Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £39,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957, for expenditure beyond the sum already provided in the grants for Army Services for the year, including a grant in aid to the Council of Voluntary Welfare Work.
|—||Sums not exceeding|
|Supply Grants||Appropriations in Aid|
|1.Pay, &c., of the Army||2,740,000||2,100,000|
|2. Reserve Forces, Territorial Army, Home Guard and Cadet Forces||450,000||*-200,000|
|3. War Office||280,000||—|
|6. Supplies, &c.||1,700,000||600,000|
|8. Works, Buildings and Lands||Cr.2,550,000||650,000|
|9. Miscellaneous Effective Services||310,000||—|
|10. Non-Effective Services||750,000||—|
|11. Additional Married Quarters||—||*-475,000|
|Total, Army (Supplementary) 1956–57||£39,000,000||£75,000|
§ The Chairman
I have been asked to give some indication of the scope of this debate. Generally, debate on a Supplementary Estimate is restricted to the particulars contained in that Estimate, and cannot deal either with the original grant or the policy for which the original grant was obtained.
In the present case, Parliamentary authority is sought to meet additional 252 expenditure arising from the Suez emergency, and in my view it would be in order if the policy of the Government, so far as it relates to the use of the Army in the Suez emergency, were to be raised. This Ruling does not imply that the whole Suez question and its attendant circumstances can be thrown open. The debate should be confined to the reasons for the Supplementary Estimate and to matters contained in that Estimate.
For example, an item in the Supplementary Estimate covers the conveyance of troops and stores by sea and air. In this connection, it might be necessary incidentally to refer to the employment of ships and aircraft for this purpose, but it would be out of order to discuss the general rôle of the Navy and Air Force, since this is not covered by the present Supplementary Estimate; still less would it be in order to debate the diplomatic incidents leading to the emergency.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I am sure that we are all grateful to you. Sir Charles, for the trouble you have taken to give us that guidance.
As I understand, this was essentially a combined operation. While accepting your general Ruling, I feel that it would be very difficult to discuss the actual Army operation without making some reference both to the part the Navy played in enabling the Army to make the operation and to the part the Air Force played similarly in carrying out the same operation, namely, that of invading—if that is the right word—Egypt. I take it, therefore, that your Ruling does allow us a degree of latitude.
§ The Chairman
It may be difficult to separate the employment of the Army from other closely related Services and events, but I am sure that the normal ingenuity of right hon. and hon. Members will not only enable them to keep within order but will help me to confine debate within proper limits when dealing with the Army Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
On that same point, Sir Charles, but confining it to a somewhat narrower issue, may I ask your guidance? In addition to the references to Suez, the provision of ships and aircraft and the like, there are several other items, for example, a reference to additional welfare services for our troops 253 in Germany. There is a reference, also, to a very substantial increase in the purchase of stores. There is another item which relates to financial provision for the Arab Legion. Do I understand from you, Sir Charles, that we are entitled to discuss these matters?
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Hare)
This afternoon, I come to the Committee to ask for a very large sum of money—£39 million. This request is divided into two parts. By far the larger is the £29,800,000 which represents the extra expenditure which has fallen on Army Votes as a result of the Suez emergency. This I will deal with first and the balance of £9 million, arising from other causes, I will explain in detail at a later stage. I therefore come straight to the Suez emergency—that is, the £29,800,000.
The many hours and days of arduous debate in the House during November and December made it all too clear that the political parties were sharply divided on the decision of Her Majesty's Government to intervene with armed force after the war with Egypt and Israel had started. This strong difference of opinion is obviously just as clear cut today as it was in the weeks before Christmas, to which I have just referred.
My major task this afternoon, however, is not to debate those differences—indeed, from what you have said, Sir Charles, I would be out of order in doing so—but to explain to the Committee why the Army has had to spend this extra money as a result of the decision that was taken by Her Majesty's Government. This I will now proceed to do.
Over two-thirds of the extra expenditure on the Suez emergency is accounted for under two Vote heads. More than £5 million is accounted for under Vote I for pay and other emoluments and nearly £17 million on Vote 5 for the movement of personnel and stores. The £5 million for pay and allowances represents the emoluments of the reservists recalled for the emergency and of those Regular soldiers whose engagements expired during the emergency, but who were retained with the Colours until the emergency was over.
254 The numbers of reservists recalled and kept in service were, in round figures, 1,050 officers and 24,000 other ranks. The call-up started in the first week of August and was substantially complete within three weeks. The number of Regulars retained with the Colours rose at the rate of about 2,600 a month to a maximum of some 10,000 by the third week in November. In addition, there were about 150 officers on short service engagements whose commissions were extended to run to the end of the emergency.
On 22nd November, I announced in the House that an immediate start would be made to release the retained Regulars and reservists. Twelve thousand were, in fact, back to civilian life within ten days, which, I think, was very good; and by now all are released except 500. Of these, 350 are retained Regulars who will arrive home from the Far East in a few days' time, on 10th February; and the balance of 150 are temporarily retained in the Army for disciplinary, medical or other reasons.
I would like to express my thanks—and I am sure that the Committee will join with me in doing so—to the efficiency of the Army staffs in the United Kingdom and all over the world in this major, what I call "back to civvy street," operation. The shipping and the air transport companies, as well as the railways, have played in addition an indispenable part in getting these men home.
The recall of Army reservists has been the subject of considerable criticism by hon. Members opposite and I will try to summarise these criticisms under three main headings. The emphasis laid on each of the three has varied at different times, but I should like to take the three headings in turn. The first is that there should have been no need to recall reservists at all; there was considerable criticism on those grounds. The second was that only men of Section A of the Regular reserve and those members of the Army Emergency Reserve, Category 1, who had accepted the pre-Proclamation liability should have been recalled; in other words, that no Proclamation should have been issued. Again, there was criticism on those lines. Finally, there were further criticisms on the ground that many of the reservists who were recalled should have been released earlier in the emergency.
255 The first criticism, therefore, was whether it was necessary to recall any reservists at all. The reason that we had to call out reservists is, I am fairly sure, known to any hon. Member of the Committee who has taken an interest in Army affairs in the years since the war. The facts have really been the same the whole time. The commitments which the Army has had to meet throughout the world since 1945 have stretched its manpower to the limit. Everyone knows the story of Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya, and so on.
We meet these commitments in most cases by putting units at home on very low establishment—that is to say, by giving them only a proportion of the officers and men whom they would require in active operations. When the emergency began, some soldiers were withdrawn from other units and posted to those destined to go to the Mediterranean; but the numbers required to bring an Army corps up to war strength simply could not be found by this means alone.
I emphasise the words "Army corps", because I should like to point out that those who criticise the call-up of reservists on the ground that the Army is supposed always to have in readiness "fire brigades" which can be rushed to danger spots at a few days' notice, are fairly wide of the mark. This was an operation of a completely different order of magnitude from the sort of colonial emergency such as we experienced in Kenya or British Guiana and for which, in fact, a "fire brigade" was rapidly despatched.
All the units required for the operation had to be brought to the higher, or war, establishment; and the cross-posting of Regular soldiers achieved something in that direction. The remainder of the gap, however, between lower and higher establishment, had to be made up by reservists. It is for this very purpose that we have Section A of the Regular Reserve, containing Regular soldiers in their first year of Reserve service, and Category I, also of the Army Emergency Reserve, which is composed of men who have accepted liability to go abroad before a proclamation is issued.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
The right hon. Gentleman is not correct in saying 256 that Section A of the Army Emergency Reserve is confined only to men in the first year of their Reserve service. The men who are designated from Section B to Section A are in the first year of their service. The 'Section A reservist has a much longer liability than one year.
§ Mr. Hare
That is true, but they also contain people who have left the Colours within the last year. About 14,000 of these reservists from these two sections were called up, out of a total of about 27,000 in both categories.
That leads me to my next point. Why did we not call out Section A of the Regular Reserve and the Army Emergency Reserve Category I en bloc and leave alone the reservists who did not have a standing liability for overseas service? I think that that has puzzled a great number of people. I should like to give the reason, because I think it is important that the Committee should have it.
Under the Army Reserve Act, Section A of the Reserve, to which 24.000 of the 27,000 belonged, is composed of men who have left the Colours within the last year. In theory, one might think that those would provide a perfect cross-section of the Army by rank, length of service and trade; but in reality they are nothing of the sort. They may be men who have enlisted for three or seven-year engagements or even longer, and whose Colour service happened to have ended in the last 12 months. As individuals they are first-class material, trained Regular soldiers who have not begun to lose the edge of their skills. But the point is that the particular skills which they may represent are, in fact, entirely fortuitous; and there must be in this category too many tradesmen of one type and not enough of another, and so on.
Our requirements for this operation were enormously varied, ranging from stevedores to petrol specialists, armament artificers to postal orderlies, locomotive crews to printers. That gives some sort of idea of the variety and type of skill we wanted to employ, and that is why, when this selective call-up took place, it was found that only just half of these reservists from Category A and A.E.R. Category I would fit the vacancies which had to be filled.
We had, therefore, to look beyond them to Section B of the Regular Reserve and 257 to Category II of the Army Emergency Reserve: but the call-up as it affected those last two categories was extremely selective. If I give the percentages I think that the Committee will agree with me. Less than 6 per cent. of Section B of the Regular Reserve and only 2½ per cent. of A.E.R. Category II were called out, although the issue of the Proclamation calling out the Reserve gave us power to call up the whole of both sections if need be. I think that those figures of 6 per cent. for Section B and 2½ per cent. for A.E.R. Category II indicate the moderation with which the War Office used its powers, and they show that the call-up was extremely selective and that the minimum number of men required for the task were recalled.
There were some cases in which the general rule was broken, and some drivers and general duty men in A.E.R. Category I were called up for service while the corresponding men in Section A and A.E.R. Category I were not used. The reason for this is that A.E.R. II contains a number of technical units which have trained together as a whole at annual camps, and they were called up as a whole. The alternative to doing that was to call up the skilled men in those units and to fill the unskilled vacancies with strangers. I think that on the grounds of efficiency and morale it would have been wrong to have adopted this latter alternative and that the right decision was taken.
As to the final of the three criticisms, that many of the men recalled should have been released earlier in the emergency—
§ Mr. G. Brown
The right hon. Gentleman said just now that the minimum number of men required was called up. So that we may have some idea, can he tell us the number of men actually deployed in the operation?
§ Mr. Hare
I was talking about the third type of criticism—that many of these men should have been released earlier in the emergency.
258 I think that I have said enough to show that the number called up was kept to the minimum and that the men could only have been released at the cost of bringing their units below the state of readiness which was necessary. As long as the Army was required to keep these units on a war footing, we had to retain every man we had got. Reservists posted to units at home or in Germany would have moved with their units to the Middle East if the operation had developed on a bigger scale. Those who were not destined to go to the Middle East would have been employed with units providing the administrative backing for the force at home. There was no waste of manpower.
The second large component of the Suez expenditure, and it is by far the largest single heading, is the amount of almost £17 million under Vote 5, which provides for movements.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the call-up to reservists and what he describes as their "speedy release", would he say, from the standpoint of a mobilisation exercise, how long it took to call up these men?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that it took three weeks to call up these reservists, in view of the fact that for many years now the War Office has been engaged in conducting mobilisation exercises?
§ Mr. Mellish
One of the main criticisms is that over the last five years this country has spent £8,000 million on defence matters; yet, when we come to an emergency of this character, judging from what we have heard today, there was no efficient scheme. We are very alarmed that a large part of this expenditure appears not to have been used correctly.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. Gentleman will now perhaps appreciate the point which was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). He wished to ascertain how many men were actually called up, because we have to relate the number called up to the time it took to call them. If 100,000 men were called up it might take three weeks but if, for example, 24,000 were called up, why should it take three weeks when information has been available to the War Office for years?
§ Mr. Hare
I said that 24,000 reservists were called up and 10.000 retained Regulars were kept in the Army.
I should like now to conic to the second large item of expenditure, that on the movement of personnel and stores during the emergency, and I should like to give the Committee some explanation of it.
The variety of stores is indicated by the type of specialists which I have just mentioned. It ranged from the stores required for port and railway operation to all the items required to make military government function on an emergency basis, quite apart from the normal requirements of the Army in ammunition, food, clothing and equipment. About £1½ million is accounted for by rail and road movement of men and stores within the United Kingdom and to Germany, and includes the cost of movement of reservists to and from leave.
The cost of overseas movement, amounting to about £15 million, divides itself into the £4 million required for the conveyance of personnel and £11 million for the conveyance of stores. At the outset of the emergency the normal trooping sea and air charter fleets were diverted to operations and, to keep normal troop movement going in other theatres, it was necessary to charter additional ships and aircraft. There were about 64,000 individual journeys to or from the United Kingdom made in ships or aircraft specially chartered for the purpose. For the movement of tanks, vehicles, ammunition, equipment, stores and supplies for the civil population, 71 merchant vessels 260 of various types were requisitioned, 7 commercial L.S.Ts. were specially chartered, and 12 naval L.S.Ts. were reconditioned. Approximately 400,000 tons of stores were moved in these ships and a further 24,000 tons were shipped as normal commercial cargoes.
The large amount of shipping used for the Suez emergency has been subject to criticism on two main counts—
§ Mr. G. Brown
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but we are lost in the figures which he is using. I understood he was talking about Vote 5, and the Estimate gives the figure for movement of personnel and stores under this Vote as £14 million. So far, the right hon. Gentleman has given us a figure of £11 million for moving personnel and a figure of £4 million for stores, making £15 million. There is also £1¾ million for movement in Germany, making £17 million and the right hon. Gentleman has used that figure three times. I am sure that this is easy rationalisation but, if the figure under Vote 5 is £17 million, why is it set out here as £14 million?
§ Mr. Hare
The trouble is that the amount I am actually asking for is not reflected in the table on the second page of the Estimate. Certain estimates which we made since the previous Estimate budgeted for rather less. Those figures have not been given, and they rather complicate the position. However, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the figures I am giving are accurate and have been thoroughly checked.
§ Mr. Hare
The difficulty is that in Vote 5 we had assumed that there would be a saving of £2.3 million on the original Estimate. That cannot be shown. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] We have not made it. That is why I am asking for the extra money.
As I was saying, the two major criticisms that have been made about shipping, requisitioning, and so on, were, first, whether all the ships requisitioned were, in fact, required; secondly, it has been suggested that they should not have been kept under requisition as long as they were.
§ Mr. Mellish
On a point of order, Sir Charles. May I ask for your help and guidance? The figures before us are not realistic. None of us can be expected to understand them, because the Government Front Bench does not understand them. How can we argue about figures that are not real?
§ The Chairman
No, I do not have to do so. As far as I am concerned, a supplementary Estimate not exceeding £39 million is being asked for.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
Further to that point of order, Sir Charles. We are being asked to vote a sum not exceeding £14 million under Vote 5 and the Secretary of State for War is asking us to approve £17 million more under Vote 5. Can we do that?
§ Mr. Hare
I am not asking that. I am trying to explain actually what was spent. The money I am asking the Committee to approve is contained in the Votes concerned. I am trying to give additional explanations to help the Committee, because the additions and subtractions as shown in the Votes do not—
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
May I put a suggestion to the Secretary of State for War? Is he not telling us that, apart from the Suez operation, he made a saving? He was, in fact, under-spending on this Vote by about £2½ million, and, therefore, the net amount he wants is £14 million, while there was a gross expenditure of £17 million on the Suez operation.
§ Mr. Wigg
Before the right hon. Gentleman continues. I confess to being in great difficulty. The Government issued a statement, on 12th July, showing the economies they expected to make on the Estimate for 1956–57. I have a copy before me. The actual saving they expected to make on Vote 5 under movements, was £150,000. Now the right hon. Gentleman is telling us that there was a saving of £3 million, which has to be added to the Estimates, making a total additional charge on the Vote of £14 million and an actual expenditure on Suez of £17 million. How does he square that with the Government statement of 12th July?
§ Mr. Wigg rose—
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order, Sir Charles. The Committee has before it the original Estimate totalling £36 million. Another document was obtainable from the Vote Office on 12th July showing an expected saving of £150,000. Now we have a Supplementary Estimate asking, under Vote 5, for an additional sum, after deducting appropriations-in-aid, of £14 million. The Secretary of State tells us now that he has spent £17 million. All of us have a right to an explanation of the different totals as between these three papers.
§ Mr. Hare
If the hon. Gentleman would allow me to go on with my speech, I might be able to help him.
I was speaking about the two main criticisms on shipping. As long as the Army had to be prepared to launch an operation of this magnitude, it had to have ships loaded and in a state of immediate readiness. With regard to the number of ships involved, which is another criticism, we have to take account of the fact that all the vehicles and unit equipment of the fighting troops and their administrative support had to be conveyed 263 to the scene of operations. The initial assault ships had to be specially loaded so that stores, equipment and vehicles for fighting troops could be quickly deployed.
It must also be remembered that the L.S.T.s were required to carry the tanks and their crews. On the administrative side, we have to remember that Port Said has very inadequate unloading facilities and that the operation might well have involved landing over open beaches. Nor could we count on finding local labour or resources available once we had landed. [Laughter.] That appears obvious to the other side of the Committee. Consequently, the administrative tail of the force which, had the operation developed, would have been stationed along the length of the Canal, had to be self-contained.
This involved the carriage of all sorts of stores and especially of a very large number of trucks and lorries. All the ships requisitioned were fully loaded and if the operation had developed further, I think that every vehicle would have been needed.
Apart from the amount spent on pay and movements, the Suez emergency—
§ Mr. Hare
Apart from the amount spent on pay and movements, the Suez emergency occasioned approximately £7 million extra expenditure of which the largest single item is just over £4 million, shown as a loss of appropriations-in-aid. This is due to the fact that ordnance depôts were under such heavy pressure during the emergency that the plans for the disposal of surplus stores got very much in arrears. This £4 million is not a final loss, but the postponement of a receipt to a later year. All the stores involved are still in our possession and will be disposed of in due course, although rather later than had been planned.
The remainder represents the direct cost of maintaining the troops used during the 264 emergency, their food, fuel and supplies, and the provision of extra stores and temporary accommodation. It includes the provision of £200,000 for certain stores, supplies and accommodation made available to the French forces. This deals with a point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) earlier. The value of the stores, which is £80,000, will be recovered this year and provision is made in the Estimate for this. The basis for recovery of the remaining £120,000 for accommodation is still the subject of discussion because the complicated questions arise of what residual value will remain to us of this accommodation. It is not expected that a recovery will be made in the current financial year.
Before leaving the question of the cost of the Suez emergency, I should like to point out that even had the operation not taken place, the precautionary arrangements announced by the former Prime Minister on 2nd August, which were, I think, approved by the Leader of the Opposition, would, in any case, have necessitated a Supplementary Estimate. For example, had the troops called up for the emergency been stood down on 1st October, the extra cost to Army Votes would already have amounted to about £11 million.
I now come to the second part of the Supplementary Estimate, which is the £9 million that does not arise out of the Suez emergency. As hon. Members will see from the table in page 2 of the Supplementary Estimate, this £9 million is arrived at by deducting various savings and increased appropriations-in-aid amounting to just over £9 million from increased expenditure of about £18 million shown under the headings 2 to 5.
The largest single item on the debit side is £10 million for increased deliveries of stores. This is a net figure made up of extra expenditure of £17 million on warlike stores—a term that includes vehicles and electronic equipment—offset by under-expenditure on other types of stores, and by the cost of the stores bought for the Suez emergency, which are included under that head at £1.3 million. The main reason for the over-expenditure on warlike stores is the unexpectedly high rate of delivery of military stores by the motor and electronic industries during the past year.
265 The Army began the financial year with unfulfilled orders of more than £90 million and in the course of this year, as part of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's programme for saving £100 million when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have made some severe cuts in the orders placed on the Ministry of Supply. But the speed with which firms working under the Ministry of Supply deliver goods has increased because of the smaller demands of he civilian market. Consequently, we have now a large amount of stores which we did not expect to receive until after the beginning of the financial year 1957–58.
The effect of this has been to outweigh the reductions which we made as part of the £100 million saving. It does not, of course, mean that the savings which we had planned to make on this Vote have disappeared without trace. What has happened will reduce the size of the bill for military stores still outstanding, but it does mean that in the financial year with which we are dealing we have not secured the reductions planned. These increased deliveries account for £9½ million of the overspending on Vote 7.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In view of the repeated statements made by the previous Government and the contents of White Papers indicating the desirability of some reduction in defence expenditure, surely it was unwise to allow those firms who had been responsible for the provision of stores to complete deliveries. What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do with all the stores that have been delivered? Is he aware of what the War Office has in its possession? Has he an inventory? Can he tell us something about the details of the stores which have been delivered recently?
§ Mr. Hare
I have said quite frankly to the Committee that we underestimated the rate of deliveries and that, quite clearly, we shall adjust our future demands as a result of the experience gained.
The second item to which I would draw the Committee's attention is No. 3, in page 2 of the Estimate. The Council of Voluntary Welfare Work co-ordinates the work of its member associations, which includes bodies such as the Y.M.0 A., Y.W.C.A. and church organi- 266 sations, in providing social centres and hostels for the forces and their dependants about 80 places in Germany. They do really outstanding work for the forces' welfare.
Since 1948, the Council has enjoyed the benefit of a concessional rate of exchange of Deutschmarks 40 to the £ on certain goods and services which they obtain from the Army. In the changed circumstances in Germany this concession had to be withdrawn on 1st September, 1956, and this placed these organisations in great financial difficulty. It has been decided, therefore, to help them and that is the reason for this extra charge.
There are two reasons for the increase of £238,000 in expenditure on the Trucial Oman Scouts. Until the beginning of this year, the function of this force was essentially an internal security one, and its cost had been entirely borne on the Foreign Office Vote, but it has since been decided that the force should be substantially expanded for the local defence of the area. Because of this, and because the expanded force will be of value for local defence against an external threat as well, the cost in future will be shared between the War Office and the Foreign Office.
At present, the Arabian Peninsula is one of the most troubled areas in the world. The Trucial Oman Scouts are recruited from the Bedouin and led by British officers. They are a fine fighting force and their expansion will, of course, be an excellent thing.
§ Mr. Hare
I will find that out for the hon. Gentleman and let him know.
Item 5 in the table includes £5 million for increases in the salaries and wages of civilian employees at home and abroad. Among other things, it reflects the pay increases awarded as a result of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service. There is also an increase of £750,000 on Vote 2 in grants to the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Associations. This is due mainly to higher wage rates for the civilian employees of the Associations, and again reflects the higher 267 salaries recently introduced in the Civil Service.
A large item in the total of increased appropriations-in-aid is the £2½ million by which receipts from the Federal German Government exceed the estimate made at the beginning of the financial year. When the original Estimate was prepared, negotiations with the Federal German Government were still in progress and it was not possible to forecast accurately what total assistance, including money carried over from the previous year, we should receive from the German Government in 1956–57.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
When the original Estimate was made, we anticipated a contribution of £50 million from the Germans and subsequently, last June or July, we found that we were to get only £35 million, an adverse amount of £15 million. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain that?
§ Mr. Hare
These negotiations had not been completed. This £2½ million has been received as a result of arrangements which materialised after the Estimate was framed.
I have tried to explain to the Committee the main outline of this rather complicated pattern of savings and increased expenditure. I am grateful to the Committee for having listened so patiently, but this is a large sum of money and I wanted to go into some detail. The cost of the Suez emergency could not have been predicted, but I am frankly disappointed—and I would like to make his clear—that I should have to ask, in addition, for this other £9 million which has not arisen from Suez. I had hoped that this year there would have been a saving on Army Votes. These hopes have not materialised for the reasons I have given.
I know that the majority of hon. Members opposite still disagree with the decision to intervene in Egypt. These differences certainly will not be resolved by this debate; but however much we may differ on the policy and strategy involved in the Port Said operations, I believe that there are certain things about which all of us are on common ground. I refer to the courage, resourcefulness and restraint of the forces which took part, and in this I include the French.
268 This was in every sense a combined operation, in which all three Services had a vital part to play. The skill and efficiency with which the two other Services played their part is beyond praise. They were in every sense true brothers in arms.
Now I come to the Army. All of us can speak with pride of our soldiers. They were well led, and great credit is deserved by their commanders, General Keightley and General Stockwell. These fighting men of all ranks proved themselves gallant, efficient and humane. I say humane, because of the loose talk that there has been in certain quarters. Extreme precautions were taken to minimise Egyptian civilian casualties. Not one bomb was dropped on Port Said. All air strikes were by cannon or rocket and were undertaken at low levels with great accuracy and were very localised. Naval bombardment—
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The hon. Gentleman says that the air strikes were done at low level. Is he aware that the Royal Air Force officer who was recently court-martialled indicated that his instructions were to bomb from 25,000 ft.?
§ Mr. Hare
I am talking about Port Said. In the case of Port Said no bombs at all were dropped. Naval bombardment was confined to the beaches and reduced to the minimum in both weight and number of shells. In addition, our tanks made the least possible use of their main armament and relied more or less entirely on machine-gun fire. These precautions—we ought to be absolutely clear about this—certainly endangered the lives of our own troops and delayed the capture of the town of Port Said. But these risks to British lives were willingly accepted.
I believe that history will show with the utmost clarity that the decision to intervene in Egypt was right. I believe also that the conduct of our forces was in the highest tradition of our national history. Finally—
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
On a point of order, Sir Charles. I believe you ruled that policy should not enter into our debate. If the Minister persists in his present course, we shall have to reserve the right also to refer to these matters.
§ The Chairman
I was about to stop the Minister. I would refer him to what I said at the beginning of the debate. I said that in this connection it might be necessary incidentally to refer to the employment of ships and aircraft for the purpose of conveying troops, but that it would be out of order to discuss the general rôle of the Navy and the Air Force since this is not covered by the Supplementary Estimate, and still less are the diplomatic incidents leading to the emergency.
§ Mr. Wigg
Further to the point of order. The right hon. Gentleman, whether wittingly or not, has in the course of this debate made the point that this operation was right. Therefore, in all fairness my hon. Friends must surely be allowed to contradict that argument, because we certainly do not believe it.
§ The Chairman
I will answer one point of order at a time. I was trying to prevent the Minister continuing on that line, because it: is contrary to the Ruling which I gave.
§ Mr. Silverman
I wish to ask you a question, Sir Charles, so that we may understand how far this goes. I understand that what the Committee is discussing is whether the Government should have extra money to cover the things set out in this Estimate and that one of the things covered by the Estimate is the adventure, whatever else it may be called, in Suez. Would it be out of order for the Committee, when considering whether the Government should have the money or not, to consider why the Government wanted it?
§ The Chairman
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman could have been here when I gave my original Ruling. I gave it to the Committee, and I am reluctant to do so again.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Might I clarify a matter, Sir Charles? If it was in order to argue that the operation was right, presumably it would be equally in order for us to argue that it was wrong?
§ Mr. Hare
I am sorry, Sir Charles. I agree that I was out of order in suggesting that the operation was right. I apologise to the Committee for having transgressed the rules of order.
Having gone into the detail of what the Estimate is about, I now submit it to the Committee and ask for the money referred to in the various Votes.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, I should like to have clarification upon one point.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
My right hon. Friend has repeatedly mentioned troops from Germany. This is a very important point so far as the Paris Agreements are concerned. I wonder whether he can tell me what forces, and how many troops, from the German occupied area were used in the Suez operation.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
The Secretary of State for War has presented us with the bill for the Suez operation. In so doing he has stuck very closely indeed to an exposition of the details of how the money was spent, and has told us very little indeed about what it was spent on; about what we actually got for our money. I shall have something to say about the details of how the money was actually spent. But I think the Committee will also want to look at what it was spent on, at the actual operation; and I hope to say a few things about that and about the preparation for it.
After all, this is not a small bill. It is a bill for only £29 million on paper so far as Suez is concerned; but, of course, that is not all. As the Secretary of State explained to us, or endeavoured to explain to us, there is a good deal more in actual expenditure. This is the net amount extra for which the War Office 271 is asking, and as the War Office has underspent on many of its other Votes, or on the same Vote, the actual gross expenditure on Suez is greater than the net amount shown. We understand that we are not to have an Estimate in respect of the expenditure on the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy because all that expenditure is balanced by under-spending on other things. So the real expenditure on Suez is very considerably greater.
That is, however, really quite a small point, because the real bill for Suez with which the nation is faced is of course incomparably larger than this. We have, I am afraid, only just begun, even in purely material terms, to face the real bill for Suez, in the dislocation of our economy, the effect of the oil shortage, and the rest—that is something far wider and very different. I say nothing of the issues which we are not to discuss—and I have no intention of discussing them this afternoon—of what one might call the non-material bill for Suez in respect of the position of our country in relation to the United Nations, its alliances and the rest.
However, I believe that there is one aspect of the effect of Suez on the nonmaterial side at which we ought to look, and that is the effect that it has had on the minds of people in this country in respect of defence. That point was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) just now. People everywhere are saying, "Here we have spent £7,000 million in the last five years. That is no small sum. Yet after all that it has only been found possible in about three months, and with the utmost difficulty, to mount an expeditionary force of about 20,000 men". Not only that; the operation itself has turned out to be something the like of which, it has been universally conceded, this country ought never to undertake again. One now sees in the Press, and above all in the Conservative Press, the question being asked, "What is the good of any defence policy of any kind? Nothing is any good whatever". That is one of the most serious effects of the Suez operation.
Hon. Members on this side of the Committee do not take the view that the Suez 272 operation proves that there is not a suitable and appropriate defence policy for this country. What it does prove is that the defence policy which has been pursued by the Government and its predecessor for the past five years has turned out to be not only grossly excessive, as everybody now seems to admit, but also incredibly ill-adapted to our real defence requirements. It has shown, as it seems to us, that a tremendous amount of rethinking in the defence sphere is necessary. But it has not shown that we must "chuck our hand in" in the matter of defence; that is an entirely wrong conclusion to come to. It has shown the absolute necessity of thinking again, almost from the start, about defence matters. The House will be devoting many hours to that subject during the next few weeks.
The rest of my speech will largely illustrate that theme. I want to say something about the military landing at Port Said—not that I think that the most important lessons are to be learned from that. I believe that they are to be learned from the preparation of the operation, and I shall come to that point later in my speech. First, I would repeat what the Secretary of State has said, namely, that the more we investigate this matter the more we see that our troops acted with courage, resolution and speed. We shall all have been astonished if they had not done so.
Secondly—and I have gone into this question as carefully as I can—I would say that our forces certainly all acted, as they were instructed to act, with the greatest possible restraint and humanity. There is not the slightest doubt that the briefings given to all three Services—the Navy in its bombardment; the Royal Air Force in regard to the bombing, and the Army in respect of the landing and the street fighting—were given with meticulous care. Very great trouble was taken and, in the event, our troops showed that, so far as it is possible to wage war with restraint and humanity, they did so. No one questions that fact.
Having said that, the fact remains that, as a consequence of our action—as anybody knows who has seen even the newsreels of conditions in Port Said—very considerable damage was caused, and there were many casualties. The simple upshot of the matter is that it is quite 273 impossible to wage war without causing very great damage and many casualties. The mistake was ever to have made the quite hypocritical suggestion that it was possible to do so. If a force enters another country, bombs its airfields, bombards one of its cities from the sea and makes, not indeed bombing attacks, but repeated air strikes upon that city with cannon fire and rockets, deaths and damage are bound to result.
I could not follow the Secretary of State's argument that it made such a lot of difference to the people of Port Said that they were attacked by rocket tire instead of by bombs. It does not make very much difference whether one is killed by rocket fire or by bombs. When such operations are carried out and then there is street fighting in a large modern city, and tank fighting at that, with the 20-pounder armament of the Centurion tanks—I cannot agree with the Secretary of State that the 20-pounders were not used fairly freely because the main area of devastation in the Arab town was caused by the fire of 20-pounder tank guns, which are very considerable weapons—a rather considerable mess is caused, and a considerable number of casualties are inflicted. It is not in the least the fault of the troops that that was so; it is the fault of the people who ordered them to commit this act of aggression.
I now turn to the subject which was discussed in the House last night and which is very relevant to this debate. It refers to the public relations side of the operation. The most dreadful error, from the point of view of our country's good name, was made when it was announced that only 100 Egyptians had been killed in the Port Said operation. I do not know the true figure; I do not think that anybody knows or will ever know. But the Herbert Report—which gives an estimate which certainly does not err on the high side—appears to show that both the number of killed and the number of casualties were about ten times the number originally claimed.
That was the most dreadful error. Once that had been said—when dozens of foreign correspondents in Port Said knew that it was completely untrue—and when it was repeated, nobody from that moment onwards believed anything else we said. That was the tragedy of the situation. The most dreadful atrocity stories, which are quite untrue, have been 274 alleged against us ever since, simply because of the ghastly mistake of even suggesting that an operation against a large city like Port Said could possibly be undertaken with only 100 killed.
There was another frightful error in the public relations sphere. We seem to be rather bad at this. It was said that the troops had gone on to capture Ismailia, when in fact they had only gone on as far as El Cap. It did not matter, as there was to be a cease-fire any way, but to say that they had gone on to capture Ismailia was a frightful error in public relations, which also helped to make people disbelieve what we were saying.
I do not lay the blame upon the public relations officers in Cyprus. I have been a public relations officer myself and I know their troubles. The blame lies in the instructions that they were given, and the variations in those instructions. Let us think of the position of the public relations unit in Cyprus. The operation was started last August. When the Secretary of State said that all the ships were loaded last August it seemed to surprise the Committee, but that was when the operation was laid on. We all know that.
That was "Operation Musketeer" That was the code name given in the headline of the Economist as long ago as 24th November. Nevertheless "Operation Musketeer", for which the ships were loaded last August, as the Secretary of State has reminded us, was not the operation finally carried out, but quite a different one. It was an operation to land at Alexandria and go straight to Cairo and not to the Canal at all. I am not expecting that to be confirmed from the Government Front Bench, but everybody knows that that was the case.
That is the explanation for those famous leaflets which were issued from Cyprus. Those leaflets were, of course, appropriate to the original "Operation Musketeer", which was quite frankly to overturn Nasser 'by going straight for him. In many respects, although it would have been utterly wrong, it was a much more logical operation than the one carried out. When the public relations people found that they had to provide for an entirely different operation, they used the same old leaflets with which they had started.
275 I can see how it happened. If they had been in London, they could have had a new set of leaflets printed. I am guessing, but having been concerned with these things in my day, I think that the public relations people in Cyprus, with hundreds of thousands of leaflets having been churned out on flatbed presses, very elaborately, could not possibly scrap them. They had to use them up. They had to use up the stock. And so these hundreds of leaflets came out. True they were quite inappropriate to the operation then being mounted, which, we were not told, was about intervening between the Israeli and Egyptian troops, safeguarding the Canal, stamping out forest fires and so on. The poor old public relations office in Cyprus was still working on the leaflets designed for the original "Operation Musketeer". There again I do not put the blame on the chaps trying to do the job on the spot. I put the blame on the Government, on the Government then in power—and a very similar Government are in power now.
I want to return to an operational point and I hope that the hon. Member who replies to the debate will deal with it. We were told a good deal bout helicopters and what a great success they were. They are an interesting development and an interesting arm. But I put this to the Minister of Defence; surely we will get into a good deal of trouble if we think that helicopters are a possible instrument for an airborne assault. My information—and it comes from very distinguished officers on the spot—is that helicopters could not possibly have been used until and unless all opposition on the ground had been destroyed. If there had been one Bofors gun left in operation, they would have been utterly helpless and vulnerable. And once all ground opposition has been destroyed, many aircraft could have been used as well as helicopters.
What we wanted then were large transport aircraft, Beverleys and similar aircraft. We all know why they were not used—because there are none. That is a very remarkable thing. I know the history of the Beverleys. They date back to long before my day. They were ordered in 1944, before the end of the war. I remember seeing one on Farnborough Airfield in 1951 and thinking that it would be a very valuable aircraft for 276 the Army, a real freighter, a real carrier of personnel. It is astonishing that in 1957 they still do not exist. It is not the Army's fault. The fault is the total disinterest of the R.A.F. in anything except fighting aircraft. Other aircraft somehow get no priority and never get made.
I want to come to a semi-military, semi-political topic. One of the deficiencies in the operation was that our forces did not carry with them any machine of military government to be set up when Port Said had been captured. That was apparently because our Forces expected such willing and ready Egyptian co-operation. It was hinted at by the Secretary of State when he said they could not absolutely depend on getting a ready supply of local labour.
§ Mr. Strachey
I withdraw the word "absolutely".
I think that it shows that there was a deep miscalculation. On the whole we seem to have overestimated rather than underestimated the Egyptian power of military resistance, which was very low. What we obviously greatly underestimated was the degree to which there was now political consciousness in Egypt, and the fact that when we invaded their country, they did not, as perhaps was the case in the past, throw over their Government. On this occasion they certainly were not set against their own Government, as undoubtedly they might have been 70 years ago. They did not come over to us and help us to run the city. On the contrary, invasion had exactly the opposite effect and rallied the population to its own Government. Our failure to provide a machine of military government to administer the town when we had captured it was therefore not without significance.
It will be interesting if we can have an answer to my last point on the actual operation itself. What was the actual purpose of the six-day air bombardment? Was it simply to safeguard the landing of the Army, the military operation, as has been suggested? If it was, one is bound to ask the simple question, "Was your bombing really necessary?", because all the indications show that that could have been done in one, or at most two, nights.
277 Was there not something more to it than that? I was very interested in the account, in the Daily Telegraph, of the very responsible military journalist, Lieut.-General Martin. In his notable article on the subject of the whole operation, in the Daily Telegraph on 15th December, he said that the six days' bombingwas confidently expected to bring down the Egyptian Government".I think that that was the purpose. I detect an old heresy of my old Service, the Royal Air Force, namely, the doctrine of air control; the old inclination of the R.A.F. to believe that it can "go it" alone and do everything on its own. The doctrine of air control is that one can keep control—as the Air Force used to keep control of Iraqi tribes—by means of air action alone.
I have reason to believe that there was a tendency, at any rate in the Royal Air Force, to apply that doctrine of air control, which is never very attractive but which is absolutely insane when applied to a very large, comparatively developed country like Egypt. That is what was really at the back of that six days' bombardment. The bombardment was laid most scrupulously on the airfields, in the early phase, and on military objectives in the latter phase, so far as could be done. But it should not be doubted that it was the six days' bombing, perhaps above everything else, which made the whole business stink in the nostrils of the world. If it was partly due to that Royal Air Force doctrine of air control, it was an extremely wrong thing to have done.
Those are the points which I wanted to raise about the operation itself, but I think that there are other more interesting points to raise about the preparations for the operation. When all this began, we used to hear—I have heard it from hon. Members opposite and it appeared in the Press—that we were in for a swift, clear, surgical operation. When we look at the way in which the thing was done, we find that it was not so much like a swift, clean surgical operation as like a film in slow motion. The actual story reveals that the preparation was terribly slaw, cumbersome and heavy.
The Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the mobilisation of the 3rd Infantry Division began on 4th August last. It did not go 278 well, to put it mildly, and I should like to ask one or two questions about that. I do not say that what I am here suggesting is necessarily true, but I should like to know whether these things are true or not; for this is the sort of thing that everyone is saying. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the call-up of reservists. We do not doubt that some reservists had to be called up to man an expeditionary force of this sort. But it is alleged that considerably too many reservists were called up for the military purposes.
I do not know if it can be true, but it is alleged, for example, that R.A.C. Records called up five men per tank on the basis of their old schedules of tank crews. As many hon. Members opposite will know, that was the number of men required for the older type of tanks. It is alleged that the schedules had not been adjusted far the four-men tank crews needed for the Centurion tanks. Therefore an extra man per tank was called up from the Reserve. That is only an alleged example, but for that and other reasons considerably too many reservists were called up.
It is further alleged that an order, or ruling, was given—one sees how it may have been given—that if reservists had been called up, when their unit went overseas, they too must go overseas with the unit: because they could not he kept hanging about without any purpose in this country. That meant, as too many were called up—it is definitely alleged—that certain Regulars had to be left behind to make way and create places for the extra reservists who were called up. Were that really so it was very unfortunate.
Then there is the story of the Pickfords vans. The story is that for some reason nobody could lay hands on tank transporters to take the tanks to the ports of embarkation. In the end the War Office had to call on Pickfords to provide the heavy transporters, and eventually the tanks actually went to the ports of embarkation in plain vans. I do not know if that be true, but it is alleged to be so. I should like to hear it definitely denied, if it is untrue. It is certainly what is being said. I am told that Pickfords did a very workmanlike job taking the tanks to the ports.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is, as my right hon. Friend has said, a nationalised concern, but perhaps it was not ideal for this particular purpose.
There is a more serious point. Is it, or is it not, the case that in the process the change-over of "Operation Musketeer" from the old concept of it to the new—I think it was bound up with that—the 6th Tanks were substituted for the 1st Tanks as the actual unit which should do the assault? At any rate my information is that that was a very unfortunate substitution. I do not think there can be any doubt that it was made. It meant that a unit, which was considerably less prepared for the operation, was at the last minute, and in a good deal of confusion over the actual loadings, substituted to do the job. I agree that in the event the opposition was relatively light and probably the substitution made little difference. But although every mobilisation has difficulties, there seems to have been an undue share of troubles and nonsenses in this case.
I think that there is something bigger behind it. It seems to me that there was a tremendous amount of over-insurance. Just as we underestimated the political solidarity of the Egyptians, so obviously there was a tremendous overassessment of their military abilities, and therefore a huge over-insurance. Perhaps we shall he told that that was a fault on the right side; that it is always better to over-insure. But from the point of view of those who believe in the operation, over-insurance could prove fatal. It could bring an operation of this sort to nought by sheer delay. From the point of view of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), for example, I should have thought that over-insurance was one of the worst features of the whole thing.
Now I come to a military point, that of bases. What have we not sacrificed and spent to retain bases in the world? There were two of them geographically relevant to this operation. There was the base in Cyprus and the base in Libya. When the thing happened, both bases were found to be almost useless. Cyprus was, of course, used to some extent, but 18,000 men were immobilised there. The parachute unit which was actually to undertake the operation was doing police duties in Cyprus and had to be brought back to the United Kingdom for retrain- 280 ing before it could be used in the assault. Therefore our retention of Cyprus, far from being an asset, was an enormous liability, on balance, to this operation. We have had to go through all this shame and agony over Cyprus for no military or operational advantage at all.
The same is true about Libya. From the first we had to say that we would not use Libya for the operation. So those two bases proved totally valueless.
I suggest that that provides a lesson for the Minister of Defence. Will not the right hon. Gentleman take the line that at any rate this shows one thing if nothing else; that bases to which we cling against the will of the local population are a liability and not an asset from a strictly military point of view? Will not he get out of them for that reason, if for no other? If we have to have such operations—we may have to mount an expeditionary force in the future—let it be done from the United Kingdom, or from bases such as Malta which desire to be a part of the United Kingdom.
Next there is, of course, the lesson of Suez on the actual structure of the Army itself. Surely it has proved that our Army as it is today, a National Service Army, or as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor called it, a half-and-half Army, half-Regular and half-National Service, is unsuited and inapt for this sort of purpose. There are approximately 375,000 men in the Army, 200,000 of them in the United Kingdom. With the utmost difficulty we produced in three months by partial mobilisation an expeditionary force of 20,000 men. Why is that net product so hopelessly out of proportion to the size of our forces?
The reason emerges in the Wolfenden Report, and it is that the half-and-half Army—National Service taking up 50 per cent. of the Forces—gives us an Army half of which is all the time under training and the other half of which is doing the training. The amount of actual forces which we can dispose of is tragically small. One of the Army lessons of Suez must be that this type of Army is totally unsuitable to our present needs and that we must undertake the abolition of National Service and the building up of an all-Regular, all-professional, non-National Service Army.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
The right hon. Gentleman has drawn a wrong conclusion. The real reason is the Paris Agreements, under which we are not allowed to use any of our forces from Germany. Whether the Paris Agreements should be revised is another matter. I think that they should.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is true that we did not withdraw units from Germany, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks into the matter he will find that the 2nd Infantry Division was earmarked as a possible reinforcement for the operation. It is an error to think that the forces in Germany were regarded, or could be regarded, as sacrosanct. That is part of our liability and our commitments. The issue is: how are we to meet them? I am saying that the half-and-half Army is, for the reasons which I have given, becoming less and less suitable for our purposes.
Now let me anticipate an argument that I have no doubt will be used against us. It is this. If we passionately disprove of the whole operation we ought not to be interested in its military side at all. That is a great mistake. The fact that we think that this expeditionary force of approximately 20,000 men was used for an abominably wrong purpose does not mean that it is not a genuine defence requirement of this country to have the ability to mount such an expeditionary force, if necessary. It is one of our defence requirements.
We try to fulfil all sorts of defence requirements which are not genuine, and the Minister of Defence will find that he must examine them and that he will have to end them. But to have some sort of force kept, usually in the United Kingdom, or in Germany, and ready to be dispatched, and perhaps a bit more ready than this one was, is a genuine defence requirement. I put it to my hon. Friends who may be sceptical about this that one day we might have to fulfil an obligation under the United Nations, as we did in Korea. This is a defence requirement, and however much we opposed the Suez operation the military lessons of it are very important indeed.
I can only say in conclusion that I am aware that the lessons which I have sought to draw from the Suez operation are dreadfully negative. But negative 282 lessons are sometimes a good deal of use. It reminds me of an old story of the Duke of Wellington which I am rather fond of. A man asked the Duke what he had learned from the Walcheren expedition, in which he had participated as a young man. The Duke replied, "Sir, I learned how not to do it, and that's always something". We have to learn from the Suez disaster—it was a disaster—not only how not to do it, but also what not to do.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
It is a subject for speculation why I caught your eye, Sir Charles, before any of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the Government benches sought to intervene in the debate.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I beg of them not to suppose that I intend to act as a substitute for any of them. There are differences of opinion on the Suez operation and they have been expressed both at home and overseas. There I propose to let that part of the matter rest.
I will give my reasons for so doing. What emerges from this debate so far as it has gone, and it has not gone very far, is that there is a very strong case indeed for an examination into the condition of the Army and in particular into the administration of the Army by the War Office. That is not a new proposal. Hon. Members may recall that a few years ago some of my hon. Friends and myself asked for an inquiry into National Service. We added that the time was ripe—this was several years ago—for an examination of the Army with a view to its reorganisation. That proposal was rejected by the Government. I beg of the Minister of Defence, whom I congratulate upon his appointment, to give this matter urgent consideration.
The speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War—including the statistical evidence—was no doubt prepared by the officials in the War Office. I have some sympathy for him. Though he must accept responsibility for the speech, nevertheless the statistics and the major part of the speech are the responsibility of his subordinates in the War Office. The crux of the military problem is that in a modern situation it took three weeks to mount a force of the Army 283 alone of little more than 20,000 men although, apparently, the Government had prepared some weeks, if not some months, before for an emergency of that sort. That was their own admission.
I recall that when some years ago—this is not a recent incident—Field Marshal Montgomery, as Deputy Supreme Commander in the West, was arguing for the creation of a strong reserve force capable of being mounted to supplement the Regular Forces on the Continent under N.A.T.O., he made it quite clear that in an emergency to be effective at all a reserve force must be made available in no more than two weeks, otherwise it would be of little value. What is the future of the present Army in a situation such as the Field Marshal envisaged? From the standpoint of many of my hon. Friends, many hon. Members opposite and many people in the country, Suez was a regrettable affair, but it was a minor military adventure, so far as one can conjure up a war situation, alongside the kind of assault which would be required in the event of an aggression in the West. That is what the Government have to answer; not that they failed in this military adventure—that, largely, is a political issue—but that they failed militarily to mount an assault in time to make it effective and at much less expense.
I do not want to say much more about that issue except again to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to this vital consideration. How are our forces to be organised, and at what cost in manpower and all the paraphernalia that is required? Are we to organise our defence forces on modern lines, or to retain the conventional pattern, or have a mixture of both? That, of course, is a subject which will emerge in the course of our forthcoming defence debates and a great more will require to be said about it. I feel sure that the Minister of Defence must have learned something this afternoon from the speech of his right hon. Friend.
I want to refer to one or two matters, not arising from the Suez affair, but from the Supplementary Estimate. The first is a somewhat minor matter, but nevertheless, one of some concern to our troops in Germany. I ventured to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in the course of which it was 284 suggested that our troops were suffering from the unfriendly attitude of the Germans. He denied it. I did not press this at the time, but, as he knows, I advised him that he could secure a copy of an article written by Mr. Noyes Thomas in a well-known Sunday newspaper, in which some serious allegations were made. I observed that after I put my Question this afternoon my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) suggested that if I was referring to the unfriendly attitude of the female sex I was quite wrong, but I did not have that in mind at all. I ask the Secretary of State for War to make further inquiries into the alleged unfriendly attitude of the Germans.
Because of the changed situation, the Germans are much more prosperous than they were at the initial occupation. At the initial occupation it was possible for our troops to obtain anything they liked—often without cost—but now the position has changed. The Germans have become prosperous. They have not had to resort to defence expenditure on the scale which this country has borne in recent years. That prosperity is beginning to exhibit itself in a somewhat arrogant or, at any rate, offhand, attitude towards Our troops.
For example, I understand that it is almost impossible now for our troops to obtain any kind of recreation or welfare outside N.A.A.F.I., or the Army. Formerly they could go out for recreation. There were clubs, night clubs, dances and the like available to them. Serious limitations have been placed upon their freedom and their entertainment. It seems to me that these are matters with which we ought to concern ourselves. We ought to provide all the welfare required for our troops in lieu of what formerly was available to them from German sources.
I think the time has arrived—perhaps before he departs from the Committee the Minister of Defence will take note of this—when we ought to consider whether we should retain our troops in Germany. I doubt whether they would prove effective, in any case, having regard to the situation which might arise in the event of a modern war—if, unfortunately, that should ever occur. I do not know whether they are ever going to be of any value, but certainly I would 285 meet the commitment that is involved in the Paris Agreements, not by retaining four divisions in Germany, but by leaving there an equivalent striking force, which means not exactly two divisions, but perhaps three or four brigades. That would reduce the cost considerably.
Now I want to refer to what is a much more substantial item—the provision of warlike stores. In the Supplementary Estimate we find that there has been an increase of £17 million, presumably in recent months. Surely that huge item of expenditure is not exclusively attributable to the Suez affair. The right hon. Gentleman in fact said that it was partly due to accelerated deliveries. There is one question which has to be put and which has to be answered, sooner or later. I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman categorically. Does he know what the War Office has in its possession? Has he undertaken an inventory of stores, warlike and otherwise, in the possession of the Army? The Secretary of State has not had very much time, but no doubt he has made some inquiries, for the matter has been raised in the House in recent months. Does he know whether such an inventory exists?
I recall that some time ago his predecessor said that he thought it would be much too expensive to undertake such an inventory, but surely without having this knowledge it is impossible for the War Office to continue purchasing stores, warlike and otherwise, at great cost. Surely the time has arrived when we ought to know what the War Office has and whether it is essential to continue to issue orders for further goods and to accept deliveries. I do not know whether there is an escape clause in the contracts between the War Office and the manufacturers which would enable the War Office Ito terminate the contracts, but at any rate that should be investigated.
I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, which has not been answered, about vast quantities of vehicles, tanks, armoured cars and the like which are concentrated in a certain part of Yorkshire. I have received communications from people in the neighbourhood from which I gather that the maintenance cost in manpower and other items is substantial. All these vehicles are left out in the open. I should like to be told by the Secretary of State or his Parliamentary Secretary what is the cost of main- 286 tenance. What is the manpower cost? How many people are employed there? What are their duties?
I should like to know whether all that material—tanks, vehicles and all the rest of it—is ever likely to be used again in any kind of war. If it can be used, let the right hon. Gentleman say so, but if not, why not dispose of it and break the vehicles up? At any rate, there should be no maintenance of material which will never be of any value to the Army in future.
In the defence debates and when we are discussing the Army, Air and Navy Estimates, hon. Members in all parts of the House will demand a searching inquiry and investigation into the cost of the Services. I am satisfied from my experience at the War Office over a period of years and from my experience at the Ministry of Defence that we are wasting millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money and a substantial amount of manpower. I will not go into detail now, but I shall have a great deal to say about it in the defence debates.
Meanwhile, apart from the political aspects, my disappointment in the Suez operation is that the Government were incapable of mounting an assault which was effective and that we wasted millions of pounds and the time of many of our skilled men in undertaking this operation. In my judgment the Government stand condemned not because of the operation itself but because of the manner in which it was conducted.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
When I came here this afternoon I had no intention of intervening in the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor had your hon. Friends."] As far as I am concerned, it was quite voluntary. I should like, however, to comment on the speech made for the Opposition by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). A defence policy advanced by an ex-Secretary of State for War based upon giving up all bases from which we could operate successfully anywhere in the Middle East, coupled with the abandonment of the National Service element in our Armed Forces, does not add up to a very practical policy.
§ Mr. Strachey
Will the hon. Member permit me to correct him? I said that 287 experience had shown that bases which we tried to hold against the will of the inhabitants of the country proved a liability and not an asset. I specifically said that if the people of a base like Malta want to remain part of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom, that is another matter, but that we should not try to keep bases against the will of the inhabitants, because they turn into liabilities.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I do not want to get out of order, and it would not be proper for me to take up with the right hon. Gentleman the logical implication of the Opposition's policy of giving Cyprus to the Greeks. That would be out of order. I do not see how we can fulfil any military, naval or air commitments, either under direct treaty or under N.A.T.O. or any other organisation, unless we have some bases from which to operate, nor do I see, purely from the manpower point of view, how we can do without a National Service intake into the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Turning to the Suez operation itself, I think perhaps there was some force in the right hon. Gentleman's criticism of the way in which it was carried out. This is the only criticism I would make of it. By reason of the nature of the emergency, the area in which we had to operate and the circumstances in which the need for action arose, I should have thought that top priority ought perhaps to have been given to speed. I believe that speed was the essential condition to success. It is easy to be wise after the event, but looking back I feel that perhaps too much priority was attached to factors other than speed. Without knowing the whole story and admitting that it is easy to be wise after the event, that is the criticism which I should make.
Turning to the question of Egyptian casualties, I am not certain what are the motives which prompt the Opposition to make such a song and dance about the actual number of these casualties. Of course, on grounds of humanity, in an operation of that sort, whether we call it an operation of war or a police operation, it is right up to a point to restrict civilian casualties to the minimum. As my right hon. Friend said, we certainly did that. The most specific and precise instructions were not only given but 288 carried out, to some extent almost endangering the success of the operation, in order to restrict civilian casualties to the minimum, but I do not think that in the Middle East we have got or are likely to get very much credit for restraint of that sort.
When we come to assess what was the total figure, I do not see how anybody can possibly give anything more than an approximate answer. Anybody who has had experience of any kind of action knows quite well that immediately after the action has taken place, still less during the time that fighting is going on, it is impossible, with the best will in the world, to give anything like an accurate figure. In the case of the Port Said operation, it was doubly difficult for the simple reason that although there was a cease-fire which the British forces loyally observed, the Egyptians never observed it at all.
Indeed, I remember reading in some newspaper at the time, though I do not recollect the details very accurately, that there was a case of a patrol of 50 Egyptian troops who went right through the British lines. They were not shot at, because the British troops were observing the cease fire. The Egyptians came, shot up a tank commander and went back again. Due to incredible restraint, which could not have happened in any army but the British, these Egyptians were allowed to come in and to go back because we observed the truce and the Egyptians did not do so.
There is another point. Nobody on earth could tell then, and nobody on earth can tell now, how many casualties were caused by the initial bombardment, how many during the street fighting after the truce had broken down, and how many by Egyptians shooting up other Egyptians. It is very well-known that arms were liberally distributed to large sections of the civil population of Port Said, and that most of these arms had gone, after we had landed, into what the right hon. Member for Dundee, West called the Arab quarter.
During this odd twilight period or semi-cease fire, call it what we like, there was a golden opportunity for Egyptians to pay off old scores, and, since a great many Egyptians owe money to a great many other Egyptians, quite a number of Egyptians to whom money was owed 289 were shot up in the process. What the total number was I do not think anybody knows. Nobody will ever be able to tell whether the total number was 600, 1,000, 1,500 or 2,000: what proportion was caused by the fighting in the streets, or by the landing, or by Egyptians shooting each other.
There is only one other thing I want to say. The right hon. Gentleman made some comments about what he called the failure of our public relations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.") Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear", but I should not have thought that that kind of criticism came very well from the party opposite, since the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill), after her recent visit has given, free, gratis and for nothing, an absolute bonus to all anti-British propaganda in the Middle East.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I am glad that at last we have had reinforcements from the other side. The Government have taken almost as long to mobilise their supporters here as they did for the original expedition, but I was relieved to find that they did not take three weeks, because, although I have a few things to say to the Committee, I have no intention of going on for as long as that.
I wish to say one thing immediately to the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). Opinion both in this country and among mankind at large would not have focussed itself so much on the question of the actual number of Egyptians killed in Port Said if the spokesman of the British Government had not begun by publishing a figure that was patently untrue, which underlines very heavily the grave moral responsibility for a piece of flippancy which lies on the shoulders of the late Administration. We call it technically the late Administration, though the responsibility for its policy lies still with the great majority of the Members of the present Government.
We have had the technical form of the Supplementary Estimate, and the speech of the Secretary of State for War brings out clearly the inevitable inadequacy of our finance procedure to show the exact answers to the question in which we are all interested—what the Suez adventure 290 cost. Trying to follow the explanation of the Secretary of State for War, if I understand it aright, we have certain figures of increased expenditure for which we have to find the money, some of which relates to Suez and some of which does not. There is some discrimination, although not always very precise discrimination, between what is due to Suez and what is not.
We then have to notice that on the various Votes a number of miscellaneous savings would have been made, but have been swallowed up in Suez. We therefore have to add to the figure of the Supplementary Estimate the figure of these swallowed-up savings. Later on in the year, when we come to the various resolutions and find out to what extent the process of virement has been used in the Army Votes, we shall have a further indication of the expenditure that has been involved.
I should have thought that, in view of the importance of the Suez question and of the nation having a proper estimate of its cost, it might have been desirable for the Government to have published a special Paper that would have enabled us to answer more precisely the question: what did this folly and wickedness cost the country? Even though we take the mere figure given in this Estimate, and it is but an imperfect and incomplete Estimate, and but one small part of the whole cost of Suez, we get a figure of very nearly £30 million. We are so used on Supply Days to mentioning these large sums of money that we sometimes forget quite what they mean.
The Government will be painfully collecting shillings from invalids in prescription charges for six years before they have recouped what was thrown away in a few weeks of incompetence and 48 hours of reckless folly and aggression. The White Paper on Technical Education proposes to spend £70 million in capital equipment for that purpose over five years—one of the most vital pieces of work that any Government in this country will have to do in the next five years. Two and a half years of that is thrown away in this Estimate alone. That is the magnitude of the sums that we are discussing.
Having made that original point, I now want to take up a few questions of detail. There is one question which the Secretary of State for War told us he could not 291 answer then, but which would be answered by his hon. Friend at the end of the debate, and that was extraordinary, because it was a question to which we ought to have had the answer at the beginning. How many men were deployed in this operation? We are being asked to express an opinion on the efficacy and appropriateness of the call-up procedure for this operation. The question has been raised whether more men were not called up than were really required, whether they were not kept hanging about for a longer period than was really necessary.
If we are to make an informed judgment on that charge that men's time was wasted and that more were called up than were needed, we ought to know how many men, in the event, were actually used, and the Secretary of State ought to have known and ought to have been in a position to tell us that when the question was first asked. I therefore hope that either he or his hon. Friend will give the Committee that information rather earlier than the very last speech in the debate, because it might very well affect the opinions which hon. Members may want to express on the efficacy of the procedure of the call-up. We have had no answers at all to the questions which my right hon. Friend put and which everyone is asking. Why does this process take three weeks, and do the Government really think that it is satisfactory?
Looking back now at what happened in the assembly of the reservists on this occasion, the Government may be able to give us this, that or the other reason why they took such a time; but are they satisfied that if they had to do it again it would be all right? Once more, are they taking any steps to see that it can be done more rapidly on future occasions? In view of something which the Prime Minister let fall earlier today, it is not entirely hypothetical to talk about future occasions. The Prime Minister assured us that we were lodging claims for compensation against the Egyptian Government, and that, if the Egyptian Government did not admit them, we had both the will and the power to enforce these claims.
Was that just a piece of Edwardian theatrical bluster, or did it mean anything? If it meant anything, it meant that the Government are actually toying 292 with the idea of waging another war on Egypt in order to make Egypt pay for the last one. If they are thinking in those terms—and, if they were, it would be no sillier or more wicked than their previous action—they might, at least, ask themselves if they are really satisfied with the length of time it took them to assemble the force on this occasion.
I want now to ask a question about Vote 7—Stores. We understand that some of the warlike stores used in this operation were stores which we had had from the United States under the Mutual Defence Assistance Agreement; and that we had had them on the clear undertaking that they would not be used except for the purposes of the Atlantic Alliance or, alternatively, after consultation with the United States Government. We know now, by the admission of the Government, that that explicit undertaking was broken, and the Government gave as an excuse for breaking it the fact that the circumstances were unusual and unexpected.
One of the reasons, of course, why we get people to enter into solemn agreements is that they will feel bound by them, even when the circumstances are somewhat unusual and unexpected. The question we have to ask the Government for the future is this. Is this to be their standard of morality in regard to agreements which they have signed with their allies? Do the Government take the view that it is quite right to borrow military equipment from an ally under certain express obligations, and then go back on their word? Would they do it again in similar circumstances? I think that our American allies might be interested in the answer to that question, and that our people have a right to know the answer, because, if we are to make that a rule for our conduct, we soon shall not have any allies left.
Vote 9—Miscellaneous Effective Services—has not yet been referred to. Vote 9A covers, among other things, telegrams, telephones and postage. I mention it, Sir Gordon, in order to make sure that the topic to which I now want to refer shall be in order. In answer to the hon. Member for Windsor, I mentioned that foolish statement that the number of fatal casualties on the other side in Port Said was 100. That was excused by the then Minister of Defence 293 on the ground that it was the information which he had received, presumably by one of these means of communication, from the military authorities on the spot.
If that were so, and if the military authorities on the spot sent a message like that, why on earth did the Minister of Defence publicise it when, if he was in the least in touch with affairs, he must have known that it was wildly untrue? And why was such a message sent at all in the first place? It created abroad the ugly impression that, in the minds of the Government and of some hon. Members opposite, a few hundred dead Egyptians one way or the other did not matter. We have been suffering from that blot on our reputation, for which the late Government were responsible, ever since.
That was not the only example. On one occasion during those exciting debates on Suez, the House was roused to enthusiasm by a reported message of the surrender of Port Said, a message which, we had to be told on the following day, was also untrue. There was also, as has been referred to by my right hon. Friend, a similar false report about the arrival of troops in Ismailia. It is interesting to note that we have three occasions on which false reports are sent, and on each occasion they are used, at the moment of arrival, in order to get the Government out of a temporary political embarrassment.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I do not think that the hon. Member wants to be unfair. The then Prime Minister wanted to give the House the most up-to-date information. He said that he had just had a flash—I remember that word very well—from Port Said. He said that according to the latest information which had just come through but which he had not had the time to check in any detail, the Governor of Port Said was negotiating for a cease-fire. That was, at that time, completely accurate. It was not until much later that the Governor of Port Said was superseded and operations were started up. Suppose that the then Prime Minister had withheld that information at that time, would not the party opposite have said that it was being denied the latest and fullest information?
§ Mr. Stewart
Most certainly not. Further, we were then told that a ceasefire had been ordered, and by the following day it was clear that that cease-fire 294 had not occurred. What I am pointing out—
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but he really must not go on making those statements. The cease-fire had been agreed to by the British troops, and was observed by the British troops, and was not broken until—
§ Mr. Stewart
No. The hon. Member is muddling up two cease-fires. In the first place, we were given a report of the surrender of Port Said, which was not true. I can well accept that one might, in the course of military operations, sometimes get information which subsequently proves to be inaccurate; but what I say is that in the course of military operations which lasted, in all, for a very short period, we had, on three occasions, three seriously inaccurate messages, each of which was used, at the time it arrived, to get the Government out of temporary political embarrassment.
It is not a desirable or a creditable thing that military communications—for which, incidentally, the taxpayer has to pay—should have been used for a rather discreditable political purpose. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said in a totally different context, "three times is a lot". It is not a creditable proceeding; and of the whole thing we are obliged to ask: what has been the result of this expenditure? I shall be careful to keep within the rules of order, but let us notice that the process in which we are engaged is the historic process by which the House of Commons, by means of its control over the granting and expenditure of public money, finally makes itself master of the Executive.
When we are asked to vote moneys, it is important for us to consider whether their expenditure has achieved the result for which they were supposed to be used. Will anybody now say that any result of any advantage either to this country or to mankind was achieved as a result of this adventure? That is especially true with regard to the landing of ground troops, which we are discussing particularly in this Estimate, which occurred after both Israel and Egypt had agreed to a cease-fire, and for which the flimsy 295 excuse that they were landed to stop a war cannot possibly be advanced.
I must not, if I am to remain within the rules of order, pursue that argument any further, but we are, in fact, examining a small part of the bill for an undertaking which was incompetently handled—
§ Mr. Stewart
By the Government—for which there was no moral justification, which has achieved no useful result, and has, indeed, produced the very evil result that, at the moment, while this Government stay in power, any proposal whatever which is made in Britain's name for the improvement of Middle Eastern affairs will be ineffective, because it will be regarded with suspicion by all the parties concerned. It is to that position that we have been reduced as a result of this expenditure.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
On a point of order. Presumably, one will be allowed, if one is lucky enough to catch your eye, Sir Gordon, to refute the hon. Gentleman's argument, and to follow the line which he has initiated?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Gordon Touche)
I do not think that the hon. Member has been out of order.
§ Mr. Stewart
It would be very nice to see some hon. Gentlemen opposite getting up. There has not been a great willingness to defend policy so far.
The fantastic position in which the Government find themselves is the result of trying to do something in which success would have brought them no credit and in which they have not even achieved success. They are in the ludicrous situation of the couple ridiculed in a famous poem by Robert Browning, the couple who were always going to commit adultery but could never manage to find a time convenient to both of them. They are liable to censure both for what they proposed to do and for their failure to do it. As Browning puts it,And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost Is—the unlit lamp and the ungirt Join.When the Secretary of State for War opened the debate, it was difficult for us, 296 serious though the subject is, to refrain from laughter. Centuries ago, when the great classical dramas were staged, it was customary to follow the presentation of a high tragedy by a grotesque and comic epilogue. That is really what we had when the debate began this afternoon. We have had tragedy, and its results are still with us in the shrunken credit of this country, in the irreparable loss of life, in the material and financial losses of which we are beginning to count the reckoning. In the tale of incompetence which my right hon. Friend so well unfolded and in the pathetic failure of the Secretary of State to be able to present a coherent account to the Committee, we have had, perhaps fittingly enough, the comic and grotesque epilogue to the story.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Major H. Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stuart) has revived some of the least pleasant memories we have in the House of earlier debates. I regret his having done so very much, and I certainly do not wish to add any fuel to the flames.
Especially in military operations, it is very often easy to say that this, that or the other objective was not achieved, that this, that or the other thing went wrong, and to forget, while saying it, what might have been the consequence of our not having done what we did, despite everything. No one in this Committee, I imagine, would wish to pretend that every single part of the Suez operation went like clockwork from the word "Go." Indeed, I have yet to know of a single example in military history of which that could be said.
I suppose that when one is fully mobilised and has had several years of training under active service conditions, one tends to reduce the number of mistakes made. We all know that in this particular operation those who were taking part did not have that advantage, if one can use the word "advantage" in that sort of context, and they had to do most of what they did in a considerable hurry.
Moreover, having no more information about this matter than anyone else who is not a member of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, I should have said 297 that there must have been a very substantial change of plan at one stage or another between the initial call-up and the action actually being taken. How are we to know that that change of plan did not make it even more difficult to carry out the type of operation eventually carried out?
If I am any judge of the matter, I would say that the original conception was a far bigger conception than the one finally carried out. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was it?"] I have no idea what this conception was. All I would say is that if one compares the actual operations which took place with the number of men called up and with the force put to sea or, at any rate, whose equipment was loaded, one must find it very difficult to believe gut there was not a change of plan.
If such a change occurred, one is surely entitled, at least, to pay credit to those who, nevertheless, had to carry out an operation which, had they known from the initial stages that was the type of operation to be carried out, would have found it rather easier to do than they did. Whatever else we may say about each other in the Chamber, the one thing we ought to be particularly united about is paying tribute to the troops who had to take part in the operation and, particularly, to those commanding the formations. I do not believe that it could have been a very easy task which they had to perform. We know already—we have had frequent references to it—that the risks taken to avoid civilian casualties in Port Said, and in Cairo, for that matter, were perhaps greater to our own side than to anyone else.
I would say that it would be almost impossible to estimate in advance of the action being taken how long the various phases of the operation were likely to take. Presumably, the plans were drawn up in the light of the best information available. But even that best information. I should have said, could have been only a calculated guess as to what the strength of the Egyptian Air Force was, for example, and how long it would take to neutralise it before the troops went in.
The hon. Member for Fulham tried to argue that the fact that there were ground troops available had very little to do with the agreement to cease fire by Israel and Egypt. I wonder whether he can be 298 right to make that assumption. I can see why he makes it. If he denies it, I will gladly give way.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The point I was making was that our land forces were landed in Egypt after both sides had accepted a cease-fire.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I know that the hon. Gentleman said that, but I wonder very much whether we are not underestimating the risks if we take that view.
Let us suppose that those troops had not been there. First, is it so likely that the cease-fire would have been agreed to if it had not been that those troops were about to land? Even supposing that that argument were disproved, which I do not think it is, are we absolutely certain that the cease-fire would have been observed—whether in the partial form to which my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) referred just now, or properly—had those troops not been on the ground?
The particular point that the hon. Member is overlooking in the argument he adduces is that the big expense under Vote I of this Supplementary Estimate came about not because the troops landed in Egypt so much as because they were called up and moved to the Middle East area. As long as they were called up, whether they were on Egyptian soil or aboard ship, a great many of the costs under Vote 1 would have arisen anyway.
It is quite clear from what the Secretary of State had to say to us today that a considerable number of men who were called up never actually took part in operations. The bill that we have to face in Vote 2 is that which covers the whole period from the original call-up in August.
For those reasons, we ought to be careful not to become obsessed with the actual Suez operation itself so far as the troops who were landed on Egyptian soil were concerned, but to try to see the matter as a whole right from the beginning. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say today that practically all the men have now been demobilised.
If we look at the thing as a whole, there is some substance for concern about the length of time that the call-up did take. I think we all, especially those of 299 us who have had some military experience, are, quite naturally, rather anxious as to whether it went as smoothly as it ought to have done. I would certainly not in any way suggest that hon. Members opposite were not perfectly entitled to ask that question—I am sure that they were. My own feeling is that considering how little practice we have had with the postwar Army in this way, it is surprising that matters went as well as they did, especially when, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, there was, so to speak, selection being made from what in a general mobilisation would have been called up en bloc. Hon. Members may say that it is far more difficult to call up large numbers of men than it is to call up small numbers. I am not quite sure that that is not too broad a generalisation to be accurate. I would say that if one knows that one can take a whole block or part of a reserve and call up every man in it simultaneously, at least the awful problem of selection is not present. Selection is a very complicated process, especially when one comes down to the technical arms. My feeling is that three weeks is not an undue period for a partial call-up with a very high element of selection in it.
For once, perhaps, I really pay a tribute to A.G. Branch. It is not often that I am able to do that. Much as I dislike cross-postings and all the things that go with these matters, I would say that, on the whole, the War Office did a very goad job on this point as a technical problem.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I said "A.G. Branch". I doubt whether the hon Member heard that. I think I am accurate in saying that it was the A.G. Branch. I am only too ready to bow to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), because I know that he prides himself as being an expert on these matters, although we may have our own opinion.
In this debate, it is inevitable that we also have in our minds the question whether the use of Malta for certain parts 300 of the operation, and the use of Cyprus for other parts, was the best way of doing these things and whether, in the sort of circumstances that caused the whole operation, we were not perhaps somewhat surprised by the failure to use Cyprus for certain things.
My right hon. Friend this afternoon has made very clear the difference between the sort of operation we are dealing with under this Vote and the "fire brigade" operation. Here were two countries fighting each other, whatever else the hon. Member for Fulham may like to say about it. Israel and Egypt were at war with each other. They were fighting to, for all we knew, the death, and it seems to me that the one step which no British Government, even if it had been a pacifist Government, could afford to take was the risk of failure to stop those two sides fighting, That was the risk that no one could take who had any sense of responsibility whatever.
If action had to be taken at all, it had to succeed in stopping that fighting. If the operation is judged on that criterion, at least we can claim some success there. It may be true that the decisive factor in it was not the work which the Army did, but I find it very hard to accept the argument of those who try to disprove that the Army had anything to do with it at all. My belief is that the fact that the British Army, or an Army corps, was available in the Middle East, coupled with the preliminary bombing by the Royal Air Force, was a material factor in bringing the fighting between Israel and Egypt to an abrupt stop.
Some of the consequences of the risk we took are seen in the Vote—£30 million or more. We all know that that was the last thing that any of us wanted to see money spent on at that particular time. But I do not think that there is anything to be ashamed of, having spent it. I see nothing to be ashamed of, but rather something to be proud of. The fact that knowing it would be an embarrassment to our economy which we could ill afford, knowing perfectly well that it would mean the disruption of a great many private lives, knowing that it would have a material effect on industrial production and knowing all the risks, nevertheless that issue was faced seems to me to have been an honourable thing to do; and 301 what, in fact, was achieved, even if all the objectives were not achieved, seems to me to have been an objective well achieved, and those who particularly had to do the task carried out their job under extreme difficulty with the utmost nobility, efficiency and courage, too.
These matters are all the concern of a country which is not confined in its interests purely to its own territory. I think that whether we had the right or not, we had an obligation. I shall not go back on all the arguments which have been used before, but one obligation which has been greatly overlooked the whole way through the debates ever since August is the obligation to try to ensure that that part of the world where all this happened should not be the scene of a battle between two or any more countries and the fact that that obligation derives from the way back at the end of the First World War from what we inherited from the Turks. Therefore, whether we had the right to do this is, I think, of lesser importance than whether we had a duty to do it. I think we did have a duty to do it, and I think that that duty was performed at tremendous risk with great courage, both politically and militarily.
If I had any criticism to make of the operation, I would say that the mistake was ever to have mentioned Ismailia and Port Suez in the original objective. I say that because, as one sees when looking hack at some of his writings, Lord Cromer, who probably knew more about Egypt and the problem of holding and looking after the Canal than any Englishman has ever known or ever will know, always said that anyone who wants to hold the whole length of the Canal must have Cairo, too.
I may be wrong, but I believe that if we had, strangely enough, succeeded in capturing Ismailia and Port Suez, we should by now have had an even more humiliating withdrawal, either from three places as distinct from one or from going into Cairo and completely reoccupying Egypt. There are those who say that that was what we ought to have done—I have heard it said. I do not agree with them, for the reason that if we had done that, it would probably have provided the one possible opportunity for the other Arab States to have attacked Israel. Had that happened, we should have had a far bigger Vote than the present one.
302 We might now be at war in the Middle East. That is a matter of opinion, for it is based on hypothesis. One can only weigh up one's own experience in the area and what one knows happened from the facts as reported and given to the House of Commons. I feel that the one fortuitous benefit which came out of the whole operation was that we never did get lsmalia and Port Suez and that what we had was a comparatively small lodgement there to bargain with until, at last, the United Nations woke up to its responsibilities.
I would say to the Committee, in case hon. Members do not know it, that I happened to be in a fairly interesting position at the time of one of the biggest political crises that Egypt ever had in the middle of the last war and that I have some idea of that country's outlook on these problems. We have made many mistakes in that country. I do not wish to get out of order in the debate and, therefore, will only refer, in passing, to the fact that there are many other things which might have been done, particularly in 1942, in 1945, and again when the Palestine Mandate came up for consideration; also in 1954. But of all ridiculous political pursuits, none is more absurd than that of trying to employ arguments which applied before a certain decision was taken to fit a situation which is completely changed in the light of that decision. What was possible in 1954 was certainly not possible in 1956. Those who try to argue that it was possible made a great mistake.
I would say, however, that for the future this campaign ought to have taught us a good deal. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War upon his appointment, in particular because he is not a Regular soldier. In my view, no Regular soldier ought ever to be at the War Office in a Ministerial capacity. The job of Ministers at the War Office is to keep the public sweet towards the Army, and I wish my hon. Friend luck in that job. Looking to the future, I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to tell us that the lessons from this campaign are being studied with the utmost care, particularly in so far as they affect the future of Cyprus and what we want to do militarily in Cyprus in the future.
My feeling is that this campaign might never have been necessary if we had had 303 a permanent lodgment somewhere on the mainland within easy reach, at the most a couple of hours flight, of the Suez peninsula.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
There are certain treaty obligations which Libya invoked the moment that this crisis broke. If Libya had agreed with us in this project, of course, it might have been a very different story.
It is absolutely essential that we should have a lodgment on the mainland at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, by agreement if necessary with another State, and I would not rule out the possibility of an agreement with Israel. I learned during the war in that area that we could spend millions of pounds dredging harbours in Cyprus and that they would silt as fast as they were dredged. I hope that we have overcome that difficulty if Cyprus is to be the main base for British troops in the Middle East. My hope is that somehow, somewhere, at some time we shall find a place on the mainland where we can have a permanent garrison. Unless we find such a place, we shall never be able to act quickly enough nor will there be sufficient deterrence against lawlessness breaking out.
If we had had a base there on the mainland since 1954 we might never have had Israel attacking Egypt, and we might have had a reduction in frontier incidents between Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Israel. There is something about a permanent garrison of British troops, even if it be only a company, which has a sobering effect on people. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested that we had lost all our friends in this area as a result of the Suez operation. I assure him that there is very little basis for that assumption. In fact, one disappointment which was felt by most of the more reliable Arab countries at the time of the crisis was that we had not deposed Nasser in the process. The Arab countries have never trusted Egypt. They have used Egypt, and as a result of certain policies carried out by right hon. and hon. Members opposite—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I apologise, Sir Gordon. My remarks are directed to showing the importance of having some foothold on the mainland. If I have been putting forward arguments which are outside the rules of order I will obey your Ruling at once, but the decisions taken long before the present Government came to power were materially contributing to Egypt's leadership of Arab countries which would have been only too glad to turn on her. The hon. Member for Fulham suggested that all Arab sympathy for this country had been lost. I felt that it was only right to attempt to answer that allegation, because the information that I have is that a very considerable element of good will towards this country remains.
I do not pretend, and I do not believe that my right hon. and hon. Friends pretend, that everything went as well as could have been expected or hoped for. But we say, and I think that we have every right to say, that when the history of this period comes to be written, our action certainly will not be shown to have been dishonourable or that the British Army lacked any of its fine discipline and of its readiness to sacrifice itself to avoid unnecessary casualties among innocent people.
When we pose the biggest question of all—whether or not the main object was achieved—I believe that history will judge, without any possibility of contradition, that the operation was a success to the extent that it stopped two countries which were tearing each other to pieces from continuing to do so, in circumstances which were likely to lead other countries also to tear each other to pieces.
Is that dishonourable? Is that disreputable? Is it sufficient cause for some of the behaviour of right hon. and hon. Members opposite in August and September last? I say that it is not. It will always be one of my greatest sources of pride that I was in the House of Commons at a time when we had a Government who were prepared to do what Britain ought to do and had to do and which Britain, despite the sacrifices she had to make, nevertheless did, and, in the process, achieved her primary object.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) has delivered a typical speech, 305 but he is under some misapprehension. Nobody on this side of the Committee has attacked the troops who took part in this action. Certainly, we associate ourselves with the remark he made about the self-sacrifice and gallantry of the soldiers who had to carry out orders. I would not associate myself with those German critics who wanted British generals in Egypt tried as war criminals, but I think that there would be a good precedent for trying as war criminals some of the more responsible members of the Government. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Irresponsible."] I agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said about the need for civilians at the War Office. As I looked at the Treasury Bench, during the debate, I asked myself whereAll, all are gone, the old familiar faces.The brigadiers have gone down like ninepins. We have lost four brigadiers, with their military experience, as a result of the Suez crisis, and I am glad to see that the War Office is passing under civilian influence. However, I am not so sure that I am so delighted to see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) as Under-Secretary of State for War. I regard him as one of the villains of the piece. If he was not a soldier, he was the next best thing he was a rebel. He was the leader of the rebels, and it is the irony of fate that he is sitting on the Bench opposite today to defend the expenditure of this considerable sum of money.
I do not know where it will end. The previous Minister of Defence, in winding up the Suez debate, said that they were proud of this and would do it again. I am afraid that the present Under-Secretary of State for War would do it again. His whole philosophy, his whole point of view, has been to encourage an aggressive military attitude in the Middle East and everywhere else. Whatever the policy of the Government may be, I cannot reconcile the hon. Gentleman's appearance on the Treasury Bench as a sign that we shall have any defence cuts or economy in the Armed Forces. When we look at this Supplementary Estimate that is precisely what we want. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely talked about the economic this and the financial that, and said he was proud of it, but I do not think the economic con- 306 sequences of Suez were ever thought about in advance.
I believe in keeping a very careful eye on Supplementary Estimates. On 17th April last year the then Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us to understand that in this financial year we would not have a Supplementary Estimate. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we could look forward to a decrease in defence expenditure. We were told that the military policy of the Government and of the War Office would be conducted with maximum regard to the need for economy.
When the Suez crisis came along, however, when Nasser shot his bolt from the blue, the right hon. Gentleman forgot all about economy. He saw red, white and blue, and, instead of acting as a restraining influence in the Cabinet, and saying, "If you go into the Suez business you will have a very large increase in public expenditure," the function of the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have been to egg on the people who have reckless views on expenditure, instead of protecting the taxpayer. But the Chancellor has not gone the way of the brigadiers, he has not been exiled to the Seychelles, he has arrived at 10, Downing Street.
I regard the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Prime Minister, as one of the main causes of this Supplementary Estimate, because he did not warn us of the economic consequences of Suez at the time. There was only one member of the Treasury Bench who talked in terms of economics and asked, "What will this cost?" That was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle) who was then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and who promptly resigned, and has just as promptly reappeared as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education. If the hon. Member for Preston, North is the Mr. Hyde of this business, he was the Dr. Jekyll, and the Prime Minister has succeeded in bringing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into the same Ministry. The then Economic Secretary was so appalled at the consequences of Suez that he resigned, and we have realised that we should have somebody representating the War Office on the Treasury Bench to point out that there is always a bill to be paid for wars, however little they may be.
307 This has been pointed out by great experts on the strategy and tactics of war. One question asked by an eminent authority was:…how could anyone have failed to anticipate the blocking of the Canal? That puzzles me. Somebody went wrong somewhere."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th December, 1956; Vol. 200. c. 1083.]That is the kind of question I might put but I heard it put in another place by Lord Tedder, and I am still waiting to hear somebody saying from the Front Bench opposite, "This was the time when we realised that the Suez Canal would be blocked."
Yet in all the anticipations, in all the formulations of strategy, none of the brigadiers at the War Office at that time pointed out to the Chancellor, or to the Prime Minister, that, as a result of this warlike activity in Egypt, the Canal would be blocked. In fact, when ultimately the Canal was blocked, the hon. Gentleman who now speaks for the War Office asked, in consternation, whether this was not a breach of the Treaty of 1888; but that was after the event, after the bombing had taken place.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The hon. Gentleman must at least realise that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), some weeks after my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War asked that question, confirmed his point of view that it was in contravention of the 1888 Treaty.
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on everything. I follow his lead on private enterprise homicide, but not on mass homicide. The hon. Member for Preston, North seemed absolutely bewildered because the Suez Canal had been blocked. Yet during the last war there were plans for blocking the Suez Canal which must be on the files of the War Office. In his memoirs, Mr. Harry Hopkins has described how this country had plans for blocking the Canal, but that does not seem to have occurred to the hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether it entered into the reasoning of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke about going to Cairo? Did it not enter into his calculations that the result of the British Army occupying Egypt would be the blocking of the Suez Canal?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Could my hon. Friend say whether, if we had blocked it, that would have been a breaking of the 1888 Convention?
§ Mr. Hughes
That is a matter of international law which my hon. Friend can argue with the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely.
What I have not been able to understand in the whole of the strategic plan which has led to the Supplementary Estimate is why somebody did not present an ordinary estimate of what would be the economic cost if the Suez Canal was blocked. Instead of doing that, we proceeded with the invasion, with the result that we have this huge bill to pay for the Suez war. A number of military experts from different countries have been completely bewildered by the strategy which has resulted in this Supplementary Estimate.
I have here an interesting article by the military correspondent of the New York Times. He begins by saying,The British-French campaign against Egypt is likely to become a famous case study in the world's military staff colleges.I hope that it will.In the six and a half days of actual hostilities, most of the rules in the book were broken. The vital military principle of the objective became obscured. At least two intelligent appraisals proved erroneous.I can understand why the soldiers went wrong. If I ever wanted someone to write a child's history of the Suez campaign, I would employ the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely.
§ Mr. Hughes
The trouble about the Suez Canal explanation is that it cannot be easily understood. The hon. and gallant Member is still naive enough to believe that this expedition was incurred for the purpose of separating the combatants. That was only the fifth reason given and it was not until the fourth became out of date that the Foreign Secretary explained that the Suez Canal expedition had been undertaken for the purpose of checkmating and thwarting the Russians. The hon. and gallant Member is hopelessly out of date. Even if he wrote a child's history of the Suez crisis, I do not believe that he would find a child silly enough to believe it.
309 I advise hon. Members who have to think in terms of strategy, especially the new occupant of the Treasury Bench, to read the objective criticism by Mr. Hanson Baldwin, of the New York Times. During the Suez crisis the hon. Member for Preston, North went to Paris. He attacked the Americans and he denounced the Americans for threatening us with the Sixth Fleet and for considering the imposition of economic sanctions. If the hon. Member has his way at the War Office we shall not merely be at war with Egypt and the Middle East but we may be at war with the United States of America, too.
I ask the hon. Member to read in advance the criticism, purely from the military point of view, written by Mr. Hanson Baldwin. It is written as a case study of war as it should not be conducted. However we look upon this expedition, even in terms of money in the Supplementary Estimate, we must come to the conclusion that it has been a complete waste of money. And now the British taxpayer has to pay the bill.
The last war which we fought in North Africa was a war with which a most famous name is connected—E1 Alamein. It is interesting to compare these two campaigns. The war in North Africa, under Viscount Montgomery, was fought for the purpose of keeping the Germans out of occupation of the Middle East. What is happening today? The Germans are to have an industrial exhibition in Cairo next week and we are out. If General Rommel, wherever he is, is still studying military history he will be laughing at the results that history has brought in its train. Far from it being a victory at E1 Alamein, from the practical point of view—
§ Major Legge-Bourke
On a point of order, Sir Charles. Your predecessor in the Chair suggested to me when I was dealing with fairly recent post-war history that I was getting out of order. We are now going back to the Battle of E1 Alamein and forward to a trade exhibition in Cairo, neither of which is carried on the Vote.
§ The Chairman
I was listening very carefully and I thought that the hon. Gentleman was comparing the E1 Alamein campaign with what happened at Suez. I thought that he was all right.
§ Mr. Hughes
I was educating the hon. and gallant Member about the E1 Alamein campaign, Sir Charles. That particular campaign was organised for the purpose of keeping the Germans out of Egypt and the Middle East, and there was a general called Rommel. But I will not proceed any further, Sir Charles, because I was just about to come to my peroration.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
My hon. Friend is making a comparison and showing how the E1 Alamein campaign, as a result of political mishandling, resulted in the opposite of what it was intended to achieve. If this campaign was intended to keep the Russians out of Egypt, as the E1 Alamein campaign was intended to keep the Germans out of Egypt, may we not fear that it may have the same untoward results?
§ Mr. Hughes
I do not want to bring Russia into this argument, because it is complicated enough already to explain to the hon. and gallant Member.
In addition to the Supplementary Estimate of £30 million in cash, there are the economic interest consequences. There are the 71 ships which the Secretary of State for War talked about and the calling up of men to the Reserve. All this must be added to the cash, The result, in terms of cash alone, has been a complete disaster. From the point of view of strategy, it is completely inexplicable and from the point of view of keeping our position in the Middle East it has wiped out the traditional strategy of ages. The Under-Secretary of State for War need not go to the War Office and think that he is going to start his old Middle East imperialism all over again. That is over. This £30 million is our share of the bill for the Government having yielded to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
I am bound to say that I find it difficult to agree with very much of what the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said in the course of his speech. There was only one sentence in which I recognised anything that appeared to me to be sound, and that was his opening remark when he was congratulating my hon. Friend who was not an ex-Regular soldier on finding himself at the War Office.
311 Apart from the personal grounds on which I welcome very much my hon. Friend's appointment, I think that it has often proved a mistake to appoint ex-Regular soldiers to Service Ministries, because one finds that they are all too often prone to base their opinions on their own experience which is out of date and has almost certainly been acquired in rather a junior rank which has not given then a bird's-eye view of the whole picture. It is much sounder.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman inform his right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) that he was going to make this unkind personal attack on him.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
No, Sir. The hon. Member makes a quick debating point, but it does not carry very much weight. He will have in mind the notable example often held up to us of the perfect civilian at the War Office, someone who belonged to neither of our parties. I refer to Lord Haldane at the beginning of the 1914–18 War.
I want now to turn to the problems of the Supplementary Estimate. Some very wise remarks were made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). He was right when he made the claim that this expenditure was by no means in vain. It is extraordinary that any hon. Member should laugh at such a claim, for we have seen that the expenditure brought fighting to a close. Our intervention at Suez did something else for which I believe we shall be thankful; it awakened the United States to its obligations in the Middle East.
I see, Sir Charles, that you are looking at me. I listened with care to what was said at the beginning of the debate, and I realise that it is possible to find oneself on thin ice if one delves too deeply into foreign affairs. Consequently, I will return to what was said by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who once had experience at the War Office. The hon. Member made a statement with which no one could disagree when he said that £39 million was a considerable sum. It is indeed, and we ought to examine it most carefully. However, when doing so we should not fall for the easy temptation of picking out all 312 the mistakes and gloating over them. Where mistakes have been made, we must look to the future so that our debate will not merely be academic and controversial but will reveal some lessons, and undoubtedly there are lessons to be learnt from the Suez operation.
However, some hon. Gentlemen opposite, in criticising the Government, have been inclined to draw unfair lessons. One criticism that has been made is that far too many troops were called up and that unduly elaborate preparations were made in view of the forces which were eventually deployed. How can anyone at the start of such an operation know that further reinforcements will not be needed? When the Secretary of State for War was given the duty by the Cabinet of preparing for such an operation, he had to have available reinforcements and surpluses for every move that he planned.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree with his hon. and gallant Friend that the operation which was actually carried out was not that originally planned? Cannot the size of the bill and the number of men called up be explained in terms of a large projected operation which was not carried out rather than by the operation which was eventually carried out?
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Gentleman knows my position as a back bencher. I do not know what the original plan was. It has not been made public.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
Might I point out that I made it clear that I was working purely on hypotheses and had no special information?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Unless I misheard the Secretary of State, he said that a good part of the expenditure covered by the Estimate occurred in August. Therefore, it must have been referrable to an earlier plan.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for helping to 313 make the position clear. If the expenditure was incurred in respect of a projected operation in August, that brings one at once to the question of speed and whether there is not a good deal to be learned in this respect.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman began his speech by saying that the expenditure was justified because it achieved its objective of stopping a war. The Secretary of State tells us that a good deal of it was incurred in respect of plans made in August. What war were we trying to stop in August?
§ Mr. Silverman
Those precautions were precautions about the Suez Canal and not about any contemplated war between Israel and Egypt.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
I am in danger of losing the thread of my speech in giving way to hon. Members opposite and to my right hon. Friend discussing a question with which I was not dealing. I was dealing with the actual operation that took place.
I was putting to the Committee the view that more soldiers were necessarily called up and greater preparations had necessarily to be made than were actually required because it is necessary in war to have something in reserve. Had the then Secretary of State for War prepared merely for the use of the number of men eventually deployed, he would have been running a grave and unforgiveable risk. Therefore, it is unfair to complain unduly that the expenditure was greater than it should have been.
Turning to the matter of speed, here I am a critic not of the soldiers on the spot or of the officer in command but of the Government, in that they did not ask enough of the soldiers. It is common knowledge to those who have studied military history that when an estimate is required of the time needed to carry out an operation, a prudent general will always pitch his requirement rather high. If he thinks that he can do something in four days a prudent general is likely to say that it will take six days to do it.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
It may well be months. We can all think of occasions when months would be more appropriate than days. But in this case it was a matter of days and not months. I am thinking of the amount of time that the Army required in order to carry out the task that it was set, of starting from Cyprus and Malta in order to reach Suez and deploy its attack. It seems to me that six days was an unnecessarily long time. I do not know what passed between my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) and General Charles Keightley. I do not know if, at any stage after General Keightley had made his estimate of time, my right hon. Friend said, "That is no good; you have to do it 24 hours sooner." If my right hon. Friend had made that requirement of General Keightley, I think that, prudent soldier that he is, he would have found that after all he could speed things up quite a bit.
The obligation to do so did not rest with him; it was his obligation to be as prudent and as careful as possible. It was the Government's obligation to inspire urgency in the matter. That was the kind of inspiration which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was so wonderfully gifted in creating during the last war. He was so often able to clip a matter of days, weeks or even months off the time-table put before him by the naval or military executives. In that respect there is ground for criticism of the Government.
I now turn to a point which is purely technical. Was it really necessary that so much of this operation should be mounted from Malta? Could not more of it have been done from Cyprus? Much has been said about the loading of tanks, and it is true that there are no deep water harbours in Cyprus. It is more than ten years since I trundled half way across Europe and a large part of the way across Africa as a passenger in a tank, with my head stuck out of the top, but in those days we learnt to load our tanks into landing craft from shallow rather than deep water. I am not sure that the argument for the need for deep water harbours is cogent. Had it been 315 demanded of the soldiers, I believe that they would have been able to load their tanks from Cyprus.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer rose—
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
My hon. and gallant Friend knows more about tank operations than I do. I look forward to hearing more from him later in the debate.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
My hon. and gallant Friend must remember that the tanks would first have had to be offloaded at Cyprus. Therefore, unless we were prepared to send tanks the whole way in landing craft from Britain to Cyprus, they could not be off-loaded and subsequently loaded into landing craft off the beach.
Sir W. Anthruther-Gray
What a good point that is. I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for making it. For all that, I cannot but think that it would have been possible to keep the tanks in landing craft off the shore of Cyprus and to have kept them well maintained for a good time. In that way we might have saved two very vital days in the conduct of this operation.
I want to make another point in connection with speed, in this case relating to the conveyance of troops by air rather than by sea, wherever possible. We know that heavy equipment can travel only by sea, but there is much still to be learnt by the Army—and I am sure that the Secretary of State will devote himself to this question in the coming months—in perfecting the carriage by air of brigade groups. It may well be that we should examine the question whether civil air firms can perform this function better than the Royal Air Force. That is a point into which we can delve without controversy—and it is such a bore having to be controversial about so much of what one says with regard to this operation. We should look to the future rather than delve continually into the past.
The question of looking to the future brings one, in connection with the necessity to maintain a large call-up, to a consideration of the Wolfenden Report, with which my right hon. Friend will deal at a later stage. I am sure that he is already thinking about it, because it has reference to the cost of the manpower 316 upon which we are drawing. It expresses the remarkable opinion that if there were a change-over from National Service men to civilians for a large proportion of maintenance work at Army Depots, it would be found that three civilians could do the work of five National Service men. That is recommended quite clearly in paragraph 45 of the Report.
This proposal has the further advantage that it provides an opportunity of employing ex-Regular soldiers as civilians, and anything that we can do to open up a permanent career with a future in civilian life for our Regular soldiers is of help in stepping up Regular recruitment, and offers the best means of freeing ourselves from the expense of National Service, which is very disturbing to industry. Although it may be very good for the young men who are called up, most people agree that it will be a welcome moment when the Government can announce that National Service is no longer necessary.
I do not want to trespass further upon the time of the Committee. I have tried to deal with some of the controversies which exist in this matter, and I have repeated my firm conviction that although £39 million is a great deal of money to spend, although mistakes were certainly made and, as in so many human affairs, things turned out differently from what had been hoped, I do not think that the Government are to blame for having made their endeavour. I do not think that the money has been wasted. I believe that future historians may well look back upon the action taken by the former Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, as courageous. As a loyal supporter, I stand up for what the Government did.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), as usual, left the Committee in a rather warm, cosy and jovial mood. He achieved this by the wit and clarity with which he expressed his rather pungent views. I am not going to follow his precedent, because I think that the attention of the Committee and of the country ought to be drawn to the disgraceful retreat of the Carlton Club Cavalry today.
These people who, when first this incident arose, blew their tinny trumpets, 317 waved their pennants and cried far the charge are, with the very honourable and gallant exception of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), conspicuously absent today. They are cowering behind the second line of reserves. There has been nothing to equal it since, during a break-through in the 1914 war, cooks and bakers were called upon to hold the front. I would say that, on balance, those cooks and bakers did a rather better job at holding the front than has been achieved by the second line of reserves which is now trying to protect the front of the party opposite.
An incidental point arises from all this. We have continually been told bath in the House of Commons and in the country that it is the party opposite, with its large stratum of Regular officers, which is alone really concerned about the welfare, techniques and functions of the Armed Services. But where are they today? We can ignore altogether the basic strategy of Suez and concentrate upon the state of the Army. On this point alone we have material enough for a very close investigation, by all sides of the Committee, into the state of the Armed Forces.
Let me give three heads. First of all, it is now absolutely clear that our machinery of mobilisation is inadequate for the demand which is likely to fall upon it. Secondly, there is something dangerously and disastrously wrong with the political direction of our military and strategical forces. Thirdly, there is something vastly wrong with the shape, function, scope and organisation of our Army.
Let me discuss the question of the mobilisation of reserves. We had an interesting excuse put forward by the Minister today. He said that he wished to meet the argument that would be put forward from the Opposition side of the Committee that there should be no need to mobilise reserves in order to carry out a fire-brigade operation. This was not a fire-brigade operation, he said. As the right hon. Gentleman was talking of the mobilisation of the reserves, we must assume that he was talking of the proposed operation of August last and not of what actually took place. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a corps operation.
318 My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked him how many people it was proposed to involve in that operation, but he could not give a figure. He said he would give one later in the debate. But if we are talking of a corps operation, we can try to put a figure upon it. At the outside, making allowance for divisional and corps troops, a figure of 30,000 will be pretty sound. Having embodied at the time at home 200,000 men, it was necessary apparently, in order to mobilise about 30,000 men for a potential operation, to call up 25,000 Reserves. When the actual operation took place it was found that the number of Reserves called up far exceeded the number of men put into the field. If that is the state of affairs of the structure and organisation of the Regular Forces and the National Service embodied forces at home, supposedly ready to meet an emergency operation, it is not very satisfactory.
In debate after debate previous incumbents of the office of Secretary of State for War have said that they were busy and active in re-organising the Forces so that we could embark upon a quick operation, but when the need for it comes they fail. Why should it take three weeks for mobilisation? This point has been touched upon already. The essence of mobilisation is speed. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has pointed out on a previous occasion that in 1914 an expeditionary force much larger than the force mobilised for Suez was not only mobilised but was in the field and fighting in a far shorter time. If that is the rate of progress within the War Office at the moment, we are indeed in a sick state which merits the attention of the Committee.
When we mobilise Reserves—and I am not accepting the need of their being mobilised on this occasion—the important thing is that when we drag men from civilian life and lump them in the Army we should take every care that their morale is high. What happened on this occasion was a most disgraceful episode. There was very little planning about the call-up, even though it took such a long time to achieve. Technologists were dragged away from their jobs and many agricultural workers from their farms at about harvest time. This was a foreseeable contingency, and the difficulties could 319 have been avoided if the plans for mobilisation had been kept up to date at the War Office.
The men called up suffered a catastrophic drop in the standard of living of their families, and some of them had to wait eight weeks to get the National Service grant on which to support their wives—even then upon a lower standard than they had previously enjoyed. During the eight weeks they had to undergo a process which was rather ignominious for people who had been called up to defend the country. First they had to apply to their units for the grant and then they were referred to the National Assistance Board, and from the National Assistance Board to the Ministry of Pensions. After eight weeks, the National Service grants were finally paid. That is the sort of thing which the War Office will have to look into on a purely technical basis.
Then there is the confused and ridiculous story about leave. First of all, the Minister assured the House that it was not possible to release any of these men for a single day. A short time afterwards he said, "Maybe we can manage 72 hours' leave." A few days later he managed 7 days' leave. This is an indication that there was no coherent planning going on at the War Office. We carry a very heavy War Office establishment; we have a big and expensive War Office. One of its functions, if we are to be in a state of military preparedness at all, ready to call up forces quickly, is that it should constantly, from week to week, revise the schedules of the men who will have to be called up.
This is not an exercise to be done with a quill pen and dusty files. It can be done electronically in these days with a use of punched cards and speedy machinery operated by pressing a button. I have had some experience of this machinery in connection with public opinion surveys. There are machines today whereby, if you wanted to locate all the left-handed Methodists in Accrington, you would press a button and the answer would come out of a slot. All these systems should by now be mechanised.
We should follow up the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. Not only should we achieve great economy, but it would be possible in the future to 320 do the job which we so signally failed to do on this occasion.
Now let me move on to the actual operation. Many of us are armchair strategists on this side of the Committee, but there are some sedan-chair strategists on Government benches. It is easy to plough back when an operation is finished in order to explain how it could have been better organised and carried out. But this was not a military operation in the sense that soldiers were given a military objective and told to go ahead and attain it. It was a political operation, a restricted one, which the Government sought to attain by military means. Throughout the history of this operation there was a political directive and a military attempt to implement it, with the result that some very hazardous risks were taken and some strategic plans were made which militarily could not be sustained.
Our new-found military critic, who was very good indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire, pointed out that the strategy was quite inadequate. I know that the Egyptian Army did not stand up and fight, but it is no business of the soldier when making his appreciation to assume that the other side is not going to fight or is not going to be there. No sensible soldier, left alone to do the job, would have evolved the tactic of pushing out one long probing finger which was all flanks with hardly any front at all. It would not have been the fault of the generals if the operation had come unstuck; it would have been the fault of the political directors seeking here to obtain a political end by the misuse of an Army and the misuse of armed force. If there had been a struggle—and we have no right to anticipate that there would not be a struggle when planning the operation—there would have been some excessively guilty men opposite, guilty of pushing an Army into a completely ridiculous and untenable position.
We can draw attention to certain other facets of the military operation. It is now quite clear, we are given to understand, that there was almost a signals breakdown in the early days of operations and that many high priority signals did not reach their destination for at least a day. That was a by-product of a decision to change the attack, possibly through the untenability of Cyprus. There we were asking an Army, which knew that the 321 country behind it was deeply divided on this issue, which in itself was not clear and happy in its conscience on this issue, to go into an operation without all the normal services of information which it needed.
I do not simply mean the services of military information, intelligence appreciation and operational links, but I mean telling the blokes there what they were supposed to be there for. I did not agree with the objective, but from the point of view of the Government this was a terrible failure on their part. They believed in the operation and asked soldiers to fight in it. They should have made quite certain that machinery existed for the supply of information. There is nothing lonelier than a battlefield when one does not know what is happening; it is lonelier still when one does not know why one is there. For about ten days bulletins were not available to the troops telling them not only what was going on on their flanks, but in the world outside—in the rest of the Arab countries, in the United Nations and at home. In those circumstances, I should have thought there was need for express explanation and the supply of information to the troops.
We asked our troops to undertake a difficult operation. Why is it that every time British troops go into action with allied troops the amenities available to them are inferior to those available to our allies? The French had their bottle of wine on D plus 1. This is not a big point, but the British did not have a N.A.A.F.I. there until D plus 10. Many of the amenities which I think were quite justifiable were not available. Nothing saps a man's faith in the arm in which he is serving more than to see other blokes in a similar arm serving more comfortably.
In warfare nowadays, particularly in confused circumstances like those of Suez, much depends on sustaining a high level of morale. I used to get sick and tired during the war of the generals who visited us, the Pressmen and the politicians who came to see us, who went back with the old catchline, "The morale of our troops is excellent." The morale of our troops was high during this operation, but it was not as high as it should have been. Again, I am not accepting the purpose of the operation at all; but morale was spoiled 322 and practically destroyed by simple organisational failures.
Another point we are entitled to look at is the scope and nature of the strategy on which our Army is based and the scope and functions of the Army itself. My hon. Friends have already made what I think is one of the most valid points in the debate, that the Cyprus base has now no real function and that the Libyan base is of even less use. There is now practically no reason at all why we should immobilise a large part of our manpower in that part of the world. Originally it was there because of the Tripartite Declaration, but is there now any possible use which it could be called upon to serve? If it is there simply in order to carry the flag—a very difficult operation in view of the way in which we have carried the flag in the last few months—it is exposed and vulnerable.
I am not going into logistical details, but I think it is now clear that a large, flabby, amorphous National Service Army in which practically one man trains another man, an army spread out with a cumbersome load of commitments, lacks the ability to move when mobilised and is indeed a very difficult arm to mobilise and organise. It is out-of-date and the time has come, not only to readjust our bases, not only to bring an end to National Service, but, because of the need to get rid of National Service, to build up a good Regular Army. This, perhaps, is not the occasion for a major discussion on that point; that occasion will come later. It is not only a question of pay, but also a question of accommodation. It is not only a question of accommodation for soldiers, but also a question of accommodation for their wives and of education for their children.
I am coming to the conclusion that there is something even deeper that we have to look to. If in a modern democratic state we want to achieve a taut, efficient, professional Army, there has got to be some kind of deep-rooted change in the philosophy of the Army altogether. We all know that the general structure of the Army is rigidly divided on a caste system. There may be avenues of promotion from the lower caste to a higher caste. It is also true that some of those who travel along those avenues become more caste-bound than those who were 323 there already. There is the old saying, "All right Jack, I am up the ladder and I will throw the ladder down." It is not just a question of creating avenues of opportunity to travel from the lower ranks to non-commissioned ranks and then to commissioned ranks. What was evidenced by the operation in Suez was that a complete readjustment of the internal philosophy of the Army is needed so that this caste system shall be broken down once and for all. It has been evidenced in many ways. I found that I was on the good end of the system all the time I was in the Services, but, unless we manage to change it in a modern democracy, we shall never achieve the Army we need.
I have left out the basic argument of whether Suez was right or wrong. I believe it was wrong and that it was criminal. I believe it was made even more criminal because, having taken the decision, right hon. Members opposite, with all their much-vaunted experience, did not organise—with all the money they had to spend—the kind of force needed to conduct that operation and, on many occasions, created situations which were almost a betrayal of the soldiers in the field.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
We are having a full-scale curtain raiser tonight for the Army Estimates and Defence Estimates debates which are to follow in a short time. Therefore, probably there will be a certain amount of repetition, when we come to those debates, of what some of us are saying today.
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) on only one point because, quite frankly, I think that many of his criticisms are valid. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and people in the country were disturbed by certain things which appeared during this crisis, but for the life of me I have never been able to understand the cliches of hon. Members opposite—the hon. Member for Islington, North repeated this towards the end of his speech—alleging that there is a caste system in the Army.
I was an officer before the last war, long before it was ever considered that all officers should go through the ranks 324 first, but in my regiment—the 9th Lancers, a cavalry regiment—there were three, and at one time four, of the finest ranker officers one could have. They had risen from the ranks and were officers in the 9th Lancers long before there was any question of everybody having to pass through the ranks.
Now we have set up a system whereby every man has to pass through the ranks and has to pass two or three extremely stiff examinations before he is permitted to become an officer. If, under this system, these officers are not democratic and are not leaders of men, we must change the system. What is it we are looking for? We are looking for men who can inspire leadership, affection and discipline. If the officers produced under this system are not capable of doing that, for heaven's sake let us get rid of the system and go back to the old system, which did produce the men we wanted.
I do not believe that the present system is a failure. I know a little about the selection boards of the War Office and I know that we are producing a very fine type of officer, although I acknowledge that we are short of officers. There are not enough people of the quality and standard required to make first-class officers going into the O.C.T.U.s and to the selection boards. That is a very disturbing feature and one which it will be very difficult indeed to remedy.
The hon. Member for Islington, North mentioned National Service. Had he not done so I should not have referred to it, because I should have thought that it was out of order. We all wish to see an end to National Service, but, having 'regard to the commitments which we have all over the world, it is difficult to see how it can be done until we get a greater surge of Regular recruiting. I want to see National Service abolished as early as possible, because I believe that it is the ruination of any good regiment. Recruits should be trained up to a certain standard in a depôt, not in a regiment.
As the hon. Member for Islington, North said, at the moment half the regiment is spending its life training the other half. What he forgot to say was that eventually, before those boys leave, they provide nearly two-thirds of the N.C.O.s of the regiment. It is a shocking thought that they should do this after only 18 months' service, although I must make it 325 clear that they do it very well. If the Nationat Service men were taken away the whole regiment would fall to pieces, and the Army would fall to pieces unless we cut down our commitments and then cut down the numbers in the forces. That is another argument which I will not pursue at this juncture, but we might talk about it on the Defence Estimates.
I am extremely disturbed about the question of the recall of reservists. As I said in an interjection earlier in the debate, I believe that this recall is due to the fact that we adhere to the Paris Agreements and that we have four divisions in Germany which are supposed to be earmarked for the European commitments, and, strictly speaking, may not be used outside Europe. If we have to keep four divisions there, with all the tail which that involves, then it will be necessary to call up reservists in these emergencies.
I said this when I was at the N.A.T.O. Conference, in Paris—I said it at Question Time, when I was back from that Conference: I am quite certain, having regard to the present situation in Europe and the unlikelihood. to a certain extent, of global war, that the Paris Agreements need serious amendment. We must have the right to use all four of those divisions if we consider it necessary to do so in our own interests, and we must have that right without having first to obtain permission from anybody else. In that way we should avoid the recall of reservists, perhaps not entirely, but to a large extent. I know that specialists have to be called up for a special operation such as the Suez operation.
In one of his speeches my right hon. Friend used the word "cross-posting." That is a word which sends a shudder through me. If there is a way of destroying the morale of a unit which is going into battle, it is to decide the night before, or three days before, or a week before, to send an enormous influx of people into the regiment wearing another cap badge which they have to remove and put in their pockets before they put on the unit cap badge, which perhaps they have never seen before. I am certain that this is a disease in the War Office and in Army organisation—and it is a disease which by now should have been cured.
A first-class regimental officer would kick very strongly against men being 326 cross-posted either out of or into his unit in this way; but the moment he has been through the Staff College, for some extraordinary reason he forgets all those lessons and seizes on cross-posting as the quickest and easiest answer to his problem. To indulge in a lot of cross-posting is very much easier than thinking out these problems carefully beforehand.
I know that my right hon. Friend's predecessor frowned very heavily on this method and I hope that my right hon. Friend will try to see that in an emergency such as this we do not have a considerable amount of cross-posting, because it ruins morale both in the regiment which has been milked and in the regiment to which the men have been cross-posted.
Another point which disturbed me about the call-up of the reservists was that my right hon. Friend said that less than half of them fitted the bill. I know that the intake varies from year to year, but if we had a proper, modern index system, surely it would be the simplest thing in the world to say, "We want X number of men with these qualifications", to press the requisite button and to take the cards which came out of the system with the names of the men required. It is a terrifying admission for my right hon. Friend to say that many people were called up and then it was discovered that only half of them fitted what was wanted.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
In that case, perhaps my criticism is overweighted.
Perhaps I may make one comment which is slightly out of order. There is a general by the name of Speidel who has been sent to the N.A.T.O. forces. He was Rommel's Chief-of-Staff. If ever we are to learn any of the lessons which we should have been learning in the last ten years, he is the fellow to teach us—to teach us how to cut down on the size of headquarters and how to cut down on the paper and administrative nonsense 327 which is taught by our staff college. If we could only get him over here to lecture two or three times to our Staff College we might be able to go through our headquarters organisation and reorganise it on a quicker basis. I shall have some more remarks to make about speed in a few moments.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) asked whether it was necessary for the bombing to have continued for the length of time that it did continue in the Suez operation. I do not think he was posing the question whether the bombing was necessary at all.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
He was asking whether it should have gone on for so long. All I would say is this: steaming tank-landing craft in any sort of sea is no fun. That is especially the case if the sea gets rough. Steaming at eight knots in those circumstances, which is nearly the maximum speed for the vessles at sea, is no fun at all. Malta is a thousand miles from Port Said. At eight knots maximum it would take a good ten days to get there. Nobody could have made the craft go quicker.
Intelligence information was that there were a large number—I do not know the exact number—of the latest Russian fighters on Egyptian airfields and a considerable number of what they called Valiant-type Russian bombers. We did not know at that time that these had no pilots. It is not very usual to see a lot of aeroplanes lying about which have no pilots. In fact, the pilots had not arrived, but we were not to know that. It was, therefore, vital, during the steaming time of that invasion fleet from Malta to Port Said, that not a single bomber or fighter should be capable of taking off from those airfields, otherwise the invasion fleet would have been a sitting target. I think that that is the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question.
As for the mounting and speed of the operation, I must say that I was disappointed, although quite frankly, as an ex-Regular soldier, I was not surprised. It has been the same ever since I first joined the Army, longer ago than I care to remember. Anybody who tried to do things just a little bit quicker than somebody else was always suspect. It was said, "That chap is not sound." I have 328 experienced it myself so often, and it is one of the inherent diseases of the Army.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should say to those who get out the syllabus of the Staff College teaching of the future that they really must get rid of some of their antiquated ideas of how long it takes to move troops from A to B or to mobilise troops. It is vital that the whole thing should be thought out again. If my right hon. Friend cannot find people already there with the brains to work it out quickly, then let him find them from somewhere else, because they exist. It was not until General Alanbrooke took over the direction of our forces in this country that people who think and work quickly were given a chance, some of the dead wood was cut away and we started to get on. We are going back to that same thing, to the idea of the sound fellow who writes out a sort of Staff College appreciation and takes five and a half hours to do it, at the end of which time he is the only person who understands what he has written.
Having seen and done that in my own experience, having given orders by microphone, from a few written notes, for an entire brigade to go into battle, I know that it can be done, and I have shown how it is capable of being done, I am not trying to boast, but merely to make the point. We have got to understand that speed is essential in all these things, and if we are to have what is called a fire brigade, I often wonder what the firemen of this country—the people who come sliding down the pole—think about it, because they know what speed is. Let these people take a lesson from the fire brigades and see how quickly they can get cracking. But this fire brigade idea is quite useless unless the force can be mounted and moved at a far greater speed than anything that has happened in the recent crisis.
I think it is probably agreed now on all sides of the Committee that, for various reasons, such as the hydrogen bomb, the danger of global war and the threat of an attack across the Elbe in Europe have receded a little at present, if for no other reason than what is happening in Poland and Hungary, which have made it much more unlikely. What chief-of-staff sitting in the Kremlin would relish the idea of making a large-scale 329 attack on Europe with his lines of communication running through Poland and Czechoslovakia?
The fact is that we have put a cork—and somebody else has helped us to do it—into the bottle. Our northern flank over the Pole is fairly well looked after; I dare say that my right hon. Friend knows what the details are. What happens? The obvious thing is that an attacker would go round the south flank, which is wide open. Somebody in a high position in N.A.T.O. said to me that there was only one obstacle between the Caucasus and the Atlantic via Africa—the Nile, and the Russians are already over it.
We had better think quick and act quickly. That is the situation. I feel now—and I am giving my own views for the first time, for I have not spoken about it in all the rancour and heat—that it is a major strategical and political problem. The southern flank was wide open, and the Russians were busy getting round it. What were all those fighters, bombers and tanks doing out there? It was clear to anybody what it was all about, but now the United Nations has gone in and has taken over in that area. Let us hope that the cork will be put in that bottle as soon as possible, because we have to watch our vital interests in that area just as much as any other country; in fact, far more so.
Having said that about the centre and flanks, the requirements are twofold. There is the very limited cold war operation which can be carried out on a jeep basis, which means that nothing heavier can be used than can be carried in jeeps and trailers, and which can deal with that sort of situation. We have had it with the Kikuyu in Kenya and in Malaya, and in that sort of operation, and the whole of such a force can be carried or transported by air to a man. Whether we have anything like a brigade moved on the jeep basis I do not know, but, on the question of air transport, I see that people in the R.A.F. particularly, are asking that there should be a much enlarged Transport Command, with fleets of transport aircraft under the R.A.F.
I wonder whether they are right. What are these machines to do all the time they are not being used; stay on the ground and do nothing? It does not seem to me to be a very economical way of doing the job. Why is it not possible 330 to use the same principle that applied for many years to shipping? Why could we not ordain that certain private enterprise charter companies and some of the corporations should have a percentage of their aircraft capable of being converted at a moment's notice to troop-carrying aircraft, and charter them for the job, so that they would be performing useful tasks during the time they were not needed for operations, rather than have a vast fleet of transport aircraft sitting on the ground and doing nothing for a very large part of the time?
That is one aspect of this problem. The other is the mounting of a Korea or Suez operation, in which tanks and guns are only secondary. It really is crying for the moon to imagine that Beverleys, or any other kind of aircraft, have been invented which could possibly carry a brigade of Centurion tanks or 25-pounder guns by air. We still have to take them by sea, because we cannot carry Centurion tanks in any large numbers by air.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Yes, we could take a few guns, but we would have to take a lot of ammunition, because these guns fire 100 rounds an hour and they require a lot of ammunition.
We have to be able to transport such forces as these again at a moment's notice, but we are limited by the speed of the slowest ship and the distance to the area of operations. It is, therefore, in my view, absurd to hold the whole of our strategic reserve in Britain, because it would take far too long to get it out to any likely area of hostilities. We have got to have, as we always have had, our forward bases, which are capable of dealing with this sort of situation. I am disappointed that in Cyprus, that forward base, we have not yet, 2½ years after evacuating the Suez Canal Zone, got facilities for loading ships and tanks. I hope that some very serious thinking is taking place about that.
Vote 8 of the Estimate concerns moneys spent on works and buildings and lands. It really is time that someone took in hand this matter of barrack accommodation in this country. We look forward to seeing many of our troops coming back, especially from Germany. 331 What a shock they will have, after the barracks in which they have been living over there, when they see such hutted camps as Caterick, which I visited as a member of the Estimates Committee. I do not think that it would be an extravagance to spend quite a lot of money on those camps, and to step up the organisation and machinery for providing what is needed. All this to-ing and fro-ing, contracts, estimates, agreements, putting it off for six months because it cannot be added up correctly, shows no urgency at all about the problem.
It would be invidious to quote any particular headquarters—I bear them no ill will—but I ask my right hon. Friend why, when the best and most beautiful type of barrack accommodation is eventually built, it is always headquarters that gets it? I say that it is the fighting troops, the men who are prepared to go out and risk their lives who should have the most comfortable accommodation, and let headquarters, who sit behind, come next.
In his remarks about the announcement made by the then Prime Minister of the reported surrender of Port Said, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) really has not got his facts quite clear. It has been incontrovertibly shown that the then Governor of Port Said did, in fact, agree to a cease-fire and to surrender terms. Having done so, he got a telephone call, presumably from Cairo. He was whistled back to Cairo, and was replaced by someone else who immediately went back on the terms. Therefore, the Government cannot be blamed, because on the afternoon or evening that the then Prime Minister gave the House the report that had just come over the wire, it had actually happened. Next morning, of course, the news was different. But the then Prime Minister would have been criticised had he not made that announcement. As it happened, the disparity did not last as long as it might have done. We got the cease-fire and the surrender within the next 24 hours. Therefore. I do not think that that is a valid point of criticism.
I wish my right hon. Friend luck in his office, and I congratulate his able assistant, my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery), on his promotion, but I do hope that my right hon. Friend will realise that someone needs to 332 go through that War Office, through staff duties and mobilisation plans, like an east wind. Let him see whether something cannot be done to speed things up, and to prevent a recurrence of the rather disturbing mistakes which were made in both the mobilisation plan and other things during the recent crisis.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
It is not a very profitable operation to start one's thinking, as it were, on 5th October and to jog backwards. It is more profitable to think back to 27th July, when the then Prime Minister came to this House and told us that the Suez Canal had been seized. There was no doubt that on that Friday morning and on the following Monday, there was, on both sides of the House, the idea that the problem could be solved by force. There were cheers from both sides at the suggestion that it might be necessary to use force.
On 31st July, we had a debate on defence, in the course of which I said that, on the issue of the use of force, I had had an overwhelming desire to go out of the House and be sick when I heard those cheers on both sides. In my judgment, the possibility of finding a solution of the Suez situation by force was never a starter. I do not say that only now, on 5th February; I said it on 31st July. I noticed with some interest that the spiritual leader of the Under-Secretary of State also became converted to this point of view. On 5th December, the right hon. and gallant Member for Leicester, South-East (Captain Waterhouse) said:The fact remains that when this crisis came we had no plan, no ships, no aeroplanes and no men available in sufficient quantities to hit quickly."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1956; Vol. 561, c. 1307.]On 2nd August, the Prime Minister ordered mobilisation. It was such a step, Mr. Bowles, which precipitated the First World War. The mobilisation of the resources of a major Power for warlike action is a step of the utmost seriousness. At that time, we had exactly two tank-landing ships. This is no mystery which I have culled from the American Press. If hon. Members care to ask at the Vote Office for a copy of the Explanatory Statement on the Navy Estimates, they will find that the number of tank-landing ships available then was exactly two.
333 I have a fair memory, and I remember that in the Fifth Volume of the History of the Last War, written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), there is described the Anzio operation—about equal in size to Suez. The right hon. Gentleman describes how that was held up from the early days of 1944 until April, 1944, by a battle to get tank-landing ships away from the Overlord operation which was being mounted. The right hon. Gentleman wrote that the Anzio operation needed 88 tank landing ships—we had two. What in the world was the good of talking about force?
I go further. I have never believed that, in the Middle East, force can do the job. As a very young man, when I served in the occupation of Constantinople after the First World War, and subsequently served for a number of years in Iraq during the Arab revolts, I saw the efforts then made to establish the rule of law by force. It could not be done then—it cannot be done now.
Of course, the oil in the Middle East was, and is, absolutely vital to us. Of course, we could not afford to see Nasser with his knife across our jugular vein. But there were only two ways then, and there are only two ways now; either force—by having a man along every yard of the Suez Canal, and by having a man at every yard along the pipelines—or good will.
The Government, in their blind folly, in their devotion to an outworn creed, have tried force and have failed. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is absolutely right in what he says, and why the prestige of this country is low. We tried to use force, and it did not work. Until we can restore our national reputation for truth, honest dealing and respect for the other man we are out of the Middle East. We shall, of course, go through very hard times economically, but, much worse, we shall go through a very hard time spiritually. The country knows that in its name a great wrong was committed. Until that is purged, times will indeed be hard for us.
The wisest thing I have heard about Suez and the Middle East was not said in the House of Commons or in any of the popular journals. I suggest that hon. Members take the trouble to obtain the 334 October number of the "News Letter" of the Church Missionary Society and read what is said by Canon Max Warren. I have never met him in my life, though I have written to him recently and asked him if he would have a meal with me. There is a man who understands what is happening. There is a man who knows that, as a result of a proud people being asked to cover three thousand years in thirty, Islam is in a ferment.
Colonel Nasser is not a cause: he is a symptom. If we got rid of him, would things improve? If Sir Anthony Eden had succeeded in knocking Nasser off his perch, would the person who followed Nasser have been any better? Hon. Gentleman who have had the opportunity of travelling in the Middle East, who have had the chance to read the philosophy of that area and to study its languages, should learn the very simple lesson that at present there is no basis for Western democracy as we understand it. The choice is between authoritarian régimes based upon the army and chaos.
Today, hon. Gentlemen speak in terms of great respect of Kemal Ataturk. There was a time when we tried to knock down Kemal Ataturk. The spiritual forefathers of hon. Gentlemen opposite tried to knock Kemal Ataturk off his perch in 1922, and they failed. All they did was to make him stronger. There is no choice. Time and time again, when one succeeds in knocking the Middle East dictator sideways, what follows?—burning, disruption and chaos. Is it any accident that a couple of days before the balloon went up, when I was in Egypt, I noticed with very great interest that the only internal security measure which was obvious was that an Egyptian soldier or policeman was on guard at every petrol pump? Why?—because only a short time before, in 1952, Cairo had been burned. Not so very long ago, some two or three years ago, when the Turks wanted to demonstrate against Greece, what did they do?—they burned Istanbul. That kind of thing has been going on all over the Middle East for the past thirty years. What Sir Anthony Eden did, with the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, in trying to use force at the beginning of August was fatal.
One of my hon. Friends has underlined the fact that hon. Members opposite pride themselves on the superiority of their military thinking. Let us look at an 335 example of it, and, may I hasten to say, the fault does not lie exclusively with one party; it cannot, because the results of things which are done in matters of defence, whether good or bad, do not become obvious for a considerable time. Therefore, in any consideration from a practical point of view of the mobilisation plan, it is not only hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite but my hon. Friends too who were in charge of Service Departments who are, for good or ill, involved.
The Labour Government had the wisdom to restore the category A Reserve. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman did not thoroughly understand the history of the Class A Reserve. The number has always been very small. I am not asking him to tell me about it now; I will try to tell him, and he can tell me whether I am right or wrong. I believe I know the number, because it has been published, of those used in Korea, of those used in 1921, 1927 and 1936, the three occasions between the wars when Section A was called up. Some 3,000 or 4,000 men were involved, just enough to top up the battery. These men had enlisted on Regular engagement and on the expiration of their Colour service, they accepted a financial inducement—in the case of a private soldier 1s. 6d. a day, I think—and who in return accepted liability for recall without Proclamation, the notice of recall merely being sent through the post and the soldier returns without delay to the Colours.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) restored this provision in, I think, 1949, the War Office went one stage further and asked for powers in that 1949 Act to designate men in the first year of their Class B Reserve service, that is to say men who had been Regular soldiers and who did their Reserve service with the liability to recall only by Proclamation. To those Class B reservists whom the War Office might want, it said, "We designate you as a Class A reservist". Hon. Members should note particularly that those men were designated in the first year of their Reserve service only.
It was obvious that when the former Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, came to the House of Commons on 2nd August and said that he was going to call 336 up the whole of the Reserve, in order to get a small number of men, something had gone wrong. It was perfectly clear what it was: the record offices which had designated men in the first year of their service had failed to notice the passage of time. Therefore, when a considerable number of specialists were wanted, the War Office could not designate them. Sir Anthony Eden said that legislation would be required in order to put this right. Subsequently, on 20th November, I asked the Secretary of State for War about what he was going to do, to which he gave no real reply; and the Government today have nothing to offer us, which is a little disappointing.
The Committee should notice what are the effects. I will ask hon. Members to turn to a typewritten document which is published at three-monthly intervals by the Vote Office, wherein they will find that we have somewhere in the region of 170,000 Army Emergency reservists and somewhere in the region of 100,000 Class B reservists, in all about 270,000 reservists. In order to get these additional Class A men which the Government by their neglect had failed to designate, there was a Proclamation calling up the whole of the Reserve.
What was the effect? Hon. Gentlemen talk about what the civilian thinks of the Army, but what would any man think of the Army who, on August Bank Holiday, when thinking of taking his wife away for a holiday, found a notice put through the front door ordering him to be recalled, and without his having had even the advantage of the 1s. 6d. a day or having had the opportunity to volunteer? Men suddenly found the notices and, with the notices, there went rumour. Uncertainty and doubt was spread over the maximum number of people in order to get the minimum result.
That is not all. As soon as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor called up the whole of the Class B Army Emergency Reserve, categories 1 and 2, and Class A Reserve, the men with one-man businesses wrote to their Members of Parliament, men whose wives were ill sent in doctors' certificates, and the employers of men doing special jobs wrote in too. There was an absolute muddle, because the Army's mobilisation plan was fundamentally wrong and was not designed to deal with this situation at all.
337 We congratulate ourselves on progress. Hon. Members should go to the Library and borrow the first volume of the "History of the First World War" and see what our grandfathers did. In fourteen days, we put over the other side of the Channel 120,000 horses; we mobilised six divisions, 60 per cent. of which had reservists. Although they did not start to go to France until 9th August, they made contact with the Germans at first light on 22nd August, that is to say in 14 days. Here we have a mobilisation plan at fantastic cost—because, of course, the true cost is not represented in this Supplementary Estimate. It is a fantastic cost. Even now, after nearly two months, we do not have the answer.
Again, I should have liked to have heard further from the right hon. Gentleman, although I realise the difficulties and that I might be anticipating his Estimates speech. The Minister of Defence has been to America and we hear stories that we are to have rockets. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this will lessen his problem? There is only a certain number of electronic engineers in the country. If the right hon. Gentleman calls them up into the Army now—not because of the Army's original sin, not because the Army has more stupid men than there are in the House of Commons or in industry—where does he think his electronic engineers will be? I will tell him—they will be peeling potatoes in the officers' mess. It is even money in the Army whether the square peg gets into a round hole or the round peg gets into a square hole.
The system as such is quite archaic. I say it because I have worked in it in a very humble capacity. Let the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many record offices there are. How many of them have modern punch card systems installed? None of them. I can understand that a generation ago there were considerable arguments against the introduction of modern labour-saving devices—there were considerable arguments because of the danger of bombing; but that is no longer true. Indeed, it becomes an absolute necessity that if there is to be an efficient mobilisation system, the Army must set about the civilianisation and the mechanisation of its record services.
338 Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman one simple fact of the enormous advantage enjoyed by the Russians over ourselves. The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and I visited Russian units when we were on the Parliamentary delegation to the Soviet Union. One of the things we discovered was that there was no documentation in the Soviet Union, no long tail concerned with welfare or with records. The Russians deal with it in a quite different way. If the right hon. Gentleman finds that on a given day he needs the services of a red-haired man, 5 ft. 3 in. tall and with two thumbs on each hand, modern punch card methods of control exist whereby he could find the man in 24 hours if he exists. In fact, however, men go into the Army and the right hon. Gentleman has no more idea than the man in the moon where to find the men he wants for the Royal Armoured Corps or the men he wants for the Pioneer Corps, because he is absolutely and completely lost. I should like tonight to have a categorical assurance that the undertaking given by Sir Anthony Eden, when he persuaded the House to accept without question the call-up of the reserves on 2nd August, will be implemented: namely, that we are to have a legislative overhaul of the Reserve Forces Act.
The muddle is not confined to men. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham drew attention to the fact that the Americans complained about the misuse of offshore equipment. Let me say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who from time to time in bursts of anti-American feeling say to the Americans, "Ah, well, take your supplies back", that the American offshore equipment goes very far.
Everyone was thrilled, was he not, when the helicopters took in the Marine Commandos on 6th November, but were hon. Members opposite who signed that little anti-American Motion aware that every single helicopter that went in was supplied under the American Offshore Agreement? How many Hunters out of the roughly 1,000 we have got are American offshore equipment? One-half of them. How many Centurions? What about the Valiant bomber? Would there be a Valiant bomber had it not been for American computers? Let hon. Gentlemen opposite, instead of always coming here in blather, go to the Library and find this out for themselves, as they can 339 quite easily do. Let them turn to the Defence White Papers for 1954, 1955 and 1956 and make a list of the American offshore equipment.
As my hon. Friend said, quite rightly, and as I have tried to say on previous occasions, if hon. Members opposite object to the Offshore Agreement, why did they not object when the Americans gave us the equipment instead of when we are required to carry out our part of the bargain?
Why did we misuse that equipment? I asked the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) when he was Minister of Defence. Do hon. Members remember he answer that he gave me on 14th November? He said. "We have no control over the equipment." He used the words, "It is all muddled up." Was it muddled up because he was stupid? Not at all. The truth is that, as with men, so with stores and equipment. Right throughout the three Fighting Services nobody knows what we have got. Nobody knows where it is.
Do hon. Members ever stop to realise what the organisational consequences must be in peacetime of the application of a Churchillian doctrine? In the first year, nothing at all; in the second year, just a little; and in the third year, all we want. We started re-arming in 1951. We are now in 1957. All over the world great ordnance depots are chock-a-block with hundreds of millions of pounds of equipment which will never be used. The right hon. Gentleman's Estimates, when he comes next month to present them, will be for millions and millions of pounds and his Vote A will be chocked up with thousands and thousands of men keeping the rust off equipment which will never be used and the whereabouts of which neither he nor his advisers know.
Again, therefore, I say that what is needed are modern systems of accounting. I have asked my American friends how they do it. I said, "How do you manage to have this infinite variety of ultra-modern equipment and how can you keep check of it?" They say, "Well, we do. We have introduced electronic machines. If Mr. Wilson, the Secretary of Defence, wants to know how much equipment we have got, however small and trivial it may be, and where it is, by our punch-card system we can give 340 him an answer in 24 hours. "We, of course, have not even begun to think about it.
The hon. and gallant Member for Worthing is a bit of a villain here. I say this in a kindly way with the word "villain" in inverted commas. He comes here and he keeps talking about cross-posting. This anathema about cross-posting, if I may be forgiven for saying so, applies to the hon. and gallant Member, but it never applied to me, because having joined the 9th Lancers he is justifiably proud of it and he hates the intruder—not personally, but he does not want the odd 12th Lancer when he turns up or the 15th/19th Hussars. But this feeling about cross-posting never applied to the other ranks.
For more than 25 or 30 years there has been a Corps of Cavalry, and at every back-end there was cross-posting between overseas and home of other ranks between units of the Corps of Cavalry. In the old Regular Army, any soldier could be cross-posted within the terms of his engagement. Whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman or myself is right is a matter not for dispute but of establishing the facts.
I assure the hon. and gallant Member that modern wars cannot be fought on the tribal system. That day has gone. One of the things that we must face up to—I know that the hon. and gallant Member and his hon. Friends opposite will kick—is that we ought to have a Corps of Infantry. The Secretary of State has got to come to this. If he thinks otherwise, let me tell him what he does. In June, a battalion of the Guards was stationed in Port Said; I gave the detailed example in the debate of 31st July. A crack battalion was right in the shop window, with a strength of about 300 or 400. Again, all over the world and all over this country, there are dozens of regiments at half strength.
The House of Commons has to face the fact that if we are going to contract the Army—whether we do it deliberately because we want to cut down National Service or for some other reason—the result is just the same. We have to bring our manpower and equipment under control, and these are very precious items. They must be used to the best advantage. At present, the thing that prevents equipment and manpower in the Army from 341 being used to the best advantage is tradition. "It was never done before." That is the simple fact.
I have always seen the difficulties of getting rid of National Service, and I have indicated some of the things that should be done, but at present, of course, the prospects are not very good. We have had a new bill for a pay increase of £70 million. I know that eight or nine months is a short period over which to judge, but we can begin to do the sums. This again has a great deal to do with what happened in Suez and arises out of the rate of prolongation of the three-year engagement. Last July that rate was 5.1 per cent. and last week it was 4.9 per cent. I asked a Question last week and received a Written Answer on Friday about the total number of man-years recruited in 1956 and in 1954 and 1955. The Government at present are recruiting fewer man-years, even after the pay increase than we recruited in 1950, and that is not all the story.
When we exclude National Service liability, the picture is even grimmer. It is true that, as one would expect, there has been a sharp rise in prolongation by men extending service on long engagement, but that, of course, means nothing. that is one of the most dispiriting things of all. They are "once only" men. When engagements are extended under the impulse of pay, the men who do that cannot do it again the next year. The increase that we have obtained in the third category this year is nothing like as sharp as one would expect if this policy was going to succeed. Certainly in the first three categories it has produced little or no result.
As to the fourth category, we shall see in a little while. Here I must put my judgment in the matter against the judgment of others. My mind goes back to a similar debate to this when the three-year engagement was first introduced. There was some elation at the time and a great Press campaign. The War Office has learned better since. There was elation about recruiting figures but, of course, they were not sustained; and I suggest that they will not be sustained now because of another consequence of Suez.
The Regular soldier is a human being and expects to be treated fairly. One of the things which put a permanent brake on internal recruiting was the "freeze" 342 in 1950. It had to be done, of course, and I supported that action at the time of Korea, but the memory of that remains. It was not forgotten. The fact that the freeze lasts only three months is neither here nor there. The fact is that the Regular soldier, at the end of his engagement, without being asked, is chopped off in his stride and kept in the Service.
Here we are faced with the effect or the three-year engagement. The controversy which I carried on with the right hon. Member for Carshalton is now almost dead. He is out of office and the matter is now settled, except that the country is now left with the consequences of the three-year engagement. I am absolutely certain that there is no easy way out. I have said over and over again, and I say it again now, that I do not believe that the solution lies within the grasp of any one party. I would say that even if I were sure that the answer existed in the minds of my hon. and right hon. Friends. I say it because the country is not military-minded. It is not interested in military matters, and if a solution has to be found which is to be acceptable not only to the House of Commons but to the people of the country as a whole, it must be put across in a united way.
The question whether we get rid of National Service or not, and the question whether we find a solution to our defence problems, do not depend on debates in the House of Commons. That is the position we have now reached. The Votes, the Amendments and our words have comparatively little effect upon what young men do. The question of our ability to get rid of National Service depends upon whether young men are willing to go to the recruiting offices and sign their names and whether those already serving are willing to extend their service. All the trends combine to show that they are not, and nothing that has been done in the last six months has made the situation any better.
I do further. Every time there is any premature throwing of hats in the air about a reduction in the length of engagements, we dissuade some people from taking on engagement. The only trick which paid off was the introduction of a differential. That persuaded a considerable number of men to undertake a three-year engagement. If there was any doubt about that last July, there 343 can be none now. I am sure that the Secretary of State for War, even in the limited time he has spent at the War Office, will have appreciated that the three-year engagement is not a true Regular engagement at all. It is tied up with National Service. If we get rid of National Service the three-year engagement will go, except for a very small percentage of men. Whoever we may think is responsible for this state of affairs, it is absolutely clear that there is a national responsibility resting upon all of us to find a way out.
If there is one thing that is sure to lead to national bankruptcy, not only economically but militarily, it is to imagine that we have a greater defence than we have. In other words, if the country continues to measure the success of its defence effort by the size of the bill, then Suez will not be the last trouble spot by any means. Indeed, I could give a list of other spots which I think are hotting up. One of them I believe is blowing up in the Yemen. What is happening there is directly related to what has happened to our loss of prestige over Suez. I do not want to encourage the enemies of the country, and, therefore. I do not propose to give a list of places which are potential hot spots.
Last Sunday I saw that illiterate paper the Sunday Express. The heading read, "Sandys brings it off." I do not think that the simple fact of the visit of the Minister of Defence to Washington has solved our defence problem. There is no short-cut with defence problems. There are no simple solutions. What we can do in the House of Commons is to have honest debates in which we do not shirk the facts; honest debates in which we try, for example, to understand why the mobilisation plan did not work. We can pool our ideas, and try to see how we can persuade people to think that a military career is worth while. Anything short of that method of approach will lead to national disaster.
I am no optimist about the future, no optimist at all. If I had to advise my daughters I would say to them, "You go. You will find happier and more worth-while lives abroad." Personally I would sooner stay, but that is what I would say to young people. There is only one optimistic note I can strike, one 344 positive, pleasant thing which gives some hope for the future. It seems to me that the year 1956 proved both to us and to the Russians that in the modern world force does not pay. If we have learned that lesson and can apply it and by so doing give an example of the application of that lesson, then the £39 million which we are asked to vote tonight may not be entirely wasted.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
I will not follow what was said by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), although I enjoyed his speech enormously, as I always do enjoy his speeches. It does not mean that I agree with all of it, but the hon. Gentleman was right in saying, as have other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, that there are things in War Office administration which are far from right and which need to be put right as quickly as possible. I say that in the broadest sense. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War to take this debate seriously, as I am sure he will, because not only his opponents but his friends are very anxious on these points.
I am one of those who believe that Sir Anthony Eden did the most courageous and brave thing in modern history. I believe that we stoppsed a large war, very possibly a world war, and for that reason alone I think that his action was entirely justified and that this country was justified in backing him. Never in the history of military operations of any country has it happened that the troops concerned, in great danger to themselves, have been strictly instructed to cause the least possible damage and the least casualties to the enemy that they can manage. Never was I more proud of my country than when that order was issued, and I think that the world at large is beginning to see the bravery and the courage of it.
What some right hon. and hon. Members opposite seem to have neglected to mention so far in this debate, and I have heard most of it, is the evidence of the Russian menace that was found when we went into Egypt. [An HON. MEMBER: "We did not find it."] We found it, and there is no doubt that our courageous action in going into Egypt cut right across the Russian plans. The area in which 345 the Israelis conquered, and the Egyptians ran away from them, was stocked with modern equipment on a colossal scale, and not for fun. The idea that it was put there for peaceable purposes is ludicrous.
We stopped its use by our action, I am convinced, and I am also convinced that had Israel and Egypt gone on fighting the other Arab States would have come in, and the whole Middle East would have gone up in flames. That has been said before by many people more capable of saying it than I am, but I believe it sincerely. I repeat that the action of Sir Anthony Eden was the bravest action taken in modern times, and that the orders given to the troops were unique in the history of modern military operations. I hope that some hon. Members who have disparaged their country in sonic of their remarks will think again.
§ Mr. G. Brown
If I may interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, will he tell us which hon. Members he thinks have disparaged their country, and when?
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
The right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) is the first in my mind, and I am glad that so many hon. Members opposite have contradicted the right hon. Lady in saying that our troops behaved horribly and callously.
§ Mr. Brown
Clearly, the hon. and gallant Member has given no warning to the right hon. Lady that it was she that he had in mind. If he wants to traduce her character, he must do better than make unsupported assertions. I have no knowledge that the right hon. Lady ever said what he now attributes to her. Will the hon. and gallant Member either produce the evidence or be, as I know he is, man enough to withdraw the charge until he can?
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
The evidence has been in the Press. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good right hon. and hon. Gentlemen saying, "No."
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
I have quoted two of the words and I cannot remember the third that the right hon. Lady used about our action there. But I will not rub it in, because the right hon. Lady is not present and I do not think that it would be fair to her.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
I can only quote the Press. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his hands and head at me; I can only quote the Press.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
I have quoted the Press and if I have wronged the right hon. Lady in not speaking the truth, I will, naturally, apologise.
§ Sir A. Gomme-Duncan
I am not withdrawing anything that I have said.
I want to say one more thing. The bill with which we are presented today—that is what we are discussing—consisting largely of expenses incurred in Suez, would have been far greater, and on a colossal scale, if we had not taken the action that we did. Therefore, hard as it is to accept the Supplementary Estimate, which we must accept, I think we can be grateful that it is not the size that it would have been if a full-fledged war had taken place.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for East Perthshire (Sir A. Gomme-Duncan) should have used the excuse that Sir Anthony Eden was quite justified in taking the action he did in relation to Egypt because of the arms from Russia which were found there. If that argument is to be used to justify Sir Anthony, I hope that everyone will remember that 347 the Russians will be able to use that argument to justify what they did in Hungary, because they say that they found a sort of counter-revolutionary plot which, if it had not been quashed, would have led to the downfall of Hungary.
It is a very dangerous argument to say that we have the right to invade a country merely because we have some suspicions that some people are engaged in activities of which we do not necessarily approve. I would hope that we would be very careful how we use that argument in order that we do not give other Powers some justification for the unjustifiable acts which they have committed against nations who want to enjoy liberty and peace.
Furthermore, it is no good our praising the Hungarians if we deny the Egyptians similar rights. The Egyptians have a right to live their own lives, to govern their own country, to be free of military force from foreign nations just as much as have the Hungarians, and there is not a man or woman in the House of Commons who does not uphold the Hungarians right to freedom, to lead their own lives and to govern themselves without Russian troops being upon their soil. We cannot argue truthfully, honestly and sincerely on behalf of those oppressed by the Russians if we try to justify our unjustifiable action towards Egypt.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Frank Bowles)
I trust that the hon. Gentleman will not take that argument any further.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I am sorry if I am transgressing the rules, but I have sat here all day and it has seemed that everybody has said almost all he wanted to do and many aspects of foreign affairs far wider than these Estimates have been dealt with. I merely thought that I should be allowed the freedom that every other speaker so far has had.
The debate has been very revealing. We have had sonic real conversions. I was delighted to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) now having doubts about the wisdom of the Paris Agreements and our having stationed four divisions in Europe and being concerned about the costs of all that. He must realise that we cannot get rid of conscription here while we are committed to stationing four divisions in Germany for forty-four years, for it is 348 unlikely that we shall obtain sufficient recruits to fulfil postings in this country and postings under the Paris Agreements as well as the many other commitments that we have.
Another revealing statement by the hon. and gallant Gentleman was that we should ask General Speidel to advise us on how to run our Army. General Speidel is the big name in the German forces which we are supposed to have defeated. So it is suggested that the victors should seek the advice of the vanquished on how to run their Army. This is not a very pleasant reflection upon the men at the War Office who are supposed to have won the last war.
It will not be possible to get rid of National Service as long as we need an Army the size of our present one, no matter what we provide in wages and conditions. Given full employment, I do not believe there are sufficient men in the country who are prepared to exchange employment in industry for Service life.
If the policy which the Government are pursuing is allowed to continue and unemployment grows, we may get the required recruits for the Army, but the Government should not under-estimate the other consequences. Over the last six years we have spent £10,000 million for the sole purpose of keeping Communism at bay. If the Government's economic policy is successful and they get all the unemployment they want and all the recruits for the armed forces which they require, do not let them think that they will have achieved the paradise which they seek, for then we shall find growing internally the very forces which we are seeking to oppose externally with the great military machine which we are building up.
Every country has the same problem. It is to the credit of the intelligence of men and women everywhere that no country in the world—America, Russia, France, Belgium; it does not matter which—can man its armed forces by volunteers; each one has to compel men to enter the forces. That is to be welcomed in this age, because it means that people are becoming more enlightened, and the more people become enlightened the world over the less likely will be the need for armies.
The hon. and gallant Member thought that the £39 million covered by the 349 Supplementary Estimate was a comparatively small price to pay for what we had accomplished in Suez. But £39 million is not all that we have paid. What about the lost trade? Does anybody believe that the people of the Middle East are now clamouring for our goods? As has been indicated, the Russians have a fair there now, and the Germans are also to have one. The Middle East countries will not buy their goods from Britain, who tried to bully and dragoon them; they will buy them largely from countries from which they think they will get the most assistance and which show towards them the greatest amount of friendliness.
What about the loss of prestige? Is that not to be included in the Bill? And what about the loss of lives, and the unemployment and under-employment which has arisen here as a direct result of this adventure? What about the fact that the £ has been endangered, so that the Chancellor has had to borrow money from here, there and everywhere in order to prop it up? These are all part of the price which has had to be paid for the Suez adventure. It is not sufficient to pretend that all that it has cost us is £39 million.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give us some indication of how much is fact and how much fiction in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). We have a right to know whether preparations were made as early as 4th August to invade Egypt and capture Alexandria in order to depose Nasser. We have never been given this story before. This is another addition to the many chapters of explanations which have been given as to our reasons for going into Suez. We are entitled to know whether it was the original intention of the Government to invade Egypt, capture Alexandria and depose Nasser by brute force. notwithstanding anything that Israel might subsequently have done.
There are two other items which I should mention. The first is the question of the Arab Legion. I am glad to see that the grant to the Legion is down by £500,000 in the Supplementary Estimate. I should like to know how the Government can justify having made any subsidy, grant, gift or anything else to the Arab Legion during the last two 350 years. We have been told for months and even years that there was hostility towards us in this quarter, and that we had no friends there. Such a subsidy may have been justifiable in previous years, but during the last three years we have certainly not been justified in pouring money into the Arab Legion—a sum of money which makes the losses sustained in the groundnuts experiment in Africa appear like chicken-feed. What have we got out of it? We have a right to know whether this will be stopped.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Surely, the hon. Gentleman realises that the subsidy to the Arab Legion was paid under the Treaty with Jordan. I may be slightly mistaken about the date, but I have the impression that it was negotiated by the hon. Gentleman's Government when they were in power.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I think that we have been paying towards the Arab Legion, in one way or another, for the past twenty-five years, I am not trying to defend the Government of my party. All I say is that the situation in the Middle East changed immediately the present Government came into office in 1951. As the situation worsened, it seemed folly to pour money into the coffers of those most likely to oppose our interests, but that is what we have done.
The other point I want to make is about the daily rates of overseas allowances. For many years our forces stationed in Germany did not receive overseas allowances because, when they were there as an army of occupation, they were able to demand from the Germans certain concessions; but those concessions ceased immediately Germany became an independent nation. In consequence, the standard of living of our forces was made much worse.
For two years I have been trying to state the case for those men serving overseas who are accompanied by their families, and whose position has been worsened. This year Germany has been made a foreign posting for the purpose of overseas allowances. The allowance given to a general is 9s. 3d. a day if he is accompanied by his family, and 6s. 6d. a day if he is not. An increased daily allowance is given right down the ranks—brigadier, lieutenant-colonel, major, captain, warrant officer and sergeant—if 351 they are accompanied by their families. But the corporals and privates—the lads right at the bottom—get 1s. 6d. a day unaccompanied and 1s. 6d. a day if accompanied.
How does the War Office justify denying to the ordinary ranker any further increment when he is accompanied by his family? Does the private's wife get her goods cheaper than the wife of any other member of the Forces? Is she able to buy clothes for her children at a cheaper rate? Do shoes cost her less? Is it cheaper for her to go to the pictures, the theatre or whatever form of amusement she may wish to enjoy? How does the War Office justify giving to all the others an additional allowance, when accompanied by their families, yet denying it to the ordinary private and the corporal?
I was told, in answer to a Question, that the cost of giving an additional allowance to corporals and privates would be a miserable £30,000 a year, but the expenditure of that £30,000 would remove a genuine and legitimate grievance felt by the lowest-paid men in the Forces. I hope that the Under-Secretary will persuade his right hon. Friend to look into that matter again and that this discrimination will be removed. The man right at the bottom is entitled to treatment similar to that granted to the man at the top. Until that equal treatment is given, the Minister can rest assured that, as far as I am concerned, he will get no peace.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
It has been my pleasure on previous occasions to follow the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). I listen to him with the greatest respect and attention, because I believe he speaks with some sincerity. If there is anything in the point which he has just raised about the overseas allowance for other ranks. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into it and will, if necesary, put it right.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the difficulty of recruitment under conditions of full employment, and especially asked whether we were able to dispense with National Service. I agree with him that it is very difficult to recruit men into the Regular Army in sufficient numbers today to be able to dispense with National Service and to depend entirely upon a Regular Army. It might remain difficult 352 all the time the present Government are in power, because our policies will maintain the fullest possible employment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have not a pool of unemployment—[An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, in the furniture industry."]—on which we can draw.
I have listened to the debate with great interest, although it seemed at times to be a debate upon foreign affairs and upon any other subject except the Supplementary Estimate. Let me come back to the Supplementary Estimate. I am not surprised at the size of it. I do not think that the whole of the cost is entirely reflected in this Estimate, which is not large enough to cover the whole cost We must consider the precautions that were taken in August, the preparations, that were agreed to and supported by the Opposition at that time. We remember the partial mobilisation. The hon. and unofficially gallant Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred to it as a very grave measure of mobilisation of all the resources of the nation, and recalled how, in the past, such mobilisation had been the prelude to world war.
This was not the complete mobilisation of the nation's resources but a partial mobilisation, and, even so, it was very expensive. We must remember the mass of chartered shipping that was lying around in the harbours and rivers of this country week after week, fully loaded, and the deterioration of stores that must have gone on during that time. We must consider all the damage and wastage, and, indeed, the pilfering on a very large scale, apparently, of War Department stores.
Hon. Members have criticised the mobilisation procedure. There is a great deal in what they have said. We have to consider all these things and consider, too, that this was not a fire-brigade operation, but a corps operation. I have always thought that a corps was nearer 45,000 troops than the 30,000 mentioned by a military expert opposite. I believe that the operation covered even more than a corps. It was a very large-scale operation indeed. It does not surprise me that the bill is as big as it is. What is surprising is that it is as small as it is.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Member's right hon. Friend said that only 24,000 men were called up. None of us is very clear about that.
§ Mr. Hall
I was referring to all the forces.
Taking the operation in isolation, as a military operation, it is surprising, in a way, that it did not cost more. Taking it against the background of an annual expenditure of more than £1,600 million a year, I am surprised that we had to spend so much more in addition to mount an operation of this kind. I find it very difficult to understand why we had to take so many emergency measures and call up these reservists in the numbers we did to mount an operation which, if we had been able to take it in our stride, we should have found very much easier.
I find myself agreeing with something which the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) said earlier. He said that out of the recent operation had come at least three things.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
Could the hon. Member help me in my confusion? I understood that in his preamble he was expressing surprise that the operation cost so little, but as I understood his subsequent remarks he was expressing astonishment that it cost anything at all. Could he clear that up, so that the confusion in my mind may be eliminated?
§ Mr. Hall
I realise that there is confusion in the mind of the hon. Member, as he has only just come into the Chamber and, perhaps, has not got the background.
I might be able to clarify it in this way. I tried to make clear that, taking the operation as an isolated operation, and ignoring any other background, perhaps the bill might have been regarded as small. I then went on to say that, taking it against the background of the expenditure we had to face year after year for several years, it is surprising that the bill had to be so large. I hope that I have made the point clear to the hon. Member.
I was about to refer to some remarks made by the hon. Member for Islington, North, in which he said that we must have a very searching examination of the whole of our mobilisation organisation and also a searching examination of the organisation of the Army as a whole. On 354 the Army Estimates last year I had the opportunity of moving an Amendment in which I asked for a committee of investigation into the whole of the organisation of the Army. A number of right hon. and hon. Members opposite were good enough to support me on that occasion. They included the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). When he got to his feet and supported me I examined what I had said with some anxiety, because I could not understand what I had done to merit his support.
There was a great deal to be said for an examination of Army organisation then, and very much earlier than last year. Had we been able to streamline the Army and reorganise it in a rather different fashion, we might have entered the recent operation in much more favourable conditions. At that time, and previously, I pleaded for a considerably smaller, highly-trained and highly mobile Regular Army. To get that kind of Army we have to see that it is very mobile and we have to have aircraft to lift it. In addition, we cannot afford to keep four divisions, to which the hon. Member for Jarrow referred, isolated and made untouchable in Europe. We have to regard those four divisions as reserves.
§ Mr. G. Brown indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Hall
I appreciate that, but in some curious way they have always been regarded as having to be retained there. We have great difficulty in getting them away for other operations, although the French took their divisions away for their operations in North Africa.
I think that Europe is a good place in which to employ the Reserve, for it provides a good training ground, better than we could command in this country, restricted as we are for open areas. From that point of view I see no difficulty in maintaining those divisions in Europe, but we must treat them as our Reserve 355 and be able to draw on them for any operation of this kind in which we may be unfortunate enough to be involved in the future.
It is, however, no good drawing on those divisions if at least one or two of them are not in the highest state of readiness, able to mobilise in 24 to 48 hours and in a position to be lifted quickly. The only way in which we can be successful today is for our forces to be able to move quickly. We are small militarily and do not command the vast manpower resources and industrial power to fight large-scale war. If we are to maintain our position as a Power and to intervene successfully in any disputes which affect our vital interests in any part of the world, we must be able to move very quickly, and to hit very hard, and to do that we must have divisions always in a high state of readiness with highly trained people, and we must be able to move it by air.
That brings me to the air operation in Suez, as far as I can understand how it happened. It is not easy—and we appreciate the reasons—to obtain all the information we should like about the military operations in Suez. Perhaps it will come out as the reports are presented. If my information is correct, when we launched the operation on Suez and decided to put in a para-battalion drop, we dropped only half a battalion at a time. It may be—although I should find this hard to believe—that we thought that half a battalion was sufficient for the first para-drop, but what I very much suspect is that we had insufficient planes to do more than that. If, after the vast expenditure through the military Estimates over several years, we are unable to command sufficient planes to drop more than half a battalion at one time in an operation of this kind, then there is something radically wrong with the air transport organisation which backs our Army.
I know that there are many difficulties in the way of developing an adequate Transport Command. We cannot have a vast fleet of specialised planes doing nothing for a long time, we hope for ever, all the time getting out of date, with trained personnel available to fly and maintain them—and all waiting in case 356 one day they are wanted to move a large force.
There is an alternative, and even that has its difficulties. It is to have a certain number of planes which are used for cargo-carrying and passenger-carrying by civil airlines, but which are designed to be readily adaptable for military purposes and which can be switched very quickly for a military operation, if need be. Even then, I very much doubt whether there is sufficient civilian use for the number of planes which we should require to lift a division with its stores, even if we accept that we cannot lift very heavy stores by plane. We certainly cannot take tanks. although we can take 25-pounders and equipment of that weight.
Nevertheless, even allowing for the shortage of planes, I was surprised to find that the original para-battalion drop was not followed by some airborne or what are called nowadays air-portable troops in support. Hour after hour, almost day after day, I waited expecting to hear that troops were landing by plane in support of the original air drop. I must confess, however, that I was not altogether surprised because I had spoken on these matters from time to time and I had realised that we were extremely short of planes, and that such planes as we had, for instance, the Beverley, were not up to date and ought to be replaced by something far better.
The reorganisation of our military forces, the type of planes they are to have and the size of the force which we ought to be able to lift by air—all these are matters which need careful and serious scrutiny and consideration. This includes our old friend the tail. I cannot even guess the number of times I have heard the phrase, "We must comb the tail". We have combed out and combed out until it is practically threadbare in many respects. Still, we must face the fact that there are certain essentials which it is difficult to comb out if we expect our troops to have a high standard of welfare in the field.
One hon. Member who referred to the Russian organisation pointed out that the Russians had no second echelon and did not have any comforts or the support of a welfare organisation such as we have in our own Army. That is one of the 357 difficulties that both the American and our own forces have to contend with. Our forces, and, still more, those of the Americans, are used to a very high standard of comfort in the field. When they are able to be withdrawn from the fighting line into a rest area, they expect to find the N.A.A.F.I., concerts, and all sorts of comforts.
These involve a great deal of transport, and a great deal of tonnage in stores, and things of that kind add to the size and length of the tail. If we are to fight troops with a much more primitive standard of living, who are accustomed to much harder living conditions, we must accept that we must live under the same hard conditions, if we are to cut down the tail, but that is riot to say that there are not many other ways of cutting it down.
There is the Wolfenden Report, which we shall no doubt debate on the Army Estimates. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) mentioned, it referred to the need and importance of civilianising military installations at home. I think that that is the ideal at which we have got to aim, but it is not as easy as it sounds on paper. First, in an era of full employment, it is not easy to get civilians to take these places; and, secondly, so many of our military installations are in very isolated places, where it is very difficult to get civilians to work, unless we can provide them with houses and amenities of that kind. It is not very easy, and it will cost a great deal more. The right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but one of the problems which face most military installations in the difficulty of getting civilian staff is that they are unable to pay wages which compete successfully with the conflicting claims of other industries.
§ Mr. Strachey
This is a very interesting point which the hon. Member has raised. He has just quoted the Wolfenden Committee's Report, which says that the Committee was assured by the Treasury quite definitely that it was the Treasury's view that it was cheaper, in spite of much higher wages, because it was so much more efficient. I thought that that was one of the most striking things in the Report.
§ Mr. Hall
I hope that, despite the fact that we have to pay higher wages, there 358 will be greater economies overall, but one has to acknowledge that initially it may possibly cost us more, as, indeed, initially, in providing a smaller but more mobile Army, we have to find a lot of money for providing the means of making it mobile.
I now want to make a point on the subject raised by many hon. Members in the debate—that of mobilisation. I have always been of the opinion that the mobilisation procedure in this country was clumsy, and that the Reserve Army organisation, from which it drew its reserves, was chaotic. I think that the reserve organisation as it exists now was originally formed for a quite different purpose to the one which it is now expected to fulfil or is likely to fulfil in the future.
A number of men were called up in the last emergency who, in my view, should not have been called up at all. I very narrowly escaped it myself. Only a few months earlier, I had resigned from the appointment which I held in the Army Emergency Reserve, and my successor in that appointment was, in fact, called up, and found himself in Cyprus almost before he had wakened up to the fact. There are many people who were called up who should not have been, and it has been suggested that one reason for that was that the records offices were not sufficiently mechanised and that they had not got enough of the accounting machines which produce results at the touch of a button.
That may or may not be so, but I do not think that we can accuse the War Office of being too old-fashioned in its methods, or of refusing to use such accounting machines as the Hollerith and the Power-Samas. I remember that, during the war, the War Office started to use the mechanical accounting machines in very large measure, and did develop them very considerably thereafter.
The hon. Member for Dudley, who said that the War Office did not know what it had or where it had it, was not quite accurate. In any case, we could easily put that right. All we have to do is to introduce the hon. Member into the War Office, because he knows where everything is and everything it has. I always think that that is a very great tribute to 359 the efficiency of the military section of our Library, which the hon. Member peruses with such interest.
§ Mr. Hall
I was not in any way making a personal aspersion on the hon. Member. I should not dream of doing so.
One thing does emerge from this talk of machines. I am credibly informed by the people supplying the machines that the Egyptian Army was mobilised by Hollerith. It did not seem to do them much good.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, referring to Vote 8, spoke about barracks. There is an increase in Part I of that Vote. I know that there are many good reasons for curtailing our expenditure on buildings, and so on, but I think that that is a greaty pity. Among the great problems of recruiting is not only pay—that is only one aspect—but such things as accommodation, married quarters, the type of leave, some of the petty restrictions, the separation from family which is almost inseparable from Army life. All those things count when it comes to a man deciding whether or not to join the Army.
One of the factors is the standard of the buildings and of the married quarters provided. There are many fine examples throughout the country of recently-built barracks and married quarters, but there are far too few of them, and. whatever the economic position, it is a great pity that we should cut down on that type of work when we know that it is essential, if we are to reduce the size of our fighting force, to do everything we can to encourage recruitment into the Regular Army so as to dispense, as soon as possible, with the need for National Service men.
I should, perhaps, make one other reference in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing, who said that it was unfortunate that when new buildings were erected they were nearly always for headquarters and not for battle troops. If that is so, I have not noticed it. In my little experience of recent years, that is a great departure from the days when I, among others, 360 served under Field Marshal Montgomery, because then everything went to the troops, and headquarters got what was left. That may be carrying things a bit to extremes, but it is the right attitude to adopt, and I hope that it will be adopted now.
I turn to the position of Cyprus as a base. About two years ago—or whenever it was that we had the debates about leaving Suez—I was among those who looked on that proposition with some disfavour. I remember being told then that Cyprus was a quite adequate and suitable alternative base. I do not claim to be anything but an amateur soldier in these matters, but it would seem to me that Cyprus has not turned out very well in this last effort.
We were told that we could not mount the operation from Cyprus. It had to be mounted from Malta, six or seven days' sailing away, because it was not possible to accumulate the fleet of ships off Cyprus. There was not a good enough deep water harbour for them. It is true, my naval friends tell me, that at that time of year it would not have been possible for the landing craft to have been left in the roads off the coast of Cyprus without considerable danger. If one cannot mount an operation from Cyprus without a deep water port, as was discussed in our debates two years ago. when are we to have a deep water port there? Are we to have one at all?
If we are not to have a deep-water port, is Cyprus of any great value to us as a military base of the kind we envisaged originally? It may be that we have changed our ideas as to how we intend to use Cyprus as a base; it may be that our conception is different from that of two years ago, but it would be interesting if we knew something about the possibe future use of Cyprus as a base. If it cannot be used as a satisfactory alternative to the one we have lost, I find it hard to understand the value of hanging on to it as desperately as we are.
Turning again to the Supplementary Estimates, to which I have tried to keep as much as possible, I do not want to express any views about the reasons one went into the operation, about the way it was conducted, or about anything else at this stage. All I would say is that the one great value that this Supplementary Estimate has for us is that the operation, and 361 the bill for it, has forced us, I think, to take a much more realistic view of our defence organisation. It will, perhaps, hasten the day when we can really get down to streamlining our forces, to producing the type of defence force we really want for the kind of war that we may have to fight, rather than the kind of force which is prepared for a war that we shall never have to fight.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I believe that many of my hon. Friends will agree with me when I say that the speech of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) to which we have just listened was an extremely interesting and very thoughtful one, which has, I think, helped us considerably not only in discussing the Estimates but also in our future talks on matters of defence generally. I would agree entirely with him that perhaps Suez and all that followed it has done one good thing in making us all once again think about the whole matter of defence costs and defence policy. There may be good economies which will come from our discussions.
Having said that, I must add that that is the only good thing which could possibly be said to have come out of Suez. When we look back a little and realise, first, that we have no Canal, second, that we have no oil. third, that we have fewer friends in the Middle East than we have ever had before, fourth, that Russia is stronger than she has ever been, and fifth, that we are in this awful plight, of which we are only beginning to count the cost, I can readily understand that hon. Gentleman opposite have been thoroughly ashamed to talk about the Estimates. Conservative Members have been noticeable for their absence, and we all know that some of them have had to be brought down here to speak in support of the Secretary of State for War and the policy of the Government.
To those of us who heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, what a remarkable performance it was. I must say that we are all looking forward to the speech which is to be made tonight by the Parliamentary Secretary. He led the Suez group and, of course, one can say that he is primarily responsible for much of the costs included in the Supplementary Estimate. I will say this to him—he is not here, but I hope somebody 362 will tell him—that he cannot put up a worse show than did his Secretary of State. Quite frankly, no borough treasurer would have been retained in his job if he had presented his accounts in the way the present Secretary of State did.
First of all, some of the figures here he did not himself understand, and if he does not understand them, it is surely a little difficult for us. I tried to follow what he was saying, but I gave up half way through his speech, which lasted half an hour. Tomorrow morning, I think he will have to have a row with someone in his office about his brief. I may have misunderstood him, and the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong; here is a golden chance for him to do so, and I hope he has found out something about the figures. Do I understand that on Vote 7, overspending on warlike stores of £17 million, £9 million of that figure was a blunder by his Department with regard to assessing deliveries of certain goods which had been ordered on contract? The right hon. Gentleman talked about a £100 million cut which the Treasury had ordered, and then, when his Department made the reductions, it forgot this amount and then the £9 million had to come back afterwards.
§ Mr. John Hare
The hon. Member must have given up listening before then. It was £10 million, I explained, which had been delivered, in addition to what was expected, owing to the extra deliveries from the motor trade and the electronic trade.
§ Mr. Mellish
The House will realise why I might well have given up listening.
Goods arrived to the tune of £10 million which were not expected. It is an incredible story and was said very glibly in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; but later on, when we are told that there has been overspending of, say, £3 or £4 million on the Health Service, watch the performance of hon. Members opposite! Warlike stores to the extent of £10 million actually arrived but nobody knew they were coming. Had everybody forgotten about it? It is a shocking story. Suez or not, nobody on the Government side ought to be pleased about the way that these accounts have been presented.
363 The figure of £14 million on Vote 5 is not the right figure. It ought to be in the region of £17 million. I do not understand accounts when one is supposed to imagine that a figure one sees should not be there but should be another figure because something which is not explained cannot be explained, although, nevertheless, one has to understand it. The total figure, I assume, is right. I have not taken the trouble to add it all up. After last night and the mistake in the Division Lobby, we realise that the Tories cannot add up. Having seen the Estimate, I can well believe it.
When the Parliamentary Secretary comes to make the brilliant speech that we all expect of him, I should like him to answer this. When the Government, since 1951, have spent over £8,000 million on defence, why is it necessary to have to purchase another £7 million worth of equipment at the time of this not very large adventure, this not very wholesale mobilisation arrangement and not really a major war? Was there not already enough of what one would regard as essential warlike stores in stock over the years? One would have thought that with the size of Army we have been maintaining, for an adventure of this size we should not have to incur accounts of this character. We are entitled to a lot more explanation than we had in a couple of lines from the Secretary of State for War in explaining the £17 million and dismissing it in a few words. We are entitled to a much better explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies in defence of the Estimate.
I want to say a word on the question of defence costs as a whole. I am one of those who believes, with many of my hon. Friends, that it is simply being glib to say that defence can be cut by a certain figure without giving substantial reasons to explain how it can best be done. I do not agree that anyone can say "We will cut the Army by £200 million, or the Navy by £100 million, and so on" as easily as that. Before we talk about cutting defence, we have to recognise that it is wrapped up with foreign policy and we have to decide what our foreign policy is to be. We have to decide where our commitments will be, the size of our Army, and so on.
364 Having said that, however, when the test came, as it did in Suez—and I deprecate the fact that there was this test—I frankly do not believe that we got the value for money that we had a right to expect. What was the size of the operation? Twenty-four thousand men were called up in addition to those we already had in the Armed Forces. It took three weeks to call them up. Every Member of Parliament who knows anything about this knows of some of the blunders. I could tell story after story of stevedores who were called up and put into the infantry and of men who were called up and put into stevedore units. I do not know what went wrong with Records.
In any case, I assume that we had been planning this thing for some time. We knew something of the problems in the Middle East. Certainly, the Parliamentary Secretary had been planning it for a long while. It looks as if he and his group had a great influence on the Government, because we see where he has landed himself. The only trouble is that instead of putting the leader of the group at the front they have given that position to one of the minor members of the group. The answer is that next time a group of rebels starts up it is better to play a minor rôle because the good jobs do not go to the leaders.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Is my hon. Friend aware that, in addition to the speeches which the Financial Secretary to the War Office made in the House, he also made a speech at a European conference in Vienna and in the presence of the representatives of fifteen other nations in Strasbourg on 9th January?
§ Mr. Mellish
Knowing the Financial Secretary to the War Office, I would say that he could pretty well say anything that suited the occasion. I admit, however, that he has been consistent on the back benches on the subject of the Middle East. He had better be consistent tonight. We do not expect constant efficiency from the Front Benches opposite, but when a back-bencher comes to occupy the Front Bench we expect to have at least one speech from him consistent with what he has been saying as a back-bencher.
Because we on this side of the Committee attack the Government on the 365 subject of Suez, we have been described by the Press as an unpatriotic party and as anxious to kick our own people around. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I ask the Committee to make a note of that assent. The vast majority of those of us who are on this side of the Committee have just as good a war record as anybody opposite, and we happen to love our country just as much as hon. Members opposite do. I think that we love our country in the right way in the sense of loving things that are important to it rather than some other more material things.
I do not think that we needed Suez to prove that a British soldier is five times as good as an Egyptian, three times as good as an American and twice as good as a Russian. We could have told hon. Members opposite that without the Suez adventure. It should be borne in mind that criticisms made by my right hon. and hon. Friends are directed against the policy of this Government which resulted in our young soldiers going into a conflict in which I do not think they should ever have been involved. We have every right to criticise the Government and we shall go on doing so.
Suez, at least, may bring this much good. It may mean discussion of the whole of our defence cost and policy. It may well mean that we shall be able to streamline our forces and have many more civilians doing the jobs which soldiers now do with a result that if war ever comes again, in contrast with the present occasion we shall have value for our money.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
I should like to remind the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that it is not only the Press and the public of the country that have, criticised his party over this issue. I would remind him of the very severe criticism which European Socialists brought against the Socialist Party and, from my personal knowledge, not only the French.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
A few minutes ago, there was a rather heated interchange between the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for 366 Perth and East Perthshire (Sir A. Gomme-Duncan).
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) is coming in. Be careful.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I am glad to see the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) taking her seat, because I wish to refer to some statements which she is alleged to have made. Before I do so, I should like to make it plain to her, because she was not here at the time, that I should never have mentioned this but for what happened a few moments ago.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire was challenged by the right hon. Member for Belper to mention somebody who had brought dishonour or discredit—I do not remember the precise words but something of that nature—on this country. Rather hesitantly, he replied, mentioning the right hon. Lady. This caused considerable heat on the Opposition Front Bench and elsewhere, and the right hon. Member for Belper sprang once more to his feet and asked for further evidence.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire, naturally, had not a file of newspapers at his disposal, but I went to the Library. Without putting more into this little incident than it should necessarily carry. I ask the right hon. Member for Belper to read the newspapers in the Library for 24th January. 1957, and particularly, in some newspapers for 26th January, the eight questions which were asked by the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington and the eight answers which were given by Sir Edwin Herbert. I have no intention of reading them out.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Warrington)
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman one question? If he looks at all the answers given to me by Sir Edwin Herbert he will find that he has not denied one of my allegations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, of those eight question which I put to Sir Edwin Herbert, none has been denied. Furthermore, I was prepared to face him, 367 but he was afraid to face me. Sir Edwin Herbert came on the B.B.C. in a film instead of in person.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order, order. It would be better if we confined ourselves to the Supplementary Estimate.
§ Mr. Brown
My right hon. Friend is entitled to have her own row with the hon. and gallant Gentleman—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not so gallant."]—but he is going for me. He has said, rightly, that I challenged the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Sir A. Gomme-Duncan) to produce the evidence for the attack he made on my right hon. Friend in her absence. The hon. and gallant Gentleman was unable to do so. Now the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) has taken it upon himself to say that he has been to the Library and found the evidence. Am I not entitled, Sir Gordon, to ask him to produce the evidence which he alleges he has found?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
—that I would not read those particular newspapers which are all available in the Library. If the right hon. Gentleman will go to the Library and cast his eye over those newspapers, dated 24th and 26th January, he will find what he is looking for.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman has got a little heated over this matter.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
The right hon. Gentleman was attacking, in the most uncalled-for manner, my hon. and gallant Friend—
§ Dr. Summerskill
May I ask for your guidance, Sir Gordon? If an hon. and gallant Member makes a statement here in which my motives are impugned, may I not demand an answer?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Personal explanations can be made at the proper time, but not in the middle of a debate.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
I will now return to the Supplementary Estimate under debate, Sir Gordon. In paragraph 1 (d) of the Explanation there is mention of Trucial Oman Scouts, and in the course of his reply I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War to enlarge a little on this force, for which the financial responsibility is now being shared between the Foreign Office and the War Office.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opened his speech by saying that he had been to the Library and had found a lot of things to quote against my right hon. Friend. Then he said he would leave that subject. After making the smear, the insult and the innuendo, the hon. and gallant Gentleman runs away. I think we are entitled to hear the result of his researches.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
If the hon. Gentleman will be a little patient, I will tell him afterwards.
§ Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. The hon. and gallant Gentleman now says that he will tell my hon. Friend afterwards, which means, if it means anything at all, that he is sustaining the allegations and innuendoes made by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Sir A. Gomme-Duncan). Surely my right hon. Friend is entitled to have the substance of the hon. and gallant Member's research produced here and now, not afterwards.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
Would it be right Sir Gordon, to say that neither the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) nor the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill), or my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon), figures in the Supplementary Estimate?
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
As I was saying, the share of the cost of this force is now to be equally divided between the Foreign Office and the War Office. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether this force of Trucial Oman Scouts—who, by reason of their name, one would assume that their sphere of action would be restricted to the Trucial coast, the district of Oman and thereabouts—can be transferred elsewhere, for instance, to the Yemen area, where so much trouble is taking place at present?
With reference to the situation on the Aden Protectorate border, can we be told, at the same time, what is to be the composition of these additional troops, which are, so far as one can judge from the newspapers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which ones?") Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to assume that all newspapers are as unreliable as their own particular newspaper. I can assure them that is not so.
May we be told whether these forces on the Aden-Yemen border, although they are at present commanded by a senior R.A.F. officer, are to be composed of infantry, the R.A.F. Regiment and these levies, or whether there is an intention of altering the composition of this force?
I should like to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to a criticism, which has been fairly widespread since the action in the Port Said area, that many of the troops taking part were kept very much in the dark for information. It was apparent from those whom I have spoken to that wireless broadcasts could not be heard because sets were not available in sufficient numbers; and, secondly, that newspapers—the right sort of newspapers—of an up-to-date nature, were not readily available for the units 370 taking part. If that criticism is justified it is a matter which should be looked into from the point of view of the troops' welfare.
Under Vote 1 (N) there is a revised estimate of bounties amounting to just over £1 million. I should like to know what those bounties were. I should not have thought that an emergency of this nature would have involved the payment of bounties to troops.
Vote 4 (C) refers to the employment of civilians at regimental units, and an increase of nearly £3 million is shown. One can understand increased figures in respect of civilians under all the headings in that Vote, but it seems extraordinary that regimental units should require more civilians to the extent that the increase in that case is nearly three times as much as that for any other item under the Vote. I feel that that needs some explanation.
With regard to Vote 8 and Vote 11 (A), it is a great pity that the reconstruction of barracks and the building of married quarters should have suffered this year when the Government have once more attained a total of more than 300,000 houses built. It seems odd that we should not have managed to build as many married quarters as we set out to do and that our barrack building is behind-hand to the extent of roughly £1 million.
Many hon. Members opposite have for some time talked about a reduction in National Service, and 18 months seems to be the most popular period. I hope that the Government will resist this move with all their power. We should have the worst of all worlds if we tried to reduce National Service to an impracticable length of time whereby much effort would be wasted by Regular soldiers in training men who were in the Service for a comparatively short time. The target should be the complete abolition of National Service. I know full well the many difficulties that entails, but I hope the Government will bear that in mind and, when the time comes, avoid unsatisfactory half-way houses and go all the way.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
The only point I shall make about the last speech to which we have listened, and I make it sincerely after reflection and in no 371 heat, is that it was, as I think the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) will realise on reflection, below his standard of gallantry, which was a notable and outstanding one in a war in which there was great individual gallantry. It is below the standard which he has set himself in the past to engage, with newspapers or anybody else, in the game of smearing the character of a public personality unless he is certain that the character deserves it and that the evidence that he possesses justifies the tremendous step of smearing that character. As was well said by a more eloquent person than I long ago, to take away a person's character is the worst thing that one can do.
I have had the full treatment myself, when it suited the Press to give it to me. I have been smeared and have lived to be able to look back upon the things which were said then and the events which have occurred since. I say to the hon. and gallant Member, as I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for East Perthshire (Sir A. Gomme-Duncan) if he were here. that I intervened on behalf of my right hon. Friend, and in her absence, not because I am particularly concerned about what she said—she can stand up for herself in that respect—but because the smearing of democratic representatives is the easiest way to destroy democracy. It was done in Germany. I ask the hon. and gallant Member to realise and reflect that as he really had no evidence he ought not to have made the smear.
§ Lieut.-Commander Maydon
There was no intention on my part to smear. What happened—and I must repeat it at the risk of being tedious—was that the right hon. Gentleman himself challenged my hon. and gallant Friend, and I merely came to his aid in producing some of the evidence that was asked for. The right hon. Gentleman contends that it is not evidence. That is his opinion, and he is entitled to it, but other people consider that it is adequate evidence.
§ Mr. Brown
There is no point in my arguing. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does rise to the level upon which I chose to place him, that is his business and not mine. He has produced no evidence; has quoted no statement or newspaper; has produced nothing that my 372 right hon. Friend can deny—nothing that a newspaper or anyone else can be asked to prove. He has merely alleged that if we looked at a pile of unnamed newspapers of a certain date we might find something. If he does not realise that that is not evidence,. I am sorry. I am sure that in the darkness of this night he will know that to be so.
We have had an interesting but curious debate—a debate which began with a speech by the Secretary of State in which he chose to deal, not unwisely, with the figures that were in the Supplementary Estimate rather than with what the Estimate represented in the way of a policy and its execution. The fact that the figures in the Estimate with which he chose to deal turned out to be wholly inaccurate was clearly not his fault, but it interfered somewhat with the efficient and happy discharge of his task which, before this, we had come to expect of him.
Subsequent to that, we have had a debate in which, among hon. Members opposite. there has clearly been something akin to the industrial troubles we have heard of at Briggs. There has been a stay-out on the part of the bulk of the Members of the Conservative Party. who normally represent themselves as the party which is more interested than most in defence. This stay-out has been led—as my hon. Friend who so often foresees what I am attempting to say reminds me—by the shop stewards. For half the time even the Whips have not been here. The Conservative Party has been represented practically throughout the debate by six, seven or eight Members, with each successive speaker coming in to make his little speech and to depart, making sure that the Division did not come at a time inconvenient to the party opposite, in the light of what it has put on its weekly notice.
I refer to that fact because, if it were possible for my words to be heard outside, I think that the public should know that, having engaged in what turned out to be the dreadful tragedy and fiasco of Suez—leaving out the question whether or not the operation was justified—and having involved us in the expenditure of a vast sum of money, material, men and resources, the total of which we do not yet know, when the time came to inquire how it happened to be so costly and to be such a fiasco no more than seven or 373 eight Members opposite at a time were prepared to sit in the Chamber, let alone take part in the inquiry. For my part, I cannot expect to do more for the moment than to repeat, to repoint, the arguments deployed in what, I think, everybody who heard it would agree was an unusually and quite exceptionally high-level speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). It was a very thoughtful speech which I hope will be answered in detail by the Under-Secretary who is, as it were, to face his maiden over from the other side tonight.
I must say that, having seen the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence last night make a ten-minute speech after midnight, when he had nothing more to do than repeat what had been said by other Ministers before, I am surprised that he did not take on the task of defending the policy of the Government in which he has chosen to accept the office of Minister of Defence rather than turn it over to an Under-Secretary.
Out of the Minister's speech there came just three questions to which I will return at intervals during mine. I hope also that the Under-Secretary will return to them. The first of the questions is the military cost of the Suez adventure. The Estimate we are asked to vote tonight is £29.8 million on account of Suez. Clearly, that is not the cost: that is not the military cost of Suez. The Minister told us that there were other savings which would have been made but for Suez. If one spends money that would otherwise have been saved, equally that is expenditure because one is spending the money. The figure is considerably more than £29.8 million even though, because of this accounting arrangement, we have to vote only £29.8 million tonight.
I ask the Under-Secretary to tell us what is in fact the military cost of Suez. The present Prime Minister tried his hand some time ago at £50 million. Is £50 million the amount, of which £20.2 million is being found from savings, virement and in other ways, or what is the figure? We really ought to know so that the public does not believe that it is only the £29.8 million which we are voting tonight.
One thing which came out of the Minister's speech is that the £100 million worth 374 of savings earlier this year, for which the Government and the present Prime Minister took so much credit, really were, as we suggested, quite phoney. What the Secretary of State proved was that, Suez apart, the War Office was ignoring the Chancellor of the Exchequer as he then was—the Prime Minister as he is now—and was in fact spending more money and collecting more trucks, lorries and vehicles of all kinds than, said the Secretary of State, we expected or knew. There was no credit squeeze there, no cut at all in expenditure. The War Office was behaving in its own particular way.
This Estimate is part of the cost of Suez. Clearly, it is not the whole cost, even if the figure were right. There are other costs, as have been said. There are. of course, the losses of the 24,000 men who were called up for five months. As some are still there, they will have been called up for six months or more. They have had their own personal losses. no matter what was done to help them.
There is the economic disorganisation. The Secretary of State talked about the large number of ships. A very large number of ships were chartered. I have been told of 20 ships chartered that were loaded with stores at the end of July or the beginning of August and then left in Barry Roads for three months at a cost of £50,000 a week and, as far as I can say, they never got out of it at all. That is just one instance; there may be many more like that.
Also, of course, there is the effect on our exports. The present Chancellor confirmed that when he was President of the Board of Trade. This is all part of the bill for Suez. It is a much bigger bill than the one we are dealing with tonight. There is the effect on production in our factories, on short-time and on the unemployment, which many of us know to exist today. All this is part of the bill for Suez.
I state this merely in order that Government supporters should not ease their consciences by thinking that if they stay away from the debate and then vote £29 million they are voting the entire cost of Suez. That is not so. Nor is the economic and financial position alone the whole of the bill. There are, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West said, the international political 375 consequences which are part of the international political bill that we have to pay.
Many people got very angry when Mr. Dulles made his infelicitous, inept and rather unhappy remark about Tommy Atkins and the French poilu flanking an American doughboy in the Middle East, and they did not like it. The real point, whether we like it or not, is that people are thinking like that and that some of them are clumsy enough to say it. These things are being thought, and it is no use blocking our ears to them. They are also part of the real bill for Suez.
Perhaps Government supporters would care to read what Mr. Hansen Baldwin said. I will not trouble the Committee by quoting it, but it appeared in the New York Times, on the subject of the American attitude to the disasters, as he calls them, in Suez on 10th December, 1956. Here is a man who is by no means anti-British and who is not seeking to be unfriendly to us but is trying to set out what he calls "the famous case-study" in which, in the course of 6i days' actual hostilities, all the rules of the book were broken. Hon. Members will then get some idea of the price that we have to pay on that side of the bill for Suez in loss of influence and reputation elsewhere in the world.
It is no use our snarling about this or refusing to recognise it. People and Governments overseas regard the whole operation and the policy behind it as a political disaster and the conduct of it as a military disaster. I shall have more to say about that in a moment.
It is not only people overseas who have rubbed it in about our loss of political prestige. The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) is to commend the Estimate to the Committee tonight and ask the Committee to pay for the Suez operation. His Prime Minister and his Minister have said that we were right to do it. What does the hon. Gentleman say? I am all for becoming a junior Minister, and I do not think that being a junior Minister is at all comparable with being the general manager of a firm. Like the hon. Gentleman, I would be glad to become one; but there ought to be a limit.
376 The hon. Gentleman is going to wind up after his Minister has said we were right. The hon. Gentleman might perhaps like to refresh his memory over his own words which, for greater accuracy, as they say, I will read to him. He was speaking in Paris. We get awful lectures read to us if any of us go abroad and criticise our country. The hon. Gentleman went to Paris and, so the Daily Telegraph of 26th November told us, was loudly cheered by one hundred Frenchmen who had the misfortune to listen to him. The report said:Britain, he said, must refuse to obey United Nations instructions to leave Egypt.A spectre of defeat and humiliation hung over Britain and France as a result of the 'disastrous decision to cease fire in Egypt'.Tonight he is to ask the Committee to endorse the decision that created defeat and humiliation. Does the hon. Gentleman now stand for the point of view of the hon. Member for Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle)? Has the hon. Member for Handsworth taken over the point of view for which the Under-Secretary of State for War stood on 26th November?
Nor was that all. The hon. Gentleman had a good day on 26th November. He went on to talk about America and said:I am speaking of an allied threat, the threat of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and the threat of American economic sanctions.Does the hon. Gentleman still think that? Is the hon. Gentleman tonight asking us to vote £30 million and to endorse a policy which brought down upon us the threat of action by the United States Sixth Fleet and sanctions by the United States Government? There is a lot more I could read. Not content with saying that, he went on to say that we must refuse to obey the United Nations order and added:Some say we have a choice between capitulation and dishonour, but if we choose dishonour we shall get capitulation as well.This Government show what the Under-Secretary calls dishonour and, in choosing what he calls dishonour, they show what he calls capitulation.
That has been read all over the world. It has been read by the Under-Secretary who now serves in the Government. He was selected by his father-in-law, the Prime Minister, after he made that speech. Anybody in the world is entitled 377 to draw the conclusion from that that he was selected with the full knowledge in the mind of the Prime Minister that that was his view about what we had done. Is that so? Has he capitulated? I will not use the word dishonour, but has he capitulated? Does he no longer believe it? If he does believe it, we have the Minister of Defence with us. He can, of course, always intervene. May I ask if that is the view of the Minister for Defence and of the Government?
If the hon. Gentleman is asking us to vote £30 million and to endorse the operation without having capitulated, then his criticism, his denunciation of the Government, rests and the Government in his view show dishonour. They cannot wish this off on to Sir Anthony Eden. One of the slightly unpleasant things about this matter is the way that everyone who was here with him when he was Prime Minister in this operation is hoping that, with his unhappy departure from our scene, somehow people will think that he takes all the dishonour and the unpleasantness with him. It is not true and cannot be done. If the hon. Gentleman believes now what he said on 26th November, let him be man enough to get up and say, "I still believe it." Then we shall have to have a word with the Prime Minister about where we go from there.
There is the new President of the Board of Trade. I see him variously described in the newspapers. He is always "Sir something," but the particular description changes. He laid down the conditions under which we ought to obey the decision of the United Nations. None of those conditions did, in fact, come to pass. but he gaily goes on accepting office in a Government which is asking all of us to pay the bill for an adventure which ended in capitulation as they think it—in dishonour as they think it—and without any of the conditions they were so busy laying down at the time.
Tonight. we examine in particular the military bill and what we got for it. Let me repeat: this is on top of the £7,500 million which seven Conservative Ministers of Defence between them have managed to spend in five years—the present Prime Minister, the present Foreign Secretary, Sir Walter Monckton, Field Marshal Alexander, the right hon. 378 Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who is not here, among them. Seven of them in five years have spent £7,500 million. As the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) said in a speech which appealed to me enormously, when we went to mount a limited war operation of this kind we had to find £50 million on top of that and to go to enormous trouble to provide 20,000,30,000 or 40,000 men for the operation. The Minister did not know the exact figure. It is a pretty disgraceful commentary on the five years of stewardship which we have had.
The present Minister of Defence is being built up now; his friends in the newspapers are very busy. I wish him luck, because whatever he does in the time ahead of him will be useful to us if he goes about it in the right way. I wish him luck, but I am bound to say that, whatever he does, and however good he is, he will only be trying desperately in a few months to make up for five years of inglorious stewardship by those who had the job before him.
Let me ask three more detailed questions on points which I do not understand. I do not expect the answers tonight; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will write to me or answer Questions on the subject. I am still not clear how the cost for the Navy and the Air Force is covered in these Estimates. We are not to have any Navy or Air Force Estimates for Suez. There is a curious reduction in appropriation-in-aid, and I did not understand the Secretary of State's explanation of it. Indeed, I have a feeling that somewhere hidden here must be some of the cost of mounting the naval and air part of what the Secretary of State said was a combined operation. I should like to know more about that.
Nor do I understand the business about the warlike stores. There is a note in the Explanatory Memorandum on page 2 which says that we are voting £10 million for an increase in warlike stores outside the Suez emergency. That would leave £7 million of the Estimate to be attributed to the Suez emergency. But the Secretary of State said they shot off only £1.7 million of warlike stores in the Suez emergency. I am not clear what they did with the other £5.3 million. Did they hide it, bury it or drop it in the sea? It must 379 be somewhere. As we are not voting a sum for that outside Suez, presumably it is in the Suez operation.
I do not want to bother the right hon. Gentleman to tell me about that tonight because I think—and certainly I hope—he has bigger fish to fry. I certainly do not want him to answer that question and to leave the others unanswered, but I am giving him notice that I should like to be told about these matters at some point.
As my right hon. Friend so rightly said, the main issue before us is not the details of the figures, important as they are. The main issue before us is what we have got for the expenditure of resources and manpower which we undertook. I should like the Committee to be clear about what was involved. This is the bill for less than one week's bombing and two days' fighting. Do not let us assume that this is the bill for a long, active operation; we were two days fighting and previously we had been one week bombing.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. and gallant Gentleman answers the point like a flash; the men have been mobilised for five months.
At the end of it, we failed to get, for whatever reasons we may like to attribute to it, any specific military objective that we set out to get. and I commend to the Ministers, who were not here at the time, the very realistic and, I thought, illuminating speech of the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke), in which he said "Thank God, we did not get our objectives." The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, "If only we had got our objectives, by golly, what a mess we would be in now. If we had gone all the way to Suez, we would have had to go to Alexandria or occupy Cairo, and then, presumably, we would have committed four divisions."
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows what he is saying, and he has said, "I think it was very silly to incorporate these objectives. As it happened, it was better that we were stopped short of Ismailia and Suez." I commend that to the Ministers. That was not what they were after. They were not after being stopped 380 two days down the Canal short of Ismailia. They were, in fact, for Ismailia and Suez, and they did not get them, so that it was a failure.
We blocked the Canal, we lost the oil, and we did, in fact, end up—and in saying this I get no pleasure, because there is such a tremendous desire on the Government side to believe that if one criticises an operation, one is either enjoying it or glad to do it. I have never seen such a proprietorial interest in patriotism as instinctively exists over there. I quote this because I think that, if we do not realise it, accept it and drink the bitterness of it, we will not work out the reasons for it, and we may want to mount a good offensive in a good cause at some other time.
This ended in utter and complete failure. I am against the whole concept. I think it was morally wrong and insupportable, and that it ought never to have been mounted, and so I did not want it to succeed in that sense, but neither did I want us to exhibit failure to the world. I did not rejoice because I was against that particular objective, that expedition. that adventure. I do not want the world to see, or to draw the conclusion, that we cannot any longer mount, even in a good cause, an expedition of this kind.
I resent the conclusions that are drawn from this. I resent the thought in the world, to which Hanson Baldwin and others are giving vent, that we can no longer do it, not because I never perhaps want to see us go it alone, although I do not rule that out, in some of these operations, but because I want other people to regard us as competent to play our part and take up our end of the treaty obligations that we have. This failure, unless clearly we have accepted it and got down to putting it right, will cause many people to doubt very much our ability ever to play our part. I do not believe that impotence allied to evil desire makes a lesser crime. The evil desire may be wrong, but if one is impotent to carry it out, that is a double crime. One might be attacked on both grounds at once, or one at a time, and I commend that to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
There are, I think, both abroad—and I have talked about that—and at home—and my right hon. Friend referred to it—very grave dangers in these conclusions being drawn from the mounting of this 381 operation. There are grave dangers at home, because it is equally dangerous, as my right hon. Friend said so well, for people at home to draw the conclusion from Suez that we can no longer play a relevant or an effective part in the business of defending the West, as it is dangerous for people abroad to draw the same conclusion.
Next, we get at home a move away from the requirements of defence, and all this nonsense in the Sunday Press and in the weekday Press seeking to build up the right hon. Gentleman as the miracle worker in Washington. He knows that it is nonsense. It may be he is hoping that I will prove to have put my neck out too far. I will risk that. He knows that what was in the papers at the weekend and since about the cuts he will make in defence is nonsense. He knows that the time is nonsense, and so are the sums.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys) rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
All I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman is that I have myself, not once but twice—when I left for Washington and on my return—made a statement to the effect that I must warn people that these astronomical figures of cuts were really outside the realms of reality. I said that they belonged better to the geophysical year.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Member had better be careful. The right hon. Gentleman can make a comment at London Airport in a short interview, which then passes; but he has been back two days, made one speech here, answered one Question here, and has taken no steps to put it on the record here. I wanted the right hon. Gentleman to join me tonight on the record in this House. That 382 is one point which will not be available for the defence debate next week. The hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Partridge) should understand that there is rather more to this game than sometimes appears on the surface.
Let me now go on to discuss in the few minutes remaining to me some of the aspects of the operation. Let me start by making this clear. There is no disposition, as my right hon. Friend said. in any way to suggest other than that our troops, our naval personnel and our airmen did a first-class job, as we always know that they do. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said, we did not need Suez to tell us how good were our chaps in the field.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ian Harvey)
What about Warrington?
§ Mr. Brown
Had the hon. Gentleman been in earlier he would have known that the question of what my right hon. Friend did or did not say has already been extensively canvassed and answered. That is the tragedy—that when hon. Members stay outside the Chamber they do not know what goes on in debate, nor do they know that neither of the hon. Members who made the attack this afternoon had any evidence to support the attack. If the new Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who is now calling out "What about Warrington?" has any evidence that his hon. Friends did not possess, I will give way for him to produce it. It appears that he has none, either. If he has no evidence, he should keep quiet.
I repeat, we do not in any way do other than praise the competence, the courage, the humanity and the chivalry of our troops over there—[Interruption.] Our troops are our friends, our relatives. This kind of smear is so easy to utter. I hope that what I have said will be accepted as honest, coming from me. [Interruption.] How often is it that it is the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who are not gallant. The officer and the gentleman, when I say I am honest, sneers and laughs. I say I have as much right to be taken as honest as he has.
§ Mr. Brown
Sir Charles, I shall not ask for your protection when the hon. and gallant Gentleman calls out that I have no right to be called honest; but I do ask the Committee to note that that is some indication of the way the hon. and gallant Gentleman approaches his political opponents.
Our troops did magnificently, of course, but let us not hide behind Tommy Atkins and pretend that we did not have casualties. Of course we did. Eyewitness after eye-witness has spoken to this, and they have been well-disposed eye-witnesses. I have here the account given in The Times of 22nd November, but I will not read it, for the sake of time. There was a crushing blunder, and many people thought it could hardly be true, and were disturbed and unhappy because we persisted in it. All we are doing at this stage is to ask the Committee to realise that a crushing blunder of that kind does immeasureable harm to our good name and destroys a belief in us which we can ill afford to lose.
As for the commanders and planners, I do not myself feel that I can go as far in commending them as I have done with regard to the troops. They must expect to be judged by results, and the results of the operation raise many questions. There was the time taken to raise the force for the operation. There was, as my right hon. Friend put it—I hope this will be dealt with by the hon. Gentleman in a few minutes—on the one hand the mis-appreciation or over-appreciation of the military strength we had to meet, and, on the other hand, the under-appreciation of the political strength and political reactions.
In paragraph 7 of his Report. Sir Edwin Herbert says:By the 3rd November it had become evident that the preliminary operations referred to above"—that is to say, the bombing—were not having the desired effect upon the Egyptian Government and in consequence the landing at Port Said was proceeded with.That is the nearest anybody has come to saying that we really went in and bombed in order to bring about the downfall of Nasser and only put the sea-borne landing in when that did not come about. That is the only meaning which one can attach to those words. No hon. Member opposite has admitted that.
384 It is that miscalculation, I think, that in large measure sent the whole thing as wrong as it did go. One cannot avoid the impression that the politicians—[Interruption.] The ex-Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. J. Stuart), is making from the third bench above the Gangway the speech he never made when Secretary of State. One has a feeling that what really went wrong was that the politicians interfered far too often and at far too many stages in the conduct of this operation. I mean here the political masters; I mean the people the present Prime Minister once called the "extinct volcanoes." They changed the objectives many times, and they changed the whole method of the campaign several times. The air drop was advanced. There is good reason to think that the marine support was held back, and the whole business of the campaign, instead of being left to those who were doing their best to carry it out, was severely interfered with by the Government for political reasons.
The real deficiencies are to be laid at the Government's door. They did not in the past year carry out the policy which they laid down in the White Paper on Defence at the beginning of last year. They did not make our strategic reserve fully mobile and fully equipped to carry out this operation, as they promised in paragraph 7 they would. They did not reinforce the Middle East except in Cyprus and Libya, where they turned the men into policemen and made them of no use for the operation for which they were supposed to be there. They did arrange that the Parachute Brigade should be short of training, short of equipment, short of parachutes and should have to come back here before it could go into action in the operation. They did not provide the Beverley freighters that they said they were going to provide nearly a year ago. They did move the men of the Armoured Division by air to the Middle East and then left them sitting in Malta and Cyprus for a fortnight while their equipment caught them up by sea.
§ Mr. Brown
They had ample time to get the Centurion tanks there. This thing began in August and the operation was not mounted till October. They had ample time for that. They did, in fact, fall down on all the things that they said a year ago they would do. They interfered with the operation at every stage. The operation itself was ill-conceived. It was for a morally insupportable cause, was badly mounted, badly carried out, was a fiasco and a failure, and it is that which the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] Hon. Members opposite by their interruptions will only reduce the time at the disposal of the Under-Secretary of State for War. It is that for which the Under-Secretary, in the absence of his right hon. Friend, must eat dirt tonight.
The Chairman (Sir Charles MacAndrevv)
Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to move a reduction in the Vote?
§ The Chairman
So long as the hon. Gentleman gives time for the reduction to be moved, two or three minutes before eleven o'clock.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for War (Mr. Julian Amery)
I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I group my replies w the points which have been raised in the debate under three main heads.
I propose to deal, first, with the human side, with the problems that have arisen in connection with the recall of the reservists. I will try next to deal with the different points which have been made about movements and supplies, requisitioning of ships and the use of air transport. Finally, I shall try to answer some of the points which have been made about the planning and fulfilment of Operation "Musketeer".
For this part of my remarks I must ask for the especial indulgence of the 386 Committee. The responsibility for the planning and direction of operations lies with the Ministry of Defence, while the fulfilment of those operations depends on the Admiralty and the Air Ministry just as much as on the War Office. While, therefore, I shall try to give the Committee as much information as I can about the course of Operation "Musketeer", I cannot speak with the same Departmental competence about that as perhaps I can on those subjects which fall more exclusively within the competence of the Army Council.
I think the Committee will also appreciate that I shall not be able to reply to the more political points. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We are, after all, debating an Army Estimate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) had some fun at my expense with the speech which I made in Paris the other day. I will reply to him in words which were used before and which, I think, will serve the purpose well enough—What I have said I have said. I withdraw nothing. I qualify nothing. But neither shall I repeat anything tonight.This is, in a sense, a slightly ironic situation in which I find myself. Looking back through copies of HANSARD, I find that on, I think, 13th November, speaking from his place below the Gangway, my hon. Friend the Member for Preston. North (Mr. J. Amery) raised a number of questions about the operation. I did not think that I would be answering him quite so soon.Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his waythe psalmist said. At any rate, I am beginning to understand the remark which one of the doormen made to me on entering the War Office the other day. He turned to me and he said, "Sir, this place has been the grave of many reputations."
The right hon. Member for Belper and, I think, the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), at an earlier stage of the debate, asked what was the total number of men used in the operation. Of British forces, 77,000 is about the nearest figure that I can get. This is not merely soldiers who were serving in Port Said, but goes back to the administrative build-up in the United Kingdom. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Army alone?"] 387 The Army alone, is my understanding of the figure, although I am subject to correction on that point. The right hon. Member for Belper asked what was the total cost of the operation. He will forgive me if my arithmetic is not strong enough to do the sum myself. I have made inquiries and I have not got the answer yet.
The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) asked a question about National Service grants. We have found that the system of National Service grants, which works well enough for National Service men, is too slow where reservists are concerned in an emergency. We are, therefore, taking steps to shorten the delay between the application for the grant and its payment. What will happen now is that any recalled reservist of the rank of corporal or below, and who is a married man, can apply for a National Service grant, and from the moment of his application he receives an advance of two guineas a week for four weeks.
This can be used instead of a National Service grant while the investigation is proceeding. In either case, whether investigation shows that he is entitled to a National Service grant or not, the advance on the marriage allowance has to be paid back at the rate of 10s. 6d. a week, I think, over 16 weeks, if I have done the arithmetic right.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Does this apply only to married men? Does not the need for a National Service grant sometimes arise in the case of the widowed mother of an unmarried man?
§ Mr. Amery
I will look into the point.
The hon. Member for Islington, North also asked why we had done nothing to explain to the reservists who had been recalled, and to other troops, the emergency and the need for their being recalled. We did have a number of lectures and a pamphlet was issued which set out the case reasonably clearly. Nevertheless—I will not go into it because it has been a matter of controversy and. as I said earlier, I do not want to touch on the policy aspect—certain questions remain. Did our system of reserves justify itself in this emergency? Did their call-up work smoothly, or, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and, I think, the hon. Member for 388 Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) also, suggested, was it too slow?
The recall of reservists began in the first week of August and the great majority of those recalled were absorbed into their posts within three weeks. Three weeks is, of course, a long time in an emergency, I agree. The Committee must remember, however, that no preparation, no plan for intervention in Egypt, existed when Nasser took the Canal in July. A new order of battle had therefore to be drawn up, and in some cases even new units had to be formed. Inevitably, this took some days.
In fact, the speed with which reservists can be absorbed in an emergency depends mainly on whether an order of battle exists, consisting of units in which each reservist has his pre-ordained and assigned place. We estimate that had such an order of battle existed, reservists could have been absorbed in seven or ten days instead of three weeks, that is. about four days for the call-up to take place and four days for medical examination and so on.
It must be remembered, in any case, that the recall and absorption of the reservists was only one of the preparations which had to be improvised to meet a wholly new situation. Many other factors had to go forward at the same time. Ships had to be prepared, aircraft chartered and landing craft reconditioned. The reconditioning of landing craft and the preparation of ships took up longer than the absorption of reservists. I do not think that we can say that in this emergency a period of three weeks in any way retarded the mounting of the operation.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) asked why no preparations had been made for military government in Port Said. I do not know whether he has happy memories of Amgot, but we had a civil affairs organisation under the command of General Hinde, who had great experience of the Suez Canal Zone. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West and the hon. Member for Fulham spoke to some extent about the difficulties of assessing casualties and criticised some of the declarations made on the subject from this side of the Committee in the past. The hon. Member for Fulham called our attitude 389 a piece of flippancy and a ghastly mistake.
In the history of military operations, nothing is more striking than the immense difficulty experienced on the morrow of military operations in assessing the civilian casualties or indeed the military casualties. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) was telling me the other day that when the forces with which he served came out of Dunkirk their assessment of casualties suffered was five time as much as the number proved to be. It is very difficult to assess figures of that kind.
One thing is certain. Our troops showed—and it has been recognised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite—the greatest humanity, and, certainly, it was General Keightley's opinion that if tougher tactics had been employed Port Said would have fallen several hours sooner. We can all congratulate ourselves on the figures of losses sustained on our own side—only seven killed, five died of wounds and 63 wounded, which, in an operation of this size, is a great credit to the command.
The right hon. Member for Dundee. West asked about the news that Ismailia had been captured. I understand that this came from a French Press Agency report and that there was no truth in it. The hon. Member for Fulham said that Sir Anthony Eden had misled the House of Commons. The hon. Member gave the impression that he had misled it deliberately in announcing the cease-fire at Port Said. I have looked at the point very carefully. The story is rather dramatic. When our forces were parachuted into Port Said, the first thing they did was to cut the telephone wires. It was thought that they had cut them all. but there had been an oversight. An underwater cable from Port Said to Alexandria was still working. The Governor of Port Said was prepared to capitulate, but instructions came in this roundabout way from Alexandria and made him change his mind. That is the explanation of the story.
I have also been asked whether it is accurate that several ships had not finished loading by the end of August. Nearly all our ships had finished loading by then, but not all. Generally speaking, the operation was mounted by the end of the first week in September, which is a 390 considerable feat when we think that it was mounted for an operation which was to take place 3,000 miles from the United Kingdom. I am glad to be able to say that there is no truth in the rumour which the right hon. Member for Dundee, West heard, that the 6th Tanks, substituted for the 1st Tanks, were untrained; I am informed that they were as well trained as the troops for which they were substituted.
I was asked by the hon. Member for Islington, North whether American weapons had been used in the operation. I am informed that no American weapons were used, other than those which we had paid for in dollars. Some equipment which had been obtained under mutual defence aid was used, but no weapons.
The right hon. Member for Dundee. West suggested that the War Office had used Pickford's vans to move the tanks. I am not sure that he was very far wrong about that. I am not very good at distinctions, but we regularly use Pickford's transporters, which give excellent service. This form of transport has been used for a long time in the United Kingdom. We have a certain number of tank transporters. but we have found that Pickford's give extremely good service. If this debate were taking place on commercial television I have no doubt that they would be very pleased.
The question remains whether the movement of personnel and stores upon so great a scale was really necessary. Did we over-insure? I think it was Napoleon who said that in war moral considerations make up three-quarters of the game. Certainly, I would have thought that there was little reason to believe that the Egyptian Army would fight very hard for the Nasser régime. All the same, military planning must be based upon material factors, and the equipment of the Egyptian Army was substantial even if its morale was not very steady.
Egypt's regular forces numbered four divisions, and we knew that they had 100 heavy and 300 medium tanks, and a good deal of modern equipment, such as self-propelled guns and even rocket launchers. They were also well supplied with fighter and bomber aircraft of modern types. It was always doubtful whether the Egyptians would know how to handle this large quantity of modern equipment, but there was good reason to believe that 391 the Soviets were planning to provide the Egyptian Army and Air Force with technicians and volunteer pilots. Some of the technicians had already arrived in the Canal Zone and in Cairo, and others were expected at quite an early date.
In preparing for an intervention which might or might not take place over a long period of months, with the large number of Egyptian arms and modern equipment involved, we could not be sure that that equipment would not be used against us by trained men. It is important, too, to remember that when our preparations were made no allowance was made for the possibility that Israel might engage a part of the Egyptian forces. It was always assumed that if we had to meet them we should meet the whole of the Egyptian Army.
It may well be that the morale of the Egyptian Army would have disintegrated altogether had we pushed on beyond Port Said. At the same time, the Committee should remember that the bulk of the Egyptian armour—their tanks—was never engaged. Had their morale held the main engagement would have still been ahead of us, had we gone on. In the circumstances, I do not think that it can be seriously maintained that we over-insured. To have moved fewer forces when there was always the possibility that the Egyptians would be stiffened by Soviet technicians might have been to run into a very difficult and dangerous position.
There is one other aspect of the matter upon which I should like to comment briefly. There was always a danger that an Anglo-French intervention in Egypt would have serious repercussions in other Arab countries, leading to the sabotage of British interests.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Member says that his party told us that. I was about to tell him that—as the Committee knows—that happened in Syria. We were concerned that nothing of the kind should happen in the oil-bearing region of the Persian Gulf. The Estimate for movements includes the cost of bringing our forces in the Persian Gulf up to three battalions and those at Aden up to two. No serious incident occurred in either of those regions at the time, and there is no doubt that the presence of British 392 troops contributed to the maintenance of stability in both.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper asked the date of the decision when the War Office accepted partial liability for the Trucial Oman Scouts. The answer is that it was at the end of February. I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) that the Trucial Oman Scouts are now under the headquarters of the British forces in the Arabian Peninsula and, therefore, are liable for some service outside their immediate territory.
I come now to the operation itself, on which a certain amount of comment has been made. The first major criticism has been that we were not prepared to act at once, at the drop of the hat, within a few days of Nasser's action in seizing the Canal. Quite frankly, there is no complete answer to this criticism. Our whole strategic preoccupation in the Middle East up to July had been how to protect the region against possible attack from the north.
The so-called redeployment of our forces from the Canal Zone three years ago to Cyprus, Libya and Jordan was primarily aimed at providing the Bagdad Pact Powers with essential air support. As far as our local obligations were concerned, we had made plans to defend Jordan under the Anglo-Jordan Treaty and had sought American co-operation for the enforcement of the Tripartite Guarantee. No preparations, however, had been made for operations against Egypt. These could, therefore, not be improvised overnight.
It might be said that the Government should have recognised the Egyptian danger and revised their plans accordingly, but I do not think that it lies in the mouths of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to make this particular criticism. I followed the Egyptian question closely, and I am well aware what line they have adopted throughout.
As for those of my hon. and right hon. Friends—I almost said "those of us"—who warned against the Egyptian danger in the past, I think that their main contention was frankly recognised by Sir Anthony Eden, in his speech on 1st November, when he said that" the policy of conciliation "of Egypt" was taken to dangerous limits." 393 The question has been asked why the operation was mounted from Malta. The prospect of a clash with Egypt had raised important strategic considerations. The Jordan Government were, clearly, unlikely to co-operate with us against their Egyptian allies. The Libyan Government were bound to be sensitive to the thought of taking sides against another Arab Power. Any operation, therefore, would have to be based on Cyprus arid Malta.
It is important to remember that Cyprus had always been considered as a headquarters and an air base, and not as a base for sea-borne operations. At any rate, there had been no great pressure from our side for the construction of the deep-water harbour at Famagusta. The Committee must remember that the harbour facilities in Malta are excellent while those in Cyprus are quite inadequate for an assault convoy of the size we are discussing, more particularly for embarking armour and L.V.Ts.
Moreover, General Keightley could not tell when his intervention would be necessary. The initiative was not in his hands. He had already waited through September and October. Winter was coming on. The weather might have broken at any time.
§ Mr. Amery
He was there in case the crisis, which had been foreseen developing from July, should come to a head, Of course, if the initiative had lain with us, if we had been taking the initiative, or if there had been collusion with Israel, the assault convoy could easily have sailed from Malta to Cyprus and waited there before going in. That is not the course which matters took. Operation "Musketeer" was launched as a reaction to totally unforeseen circumstances. It is, therefore, very difficult to maintain that it would have been possible, let alone wise, to mount the assault from the inadequate roads of Cyprus.
The period of occupation of Port Said was extremely trying for the staff and
§ the troops concerned. They had to be prepared not only to maintain themselves there, but also to prepare for either advance or withdrawal according to the way events occurred. There were frequent breaches of the cease-fire on the part of the Egyptians, involving the fatal ambush of one British officer and the abduction and murder of another. I think that the whole Committee will agree that all ranks of the Army in Port Said deserve the highest praise for the restraint with which they discharged their duties, for the smooth transfer of responsibility to the United Nations Police Force and for the efficiency with which they carried out what is always for a soldier the hardest and most disagreeable of manoeuvres—the withdrawal.
§ I should also like to pay a wholehearted tribute to our French comrades-in-arms in Operation "Musketeer" General Keightley and his task force commanders report that British and French staffs were fully integrated and worked together in complete harmony. We have heard nothing but admiration in all three British Services for the efficiency and excellent fighting qualities of our French allies.
§ In presenting this Estimate to the Committee we are fortified by the recollection that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on 2nd August gave his approval to the military preparations which were then announced. Whatever differences may since have developed on the use to which our forces were put, there will, I hope, be agreement that it was wise to make preparations and wise to make them on this scale. It is in that spirit that I commend this Estimate to the Committee.
§ Mr. G. Brown
As a token of our condemnation of this operation, I beg to move, That Item Vote 5, Movements, be reduced by £100.
§ Question put, That Item Vote 5, Movements, be reduced by £100:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 247, Noes 309.399
|Division No. 54.]||AYES||[10.57 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. w.||Baird, J.||Benson, G.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Balfour, A.||Beswick, F.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Blackburn, F.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Bacon, Mix Alloe||Bonn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Blyton, W. R.|
|Boardman, H.||Holmes, Horace||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Houghton, Douglas||Price, J. T, (Westhoughton)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester. S. W.)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Bowie, F. G.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Probert, A. R.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hoy, J. H.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Ellzabeth||Hubbard, T. F.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Randall, H. E.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rankin, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hunter, A. E.||Reeves, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Reid, William|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Carmlohael, J.||Janner, B.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Cattle, Mrs. B. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Ross, William|
|Champion, A. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Royle, C.|
|Chapman, W. D.||jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & st. Pncs, S.)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Short, E. W.|
|Coldrlck, W.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Kenyon, C.||Snow, J. W.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||King, Dr. H. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lawson, G. M.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Daines, P.||Ledger, R. J.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Steele, T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lindgren, G. S.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lipton, Marcus||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. C.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Swingler, S. T.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwoh)||MacColl, J. E.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Dye, S.||MoGhee, H. G.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGovrn, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edeiman, M.||Mcinnes, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MoLeavy, Frank||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thornton, E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Timmons, J.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mahon, Simon||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Malialieu, J. p. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Flenburgh, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mason, Roy||Viant, S. P.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mayhew, C. P.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mellish, R. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Messer, Sir F.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Caitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mitchison, G. R.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Monslow, W.||West D. C.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Gordon Walker. Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mort, D. L.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Moyle, A.||Wigg, George|
|Crenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mulley, F. W.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Grey, C. F.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Grimond, J.||Oram, A. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.||WiHiIams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oswald, T.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Owen, W. J.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hannan, W.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Woodbum, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Healey, Denis||Pargiter, G. A.||Woof, R. E.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Parker, J.||yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Harbison, Miss M.||Parkin, B. T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, John||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Peart, T. F.|
|Holman, P.||Pentland, N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Finlay, Graeme||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fisher, Nigel||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, s.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fort, R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Foster, John||Linstead, Sir H. N.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton;||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Llewellyn, D. T.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Lloyd, Maj. sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Freeth, D. K.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Ashton, H.||Gamer-Evans, E. H.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswiok)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Glover, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Godber, J. S.||McAdden, S. J.|
|Balniel, Lord||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Barber, Anthony||Gough, C. F. H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gower, H. R.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Barter, John||Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackie, J. H. (Gallcway)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Grant, W. (Woodside)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Green, A.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Gurden, Harold||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Bldgood, J. C.||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maddan, Martin|
|Bishop, F. P.|
|Black, C. W.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastte)|
|Body, R. F.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. j. A.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow. E.)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Harvle-Watt, Sir George||Marshall, Douglas|
|Braine, B. R.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mathew, R.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maude, Angus|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hesketh, R. F.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hicks-Beach, Ma). W. W.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L, C,|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Bryan, P.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hope, Lord John||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hornby, R. P.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Campbell, Sir David||Horobin, Sir Ian||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Carr, Robert||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Neave, Airey|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Howard, John (Test)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'oh)|
|Cole, Norman||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nugent, C. R. H.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hulbert, Sir Norman||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hurd, A. R.||Ormsby-Core, Rt. Hon. W. D.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hyde, Montgomery||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Iremonger, T. L.||Osborne, C.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, R. G.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Partridge, E.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Davidson, viscountess||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitman, I. J.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Pott, H. P.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Donaldson, Cmdr, C. E. McA.||Kaberry, D.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Keegan, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. L.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kerr, H. W.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kimball, M.||Ralkes, Sir Victor|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Kirk, P. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Duthie. W. S.||Lagden, G. W.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Ecoles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lambert, Hon. G.||Redmayne, M.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lambton, Viscount||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leavey, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Fell, A.||Leburn, W. G.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Storey, S.||Viokers, Miss J. H.|
|Robson-Brown, W.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Rodger, John (Sevenoaks)||Studholme, Sir Henry||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard||Sumner w. D. M. (Orpington)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. D. C.|
|Russell, R, S.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Sohofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Teellng, W.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Temple, J. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Sharpies, R. C.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Shepherd, William||Thomas, P.J. M. (Conway)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||Thompson, Lt. Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Soames, Capt. C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Spearman, Sir Alexander||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Wills, C. (Bridgwater)|
|Speir, R. M.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Tllney, John (Wavertree)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Stevens, Geoffrey||Turner, H. F. L.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Steward, Sir William (Woolwloh, W.)||Tweedsmulr, Lady||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Vane, W. M. F.||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott|
|Stoddart-Scott Col. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
§ Original Question put and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £39,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957, for expenditure beyond the sum already provided in the grants for Army Services for the year, including a grant in aid to the Council of Voluntary Welfare Work.
§ Resolution to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.