§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
My purpose is to draw attention to the burden of defence. I do not want to do it in any mood of complaint. Indeed, I hold the view that if the cost of defence, onerous as it is and more onerous as it will become, succeeds in creating the conditions of international stability which must be the foundation of any permanent peace, the price, though a heavy one, will have been eminently worthwhile.
But what we have to ask ourselves is whether this burden, great as it undoubtedly is, has secured, or will secure, the object we have in view. One of the greatest, perhaps the greatest, part of the burden is borne by the 320,000 young men who find themselves at the present moment called to serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown as a result of the decisions of this House. Those young men who are serving as a result of National Service Acts are paying the price, whether they like it or not, not only in the two years which they are called upon to serve and not only during their Reserve service but, of course, in many cases in the effect upon their lives, which may well be a lasting one.
The country as a whole is under a very great debt to the young men of the present generation who undertake this obligation. One sometimes wonders whether the country realises just what the price is. The burden of defence, when it enters into our discussions, finds reflection in terms of cost. The cost of the defence bill for the present year is £1,377 million net. But, in my submission, that is not all the cost. Indeed, I can add to it in terms of £ s. d.
The average value of productivity earned by an adult citizen works out at some £550 a year. I arrived at that sum by dividing the estimated total of the national product by the number of the working population. If one multiplies that sum by the number of young men in the Forces, it is clear that the national product is less by some £200 million as a result of National Service. But that again is not all the story. It is quite clear that when the 320,000 men in the Services come out after two years, it is 1800 some considerable time before they regain working efficiency and technical skill or their education enables them to catch up with the young men who have not gone into the Armed Forces
So there is an economic burden over and beyond the cost of defence which is a very grievous one indeed. Again I emphasise that, I do not complain about this, provided it secures the end which we have in view. But we must remember that we are engaged in the task of defence not by ourselves alone. We are engaged in that task with the other countries of the Commonwealth and the other countries in N.A.T.O. Therefore, if this country is left to bear the major part of the burden or, to put it in another way, if the other Commonwealth countries and the other N.A.T.O. countries do not pull their weight, then indeed the burden we are bearing may prove in the end to be another Maginot Line, another grand illusion which under the impact of reality may come tumbling about our ears.
It is my submission that the Commonwealth countries are making little or no attempt to meet this burden on anything like our scale. Canada has no period of compulsory military service. Out of a total population of 14 million she has only some 33,000 in the Army. It is true that Australia has a period of compulsory military service, but it is so light and limited as to produce nothing of any great worth. The young man who finds himself called up for the Australian Armed Forces will only do some 100 days' service, as against our young man's two years.
When I raised this question in the House last week the Parliamentary Secretary rightly reminded us that we could not adopt a dictatorial attitude. Of course we cannot; this House is master only of the affairs of the United Kingdom, but I submit that the Government should make it quite clear to the Commonwealth countries that public opinion in this country will not allow us indefinitely to bear the burden of two years' compulsory military service unless the other Commonwealth countries do something along similar lines. If Australia, Canada and all the other Commonwealth countries undertook even a year or 18 months' compulsory military service, the whole concept of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern defence would look a little 1801 different from what it does at the present time.
If I may turn for a moment to the N.A.T.O. countries, it is a fact that the only other countries which at present have two years' compulsory military service are Belgium, Greece and Turkey. The fact that the West is weak, not only in the military but the diplomatic field, is because France has failed to live up to her obligations. In the autumn of 1951 it was being said that France would have 10 or 15 divisions in the West before long. At present she has not more than six. France cannot make her proper contribution to Western defence—without which our efforts are bound to come to nothing—unless she undertakes the obligation of a period of compulsory military service equal to our own.
The price of real Western defence is two years' compulsory military service for all N.A.T.O. countries. It is clear that we are a long way from that at the present time, and I do urge the Government, on every possible occasion, to tell the N.A.T.O. countries at their conferences, that we have undertaken all our obligations, both as regards manpower and equipment, and if the other N.A.T.O. countries had done as we have done, Western defence would be making a much better showing than it is at present.
I do not wish to point the finger of scorn and say that France is the villain. I realise only too well the terrible cost to her of two world wars; but I think we are doing France and the other N.A.T.O. countries no service if we hide the facts from the public. At the present time the United States has nothing like the same obligations imposed on their young men. Only this year the House of Representatives refused to pass a Bill which would have introduced a period of two years' compulsory military service on the same basis as our own.
It would be very wrong of me to expect the Government to do more than they can but, quite clearly, as far as the people of this country are concerned they should be told that neither Commonwealth defence nor N.A.T.O. can possibly work unless the trained manpower is available to give strength to the voices of the Foreign Secretaries in their respective fields. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to say to the House and the country this morning that the Government are seized 1802 with the importance of the things which are said not only by myself but by those who will follow me in this debate, and they will confirm that it is the policy of this country to go on building up its Armed Forces in the hope—which we pray will be very quickly realized— that we can bring about a period of international stability.
The Government must make it clear that the cost cannot continue indefinitely to be borne by this country. Other countries have to do their share, not only for military reasons but for the economic reasons which I have touched upon in my opening remarks. The situation is now arising in which both Japan and Germany will be coming into the field of international trade, and if they are to be competitors without making their young men undergo compulsory military service, and if at the same time the N.A.T.O. countries, as an act of deliberate policy, are avoiding their responsibilities, before long we shall find that the present burden —which, grievous though it is, is willingly borne by the people of this country—will assume such a magnitude that we shall be unable to bear it.
Therefore, both on economic and military grounds, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to urge upon his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that in all international conferences stress will be laid upon the fact that the people of this country, whilst willingly undertaking their present obligations, will not indefinitely continue to do so unless other countries play their full part.
§ 12.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak for a few moments in this debate. I know that the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for raising this subject. I wish to deal with it rather from the point of view of expenditure on defence than of manpower and military service.
In the last few months I have been engaged in compiling some material for a book which will include figures of expenditure on defence made by Commonwealth countries and the Colonial Empire, and I should like to put a few of those figures before the House. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the Commonwealth countries were not, he thought, 1803 playing their full part in defence. I was rather surprised to learn the other day that, whereas we in the current year are spending 32 per cent. of our total national expenditure on defence, Canada is spending no less than 49 per cent.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington) indicated dissent—
§ Mr. Russell
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) shakes his head, but those are the figures which I obtained from the Office of the Canadian High Commissioner. It is quite true that they may not be strictly comparable with ours.
§ Mr. Russell
No, but it is expenditure on defence, just the same, and I think one has to compare the burden of defence as a whole and not merely on the subject of manpower. I think that Canada's is the highest proportion of any Empire country, at least as far as Western defence is concerned.
It is perfectly true that the two Dominions of India and Pakistan are also spending a very high proportion of their total expenditure on defence, but that is more because they are aiming at each other than concerning themselves with making any contribution towards the defence of Western Europe.
The expenditure on defence of all Commonwealth countries has been gradually increasing in the last three years. I wish that the hon. Gentleman had been able to give some figures for other N.A.T.O. foreign countries, because I think that is the only fair way of making a comparison. The cost of defence in this country has risen from 24 per cent. in 1950–51 to 32 per cent. in 1952–53. land Canada's figures have risen even more strikingly, from 18 per cent. in 1950–51 to 49 per cent. this year. Australia is now spending 19 per cent. of her total national expenditure on defence, and seven little New Zealand has brought its figure up to 16 per cent.
§ Mr. Wigg
The figures may be a little misleading, because Canada includes the terms of production, which add to her national wealth. What I tried to deal 1804 with fairly was the burden on the economy as a whole. I had not time to go over all the figures.
The strength of the Canadian Navy is 11,000; her Army, 43,000, and her Air Force, 25,000. That is, a total of 80,000 out of a total population of 14 million. The strength of Australia's Navy is 13,000; her Army, 33,000, and her Air Force, 15,000, out of a population of 8 million. This bears no comparison with what we are doing.
§ Mr. Russell
I appreciate what the hon. Member is saying. Nevertheless the total expenditure, even if it includes some productive effort, ought to be taken into consideration.
The Colonial Empire must come into the picture to a certain extent, because in each of the last two wars it came to our aid without any hesitation whatever. and no doubt, if we are involved again, we should get just as much support as we have had in the past. As far as I can make out, in the Colonial Empire in 1951 we have had a total contribution of something like £11½ million, which represents about 4 per cent. of the total revenue of all the countries of the Colonial Empire added together.
I agree with the hon. Member that the burden ought to be more equally shared. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give some figures of how the burden is being borne by the foreign countries in N.A.T.O. as well as by the Commonwealth and Colonial Empire.
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
There is no time this morning to debate the general issue of the rearmament programme. We want to concentrate on the question of the period of National Service and the comparative manpower budgets of the Commonwealth and N.A.T.O. countries.
In a nutshell, the case that we are putting from this side was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer only on Monday night of this week, when he made this assertion:There is no country in Europe so far which has carried on a defence programme anything like ours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th May, 1952; Vol. 501, c. 1109.]That is a rather different case from what we have heard very often from the 1805 right hon. Gentleman's friends since the war, when they were engaged more in exploiting the economic consequences of our high defence expenditure and, abroad, in belittling the size of our defence forces, thereby contributing to the pressure of propaganda and economic threats on this country to spend more.
This is no new case. It has been raised in the House many times since the war. If the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) would like to go back into some of the history of this business, I should like to call his and the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to the 1949 Report of the United States House of Representatives on the comparative expenditure in 1948–49 of the N.A.T.O. countries, relating their defence expenditure to their national income, which is the only proper comparison that can be made, and not in relation to their budgets. where all the figures of how much they spend on social services and things of that kind arise.
In 1948–49, the proportion of defence expenditure to our national income was, according to this American official report, 7.6 per cent., compared with 6.4 per cent. in America, 4.9 per cent. in France, 3.2 per cent. in Belgium, and 2 per cent. in Canada.
A further remarkable fact, which many people will not readily accept, is that. according to the available figures, at the time of the outbreak of the Korean war, this country had more men under arms in proportion to total population than any other country in N.A.T.O., with the sole exception of ex-neutral Turkey. If the Parliamentary Secretary wants the figures, I have them from the statistical branch of the Library. Not all the figures are available, because the Greeks do not give them, but most countries, including the United States, make them available.
The case that we are putting is first, that this country has a longer period of call-up for its young men than have the vast majority of the other Commonwealth and N.A.T.O. countries, many of which have no compulsory universal call-up. Secondly, for many years since the war we have had a bigger proportion of our young men under arms in relation to total population than any of those other countries.
1806 This relates very closely to the seriously unbalanced nature of Britain's manpower budget. One cannot discuss the subject without relating it to our whole population position and comparing it with other countries. It has to be borne in mind that 10 per cent. of our total population is today over 65 years of age, compared with less than 5 per cent. 50 years ago. During the last 3½ years, there has been a drop of more than 200,000 in the number of young men aged between 15 and 24.
We need those young men, and we need them very badly—in the coalmines, on the farms, and in the engineering industry. In spite of the rise in unemployment in recent months, according to the latest figures of the Ministry of Labour there are 6,500 unfilled vacancies in the coal industry, more than 6,000 jobs to be taken up on the farms, and 40,000 vacancies in engineering.
There is unemployment in textiles, but we want to stimulate full employment in that industry and to employ its own people in it. As the Minister of Labour is discovering, people cannot be forced from one part of the country to another or from one industry to another. It is particularly the young men who are needed in the mines and in farming in order to contribute to the economic position.
If other countries are not calling up their young men while we are calling up ours for two years, that is one of the reasons why our markets are being seized. Other countries have available to them in industry this youthful manpower which we do not possess. If we reduce our period of National Service by a mere six months, we should add something like £50 million to our gross national product. Those countries which have no compulsory call-up or which have only a l2 months' period, as is the case with the majority of Commonwealth and N.A.T.O. countries, are bound to gain economically and comparatively. This is one of the reasons for our difficulties in maintaining competitive production and our position in world markets, because we have not got those 300,000 men who ought to be working in industry.
For us particularly, who, since the war, have made a comparatively better economic recovery than other countries 1807 of Western Europe, with their shorter call—up, this is a crippling burden. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said, it is also military madness, because these young men who are called up do not plug up all the gaps that are left in the defences of all the other countries—they could never do that. It is reasonable, both from the economic and the military point of view, that the burden of defence should be a common burden, and that the defence of the Western countries should be equally shared according to their national incomes, economic capacity, manpower, production, and industrial needs.
In view of the rather ambiguous and, I feel, rather frivolous way in which the Parliamentary Secretary last week rode off on this subject, we ask him and the Minister of Defence to make these stark facts clear in this country and to the other countries of the Commonwealth and to N.A.T.O. They should be told that this country is no longer prepared to go on carrying a disproportionate burden of the manpower and industry in contributing to defence.
§ 12.51 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
This cannot be regarded as a debate on defence in the ordinary sense of the term. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) have made their contributions for the purpose of ventilating a very important point of view and also, to some extent, of eliciting information.
There is no intention to quarrel with the Government about their defence policy, nor, so far as I can gather, is there any desire to quarrel with the general re-armament policy. In that connection I would say, speaking purely for myself—though no doubt this point of view is held by many people—that I welcome the declaration which we have had from the Trades Union Congress on the general subject of defence and rearmament.
It denotes a sense of realism which is earnestly required, because we are living in a very tense international situation, and, though there are some people who believe that the danger of war is receding rapidly, I say, again speaking for myself, 1808 that there appears to be a very little evidence, either in Korea or in the West, that that view is consistent with the facts of the situation.
We cannot discuss here the general question of defence or re-armament. The only other observation I would make about re-armament is that, although we are agreed about the need for building up an adequate defence organisation, we must exercise the greatest caution to ensure that we do not weaken our economy to the point of exhaustion, otherwise our defence organisation would, in the long run, be of very little value.
This morning we are primarily concerned with this question of National Service and the equitable share of the defence burden. I have had a great deal to do with this in conversation with the French, Belgians, Dutch, Americans, Canadians and all the other countries associated with N.A.T.O. Indeed, before the N.A.T.O. structure was created, through the medium of the Brussels Treaty Organisation I had to enter into conversations with the members of that latter body. We have always experienced difficulty in persuading other countries for the most part—there are one or two honourable exceptions—to accept the burdens we are imposing upon ourselves. That applies not merely to the length of National Service, but to the provision of equipment and the measure of financial aid we regard as necessary.
I shall confine my remarks to this question of National Service and here speak by the book. I am quite certain that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me, even if he is not prepared to say so in the House, that there is not a high military authority in this country or associated with N.A.T.O. or elsewhere who does not agree that, even if all the equipment were provided in the build-up of the Western defence organisation, it will not serve our purpose in the event of aggression unless the period of National Service which we have imposed upon ourselves is accepted by the other countries.
That applies in particular to the French, whose method of conscription is quite unlike our own. It is entirely a matter for themselves, but the fact is that their period of National Service is too short, and there appears to be very little 1809 hope of any lengthening of the period at the present time. Only one country associated with N.A.T.O., apart from ourselves, has actually accepted the two-year period of National Service, and that is Belgium. It is true that the United States have adopted a system which amounts to a matter of 24 months' service, but the system is quite different from our own, and in any event it is not universal in character as ours is. Belgium has now decided to embark upon a two-year period of National Service, though a little belatedly I think. Nevertheless, it will make a welcome contribution.
The point I want to make—and I fortify my hon. Friends' contention in this regard—is that there can be no question of partnership, co-operation and the equitable share of burdens which are all implicit in our acceptance of the principles underlying the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unless the period of National Service is comparable. I agree that if France found it possible to operate National Service for a period of 20 months, or the United States found it necessary to maintain the present system, it would be all right, but it must be comparable and not so sharply and acutely different as at the present time.
I want to bring this down to a practical point. I saw the other day—and I presume that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree on this—that the figures of our active forces at the present time is 862,700. That is the largest peace-time Force that this country has ever had. It is necessary in the circumstances, because we go on the assumption that defence is necessary. What would be the use of the Navy the Army or the Air Force if defence were not necessary? Proceeding on the assumption that defence may be necessary at some time, if called upon we have the largest peace-time Force we have ever had in the history of this country.
But there is something more. There is a reserve force of 325,563, and that gives us an armed force of practically 1,200,000 men. In addition, we can call upon the Class Z Reserve. I agree that it is a wasting asset; as the years go by the men grow older and they cannot be called upon for active service to the same extent. Nevertheless, there is a large number of men in the Class Z Reserve who came into the Forces after 1810 the end of the war, and there is also the Class G Reserve, associated with the Royal Air Force, amounting to many thousands of men.
That is an enormous reserve Force which we can call upon in the event of an emergency. The question I want to put—and I put it with considerable reserve and diffidence, because it is a matter to be carefully considered because the decision was taken by the Government of which I was a member; indeed, in this matter I took the initiative—is whether the deferment for the agricultural industry should not now be re-imposed.
I believe that the call-up of agricultural workers was something like 15,000. Having regard to the obvious and paramount needs of agriculture and the need for building up our food supplies and reserves, would it not be possible to reconsider that decision and to impose a deferment for agricultural workers? I put the question with great reserve, because it is a matter that has to be considered very carefully.
This question of deferment impinges on the principle of universality, and people may resent it. I would also ask the hon. Gentleman to consider—I da not ask for an answer at this stage—after consultation with his right hon. Friend who, no doubt, will consult the Cabinet if he thinks it necessary whether it is desirable to provide a limited deferment for skilled craftsmen associated with the electronic industries in particular.
There has been some trouble about our radar network, which is important in the event of air attack. We must extract from the civilian electronic industries the skilled artificers who can provide what is necessary in this respect. It may be necessary to go further in the deferment of apprentices in their third or fourth year. I do not put it higher than that. I merely throw out a suggestion for consideration by the Government.
We have not time to discuss these matters at any length but I would like to say two things, one about the Commonwealth and one about the N.A.T.O. countries. Far be it from me to make any complaint about Commonwealth countries. They are autonomous and independent and can decide for themselves 1811 what to do, but a sense of co-operation binds us together and there is sentiment, and emotion, if you will. In the past those countries have leapt to our aid when necessary, and, indeed, without being called. For that, of course, we are very grateful and we are assured that if an emergency should arise again—I hope it will never arise, and that is the wish of all of us in all parts of the House—I am satisfied that the Commonwealth countries would respond.
But, presiding over the last Commonwealth Conference, I felt very unhappy about certain matters. I notice from the newspapers—and I do not doubt what they say for a moment—that the Government are now asking Mr. Menzies what I originally asked for, namely, that the Commonwealth countries should put a token force into the Middle East—a battalion or an air squadron or something of the sort. The present Government are now returning to that matter and I hope that something of the sort will be done as an earnest of the intentions of the Commonwealth countries that they will co-operate in building up the defence of the Middle East.
The fact is, that the Commonwealth are dragging their feet—I deplore having to say it—in this matter of Commonwealth defence. They have economic reasons as we have, but, nevertheless, we have imposed these burdens on ourselves. I wish to see the Commonwealth countries doing a little more in the building up of their forces and in the provision of equipment and looking ahead in matters of defence as we are now doing.
I shall not go into details, but I know exactly what the position is in South Africa and what their intentions are, about the difficulties in Australia and the attitude of New Zealand, perhaps the most earnest of them all. I do not say this in denigration of the others, but New Zealand is a small, compact country with its mind pretty well made up about what they are going to do. This matter has to be probed. The Commonwealth countries must realise that whether it is in the Pacific, in the West or in the Middle East they must play their part, and that they can only do so by an effort comparable to what we have been ourselves making.
1812 The N.A.T.O. countries must also do better. How can they do better? I can only say that France cannot do anything better unless two things happen. She must increase the length of national service and must receive equipment from the United States. For Belgium, and the other countries it is largely a matter of equipment. Italy has come into the picture. She has three or four divisions building up, trained or in process of training, but she needs equipment. The fact is that N.A.T.O., which now include Greece and Turkey, is adding to its commitments every day and that the commitments, particularly as regard weapons and equipment, cannot be met out of national reserves alone but only if the United States provides what is necessary.
Unfortunately, the United States Congress, having provided an appropriation of 10 billion dollars, have allotted only 1.4 per cent. to the West. It is estimated that by early next year they will have allotted only 2 billion dollars to that purpose, out of the 10 billion appropriation. That will not do. No doubt in time the United States will build up their productive capacity and achieve what is necessary, but is there time?
Can we say that we have ample time in which to prepare? There can be no dragging of feet in a matter of this sort, whether in the production of manpower or the provision of weapons. They have to be speeded up, and the sooner we do so and finish the job of building up adequate forces the better it will be for the economy of this country and of the other countries concerned.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Mr. Nigel Birch)
We have had a very useful debate and we are indebted to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for raising the matter. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has raised many wide-ranging topics which I hardly think he will expect me to give an answer about now, although I should like to join with him in saying how much we all appreciate the very statesmanlike attitude of the T.U.C., which we saw in the newspapers this morning.
We all want strong and solvent allies, but it is useless to pretend-and I do not do so—that every country in N.A.T.O. 1813 and in the Commonwealth is doing as well as we are. I certainly would not do so. We are criticised sometimes for failure to make adequate representation, so I would like to take a little time to say what we can do. The challenge of Communism is evoking a response in every country in the free world. We have the formal alliance of N.A.T.O., and the even more binding association of the Empire, pulling together by treaty, or bound only by family ties. As the hon. Member for Dudley pointed out, all these countries, whether within the Empire or without it, are free, independent and sovereign States.
The challenge of Korea produced the two-year National Service in this country, and increased armaments elsewhere. Many voices in the free world, including that of the right hon. Member for Easington, were raised in favour of re-armament and all those countries responded in a greater or less degree. The subsequent development of the situation brings out two factors in that problem. The first is the much greater degree of building-up of the organisation of N.A.T.O. than we had before.
I should like to emphasise here the importance of the T.C.C.—the Temporary Council Committee—of N.A.T.O. The object of the Committee was to reconcile the military needs with what they called the "politico-economic capabilities" of the various countries. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) has pointed out, it is a complex problem to decide what a country can do. It cannot be measured simply from the length of conscription because there are many factors to be taken into account. The Committee examined, country by country, all the N.A.T.O. countries to see what they were doing and what they ought to do.
That report was debated at Lisbon on 23rd February this year. Many recommendations were made in it. Among them were recommendations that certain countries should extend their period of National Service. Something has happened as a result, because Denmark has decided to increase her service from 12 months to 18 months, and Norway is about to follow suit. It was also decided at Lisbon that the detailed examination of the contribution of all participating 1814 countries should be an annual event. Preparations are now taking place for the next review.
It is worth putting on record what General Eisenhower said about this matter in his report to the Standing Group. It was published on 2nd April. He said:The efforts of the Temporary Council Committee represent a monumental achievement—an achievement which could only have been accomplished with the thorough-going co-operation of the member nations. SHAPE was a principal beneficiary of its labours. The operation of the committee was truly an innovation, in that sovereign nations permitted an international group to examine their defense programs and their capacity—financial, economic, and military—of supporting heavier burdens. As a result, the true dimensions of the rearmament task could be seen for the first time in terms of an integrated military, economic, and financial effort. For the first time, positive recommendations could be made for a more efficient pooling of production facilities and for a more equitable sharing of the burdens incident to the defense program.I do not think that is an unjustifiable statement. It seems to be a new and not unhopeful method of trying to get the burden equally shared, and it may be more effective than making individual representations to separate countries.
The second new factor is the setting up, or the prospective setting up, of the European Defence Community. In the Treaty it is laid down that periods of National Service will be standardised throughout the defence community. France and Germany, in time, will have the same period of conscription. I was glad that the hon. Member for Dudley talked about German conscription. Again. it is a question of representations having to be made to the Community as a whole, which, no doubt, will be done through the machinery to which I have been referring.
It is important not to take too narrow a view, or to say that we can decide what a country shall contribute in National Service. It is a complex matter, depending upon the amount of equipment, the training facilities, and the manpower available.
Another factor which affects the issue must be overseas commitments. One of the main reasons why we have two years' conscription is that we have to send so many National Service men abroad. That does not apply to all other countries. 1815 We have a great many men in the pipeline. But history is largely made up of a story of quarrels between allies, and I think the present method of co-operation, which is being adopted through N.A.T.O., is as good as we are likely to get. They are doing some good, although no one pretends that the situation is everything that we should like it to be.
Turning to the Commonwealth, the right hon. Gentleman said that he was in the Chair at the Commonwealth Defence Minister's Conference last year. I read his communiqué, and he was a little more optimistic than he expressed himself as being today. Of course, everybody is not doing the same thing, but Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa all subject their men to compulsory military service of one sort or another. Re-armament is going on and there is co-operation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, all the time with those countries. Indeed, Mr Menzies is discussing defence in this country at present.
I thought I detected in what was said both by the hon. Member for Dudley and the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme an implied threat that if other people did not re-arm more we should re-arm less. I doubt if that is very wise. If we think that the defences of the free world are now inadequate, it does not seem a very sensible thing to do to make them even less adequate, which is what that would amount to. I think that to push the claims of equality as far as that is not very sound.