the industrial population. These people came for jobs, and our housing lists have grown month by month because of this influx of new people.
We have heard a good deal of talk about the prefix "supra" and the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to it. I think that this is a supra-problem. It has to be solved, I imagine, by the Cabinet. It is obviously no use asking the Minister of Defence alone, or the Minister of Health alone, if we can have more houses in Coventry. I am in a very difficult position, because many of my colleagues represent blitzed cities.
Over the past five months I have been very concerned as to whether, since Coventry was taking such a large share in the manufacture of exports of this country, it would be right to ask for priority treatment concerning housing for the workers who are providing the exports. I have not done so, but I have no hesitation in coming today to raise this point. It would not be any use if we had only the materials for further houses sent to Coventry, because everybody knows the story—we have not got the labour. I do not wish to introduce any party point, but we in Coventry are suffering from the good effects of this Government in that we have a lot more jobs than we have people to do them.
It is no use putting forward a problem even from the back benches unless some solution is offered. I believe that the Minister of Defence—and I hope he will feel that he can do so—has to treat this problem as part of the problem of the defence programme. If, in the City of Coventry, where we have technical skill unsurpassed anywhere in the country or the world, we have to help in the provision of further equipment, and that means bringing in further workers, then I believe it has to be regarded as an operation in the defence programme. We have to have accommodation provided for the workers. Otherwise, we cannot deal with it.
Production in Coventry factories has been increasing steadily and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, who was in Coventry only last week, knows and spoke very warmly of the great efforts being made in motor car production. The Standard Motor Company, whose factory 1198 is in my constituency, has had to have a night shift to step up their tractor output. If the city of Coventry, which has played such a large part in the past in industrial production, is to play a part in the defence programme—and I think such is the case—I submit to the Minister of Defence that we cannot keep the people of Coventry waiting any longer for the houses which are due to them because of additional workers coming to the factories.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that we must all bear the burden equally. I am not asking for priority in that respect, but I would repeat that it is quite impossible for any more people to come into our city unless the Minister of Defence is able to authorise both labour and materials to house the workers in those factories. It is in that spirit, and not from any desire to get special treatment for my own city, that I hope the Minister will realise that the provision of accommodation for skilled workers in an essential area such as Coventry is an essential part of the defence programme.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
I thought for a moment, after the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) had started her speech that, by some magical device, we had switched over to the half hour Adjournment Debate. Her speech was of immense importance, but my mind boggles at the prospect of linking it with any theme so far raised in this Debate, or with any I shall have time to refer to in the course of my remarks. I hope that the Ministers who were present took note of it, and that something will be done, and I will leave it at that.
I was very much impressed with several of the arguments adduced by my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and particularly with two of them. He asked that something should be done by the Minister of Defence to prepare for the formation of large East and West African forces. I myself am entirely of that opinion. In the last Debate, in July, several hon. Members remarked on the incongruity of British, French and Americans, trained to a high degree of education and civilisation, being required constantly to travel hither and yon all over the world with increasing frequency to deal with military 1199 matters, to put down disputes and to wage war against other races. I should have thought that there was a considerable hope of raising East and West African armies—which did very well during the war fighting against the Japanese—to replace in part the loss of the great Indian Army.
I would be very interested to know what the reply of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff would be to any question put to him by the Minister of Defence as to what would be the result if this country spent £10 million this year and £100 million on a very large project of this kind in each of the succeeding four. I have the feeling that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff would reply that we would have an absolutely first-class Colonial Army, in every way as great and efficient as the Indian Army.
That point made by the noble Lord links up with another one which he made when he quoted Mr. Walter Lippman on the question of relating power to commitments. We seem to live in an age when the State, not only in this country, but in many others, takes increasing power over the lives of the people, and causes the people to hand over 40 per cent. or 50 per cent. of their own personal resources. In these circumstances it is not without the bounds of possibility and imagination that the State could develop ambitions of its own apart altogether from the aggregated opinion of the mass of the people; that the State could of itself create an objective for the nation to attain which, in the event, was impossible, and without the capacity of the millions that compose the State to attain to.
If we accept that proposition and then look at the stage that goes beyond it we see very much the same thing. The State itself becomes a member of an international organisation, and after a time the international organisation develops an ethos of its own and ambitions of its own and the State is required, even against its best counsel, to fulfil them. If we link these two things together, we can see how easy it is to find evidence for what was said tonight by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) in quoting the "Sunday Times"—the disillusionment of young men, conscripted and fighting 10,000 miles 1200 away for a cause of which they are not fully aware.
I am not trying to suggest that anything we are doing in Korea today is wrong. I fully support the attitude of H.M. Government in fulfilling their obligations to the United Nations. Nevertheless, Mr. Walter Lippman is quite right. We have not the power to ride quixotically all over the world trying to put down every quarrel which arises in every place at every moment of time. There must come a moment when the citizens are able to say to the State, "Our capacity is almost exhausted: limit your commitments." There must come a moment when the State must say to the United Nations organisation, "We are overstretched; you must limit your demands." Otherwise, we may find chaos prevailing and great unwillingness and alarm.
I now wish to turn to a matter which was raised in the Debate last night by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), and which has been supported today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and by my noble Friend the Member for Horsham, namely, the rearmament of Germany. There are many conflicting views about the extent to which Germany should share in the military forces of the West. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West, would like to restore full nationhood and sovereignty to Germany so that she might take her place, if she wished and could do so, as he put it, honourably, with the other nations. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley would be quite as precise as that, but there is a feeling abroad today, and, indeed, it runs fairly evenly through the party on these benches, that Germany should be rearmed and take her place in Western Europe.
I cannot find it possible myself to go beyond the proposition that is so far being considered, namely, a militarisation of the police forces of Western Germany, I hope, a decentralised police force down to the Länder and not run by Bonn, as well as a mobile force capable of travelling across the boundaries of the Länder in Western Germany to deal with serious Communist outbreaks such as may occur this autumn, winter or spring at any rally of the Communist youth that is held. 1201 I would also not be averse to the recruitment of individual Germans on a massive scale to something like a British Foreign Legion, such as was described yesterday, I think with great force, by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter).
I discovered when I was in Germany the other day that 80 per cent. of the members of the French Foreign Legion are Germans, that they serve with great distinction and are of immense use to France in Morocco, Algeria and other territories of that kind in Africa. I cannot therefore see why, in a Foreign Legion of our own or in the Imperial Army, we cannot find places for Germans in that capacity. Many of them have come out of the French Foreign Legion after their term of service, and are kicking their heels about in Western Germany, where they will cause trouble unless employed in their chosen professions. I should like to see an attempt made to get hold of them.
But I am resolutely opposed to a formed force in Germany, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will stick to his guns. I see that he has announced on landing in New York that he is against it and that he is going into the negotiations with that conviction. Knowing his character, I should not be in the least surprised if he did not prevail, even against the Americans. The French will certainly support him, as I discovered in Paris the other day, and, in that way, I hope that for the time being we shall keep the Germans more or less as disarmed as they have been in the past.
I wish to tell the House why I hold this view, and I must go fairly deeply, but I hope not too lengthily, into the subject if I am to convince anyone. When I was in Germany the other day, I met many Germans and some British administrators who were firmly attached to the opinion that in no circumstances could the East German police—the Bereitschaften—be induced by the Russians to turn on the West. They told me that, for a very long time, their generation and previous generations had been indoctrinated with the view that Germany was essentially a united nation, that she had been united by dynastic marriage, by treaty much more recently than by conquest and war, and that the philosophers in Germany had been preaching for so long this aspect of unity that there was no 1202 hope that Germans of reasonable quality could ever be found to go to war against the others. I was told, not only by the British and Germans, but by Frenchmen, too, that the Russians were making the greatest possible mistake in arming the Bereitschaften, because the leaders of that force were predominently those who came from the East of Germany, the Junker class, who always showed hostility to Russia and the border States and whose dislikes and antagonisms were all towards the East and not at all towards the West.
If we form a large army in Western Germany and if we allow that army to be seized by the Western Powers and forced up against the Bereitschaften, shall we incur their friendship? Shall we be working towards a situation in which the Western Germans will look in a friendly way towards the West? I doubt it very much. I think it is much more likely that, when Russia over-commits herself and gets confused, as many in Poland and Czechoslovakia and even in Eastern Germany, so far as I can ascertain, are expecting and hoping for, then that army will release itself from the iron grip of Russia, and, having a friendly eye towards the West, will, in fact, act as some kind of protective force for the Western world.
There is another reason why I am against a formed force in Western Germany, and that is because of the very great damage that we have done and which we had to do to the soul and mind of Germany through bombing, through de-Nazification and through all the elaborate techniques of control which threw Germany right down to the depths of degradation before currency reform was instituted. In those circumstances, how are we to expect from Germany anything other than a spirit of hostility?
One is aware of, and one is told about, a desire for revenge, latent at present. I believe that if we give Germany back her military sovereignty too soon, before we have had a generation of democratic treatment, supervision and re-education, then that power may be used in a sense which will not be agreeable, to put it mildly, to those in Western Europe. We are told that we cannot get along without the numbers which Germany makes up. But I have been very struck by an article which appeared in "The Times" 1203 of 31st August quoting the French newspaper "Figaro" in a series of three unsigned articles believed to come from the pen of a highly qualified, responsible French military authority. If I may just quote a short paragraph from the article it will give the argument conclusively.The author analyses the potential strength of Russia and then the potential of Western Europe, prescribes the minimum requirements in men, material and certain political and economic conditions, and finally shows how these are within the possibilities of the countries concerned without their even having to call on the assistance of Germany or Austria or requiring any change in the treaty limitations imposed on Italy, or dislocating their own economies. … The author sets out correctives to the widespread impression of Russian omnipotence on this continent. Russia has not quite 200 million inhabitants, of whom probably 125 million are of the white race and in Europe. The five Brussels Treaty Powers alone can muster 104 million inhabitants; and if to these are added Norway, Denmark, Italy and Portugal, the number is 162 million. Thus the advantage of numbers does not lie with Russia.Then he goes on to say that if one adds in the satellites and regards them, as one surely should not, as automatic friends and allies of Russia in all circumstances —one can counterbalance that again by Germany, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Greece and Yugoslavia.
That, I think, is a very important aspect of the matter, but I go, I am afraid, deeper than that. For six months I was in forced absence from this country in Australia and New Zealand, an absence prolonged by a serious illness, and when I got back to this House I found that a subtle change had come over the thinking of people. I think it was the result of the Czechoslovak coup which had happened in the interval. Before I went away there was great hope, prospect and trust in the fortunes and power of the United Nations. After I returned, I noticed immediately a widespread disillusionment about it, and a widespread feeling that Russia was intent upon war, and that what my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham referred to as the "automatic sense of sliding into war without hope" had begun.
From that moment—and it is now two years ago—I have been looking wherever I can for evidence of the exact nature of the Russian forces and have endeavoured to examine the intentions of Russia. I 1204 cannot find that there is overwhelming evidence that their intentions in a military sense, as opposed to an ideological sense, are overwhelmingly aggressive. Every time the Western Powers have stood up to Russian military designs with a small show of force they have halted them, and it is only this gigantic march of Communism and the conversion of nations to Communism that has caused people to indulge in military fears, which, I think, are really unreasonable.
The basic doctrine of Stalinist Russia —the Marxist doctrine—is that the capitalistic Powers will collapse through the inherent weaknesses in them, and that in the process they will launch an attack on the Soviet Union. That doctrine is still absolutely intact, and it comes over the Moscow radio day by day. The Prime Minister seemed to think that it had been somehow altered by Korea—that the attack in Korea had somehow changed the basic doctrine of Russia. But I do not see that as a fact at all. There was aggression in Korea, and we immediately responded on behalf of the major grouping in the United Nations. But the actual aggression that has been committed in Korea seems to me to be less serious from the point of view of the ideological implications than the conversion of the whole of China to Communism, about which we have reacted not at all or, if anything, in a friendly sense.
I wonder whether Korea has really basically changed the doctrine and whether it justified us in any violent reversal of policy. That doctrine is without doubt, from a military point of view, a defensive doctrine, and it seems to me that we have to examine the Russian military power in the light of it. We may believe or disbelieve the figures that come out of Russia. If we disbelieve them, then we are basing our policy entirely on fear. If we believe them, then they do not indicate anything so grotesquely serious.
The "Economist" for 12th August said that the percentage of the Russian budget spent on armaments in 1949 was 19.2; in 1950, it was 18.6. One may say that the whole thing is nonsense, that it is a document produced in Moscow and publicised to the world—a complete fake. If it is, let us have an assurance that the Government have a secret document which shows the reverse to be true. If one compares those figures with the figures of what we are spending, one finds 1205 that they are much lower. We shall be spending 23.6 per cent. of our Budget. If we compare them with what the Americans are to spend in the next two years— 30,000 million dollars or 18 per cent. of the national income, and perhaps 30 or 40 per cent. of their budget —it is ridiculously small by comparison. We are told that there are 175 divisions in Russia, but we are not told whether they are very large divisions, fully equipped, highly mobile, of well-trained men of very high morale. I understand that the reverse is true. I have had only one slight experience of Russian preparedness, when I ventured into Potsdam three years ago. The quality of the Russian troops I saw then was absolutely deplorable, and that was in the front line of Russia's sphere of influence for all to see.
These divisions may be required to hold down countries which are under Russian suzerainty. Let it never be forgotten—and ail praise to the policy pursued at the time—that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) and President Roosevelt agreed to the division of Europe at the conference at Teheran. Once one puts soldiers upon a line, it is small wonder that the country behind then, is converted according to the doctrine and beliefs, political and economic, of the country which has the major suzerainty. Russia, as I see it, has been following up her designs— dastardly and barbaric as they are—in the countries presented to her by the Treaty of Teheran, just as in our more mild and agreeable way we have been filling up the countries for which we are responsible with working capitalism and democracy.
We are told that there are 25,000 Russian tanks. Are they all in repair? Are some of them still being produced in the factories, are they in reserve or are they rusting in the fields, as we read of agricultural equipment rusting in the fields? Or are they all poised for immediate attack against the West? Those are questions to which I should like to know the answers. I am told that they are slow-moving infantry tanks, which makes one think that they are more for establishing a defensive line than for a sweeping attack. They do not seem to be the sort of tanks that could run through France and Belgium like the German tanks did.
1206 I am told that 70 to 80 per cent. of Russia's airforce are fighters, which, again, rather supports the defensive theory. As for submarines, I do not want to make an observation in this House that seems flippant on a subject of immense gravity, but if this country is to be turned into an aircraft carrier for American atomic bombs, it is no small wonder that the Russians are developing a submarine fleet to torpedo it.
I hope very much that we can develop suitable devices to deal with those submarines, but every step one takes in these circumstances brings about a greater threat of war to our own country. It causes more effort to be put into a defensive system, whereas if the actual bombing site were transferred elsewhere one would be able to save a great deal of effort.
We must also ask what intentions the Russians have towards the West from an ethnic, economic and ideological point of view. There surely is no parallel between now and 1938 and 1939. Hitler had ethnic and economic reasons for attacking the West. The Russians have no ethnic reasons, They have no economic reasons, unless one is to say that Marshal Stalin must grab the factories and cities of the West to sustain himself with the civilisation which flows from them. The Russians already have enormous territory undeveloped. We read only this morning in the newspapers of the intention to spend billions of roubles on converting a desert.
What economically profitable to them is there in an attack on Western Europe? I can see nothing of the kind. Would it be for crusading purposes? If Communism is a crusade which has to be followed up ruthlessly by armed force why is not Tito invaded because of his deviation from Moscow and brought back to the Communist line? These seem to me some of the questions we have to ask. I know very well that this view of mine is extremely unpopular in the House.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I cannot avoid saying what is in my mind about this matter. It leads me to a feeling of complete satisfaction with the more cautious steps which the Government are taking, and it leads me away from the wild fear that not enough is being done 1207 and that there should be resort to something very much more drastic and terrifying.
I finish with the plea that this country should develop, as soon as may be, an independent policy of its own. We have a very great Empire. We have immense responsibilities in Europe, and we also have our association with the United States. It would be a disaster if one of these links became too strong and if the others were allowed to be weakened. I think that, for the present, the Anglo-American alliance is strong enough, and I would like to see Britain pour more of her energies into a Commonwealth and European arrangement. I believe that the high civilisation of the Western world and the immense moral background to this island of ours provide enough and more than enough of what is required to repel aggression and the evil things that we fear.
If Communism is to be answered, it must be answered by a great message from the centre of civilisation. It must be answered by a vast cultural and social effort. If, when we had gone back into France, in 1944, we had followed up the advance of the Allies with a great system of administration and the techniques of full employment in a free society; if we had gone in with some of the aspects of the Welfare State, that would have been a more inviting message to the Western world and to Germany as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I regret to say that that was not done, and when hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer I point to the fact that it was their Government that was in power and could have done it.
Let there be a great social and economic effort. Let us continue with the Marshall Aid theory and thesis. Let us propagate our will, our civilisation, the theme and purpose of Britain to the West. If we do that we shall be far more successful in converting Communists to democracy than we shall by the manufacture of weapons of war.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
I am precluded from attempting to follow the very interesting and very intriguing speech of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount 1208 Hinchingbrooke). I had prepared a short speech, because I thought that the Amendment to the Prime Minister's Motion, which stands in my name and in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) might have been called this afternoon. That Amendment reads:Line 1, leave out from 'House,' to end, and add: 'deplores the decision of the Government to extend the period of military service to two years and to divert at the behest of another Government our economic and financial resources in ever increasing magnitude to the ruinous production of armaments; it, therefore, calls on the Government to realise that an armament race resolves no problem nor conflict, that it can only end in the impoverishment of the great majority if not in the destruction of millions of men, women and children.'But Mr. Speaker in his wisdom has decided that it will be quite unnecessary to call the Amendment. I am making no complaint against that decision, because I have been long enough in this House to know that one way of playing for safety is not to fall out with Mr. Speaker.
I am going to confine my remarks almost entirely to the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday. The Prime Minister —and I regret he is not in the House at the moment—worked very hard, and, I thought, a longer shift than he customarily works when he addresses the House, in trying to justify what I can only describe as the wicked and wanton expenditure of £3,600 million on armaments, and the extension of compulsory military service to two years, on the grounds that the North Koreans had committed an act of aggression in their own country. The Prime Minister said:No propaganda can alter the fact that the attack on South Korea was naked aggression." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 955.]It is obvious to me that the Prime Minister had not taken the least trouble to inquire into the Korean situation before he allowed his Government and the country to be dragooned by the United States into starting this mad escapade.
We know that the machinery of publicity in the Far East is in the hands of the egregious General MacArthur and we know, as a consequence of that, what kind of news to expect in this country. We must also admit—and I admit it most 1209 regretfully—that the British Press in a large measure has never been more slavishly totalitarian than it is these days on the issue of Korea and on the threat of a third world war. Never in my memory has it displayed such irresponsibility and such complete lack of objectivity as it has in respect of the present situation. It has published with utter abandon all that is allowed to trickle through the MacArthur sieve, and much of that is admittedly often at third and fourth hand.
But surely any Prime Minister of a British Government has other means of obtaining information which may have some regard to fact. Why has not my right hon. Friend made use of such means? He certainly must realise that he and the Government are rearming this country for what might in all probability mean the third world war—the war of the atom and of the hydrogen bomb. I must ask some questions on this subject.
Was the Prime Minister never told that the South Korean régime, was on the point of collapse before hostilities started? Has he never heard of Syngman Rhee's own broadcast, on 6th May, when he was anxious to cross the 38th parallel and incorporate North Korea because, as he admitted, the collapse of the South Korean régime was imminent? On 29th June certain American newspapers published a report stating that, according to United States officers, South Korean forces were five miles over the border and were, in fact, in possession of Haeju. Considerable detail was given. How did they happen to be there if an invasion was proceeding in the opposite direction? We know that they have been going the other way ever since that time, even with the aid of considerable foreign ground and air forces.
I am surprised that some hon. Members, who have far greater experience in the military world than I have, have never asked the question because we have not yet been told to this day at what point on the 38th parallel the North Koreans are supposed to have crossed into South Korea or in what force. The Truman message to Congress merely asserts:At 4 o'clock in the morning, Sunday, 25th June, Korean time, armed forces from North of the 38th parallel invaded the Republic of Korea.1210 Having made that statement, the Security Council—and we might as well say it on these benches now: the Security Council is merely the rump of the White House —immediately proceeded to denounce the North Koreans as the aggressors. Mr. Truman had spoken, so the Security Council had no alternative but to repeat what he said and to act accordingly.
The Prime Minister pleaded that we are bound to honour our obligations under the United Nations Charter. I am afraid that this plea will impress very few people in this country.
§ Mr. Davies
I am told by one of my hon. Friends that I am wrong. Surely my hon. Friend and the Prime Minister must know and must be able to see the obvious—that the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Treaty, these sectional military alliances, have blown the United Nations organisation to smithereens.
§ Group Captain Wilcock
In order that we may have my hon. Friend's arguments quite clear, does he state that the North Koreans did not attack and come down lower than the 38th parallel? Are they not now lower than the 38th parallel?
§ Mr. Davies
That interjection was not even clever. We all know where the North Koreans are today, notwithstanding all the foreign support which the South Koreans have had. What I said was that the evidence, when inquiry is made into it and when reliable authorities are consulted, is overwhelming to the effect that the invasion started from the South against North Korea.
§ Mr. Davies
I am sorry that I cannot give way. I have already given way and I want to sit down as soon as I possibly can. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] What a tactless cheer and how provocative! I want to ask how these sectional military alliances such as the Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Treaty can be reconciled with the conditions laid down in the United Nations Charter. I said that those two pacts, in themselves, have destroyed the very essence, the meaning and the purpose of 1211 the United Nations Charter. To add to the destruction which has been going on—what will my cheering and cheerful hon. Friends say about the taking over of Formosa, the establishing of strategic bases from the Marianas right through to the Aleutians? What does the United Nations Charter say? What are the conditions laid down in that Charter regarding the establishing of strategic areas on the part of a single one of the signatories?
Here I put also the other question. Is the rearming of Japan the result of a decision of the Security Council or of the United Nations? Of course, it is not. A long series of destructive attacks on the United Nations Charter has taken place, and I say it is nothing short of hypocrisy to pretend that we are in any way honour bound to a Charter that has been broken and battered by the United States warmongers themselves. We were exhorted to be ready to make sacrifices, including— let us not cheer at this—the sacrificing of the lives of our boys in this lunatic campaign. Korea is the contemptible excuse and the pretext—the Korea of Syngman Rhee.
Let me quote a few passages—and they are not selected passages, I want to assure the House—from an American paper. I will hand these cuttings to any hon. Friend of mine who is honestly interested in this matter if he so desires, after I have finished with them. A gentleman of the name of Stanley Earl was asked questions about Korea. I am quoting from an American paper, and, I am told, a good liberal paper at that—the "Daily Compass." Mr. Earl was former Secretary to the Oregon State C.I.O. Council. The paper says:He returned to Portland, Ore., on 14th July from an assignment as Economic Cooperation Administration labour adviser in South Korea. The Korean war was well under way. On 19th July Earl was interviewed over Portland's radio station. Earl is known as a right wing C.I.O. leader.I hope that will show my hon. Friends here that his credentials are, at least, reasonably good. He was interviewed on the air by four gentlemen. One of the questions put was:Is corruption and graft an accepted fact in the Korean set-up, as it has been in Nationalist China?The reply was:I do not know anything about Nationalist China, but I can tell you, honestly and truthfully, that corruption and graft were an every- 1212 day occurrence in the Republic of Korea from top to bottom. The police department operated on it. The Army operated on it. The Ministries operated on it. There was not a single day went by but what some scandal occurred in the way of these very things, corruption and graft.
§ Mr. Davies
This is what. He went on:Of course, the people resented that. They were going hungry while some of the upper strata were living off the fat of the land. I can put it in this way. The Government of Korea was systematically looting the Republic of Korea.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not want to take up the time of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] All right. He was asked about the position as he found it there, and about the conduct of certain officials in Korea:I want to know"—said a questioner—how our people act over there.The reply of Earl was:Well, I think that our people are missing the boat. Some of the American Mission people should try and not only preach democracy but act as democratically as possible towards the Korean people. It was not done. Unfortunately, while many Koreans were starving the Americans were living handsomely. We had our big homes; we had our big cars; and we lived well. I think that big parties which are thrown for visiting Congressmen and Senators are absolutely out of place, when you can look across the fence where the party is being held and see hungry little Korean kids running round without enough rice to go into their bellies. I think it has nothing except an adverse effect on the Americans in the Missions and the attitude of the Koreans towards the Americans.I am sorry to take up so much time with these quotations, although there is very much more that could be quoted. I want to impress upon the Government that more and more of this information, more and more facts, are coming through to the people of this country, and the people of this country are not prepared to be parties to what the Government are advising in the Motion before the House. They will certainly not be prepared for the Government to change the economy of this country from peace to war, and to imperil the peace of the world.
The Prime Minister, in proposing that we should squander £3,600 million, told 1213 us that equal sacrifices would be expected from all. The Prime Minister and the Government know very well that this cannot be so. Vast fortunes will, as usual, be made on armaments, and I am confident that "Patriotism, Limited" is as alert and alive today as it was in our young days. I am certain also that the Government's American associates will agree with me in this, because we all remember the lamentations of Mr. Keyserling, Mr. Truman's economic adviser, who, for months before the United States Government decided to spend fabulous sums on rearmament, was haunted night and day by the threat of a recession in the American economy. We call it "slump" in this country. We know what happened the moment Mr. Truman made his declaration: Keyserling jumped sky high in jubilation; the threat of recession and all possible consequences of it were gone indefinitely, said Mr. Keyserling.
Surely the Prime Minister has not forgotten all the tricks of the imperialists. War was one of their tricks, and none of my hon. Friends within the Socialist movement should pretend to forget it for a single moment. When organised workers were becoming restive and militant, war was one of the happy diversions the ruling class used, as it is done in the United States today. The Government know that there can be no equality of sacrifice among people in a war as long as a possessing class exists. What equality of sacrifice is there where the only breadwinner of ageing parents is conscripted for two years for this wretched purpose for which so much humbug and unction has already been shown in this House. No pay increases can compensate any parent for the loss of a son or any young wife for the loss of her husband, particularly in a war which has nothing to commend or justify it. Rather, it is the most contemptible military escapade in the history of war; the increase in Service pay will be construed by many parents as the most wicked of bribes. I have sons of my own, and my own personal resentment and disgust at this form of buying, and possibly disposing of, their young lives will be shared by most parents in this country.
I am sorry that I have to say this, but the Government's ruinous programme will 1214 entail sacrifices for our people, and I have—and I say this as an old Socialist who is still a Socialist—the very unhappy conviction that those sacrifices will take many forms. They will include not only the sacrificing of many promising young lives and much material comfort, but also the sad disillusionment of millions who had hoped for so much from a Labour Government. I refer to those Socialists who have so willingly and vicariously given their all to the great movement that brought this Labour Government into being believing, as they did, that some day a Socialist Government would govern in a Socialist Britain; a Government that would extend the hand of friendship not only to those who had thrown overboard their ages-old tyrannies, but also to those who are still oppressed and struggling for freedom in different parts of the world.
The truth behind all this situation is, I know, lost in the hysterical cry "Communism." I am sorry to find that our Prime Minister has been caught up in this hysteria of finding a Communist bogy everywhere and in everything. How perfectly ridiculous on the part of any British Government. It is only a few months past that the British people revealed beyond all shadow of doubt how puny this ubiquitous and terrible bogy was in our country. Have we forgotten what happened at the last election? This is our country—
§ Mr. Davies
Korea is neither mine nor that of the hon. Member who so smartly interjects. We Socialists know that every war must have its bogy. The more spectral and unsubstantial it is, the more it must be dressed up in horrific phrases and dangled before the eyes of the people. I must admit that the Prime Minister, who can take any comfort he cares to from this, does it very badly. Why cannot he leave that old trick to the Leader of the Opposition, in whom we have a past-master, the incomparable artist in ail these things—an artist who even puts to shame the McCarthys and the Hickenloopers of the United States. A Socialist Government has no reason at all to fear Communism, as long as that Government is Socialist.
§ Mr. Davies
I was called by Mr. Deputy-Speaker to address the House; I am speaking for myself, and I make no apologies. I have the feeling, which I must express, particularly to some of my hon. Friends whom I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with for many years—
§ Mr. Davies
—that there may be growing up amongst us, not the fear of Communism, but the fear of Socialists to be Socialists.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Leather (Somerset, North)
After sitting on these benches continuously since half-past two and listening to every speech which has been made, I think that I may make a few observations. What might be called the opposition to our unity on Defence has certainly had a fair hearing today, and everyone who has spoken in this Debate has dealt with a totally different subject, so I need not apologise for changing the subject once again. I do not think that it behoves me to answer the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. S. O. Davies), as I understand that most of his remarks were addressed to the Prime Minister.
May I say quite frankly to the hon. Gentleman that I have the greatest respect for his courage and sincerity, but I am as violently pro-American as he is anti-American; and, with great respect for his years, I suggest that I have more experience of the United States than he has. I cannot help feeling that it is fair to suggest to him also that I wonder whether I, or any of my hon. Friends, or any of his hon. Friends, would be likely to have the same freedom of expressing our views if we were in the Parliament of North Korea, for example. I doubt it.
If I may now change the subject, I would like to deal with one particular aspect of Defence which, so far as I am aware, has not been fully dealt with in the Debate. It is the initial political basis on which our defence structure is built, because in Defence, as in anything else, unless the foundation is sound and the initial structure is right, we shall be throwing money and lives down the drain needlessly. I regret to say that at present the basis of our defence structure is not right.
1216 I shall be extremely careful, because I think it is essential, after the speeches which we have heard in the last few hours, that in the closing hours of this Debate we should once again strike the note of national unity in defending all that we believe in, and I shall be very careful not to be partisan. I believe that our structure is not right. I will quote a speech in support of that view made by Field Marshal Montgomery in "The Times" of 13th October, 1949. I understand that Field Marshal Montgomery is at this moment the man charged with defending us; he is in the driving seat. He said that it would be wrong to give the impression that the organisation always worked with complete harmony and smoothness. Discussing the requirements, Field Marshal Montgomery put, first, clear political direction and decisions. The weakness of the committee system was that it was cumbersome and slow.
That was nearly a year ago. How far have we moved since then? The Prime Minister spoke a great deal about co-operation. We have seen recently the very valuable contribution of the North Atlantic Deputies. What do we mean by co-operation? In the course of the last few days I have taken the opportunity to discuss with all the military people of the Dominions, the United States and our own War Office that I could lay my hands on how good is our military co-operation with the other partners in the North Atlantic association. I was told, "It is marvellous; it is excellent." I said, "Just what do you mean by co-operation? If, by co-operation, you mean that if an American wants to know something from his English counterpart all he has to do is to ask him, and he says, 'My dear chap, here is the answer' that is a kind of co-operation; but the co-operation that I mean goes further than that."
I believe that we must have co-operation in making decisions and not merely in being friendly and conveying information when someone asks for it. I am delighted to have the opportunity to stress again—and I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister stress it—that what we are debating is not how to win the next war, at goodness knows what cost and human suffering, but to try to prevent that war. I am sorry that the noble Lord 1217 the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is out of the Chamber at the moment. But I must refer to something he said. Many hon. Members opposite applauded him when he said that he did not think that the danger of war was so very great. I wish that I could think that. I think that it is terribly great. I wish that my hon. Friend were right. If it comforts hon. Gentlemen opposite to think that he is right, good luck to them; they will sleep easier in their beds at night than I do.
My fear is that the danger of war is immense. The Prime Minister and various Members of the Government Front Bench have made no bones about it. Our position today is far from strong. We are by no means impregnable. At the same time, it is equally clear that we in all the Western democracies—and I use that phrase in its broadest sense— have the potential to be impregnable if we choose to use it. That, I think, is a political decision and a political principle. I could not have possibly have disagreed more than I did with the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) when he said that he thought this was the time for party politics. I should like to remind him—perhaps he already knows—that in a totalitarian State there is no such thing.
The time for temporising is past. We have now got to the stage of bold and radical steps forward in the political association of our armed forces, or authorities if you like. I believe that bold and imaginative steps are absolutely necessary. I know that when a young man like myself talks about "bold and radical steps" others with more experience are inclined to say that he is being visionary and unrealistic. In reply to that charge, I say it is visionary and unrealistic to think that we can continue in the slap-easy way we in the Western world have been going during these last five years.
Nothing short of bold and radical steps will prevent a third world war breaking out. When you are sitting on a volcano and someone tells you that you might move before it blows up, it is unrealistic and visionary to argue that you should stay where you are. This is a race between reformation and disaster. The stakes in that race are the lives of our constituents, and they are fairly high stakes to play for.
1218 Reverting to my quotation from what Lord Montgomery said, a gentleman in a similar position in New York had this to say a few days ago:Top priority is the establishment of a unified military command with the authority and responsibility to implement and execute defence plans and to assume a command function if necessary.We all know that is true, but it is being said a year after what Lord Montgomery said. We are still saying that the need is top priority, which means, in other words, that nothing has been accomplished during these past 12 months but more treaties, more committees and more plans. "The Economist" put it very neatly when they said that we have to turn Fontainebleau from an idea into an army.
I believe that unless we have a unified military command, unless we set up a body now and not argue about it in New York, as we are told the Foreign Secretary is going to do, it will be too late. We did not argue in 1942 about the surrender of sovereignty to General Eisenhower, and thank Heaven we did not. We established a unified authority and control over all the potential resources and defence materials of the Allied countries. If we had not done so we could not possibly have won that war. I believe that nothing short of that will prevent another war from breaking out today. In other words, we should organise our potential strength in a way we have so far failed to do.
May I now refer briefly to a Motion on the Order Paper in the names of a number of my hon. Friends and myself? By this Motion we have merely sought to draw attention to this central problem, and to the necessity of thinking about this problem, particularly in Canada and the United States, which seems to have been overlooked in this country. I would quote what Senator Robertson, Leader of the Canadian Government in the Senate, said in winding-up the Debate on the resolution to which our Motion refers:What has been accomplished up to the present time has been done through the cooperation of sovereign countries, and we hope that more will be accomplished. However, history shows that co-operation, desirable though it may be, presents great difficulties and many pitfalls. Napoleon is credited with having said, 'Give me allies to fight.' His meaning was that sovereign States in military 1219 association traditionally suffer from a host of hardships, divided commands, ragged strategy, uncohesive forces and international jealousies.We overcame this in S.H.A.E.F. in the last war, but they are still very much with us today. That is a third view, this time a Canadian one, supporting Lord Montgomery and Mr. Cooper of the State Department.
Senator Robertson summarised the problem in a way which perhaps the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil may dislike, but which I can endorse. He said that the only way to ensure peace is to be in a position to say to a potential aggressor, "You attack us at your peril." Whether we believe in force or not, is there any man or woman in this House who does not wish that we were in such a position—who does not desire us to be so placed that no one in the world would dare attack us? As we are perfectly well aware, we are not in that position.
The debate in the Canadian Senate and a lot of the things that are being said in Washington at present, indicate that Canada and America are prepared to go a great deal further along the lines of cooperation than we have ever discussed in this House. Senator Robertson, whose views I have quoted, is the Leader of the Government in the Canadian Senate, and presumably he did not speak in the way he did without at least consulting his Cabinet colleagues. I wonder if the Government have explored the ideas of the brilliant Canadian Foreign Secretary, Mr. Mike Pearson. I wonder if they know what his views are. I would not be so rash as to say that I know what those views are, but I have a "hunch" that the Government would get a surprise if they asked him, and they would also get a surprise if they asked Mr. Dean Acheson what he thinks about these things.
There has been a great deal of talk in this morning's newspapers about what Mr. Acheson is going to put to Mr. Bevin in the discussions in New York this evening. What are the views of the Government? Are they in favour of a unified command of the Western nations or are they not? How far are they prepared to go to subscribe to those views which have been canvassed publicly by leading statesmen in many 1220 countries of the world, although I have only at the moment quoted particular examples from Canada and the United States?
I give the Government full marks for what they have done in the Brussels and North Atlantic Treaties. Those are great steps forward, such as have never been taken in peace-time before. They must allow that the impetus for this movement came largely from my leader. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members say, "Nonsense." I respect them when they applaud the Foreign Secretary for what he has done. I respect the Foreign Secretary for what he has carried out, and I give him full marks and say more power to him, but I reserve the right to put forward the view that the inspiration came from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). However, no matter how it came, the fact that we have made progress is something on which I give the Government full marks.
May I turn again to the Canadian Debate and quote another speech from Senator Crerar, a war-time Cabinet Minister of great esteem, and a man of immense experience, who was known to, and honoured by, many Members in this House during the war. He said this:The sands are running out, and unless among the nations which love peace some bold, imaginative constructive effort can be made to preserve peace, then I think we are in a bad way indeed.I agree with that view. This is not the time to set up yet another committee; the time has come to act. One reason why we have a shortage of troops is because we have got a surplus of committees. We have been committeeing, debating and talking for too long, and I say, "In Heaven's name, have done with committees; let us have some action." If all our committees were armed with tanks and Bren guns we should indeed be in an impregnable position. Unfortunately, unlike the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, I do not believe—I may be wrong—that the North Koreans, the Soviets or anyone else will be deflected by pens, ink and paper. That is not how things are going to work out.
Many hon. Members may like to hear what was said on the same theme by Mr. Lionel Robbins; in "Lloyds Bank 1221 Review." He put the same point of view when he said:What is fundamental in the next few years is not unity all round within the area of the Atlantic community, but unity and continuity in the sphere of foreign policy and defence. It is here that the immediate danger arises.I hope that I have said enough, but not more than enough, to make plain the view of myself and of people in numerous countries whom I have quoted, that our present system of co-operation has not succeeded in organising the potential strength of the Western nations to the point where we can say, "Attack us at your peril."
I referred to co-operation. We have had the Brussels Pact and the North Atlantic Pact, but despite them the international situation has become constantly worse. That is clear proof that that co-operation has not been enough. I fear that many hon. Members mean by "co-operation" that foreigners ought to co-operate with us and that everything is grand so long as they co-operate by doing what we decide. That is not my idea of co-operation, which is that we should consult in the making of decisions and should abide by the will of the majority. If we are not prepared to do that, we have no right to pay lip-service to international co-operation. Those who think like that, should join my noble countryman Lord Beaverbrook in his splendid isolation.
How far are we prepared to go in co-operation with the United States and in committing ourselves to co-operation with Western Europe? I am afraid that on many sides of the House I shall be told, "Only so far as is reconcilable with our commitments to the Commonwealth and Empire." Hon. Members have said in letters to me, "We can co-operate with the Americans only so far as we can carry the Empire with us." I understand that to be the Government's point of view. There is no more militant imperialist in this House than I, but I tell the people who say that we must carry the Commonwealth with us, that there is no question of doing that, because the Commonwealth is streets ahead of us, as the Government can find out if they wish to know.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
The hon. Member is jumping too far ahead. He is not quite right. Far from Australia 1222 being 100 per cent. with us or America, is it not a fact that in regard to the economic control of Japan there were vital differences in the Australian area over that economic question?
§ Mr. Leather
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that is why I particularly quoted Mr. Lionel Robbins. I am not organising any paper constitution. I am concerning myself entirely with the prevention of war and the organising of the armed forces and the military potential. It is well known, and the Government must know it, that at least two of the Foreign Secretaries of our important Dominions have recently let it be known publicly that they are utterly sick of the British always using them as an excuse for doing nothing. They have made no bones about their view.
I should like to give the text of the resolution which was debated by the Canadian Senate. It goes much further than anything I or my hon. Friends are advocating in the field of co-operation. It says:That the Senate of Canada do approve the calling of a Convention of delegates from the democracies which sponsored the North Atlantic Treaty and representing the principal political parties of such democracies"—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of my party will take particular note of that phrase—for the purpose of exploring how far the peoples, and the peoples of such other democracies as the Convention may invite to send delegates, can apply among them, within the framework of the United Nations, the principles of a federal union.The verboten phrase "federal union," that one hardly dares mention above a hushed whisper in this country, they not only put in the resolution but debated for 10 days, and they passed the resolution with only one dissentient vote.
§ Mr. Leather
I quite agree, but the one person who voted against it was a Liberal senator. In the American Senate, that traditional stronghold of North American isolationism, already some 40 American senators have put their signatures to the same resolution. It is a staggering state of affairs to me. For 150 years these two countries have been dedicated to the principle of staying out of other people's troubles, but they are now quite openly saying that they are prepared to get far 1223 more intimately mixed up in other people's troubles than we in the British House of Commons have ever even discussed.
There must be some reason for this extraordinary change of view. Professor Toynbee, a man with whom I certainly should not like to engage in argument if I could possibly avoid it, considers this the greatest intellectual revolution of the 20th century. There is a complete alteration in the whole way of thinking of the entire peoples of North America. The reason is quite simple. It was quoted again and again in the Debate to which I referred. It is because they do not feel that anything short of such a system and anything short of such commitments can possibly organise our defence potential and prevent a third world war from breaking out.
Here is one more quotation. Senator Roebuck, another Canadian leader of great eminence known and respected by many in this House, had this to say:Many of the world's present troubles are caused by the anarchy which exists in the rule of law and governmental matters. I believe that the only remedy for these troubles is some system whereby, through the combined strengths of the democracies, disturbers of the peace may be appropriately dealt with. I do not see how such a system can be brought about and continued successfully in operation over the years unless we organise some kind of super-government"—he did not say "supra"—to which every one of our national Governments would assign a sufficient amount of power for our common defence.I submit that S.H.A.E.F. was exactly such a super-government in the last war. That was the secret of its success.
The men I have quoted cannot be brushed off by anyone in this House as being irresponsible or inexperienced. They are all statesmen of many years experience in handling affairs of government. Nearly every one that I have quoted is either a Cabinet Minister at the moment in his own country, or has been in recent years. Is it not a fact that what they have said is right? Is it not a fact that at the moment we in the Western democracies are utterly unprepared to meet aggression if it came tomorrow? What is to prevent Mr. Stalin or any other theoretical aggressor from pressing a button tomorrow and saying, "Go"? There is very little, so we have been informed in this Debate.
1224 My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford has summed up this problem in three very simple words "Peace through strength." Hon. Members opposite are, quite rightly in my view, hesitant, wary and upset about retarding the national recovery of the country. There is no Member on that side of the House more concerned with the housing of his constituents—
§ Mr. Leather
—or more worried about the standard of living, inflationary costs, and wages, than I am. What I am saying is that if the basis and the initial organisation are right, then probably our potential can be organised at greatly less cost and trouble to all of us in this community. If we would just grasp the nettle and say that we are prepared to make the commitment to have a unified Allied command now, then, I believe, a great deal of the stress and strain to which our country is to be subjected in the next few months and years might well be avoided.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Albu (Edmonton)
The House welcomes the fact that ideas such as those expressed by the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) should be heard here. Human organisation is inevitably inefficient, and it is right that the powers that be should receive pressure from young men of ideas and ideals. The hon. Member, however, will not expect me to follow him now in a discussion on federal union. If I were to point out some of the political and economic difficulties, he would inevitably accuse me of being an old fogey and therefore—
§ Mr. Albu
I start my few remarks by referring to the extremely interesting speech—I think this is the first time it has been replied to by somebody on this 1225 side who supports the policy of the Government—of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). Those of us who have read his letters to "The Times" knew that a considerable process of thought was going on in his mind, and it was clear that he would express himself in something like the way he did. I do not, however, think that he has entirely clarified his views. Nevertheless, his was a very useful speech in helping to reduce the rather high temperature which some of the Debate today has reached and the sometimes rather hysterical level of one or two of the speeches we have heard from hon. Members opposite.
I do not entirely agree with everything which the noble Lord said. I think, for instance, that he misunderstood the figures of the Russian Budget. Nor do I agree with his views on the German Bereitschaften and that they can never be induced to march against the West. He forgets that Hitler was able to produce an army which marched against part of the population of its own country. With most of the other remarks of the noble Lord about Germany I find myself in a fair measure of agreement.
What I want to refer to particularly is his suggestion—in which he said he supported, although, I think, not with the same arguments, the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton)— that our commitments should be limited. It is quite clear that there is in this country strong general support for the Government's policy, but also that this support is for a single, clear objective. That objective is the prevention of aggression, and I really do not quite understand what noble Lords opposite meant when they said that we did not want on all occasions to prevent aggression. It seems to me that what the people of this country are quite determined shall not happen again is that we shall follow the melancholy path of appeasement that we followed in the 1930's.
The only politically controversial remark which I shall make is in reply to the attack on the Labour Party for its actions at that time. Surely if at any time the Government of that day had acted against the known aggressors in the way that this Government have acted in support of the United Nations, the Labour Party would have supported the armament 1226 policy and even conscription. But the Government of that time never acted in the way the present Government have acted and were never willing to do so.
It is quite clear that the people of this country—this is where I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South—have no wish to be drawn into a war to impose British or American ideas on the peoples of another country. There is in the world an ideological conflict, but in Korea there is not an ideological war. There is no social base in the Far East for an ideological war. We on this side of the House at all events are all glad to have had during the Recess the Prime Minister's statement on Formosa. We are also glad of the position that has been taken up by the representatives of His Majesty's Government in the Security Council.
We all understand the difficult position in which the United States Administration is at present, particularly in this election year. It is extremely important that the American people should understand the exact nature of British support for United Nations action at the present time. It is also important that we should realise that even in Europe the social base of Western Defence is not very strong—certainly in some countries the social and economic policies of which are very inequitable.
In this connection I would refer to the extremely interesting speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) He referred to the dangers of a Communist underground movement, fifth column, and so on. At all events, within our own trade union movement the Communists are weaker than they are almost anywhere in Europe. Surely in this country of all countries the danger is the least. The danger of sabotage and spies, is not so much to be found in known and open Communists. Spies and saboteurs act underground. After all, we are asked at the moment to link ourselves even more strongly with Europe, to open frontiers, and to destroy all boundaries between European countries. I wonder whether, in the present circumstances which exist in Europe, that would increase or decrease the danger of Communist agents coming into our own country?
The important consideration in this country, if we are to remain the main social base of Western European Defence 1227 against Communism, is that the burden of the increased armaments expenditure shall be fairly borne. Very little reference has been made to the extremely interesting speech made by the Minister of State for Economic Affairs. I hope that the burden will not be carried by a general rise in the cost of living brought about either by further taxation or by general inflation. There are, of course, great difficulties. My right hon. Friend referred to the question of commodities the prices of which are outside our control. What I am about to say may sound paradoxical, but I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether, if commodities entering into consumer goods rise in price very much, it will not be necessary to re-impose some degree of subsidy on utility clothing and similar articles. We have to weigh the economic advantages of doing that against allowing the cost of living to rise to such an extent as really to destroy every form of restraint on consumer expenditure.
Internally our problem seems comparatively small. It is to transfer an extra 3 to 4 per cent. of our national resources —I am now excluding the possibility of American aid—into defence expenditure. There is not likely to be much danger for the next six to 12 or even 18 months. We know that after that a danger will arise, but it will arise in a fairly narrow sector of the economy. Of personal incomes in this country, at the present time 55 per cent. goes in taxes and in essential goods; 14.6 per cent. goes in drink and tobacco, already very heavily taxed, and out of the remaining 30 per cent. must come the main reduction of personal consumption. This must obviously largely be in the durable goods industries and these, of course, are the industries which will be subject to the greatest pressure.
The mass production engineering industries can make a very large contribution, as many of us know, to the armaments drive. Luckily it is in the engineering industry that productivity is high and rising; and I believe, in spite of initial setbacks, it may continue to rise even further. It is the manufacture of armaments and similar types of goods—mass production goods—which most assists the rise in productivity if they are sufficiently standardised—and I hope they are being made more so. Certainly standardisation is 1228 one of the most important ways of raising productivity in the engineering industry.
The hon. Member for Abingdon made a plea, which I think would not have been so well accepted by this side of the House from anybody on the other side than himself, for an extension of overtime working above the five-day week. I am sure that the trade unions, including the engineering trade unions, will give full consideration to that sort of request if it is brought to them under conditions of full consultation, under the proper working conditions and the safeguards to which they are entitled.
I make a plea to the Government in dealing with the problem of reducing consumer expenditure to use, not the methods of general inflation or general reduction, but the method of selective control of raw materials, licensing finished products, control over the production of particular factories and industries and, of course, price control, and so on. I would even say to them that they should not hesitate to restore rationing in fields where it may become necessary. It is far better to have such equitable methods of distribution of essential goods than widespread and creeping dissatisfaction due to a gradual rise in the cost of living. This cannot be dealt with in accordance with the views of the orthodox theoretical economists. It can be dealt with only by action in those sections where pressure occurs, which will only be in small fields. But great disatisfaction will arise if this pressure is not dealt with by selective controls of the type I have mentioned. It is far better that we should lop off some luxury and semi-luxury consumer expenditure than cause the gradual pushing down of the general standard of living of those people, most of whose expenditure is on essential goods.
Finally—and the Minister of State has said it himself—there will have to be a wages as well as a profits policy. Nothing will contribute more to rising productivity in the engineering industry than a rational wages structure in that industry, and that goes for many other industries as well. I am satisfied that the trade union movement as well as the employers, together with the Government, will thrash out this extremely important problem. If there is to be a rational wages structure, and if there is to be the inevitable pressure, in spite of whatever may be done, on the 1229 consumption of ordinary men and women —many of whose incomes at present are frankly at too low a level—then I am convinced that the time is coming when we shall have to have statutory dividend limitation. That is extremely unpopular on the benches opposite, but I am convinced that it will have to come, at least in public joint stock companies.
I believe that is the least we can ask, and it is clear from the Trade Union Congress decision that it is the least they will accept. I believe it is absolutely fair, and that, provided action is taken along these lines, with reasonable estimates of growth of productivity—and I hope the Government will not underestimate the increase in productivity as they have done in the past—and without getting into a panic about inflation, inspired either by the Press or by hon. Gentlemen opposite, we can deal with this extra burden without too seriously affecting the standard of life of the mass of the people of this country.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) made an interesting and rapid survey of the economic aspects of this problem. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him into that labyrinth, because my knowledge of economics and economists is largely limited to the fact that economists very seldom agree and are very seldom proved right by events.
§ Brigadier Head
I think that strategists have a better reputation, but that is a matter of opinion.
It seems to me, after listening to the two days of this Debate, that anybody who did not know this House at all well or who was sitting in one of the galleries would have gained the impression that there was a very considerable division of opinion in the House on this matter of Defence. It is my view that that is not so. What the Debate has shown is that there are a number of hon. Gentlemen in the House who have the courage of their convictions and the courage to express them, but that, on the whole, there is in the House today a very considerable degree of unanimity on this subject of Defence. It is true that we have had certain changes and surprises from both sides of the House, and, so far as this Debate is 1230 concerned, we have gained the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn) but we have had to concede the noble Lord, the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who spoke from this side a short time ago.
It is my opinion that, where defence is concerned, the present period in which we find ourselves marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. The chapter that is passed has been a very unfortunate one; the chapter concerning the future is largely unknown, but I think everybody in the House feels that the measures now before the House give it a good start. Naturally, among Members of an Opposition, there is a tendency to deal more with the sins and omissions of the Government in the past than with the problems that will confront us in the future and which are largely unknown. It is my view, rightly or wrongly, that in view of the gravity and seriousness of this problem, I ought to devote more of my remarks to the future than to the past. Nevertheless, I would not like to let that particular subject go entirely unmentioned.
It is an undoubted fact that those hon. Members on these benches who take a particular interest in matters of Defence have watched the passage of the last few years with a feeling of frustration and despair. We have seen the deterioration in the foreign situation matched only by the deterioration in the strength and operational efficiency of our Armed Forces. We have watched, over the last few years, the inertia and indecision of the late Minister of Defence, matched only by the dynamic prodigality of the Minister of Health. So far as Defence is concerned, that period might well be called the years which the dentures have eaten. It is my opinion that the House should be aware of the adverse effects which the delay in introducing the measures now before us has had on the strength and efficiency of our Armed Forces.
I think that perhaps we might liken the growth and strength of our Armed Forces to that of a plant. If it is regularly watered and given sufficient nourishment, the plant will grow steadily and strongly, but if insufficient water and nourishment are given and it is allowed to wilt, no matter how much water is eventually given to it or what amount of fertilisers 1231 are provided for it, although it will grow again it will never be so strong or of such a good shape as it would have been had it been properly nourished throughout the period.
That, in my opinion, is the crux of our difficulties today. These measures have come two years too late, and I must confess that when I listened to the Prime Minister's spech I thought the part of it which was the least convincing was when he was advancing the reasons why these measures were not taken two years ago. After all, the Government are in possession of the fullest information as to the foreign situation. It was not necessary for them to see the red light through Korea. They knew of the deterioration and the growing danger; they could see that gradual decline, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) so clearly put it, of regular recruiting, which is the very foundation on which our defence forces must be built.
Yet for two years, with all these signs, nothing was done. I must confess that my worst moment of despair was after Korea, during the Debate in July when we came to the House with all the facts before us and when the Minister of Defence said:I will not conceal from the House that the Forces at present available, or in sight, fall a long way short of requirements estimated even on the most conservative basis."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 474.]In my view, that was a very serious statement, and yet even then those long overdue measures were not introduced. I cannot escape the feeling that the Government were so reluctant to take these steps that they were only pushed into it by some outside force. I may be wrong, but it is not a good augury for the future that this long period of delay and indecision took place.
I will now turn to matters which derive from the steps and proposals now before the House. As the Prime Minister told us, we shall have nearly 80,000 extra National Service men in the Armed Forces by 1st March next, and we shall have more Regulars of an unascertainable number. It is hard to guess the number, but in my opinion it should be considerable, including men rejoining the Forces. 1232 The expectations are undoubtedly good, but the House should not imagine that everything is solved by this step. Our manpower position by March, 1951, will not really be greatly superior to that of 1948.
The Prime Minister told us—and this was reinforced by the Minister of Defence in his intervention during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley—that by the autumn of 1951, whereas we now have 6½ not fully equipped divisions, we shall have 10½ divisions brought up to strength, which I take to mean peace-time and not wartime establishment. I hope that may be so, but it seems to me that with only an extra 80,000 National Service men I cannot but make that an extremely optimistic estimate. Of course, if the Minister of Defence will confirm that, I will be the first to take it, but it seems to me that the House would be unwise to think that our problems of creating strength rapidly are already solved. It will take great ingenuity and hard work in the future to create sufficient forces.
I would ask the Minister of Defence to take particular care when he makes-his speech to tell us the facts about the Territorial Army. We were told yesterday that there would be 12 Territorial Army divisions in the autumn, and, indeed, that was reported in the Press. I have HANSARD here. Perhaps the Prime Minister unwittingly misled the House, but the effect of these steps—
§ Brigadier Head
I have the quotation here, but I will not bore the House by reading it. However, I can assure the Prime Minister that it is ambiguous. He was reported in the "Daily Telegraph" as saying the autumn, but I thought that that could not possibly be right.
My point in mentioning this is that it does seem to me that beneficial and necessary though these steps are they have one inevitable adverse effect. There will be no flow into the Territorial Army of time-expired National Service men until March, and the Territorial Army will not fill with Reservists until 1953. That means that the Territorial Army will be under strength during the 1233 very critical period of the next two years, and the Territorial Army is, in the main, responsible for the anti-aircraft defences of this country. Have the Government any proposals for tiding over that difficult period by means of increasing the attractions of volunteering, by making some local Territorial use of Class Z Reservists for A.A. defence or by some other means?
I thought that the proposals regarding equipment, to which many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House referred, were left somewhat vague. It is my belief that if there is one outstanding lesson which the Americans have learned in Korea it is the importance that men should be most rigorously trained with a full quota of up-to-date equipment. The difficulty in Korea largely resulted from what the Americans term "tender training" with obsolete equipment. At the moment, there is too little equipment and much of it is obsolescent in the Army.
The problem of getting up-to-date equipment quickly for these expanded forces is a very big one indeed. It requires the highest technical and administrative skill to ensure the minimum disturbance in civil industry and the maximum effect in the production of weapons. Are the Government proposing to appoint someone with intimate knowledge of the subject, of the type of Sir Andrew Duncan and others in the last war, who, with special qualifications, will ensure that this vital and urgent matter is handled with skill and despatch? I should feel reassured if we knew that the Ministry of Supply was being reinforced in that way.
I turn now to the subject referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and to what the Prime Minister called "the enemy within." I should like to go a little further than him and to say that, quite apart from what is going on now, the Western world either on the threat or the outbreak of war has to face up to the fear that there will be a serious danger of an outbreak by Communist sympathisers of sabotage and attempts to incite civil disturbance and strikes. Steps should be taken now to ensure that some organisation exists to safeguard against that. In France, for instance, the gendarmerie has been troubled and an organisation on the lines of the Home 1234 Guard established. If we do nothing now, that kind of activity may mean that operational units which should go and fight may be retained in this country on internal security duties. This is a matter on which something on the lines of the Home Guard would not only be a deterrent but a safeguard against such eventualities.
On the wider aspect of the defence problem, the first point I should like to suggest is that we should be all mistaken if we considered that by voting men, money and material for Defence and then leaving the Ministry of Defence and Service Ministers to carry on with it, we are solving our defence problem. It is my belief that, in the world we are living in today, Defence is not a limited but a national problem. If we are to have the response which I believe to be required from the British people to make a reality of our strength, it is absolutely essential that they should be fully aware of the magnitude of the task, the imminence of the danger and the urgency with which it must be carried through.
I suggest to the House that it is in making that clear to the people of this country that the Government have signally failed in the last five years. That part of pointing out the danger has been largely left to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and many hon. Gentlemen opposite have called him a war-monger for doing it. I seriously suggest that the time has now come when the leaders of the Government should take every possible step to explain to our people the extreme dangers with which they are confronted.
I suggest that they should explain that if the trend which has been going on for the last five years continues—the trend whereby Russia has annexed Bulgaria, Hungary, Roumania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and many other countries —then we shall be faced with a position in which, with many of our strategic assets lost and the morale of Europe undermined and sapped, we can either yield or fight a war under such a disadvantage that, although American production may eventually win the day, we shall have lost the very ideals and the purpose for which we have been fighting. That should be known.
I suggest, also, that the Foreign Secretary should now go to the people of 1235 this country and admit something which should have been obvious long ago—that normal methods of diplomacy with Soviet Russia are about as much good as trying to make friends with a tiger by saying that you are a member of the R.S.P.C.A. There is only one form of diplomacy which Russia understands and that is diplomacy through strength. Where are the only two diplomatic successes this country has had since 1945? They are in Greece and in Berlin, and in both cases and on both occassions a show of firmness and determination had sufficient force to implement it. That is the only way in which we can implement our foreign policy. With great respect, I say that for five years we have been attempting to meet foreign commitments far in excess of our defensive strength.
I should also like to see the Government tell the people more about the importance of defending Western Europe. I have talked sometimes on this subject and I have found a natural and almost inherent reluctance on the part of the people of this country to enter into commitments for the defence of Europe. It is untraditional and it is a thing which our foreign policy in the past has avoided. There is not an awareness that at the present time the morale and power of resistance of Western Europe is being gradually undermined and sapped.
I am aware that the views of peripatetic Members of Parliament, formed during the Recess, are apt to be superficial, but I went to Germany and Austria for a month and I believe that anyone with eyes to see can see that the average man there, say, with a small farm or small business and with a wife and family, knowing that there were 60 Russian divisions on one side and seven to 10 rickety divisions of ours on the other side, knew that if we blundered into war he would be overrun. He knew that if he stuck up before the local village Communist for Western democracy and freedom, then his name would be on the list.
It is to the eternal credit of many of them that they have done that, but with that disparity of strength it is inevitable that a large proportion, like Brer rabbit, should lie low and say nothing. It goes further; one can feel from the undertone in conversations that, although many of these people are aware of the ruthlessness 1236 and the barbarity of Soviet Russia, they are only too anxious to hear something good of the Russians because, thinking they may soon be among them, they would like to hear that the Russians in the Eastern zone are not behaving too badly and that perhaps life under the Russians would not be too bad. That is a most insidious form of propaganda and arises from one reason only—the certainty that Western Europe is unable to keep the Russians out. The only way to preserve the morale and resistance of Western Europe is through defensive strength. I wish that had been more clearly explained by the present Government to the people of this country, because I am sure that in this country there is still a lack of awareness of the predicament of the people of Western Europe on this subject.
I believe the Government should issue something in the nature of a re-statement of faith to instil into the people of this country the sense of purpose and urgency which now animates the Communist Powers. It is primarily their task and I would like to see hon. Members from back benches and front benches doing much more to instil that during the next few months.
May I suggest to the House that even though we have been talking in these terms of hundreds of millions of pounds, even though these very wide steps have been proposed, I do not believe that the majority of people yet realise the magnitude of the task which lies before the Western world. The Western world is now everywhere committed to a policy of containment.
In the Far East we are committed to Korea, Indo-China and Malaya. There is no area, so far as I know, in the Far East from which we can withdraw, either for reasons of prestige or because of the effect on our Western economy. In the Middle East, as my noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said, we have our oil deposits and centres of communications, and, perhaps more important than all, a most important base for the possibility of offensive operations against Russia.
In Western Europe we are fully committed to the creation of strength. These are vast commitments to implement, especially with the Forces now available. My fear—and I believe it to be a real 1237 fear—is this. In war there are never enough Forces to go round. In war the choice is constantly what to deprive for the sake of the most urgent requirements. It is vital in war to have what the Americans term an "overall strategic concept." It is my fear that during the next two or three years sudden events in the Far East may stultify our attempt to build up strength in Western Europe, because those Forces designed for Western Europe may be drawn off for service in the Far East, perhaps for comparatively unimportant or misleading reasons. That is why, in my belief, there should be a central body to consider these problems as a whole and to see that the best possible use is made of the Forces available in the interests of Western Europe.
The Minister of Defence looks happy about it, but I am not. When one turns to the Far East one sees a far more ragged front than there is in Western Europe. In that area there have been differences of opinion between America and Britain over policy in China; differences of opinion between Australia and America over policy in Japan; differences between Britain and India over South-East Asia; differences with France in Indo-China. I personally should like to see much more agreement; much more decision, for mutual assistance in the Far East than now exists in that area.
It is my belief that the same could well be said with regard to the Middle East. I do not know what the Government have arranged, but so far as I know America has not yet stated her intentions about intervention in the Far East. We cannot carry the burden there alone. That area is of vital interest to the Commonwealth, especially to South Africa and Australia, and there should be some agreement, so that should a sudden incident occur there, we should know where we stood and where our friends and allies stood, too.
I should like, with great brevity, for my time is rapidly running short, to say one word about Germany. I have been struck, listening to the Debate in the House these two days, by how hon. Members have discussed this problem purely on the basis of their own opinions as to what should be done about the Germans. I suggest to the House that the Germans have got a good deal to say on this subject, too. It seem to me that there are two features in this question of the 1238 Germans. The first and the most urgent, in my opinion, is the creation of some police force or its equivalent to counter the possibility of civil war or strife caused by the police force in Eastern Germany. That is the short term and immediate problem. With regard to the longer term re-armament of Germany, it is my belief, gathered from talking with the Germans with whom I have had conversations, that the Germans would not be particularly keen to create a force at this present time, because they are not convinced of the bona fides of Western Europe in respect of creating strength. It is my belief that from the point of view of safety and the co-operation of Western Germany with Western Europe a German defence force must grow as the strength of the West grows, and as German confidence in the bona fides of Western Europe is established.
I should like now to turn to the question of the efforts which we have got to put into the task of achieving strength. Unles we make the defence of Europe and of the Middle East and of the Far East an international, co-ordinated enterprise, rather than a series of efforts of individual nations, we shall fail. I believe that it is almost universally agreed that we must achieve this co-ordination. But to do that—and it must be done financially, militarily and from the point of view of material—is an immensely complex and difficult task, in view of the large numbers of partners of the Atlantic Union. In the war I saw some of the difficulties of centralised control amongst allies, but when I survey the present organisation for co-ordinating the defence arrangements of the many allies in the Atlantic Pact I must say it makes me doubt and fear whether we shall get it done with the urgency and efficiency which it demands.
At the risk of wearying the House I should like very rapidly, because I think many hon. Members are unaware of this, to run through the present organisation. The Minister of Defence probably knows it. At the top there is the Council of Foreign Secretaries. Underneath that there is the Council of Defence Ministers and the Finance Ministers of all 12 Powers. Underneath that the Western Union Chiefs of Staff (Western Union) the Military Committee of the Chiefs of Staff 1239 (Atlantic Union) and the Military Production and Supply Committee (Atlantic Union). Under that are the five planning committees: for North Europe in London, South Europe in Paris, West Europe in London, the North Atlantic Ocean in Washington, and Canada and the United States in Washington. All those committees have 12 representatives. All motions for executive action have to be put up, discussed—think of 12 people saying, "I have one small point to make" —and voted on, and having gained a decision they have to be referred upwards, downwards and sometimes sideways before executive action is taken.
If we are to get this done with a sense of urgency and to have the executive action which the situation demands we must reorganise that. Unless we do I believe that we are doomed. I hope the Government will press for the immediate merging of Western Union with the Atlantic Pact organisation. Let them join together. Let us have at the top an organisation with wide executive powers and the combined chiefs of staff. Let us have three committees underneath to deal with finance, supply and military matters, and then let them merge the innumerable number of planning committees, both numerically and geographically. One thing I am certain of is that unless that is done we shall get delay, frustration, irritation, and the inevitable result of too many committees—what one might term collective irresponsibility. I entreat the Government—I dare say they know it already—to treat that as a matter of the very greatest urgency. I have run through some of the matters which I thought had not been touched on very much in the Debate, although my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) and I were on very much the same point that I have just made.
In my opinion, this country has a particular responsibility in this vital question of creating strength in the West, for this reason. America is to contribute and pay to the full if Europe helps herself. The eyes of Europe are on this country to see if we are going to try, and it is my opinion that it is our example, our conduct and our strength which is the very linchpin of the whole edifice. There is not much time left. I believe that the next two or three years will be the vital ones. It is an immensely difficult task 1240 which, I think I am right in saying, no free democratic country has yet achieved in peace-time. The enemies have always been the same. In peace-time the national good comes before the common good. In peace-time the politician seeking votes is loth to tell the people the truth or to institute unpopular steps which might cause him to lose an election. It is my belief that in this task the whole House is united regarding its necessity, except for a small minority.
I sincerely believe—and I think I speak for the overwhelming majority on this side of the House—that if the Government act with energy, determination and foresight they will have the overwhelming support of His Majesty's Opposition. If, on the other hand, they act with lack of energy, lack of courage, dilatoriness, inertia and inefficiency it will be not only the duty but the inflexible purpose of this side of the House to tell the people of their defection, to explain the dangers, and in that event I have not the slightest doubt that the people of this country will hound them out of office.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I think that whatever else we disagree about, we on this side of the House welcome one remark made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head).
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.