§ 3.0 p.m.
VISCOUNT SWINTON rose to call attention to Defence; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I think we should all agree that it is desirable before we separate for the Summer Recess that we should once again debate defence, both in its international and in its national aspects. In defence, as in foreign affairs, there are two fundamental truths on which all our policy and all our plans should be based. The first truth is that the threat of Communism is universal. There is, in fact, one front, which stretches as wide and as far as the Communist menace—in General Eisenhower's arresting phrase
A globe-encircling relentless campaign.
Allied strategy must cover the whole front. The second truth is that the essential of all policy must be the complete partnership of the British Commonwealth and Empire with the United States over the whole front. Nothing could better illustrate and emphasise both those truths than events in Persia. It is not only, and in the long run it is not chiefly, the importance of Persian oil to the free world. Persian economy depends on the successful oil industry which the Anglo-Iranian Company has created. Without that industry there would be bankruptcy and chaos in Persia; and bankruptcy and chaos would open the door to Communism, and Communism opens the door to Russia. If that were to come to pass, strategically the flank of Turkey would be turned on one side, and the flank of Pakistan on the other; and, not only that, but it would bring Russia athwart the communications of the Indian Ocean, the lifeline and link of East and West. As I see it, that is the most serious significance of the Persian situation.
§ Your Lordships may say that those facts are obvious. Indeed, they have long been obvious but, if that is so, there should long ago have been the clearest and closest understanding with the United States. Unhappily, one gets the feeling that events too often take the Government by surprise. You cannot master events by waiting upon them. Closely connected with what I have said about Persia. and again showing the unity of the whole front, are the bases in Egypt and Cyprus. Strategically, logistically and psychologically, the Middle East is one. So, too. 996 are the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Over the whole of this area we and the United States should have an agreed policy and a concerted strategy. I see from reports in the Press that recent meetings in London have resulted in arrangements for the co-operation of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the defence of the Middle East. If this is so, it is altogether admirable, and we should welcome any statement which the Government can make. But, as I have said, we cannot separate the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Therefore I would ask: what has been settled, if anything has been settled, about the Mediterranean Command? There, it seems to many of us, a much stronger case for unified command exists than in the Atlantic. There. I think, many of us would welcome an American command.
§ The Atlantic Pact and the whole Grand Alliance is a magnificent conception and the surest guarantee of peace. But, if it is to function as it should, this great and complex instrument must have an effective driving force. The more rapidly events move, the more necessary it is to have a machinery in the Alliance which can take decisions authoritatively and rapidly. I know the difficulties in peace, and they are more difficult in an alliance of many nations. But, after all, meeting those difficulties is the test of a democratic alliance. Committees of Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers, Production Ministers and the like, while valuable for giving effect to policy, are not satisfactory as policy-making bodies. Our alliance with the United States in the war worked as well as it did because the President and the British Prime Minister gripped the whole situation, agreed the great decisions and gave the necessary directives to the Combined Chiefs of Staff and the other combined organisations.
§ Of course, it is much more difficult in a Grand Alliance of many nations, and more difficult in peace than in war. But we are up against a single directing control, and we must counter that by direction equally effective. We shall do that only if in every country of the Alliance the Prime Ministers, who are the heads of Governments, grip and take control. Unless that supreme control is there, Ministerial Committees, Councils of Deputies, Production Councils and Combined Chiefs of Staff will not get the overall policy direction which they must have 997 to do their jobs. With all this organisation, perhaps indeed because the organisation is so complicated, progress in building up the forces of the Alliance is unduly slow. The appointment of General Eisenhower and his presence are a great stimulus and encouragement. But it is clear from his speech in London, that very remarkable speech, that, while paying a full tribute to what has been accomplished, much remains to be done, and done more quickly. It is almost impossible for the outsider to appraise what progress we and our Allies have, in fact, made. But Parliaments have a great responsibility and they should be told as much as possible.
§ A year ago the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who is to reply to-day, said that the plan then in existence covered all the land, sea and air operations for the defence of the North Atlantic Area, and that the requirements of all three Services had been embodied in that plan. He went on to say that an estimate of those forces had been made, and it only remained to determine what contribution each member nation should make towards the balanced forces which are required to ensure conformity with the agreed plan. I appreciate that that excluded Germany, about which I shall have something to say later. Leaving aside Germany, am I right in assuming that, after that statement, which was made thirteen months ago, the countries of the Atlantic Pact did, in fact, agree on the aggregate forces, Navy, Army and Air, that should be provided, and did agree what contribution each country was to make to supply that aggregate? The Government have stated the number of divisions, Regular and Territorial, which this country is to provide. The Government have so far declined to tell us the corresponding strength of the Royal Air Force, but we have the Minister's assurance that it is our aim to conform to the Plan, provided that other countries do likewise. May we therefore take it that we in this country have agreed the quota. Army and Air, which this country is to make towards the aggregate? Does that position hold good with all the Allies? I do not ask for precise details, but can we be told broadly what progress each country has made to convert its agreed quota into a reality?
§ As I understand it, the European quota was fixed without including Germany. 998 But Germany must come in. Even if the United States, Great Britain and France had not made their declaration that they would regard an attack on Western Germany as an attack upon themselves, it was obvious that, to be effective, the defence of Free Europe must include Western Germany. It is equally obvious and right that, if Germany is to be included, she must play her part. The problems surrounding the collaboration of Germany—men, method, numbers, indeed the readiness of Germany to co-operate—all involve important questions of principle which must be settled, and I would say settled quickly, at the highest level. But surely there are certain principles, the acceptance of which is forced upon us all by the facts of the situation. Perhaps it will help us to clear our minds, and to give our support to what I believe is essential, if I try to put shortly those impelling facts as I see them.
§ First of all, Germany cannot be defended unless Germany herself makes a substantial contribution in men and materials. As I understand it, the German attitude is that if Germany is to undertake these responsibilities she must be satisfied that the other countries of the Alliance will play their part. But here, assuming, as I do from what was said to us a year ago, that the other countries have agreed to find their share of the aggregate already laid down, and are now implementing their commitments, this should give Germany the necessary assurance to find her quota. Then there is the French position. The French have expressed their anxiety that Germany should not rearm until their own increased programme in men and munitions, and the programmes of their Allies, are under way. Surely that anxiety has in fact been met by the delay which has taken place. Even if Germany is willing to co-operate on an agreed scale, her preparations must inevitably be echeloned in point of time behind the preparations of the Allies.
§ There has been much discussion as to what form the German contribution should take—of the size and character of formations, the ancillary services, the Staff organisation required and permitted. But surely here there are two overriding principles. First the fighting force which each country provides must be an effective fighting force. What Europe needs is a practical fighting force, and not a 999 formula. Secondly, the Allied Forces in Europe must be integrated in the system which the Supreme Commander and his Combined Staff consider necessary.
§ We all have the most complete confidence in General Eisenhower, and I have no doubt that that confidence will be fully shared by Germany. He has the supreme responsibility. Should we not accept his judgment? Moreover, as has been said before in this House, by others as well as myself—and it cannot be said too often, because it is the heart of the matter—this Grand Alliance differs fundamentally from any Alliance of the past. It is integrated from the start under a Supreme Commander, with inter-Allied Commands and Staffs. It is integrated from the start; it grows, will be trained and will operate as an organism. It is in fact a European Army. This integration not only covers the plan, the formation and the operation of the whole of the forces, it carries with it the integrated co-ordination of production as well. Here again, we see the necessity for settling the general principles at the highest level, and settling them rapidly, so that those responsible for their application may be able to get ahead.
§ My Lords, let me take one other example of the need for rapid action. What is the position with regard to air fields in Europe? This is a much simpler problem than the creation of armies, air forces, and equipment. With modern machinery, air fields can be built very quickly, and it is vital that the necessary air fields, sited in the right places, should be built now. The great virtue of an air force is its mobility, and in any future war mobility will be more important than ever before. But an air force cannot be mobile without its landing grounds. The time factor is very important. It will take time to build up the necessary air forces, but until those air forces are complete, it is the more necessary that the air fields should be available to give the greatest possible mobility and operational value to a smaller force. I ask this question: Has General Eisenhower laid down, and have the Governments agreed on, the number and siting of the air fields required, and is this going forward as rapidly as possible?
§ In view of the wide publicity that has been aroused on the matter, I must add 1000 one word about Spain. Here, as I see it, there are two perfectly distinct and separate issues. The admission of any country to the Atlantic Pact is clearly a matter for all the countries who are parties to the Pact. If that issue should arise it would involve many considerations, which should be weighed by all the partners in an understanding and realistic manner. But an arrangement between the United States and Spain, under which the former would acquire the use of air fields or other facilities, is a wholly different matter, and a limited and localised affair. It is a tactical arrangement of which the United States should be the judges, and which they are as fully entitled to make as we should be in any part of the world in which we thought circumstances required it. It would be unjustifiable and wrong to treat it as involving the much wider issues of adherence to the Atlantic Pact. In the circumstances, even if we leave aside all the help that the United States have given to Europe and our close and intimate association with them, criticism of the United States in this matter seems singularly out of place and can only result in unwarrantably irritating American public opinion. I would ask a further question on the inter-allied plane. What progress has been made with the co-ordination of Allied production? We all agree on this in principle. Is the principle being applied? Unless it is, the overwhelming material resources of the Allies cannot be used economically or effectively. Here, again, is the supreme direction lacking or lagging?
§ I would conclude with some questions about the home front. The Government should now be able to tell us what prospects there are that this year's rearmament programme will be achieved according to plan. Mr. Bevan has now attacked the programme as unnecessary and undesirable as well as impracticable. In spite of some rather odd speeches by the Minister of Defence and Mr. Stokes—I have forgotten what he should be called—I understand that the Government stand by their proposals. The speech of the Under-Secretary, Mr. Wyatt, was a most agreeable change. Some of his seniors might learn from him. Yesterday he was powerfully reinforced by the heavier guns of the First Lord of the Admiralty. But, in rearmament, justification is by works, and it is in the works that Parliament is interested.1001
§ In particular, can we be given some information about the progress of the aircraft programme? In design we seem to be maintaining, and maintaining well, our high tradition. The Canberra has been adopted by the United States, as have been the Sapphire jet engines. The new heavy bomber looks like being a great success. I understand, too, that there are very promising developments in experimental types now flying—for example the new Delta, which, I believe, combines great constructional strength with high performance. But I want to ask this. Design seems very good, but is the right policy being followed to test prototypes rapidly and to follow up with production with the least possible delay? Before the war, we ordered new types off the drawing-board, and the risks were fully justified. Is this being done enough to-day, when the time factor is even more urgent? And when we did go in for a prototype and felt that it was the right thing to do in the case of promising designs, we ordered a number of prototypes of the same aircraft. This is not only a wise but, indeed, I would say, an almost indispensable insurance against accident. You would be held up interminably if your one prototype crashed. The practice to which I have referred has the additional advantage that with several prototypes the necessary tests of construction, armament, performance and so on can be carried out concurrently. Thus there is a valuable saving in time. and time to-day is vital. I hope that the Government can assure us that this practice is being followed.
§ Is production as satisfactory as design? What news can we have of the jet fighters and their ancillary services and accessories? We have a great deal of leeway to make up. We have to redeem the mistake of selling jet fighters to Egypt and the Argentine when we needed them so badly ourselves. When the Government look at the actions of the Egyptians week by week they must indeed find it hard to justify, even to themselves, giving to them ships, aircraft, and I know not what, as well as petrol and cash. This sending away of aircraft led to unwarrantable delay in rearming our auxiliary squadrons. Even to-day, I believe, several of those squadrons are equipped with obsolescent and much-worn aircraft. And those squadrons are 1002 in the front line. They have greatly increased their efficiency by three months' training. I would like here to pay a tribute, in which I am sure the whole House will join, to the officers and other ranks of these Auxiliary squadrons, many of whom incurred considerable financial sacrifices in coming up for their three months' training. They have done their training, as I have seen, magnificently, but they will not benefit fully by that training as effective fighting units unless they have the right aircraft. They deserve this encouragement, and I hope that they may receive it as soon as possible.
I would ask also about transport aircraft. How do we stand with regard to that? I need not specify, for examples will occur readily to your Lordships, but the more scattered our commitments the more important it is to be able to move our troops. And I ask one final question—this is a matter to which we always seem to come back—about the size of the tail. I am not going to attack the Army to-day. It is always under fire, and I hope it will not think it necessary to resist the fire of that sort of criticism as it resists fire in the field. I think it was Lord Alexander who, when he had extricated the Army from Burma, wrote—I forget whether it was in a dispatch or a letter:
In spite of its mechanisation, I have extricated the British Army.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Ismay, will be able to correct me if I am wrong in that story. But, as I have said, I ant not going to attack the Army, I am coming much nearer home.
§ What about the air? I know how complicated modern aircraft are, but I must say that I was rather horrified at some figures which were given me relating to the size of maintenance staffs, in particular in regard to the number of men required en the ground to keep one machine in the air. I should like to ask these two questions. First of all, how many men is it calculated arc required to keep a 'plane in the air. We must have had a great deal of experience now in Korea. I know that the United Nations air forces in Korea have not been up against a great fighter defence, or intensive anti-aircraft defence from the ground, but they have flown an enormous number of sorties. I read recently that 1003 the tactical air force had flown 1,000 sorties in a day. We must have had some experience—the Americans no doubt more than ourselves, but I am sure the results will have been pooled—of what it takes to maintain a tactical air force in the field in a difficult country, and what economies have been found possible in practice.
§ I would ask a final question on efficiency and economy, which concerns the R.A.F. Regiment. I have always felt that in inter-Service work the motto must be "co-operation," and not self-sufficiency. I remember that in the days before the war there was a proposal. which I think did not originate with the Royal Air Force but with the Army, that the Air Force should take over antiaircraft defence, both strategically and tactically, and that anti-aircraft guns should become units of the R.A.F. I always set my face against that, because it seemed to me completely wrong. The R.A.F. were not gunners. That was the job of the artillery. What was needed was that the Army should supply the antiaircraft artillery and the gunners to man it with a first-class man in command. They should be strategically under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, but tactically the guns must remain part of the Army. I am sure that was right. I always wonder, in a phrase that has become current in another connection, whether the R.A.F. Regiment is "really necessary."
§ If I have been inquisitive and critical I hope that I have also been reasonably constructive. I am quite sure that the spirit and determination among all the peoples of the Alliance are strong and resolute. They will work and serve and follow, provided always that they are led with clearness, sincerity and courage. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.34 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Viscount has covered, as was inevitable, a very wide field. He impinged largely on the field of Foreign Affairs, which is perhaps difficult to avoid in discussing Defence. He asked my noble friend so many questions that I do not propose to ask my noble friend any at all, because he will have his work cut out if he attempts to answer all the questions the noble Viscount has posed. I am sorry 1004 that I misunderstood his pronunciation of "echelon." I know that there is a difference in the Service pronunciation of certain words of French origin. "Cassoon" in the Navy would perhaps be pronounced "Caisson" by the noble Viscount, who was a soldier. It is another example of the same thing.
In the first part of the noble Viscount's discourse he dwelt almost exclusively on the Anglo-American Alliance. He mentioned, in passing, the Atlantic Treaty, but I did not hear him say one word about collective security through the United Nations. I do not complain, because he had a great deal of ground to cover, but we must not lose sight of the fact that our basic policy is to strengthen the collective security system through the United Nations. The Atlantic Alliance, the Brussels Pact, and so on, have really been forced upon us to meet an emergency. They represent a short-term policy to meet a present need, and the constructive long-term policy must be to strengthen, support and underpin in every way the world-wide system of collective security. I think there is no real dispute between Parties about this. Here we are committed to play our part in such a system of collective security.
I must take exception to what was perhaps an unfortunate phrase. The noble Viscount said that the great danger was the danger of Communism. Communism is not the danger; the danger is aggression. There was aggression in the world before the term "Communism" was commonly used. When the noble Viscount served with great distinction in the First World War he would have been astonished to hear that Karl Marx had anything to do with it. He was fighting German aggression, German imperialism, German militarism. We have had aggression since then, and I dare say that we shall have aggression in the future, which has nothing whatever to do with Communism. It is most dangerous to follow the line, which I am sorry to say is largely taken in certain quarters in the United States, that Communism itself is the enemy to be defeated and destroyed. What we are really faced with is the overpowering threat of great military force which happens to be under the control of a Communist Power. Under our old, well-tried policy, which we in these Islands have always had to follow, of attempting to maintain the balance of power in Europe, 1005 it would not matter what were the politics of the Government which tried to control and dispose of the overwhelming power residing in their hegemony of Europe. It was that hegemony of the Continent which was dangerous to these Islands. We are trying to revive the same policy, and so are the Americans, who, in addition to the Monroe Doctrine, have adopted the old British conception of the balance of power in Europe.
If that thesis is right, and I think it is, where in this argument does Germany come? I was extremely interested in what the noble Viscount said about Germany—I suppose he was talking about Western Germany, because Eastern Germany must be left out of our present calculations. I wonder whether the noble Viscount and his political friends have followed recent events in Germany; whether they have noticed the political recrudescence of what is in fact a new Nazi movement, headed by a German called Remer, which is following the tactics and technique of the original Nazi Party, which created so much misery for Germany and the whole world, misery from which we have not yet recovered. We ought to be a little careful about the political trends in Germany before we embark on a vast programme—and I hope that I am not misrepresenting the noble Viscount and his friends when I say "a vast programme," because he talked of substantial forces in Germany and not of the limited force which the French agreed to—to include, apparently, a great German army which will be the strongest military unit on the mainland of Europe this side of the Iron Curtain.
I should mention another interesting trend; that is, the objection and opposition and resistance in Western Germany to embarking on a great programme of rearmament. That must also not be overlooked. Again, I must warn my noble friends that we must regard history in this matter. Suppose there is a sovereign viable, independent Germany, heavily armed once more under the control of the same militarists who always controlled an armed Germany in the past, and there is fresh trouble in Europe. How do you know on which side they will come down? Three times in the past when there has been trouble they have made their arrangements with Russia. This time Russia has far more to offer to Germany than have the Western 1006 Allies. All you can offer Germany in response—in reward, if you like—for her assistance is, perhaps, the Saar. But what has Russia to offer Germany? Russia can offer Germany what she has always offered her, but this time a far greater prize—namely, the partition of the new Poland. Three times Russia and Germany have come together in the past on the partition of Poland. This time the new Poland contains great tracts of territory which the Germans still regard as legitimate German soil. I cannot help but repeat myself on this question, as I believe that it is the most serious question which faces us to-day. Always remember that this is Western Germany, and you are apparently accepting the permanent partition, or the attempted permanent partition of Germany, which I believe will only lead to trouble.
I must refer to one other matter which the noble Viscount raised—namely, the question of Spain. If I do not embarrass him, I found myself much more in sympathy with what he said on that matter. As we are making this vast military and naval Alliance in the Atlantic, Spain is of great strategic importance. I have not noticed any particular attacks on the Americans for entering into conversations with the present Spanish Government. I do not know where the noble Viscount obtained that information. I do not think there have been any attacks by members of my Party, and I certainly do not attack the Americans. But I have always felt that there was something wrong with a British foreign policy which managed to be in strained relations, if I may put it that way, with both Moscow and Madrid at the same time. It did not seem to me to make sense.
I do not want to prolong this debate more than is absolutely necessary, and I wish to make only a very general proposition to my noble friends—and I am glad to see that the First Lord of the Admiralty is present. I feel that we should distinguish between a short-run policy and a long-run policy. The short-run policy is what has been adumbrated by the noble Viscount, and which he and his friends are supporting.—namely, the Atlantic Alliance, the Brussels Pact, and so on. That is a short-term policy to meet the present emergency. The very heavy programme of rearmament upon which we the Americans, 1007 the French, and all the other members are engaged is only temporary; it cannot be permanent. No one can pretend that even the economy of the United States can maintain such a terrific burden as has been embarked upon in this short-term programme. To meet an emergency a short-term programme can be defended, and I do not attack it. But we have to look at the long-term policy; we have to think of our vast overseas possessions, for which we are responsible, and of the interests of our sister nations in the Commonwealth. In the long run, I cannot see how the economy of this country can sustain vast land forces and vast sea forces. I do not see how we can simultaneously maintain an army on the Continental scale, and also have great sea power. Eventually we shall have to choose.
I heard with interest what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, had to say with regard to the Air Force, and I shall await with the same interest the reply. I have very little to say about the Air Force, because I still look upon the Air Force as being integral with the Army and the Navy, each in its appropriate sphere. When I speak of a Continental army, I include the necessary air forces to support and co-operate with it; and equally—perhaps even more so—when I speak of sea power, I include air power as well. How it can be argued that for a long period it is possible to maintain very strong land and sea forces puzzles me greatly.
In this connection we have to recognise the unfortunate fact that we are feeling, and shall continue to feel for a long time, the loss in our whole system of Imperial defence of what was the magnificent Indian Army. It was, and of course still is, a magnificent fighting force, and its loss to us has left a terrible gap in our whole system of defence in the Middle East and Asia. I am afraid that the Indian and Pakistan Armies, its successors, must be left out of our calculations for a long time to come, unless this most unfortunate trouble over Kashmir can be resolved. Until that can be done (I do not intend, in a debate of this kind, to enter into the merits or the details of that case) I am afraid that we shall have to leave out of our calculations those two magnificent armies at present disposed of by India and Pakistan. That makes it 1008 all the more important (I end as I began) that we should not overlook, in addition to the short-term policy of the Atlantic Treaty, the Brussels Pact and so on, the establishment of a real system of collective security through the United Nations. In the long run, our best interests will be served—in fact, it is the only safe and fair policy for our own people—by looking to the strengthening of the United Nations, and to the system of collective security through that organisation.
I have spoken of the short-term and the long-term policies, and I hope that I have expressed myself clearly to your Lordships. I do not oppose the short-term policy. We are told of this emergency, and it has to be met. But, at the same time, we must consider the long-term policy, and the long-range effects on our Colonies and sister nations in the Commonwealth. In that connection also—again the long-term policy—we must always try and work for an international agreement (again I do not intend to enter into a Foreign Affairs debate), but that international agreement will not be a lasting agreement unless it results in a mutually agreed programme for an all-round reduction of armaments and in a halt to the present armaments race. That is the long-term policy. I am appealing here especially to my noble friends who have these great responsibilities in the Government to spare time to consider the long-term interests of the British Commonwealth as well as the means of meeting the present emergency.
§ 3.49 p.m.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, because I know very little of what I may call the technical aspects of defence; and even more so when it was decided to divide this debate into two parts, one to take place now on Defence, and the other to take place at the end of the month on Foreign Affairs. But, as I suspected, it has been found quite impossible to divide the two they are inseparable. It is impossible to discuss defence without discussing foreign affairs, and the noble Viscount who moved this Motion mentioned three particular aspects of foreign affairs to which I should like to refer. First he mentioned Persia. I think it would be a mistake for anybody to-day to talk at any length on Persia and on the negotiations which are now in 1009 progress. and I will say only this. I think that my noble leader, Lord Samuel, has said before that we on these Benches do not associate ourselves with the accusation that the Government have shown weakness in Persia. We think that up to now they have handled the situation uncommonly well. That is not to say that we do not think they showed lack of foresight before what I may call the crisis occurred. So far as I know, they had some warnings which they ignored, but that fact has nothing to do with the present situation, and we shall have an opportunity of talking about that on a later occasion.
The second point, if I remember aright, was the question of American negotiations in Spain about bases for American ships and so on. I wish to endorse fully what the noble Viscount said. Of course, we have only Press reports upon which to rely, but if those reports are true I should like to know upon what grounds we protested against the Amerioan arrangements with Spain. After all, that is a question of the greatest importance. I remember that during the Spanish Civil War the Balearic Islands were considered of prime importance to this country, from the air aspect, because we were told that they commanded the greater part of the Mediterranean. I was told that it was essential that the Italians should not remain in those Islands. I hope the noble Viscount who is to reply will be able to tell us that the accusations which were made—and which are obviously irritating to American public opinion—that we had intervened to stop negotiations for American bases in Spain are completely unjustified.
Lastly, I should like to say a word about German rearmament. We have discussed that matter at very great length on various occasions. I am inclined to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said. I think there is a real danger of our encouraging German militarism, particularly if we endeavour to re-create the German military staff and German air force. At the same time, if we obtain, through the negotiations which are going on in Paris, the integration of Germany in the European army, with Germany and France working together in a military sense, then a great many fears which I share with the noble 1010 Lord will completely vanish from my mind. I think we must carry the French with us on this particular point. As I have so often disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. I want to agree with him in what he said about Communism. It is impossible to fight Communism by the use of armies, navies and air forces. Communism has to be fought by ideas. But we can fight Imperial Communism, or what I may call the Russian Communism—which is apparently an endeavour to impose Communism by force—by arms. So I am glad to be able to agree for once with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to say two things only to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. First, I think it is a pity to present a contrast between the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty. So far as I know, the latter is part of the former, and while I know the noble Lord distinguished between the short and the long-term policy, I think that at this time it is particularly unfortunate to suggest disunity of any kind. In regard to the second point which he made relating to Germany, I think it is a pity to cast suspicion on anyone who may be a necessary ally, because in the conflict, if it came, those who were not against us would probably be with us; but certainly those who are not with us cannot be relied upon to do very much. At this time, perhaps more than ever before, not only is unity strength, but strength is unity. If anyone who holds official positions, or, indeed, has held official positions, suggests that strength is no longer necessary, then they are in fact sowing the seeds of disunity. It is for that reason particularly that I regret that former Ministers have thought fit to criticise our allies in America. I think that is most deplorable at the present time and it is for that reason that we welcome the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty yesterday afternoon.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, emphasised the need for clear decision in the Atlantic Organisation. It seems to me that we may have to get to the point when we shall want a clear organisation rather than the best organisation. At the present time I do not think anyone could pretend that the organisation is simple. According to the pamphlet which 1011 has been published, at the present juncture there are six Committees which sit above General Eisenhower, of which three are in permanent session, and he has with the Chiefs of Staff and Prime Ministers thirty-six people to consult if he wishes. I should like to bring out one special point in regard to this organisation. We have heard a great deal about the command of the Atlantic, about the organisation on this side and the organisation on the other side, but we have heard very little about the air element in the control of the Atlantic. That, after all, must be important, because, as is well known, more than half the enemy submarines destroyed in the last war were destroyed by aircraft. I should like to suggest that an air officer should be fitted at high level into this organisation. We have a Deputy Air Officer to General Eisenhower, but there is no equivalent on the Atlantic side of the organisation at all.
We have developed a very valuable organisation in the relations between Coastal Command and the Royal Navy which constitute an example to other countries. I think it would be very unfortunate if the Atlantic organisation were not given full benefit of what has been worked out in this country. And again: Who is responsible on the equipment side of the Atlantic Command for pressing for a stronger Coastal Command? Who is responsible for seeing that aerodromes are suitable for operating the aircraft with which Coastal Command are now being equipped? I am informed that half the aerodromes are unfitted for their use. Who is there in the organisation who can exercise pressure and bring about a more satisfactory arrangement?
We have realised on both sides of the House the need for the granting of priority in air defence, and I should like to put it on these grounds: that it is the aim of British strategy that neither the Army or the Navy should ever fight in conditions in which air superiority has not been attained. That is the object, but whether it is achieved or not will, of course, work out. Anyone who has read Lord Cunningham's book on his Mediterranean command will be left in no doubt as to the extreme importance of that proposition. I will quote these words: 1012The Navy alone could not save Egypt or even play its full part until the air situation was squarely faced.If this is not achieved, then neither the Army nor the Navy will be able to use their expensive and, I hope, magnificent equipment to full effect. To complete the picture, let me mention what the Chief of Air Staff said at the Mansion House last month:Fighters alone are powerless in defence.It is for that reason that I should like to press the noble Viscount for some information about what is happening. When he spoke to us last February he had no complaint of the reception which his proposals received in this House.
I want to be quite frank. It seems to me that to-day there is a serious lack of drive. There is little sign that the policy outlined is being put forcibly into operation. At the same time, the Air Ministry are showing at least the elements of satisfaction in what they have achieved. I want to put bluntly one or two of the points which occur to us at present. Of course we are very ignorant of details. During the war we had three types of aircraft which might be regarded as the finest of their categories in the world; there is not one aircraft in service to-day which can be said to be the finest of its type in the world—or even approximating to the best type. Not only that, but in quality and numbers we have got so far behind that in every branch of the Service we have had to borrow heavily from the United States. We welcome these aircraft here; but, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said, it is our duty to see that we fulfil the obligation placed upon us to-day as a member of this great organisation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH)
I should like to make sure what the noble Earl means when he says that we have no single aircraft of the kind he mentions. At least he will agree that we have a high position in that the United States have themselves adopted the production of Canberra aircraft. I do not know of any better type of its equipment and power for the purpose. But, of course, we shall go on trying to improve every type of 'plane.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I am delighted to have the noble Viscount's intervention, but is there a squadron of 1013 these aircraft in service? I should like to ask him how many of these aircraft will be flying on September 15 next at the Battle of Britain ceremony. If he can tell us that, I shall be very interested. The words I used were "in service."
§ THE EARL OE SELKIRK
I am delighted to hear that, but I have no reason to suppose that there is a squadron fully equipped. If the noble Viscount cares to assure us on that point, I, for one, shall welcome the assurance. We do not know the target at which the Government are aiming. We know the American target which is 95 air wings. But why is it that when we have a fly past we produce 90 aircraft? Is there some mystical significance or sanctity attaching to this number—or is this all we can conveniently fly at a given time? Not long ago the Under-Secretary of State for Air said:We believe the carrying capacity of Transport Command is big enough for all the needs we can foresee.That is only two months ago. One wonders, therefore, why a paratroop Division has to go by sea to Cyprus.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
Well, that makes it worse. It does seem very disappointing. The transport aircraft position is one about which we should like to hear something from the noble Viscount. It is only eighteen months since transport production was cut down. We have, I believe, no specialist aircraft for carrying large armoured vehicles, tanks and so on; the transport we have is barely suitable for carrying that sort of equipment. There is no very big civil aviation organisation behind Transport Command which can be drawn upon. There are reasons for that, I know, but it is nothing like comparable in strength to, for instance, the Mercantile Navy. In considering this transport position we must remember that we may have to deal with a country which has internal lines of communication. Operation on internal lines adds greatly to the importance of communications.
I would ask whether there is any information about long-range fighters. We have not heard much about them, and I 1014 suggest that they will be required until guided missiles are brought into operation. The importance of these factors is obvious. The Russians are reputed to be building aircraft at something like twice the rate the Germans were in 1939. That is the general information we have at the present time. I should like to ask whether the Air Ministry are sketching on a big enough canvas at the present time. Is it wide enough from the training organisation aspect? Is it time to consider moving part of the training organisation overseas? We have, I know, sent 200 pilots to be trained in Canada, but is it not necessary to send a much larger section than has been sent so far—possibly to the Caribbean, where there are Colonies whose dcvelopment in civil aviation we have not done much to help?
Then one is disturbed at the lack of civilian pilots behind the Air Force. I ask the noble Viscount whether any further steps have been taken in this matter. They form a reserve of great consequence and great significance. I understand that there are at present some 6,000 civilian licences in this country compared to 500,000 in the United States of America—that is, about 1 in 6,000 of the population in this country, and 1 in 300 in America. It is of the greatest importance, that this number should he increased. I understand the average age of the auxiliary pilot is twenty-eight and, from an answer the other day, that only nine pilots have been trained since the war. The noble Viscount has spoken words about these pilots which I heartily reciprocate, but I have been disturbed as to whether there are adequate facilities for an easy flow of young men into this Service at present. I know there is a number of air scholarships, but they are still very few. There is a great responsibility on those in the Air Ministry to recapture the imagination of youth, by which recruiting was made so easy before the war. To-day there is not the same imaginative local interest in the Air Force as then, with the result that there is a very serious shortage in the quality of pilots necessary.
I wish to say one word on the subject of bases. We have seen our bases on the Western Atlantic seaboard becoming more or less derelict, while the American-occupied bases have been developed. I ask what is happening to-day in regard to other bases, especially in this country 1015 and in the Middle East. Cyprus seems to me particularly important at present, not only for communication and as a base for fighter aircraft, affording control over the Eastern Mediterranean, but also because anyone occupying Cyprus can deny us the use of the Canal. Therefore, we should welcome any information which may be available. I will not add anything to that except to say this: that we stand either strong and united or weak and broken. I would again say that we welcome the resolute words the First Lord of the Admiralty used yesterday afternoon.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT RUNCIMAN
My Lords, lying underneath a great deal of what has been said in this House this afternoon and on other occasions about such things as the command of the Atlantic and the command of the Suez Canal, is the realisation that we need those commands in order that merchant ships, in time of war, as in time of peace, can bring into this country the food and raw materials we need. I have previously declared my interest to your Lordships in the shipping industry. For the sake of double assurance I do so again this afternoon. After the experience of two wars, I do not think it is necessary to argue the immense importance of merchant shipping defence in war time. It is perhaps worth remembering, however, that in the last war no fewer than 2,426 ships were sunk, comprising a total of over 11,250,000 tons. That is a loss which we cannot bear to see repeated. In each of the last two wars, the most testing time has come in about the third year, when the enemy, having exhausted his earlier methods of attack has turned to the one, perhaps the only one, which he knew could not possibly fail, if only he could bring it off, and which would prevent this country getting the supplies that it needed.
Although the full weight of the onslaught came late, or latish, in each war, it would be wrong to pretend that there was not from the word "go" a considerable attack, and that we should not, before war begins, take measures to meet it. Even in what was commonly called the "phony" war, between September, 1939, and May, 1940, 173 ships were sunk, comprising about 250,000 tons; and even that loss is serious enough in material. as well as, of course, in lives. 1016 It is not necessary, therefore, to emphasise the importance of preparation for merchant shipping defence well in advance, as far in advance, indeed, as is possible, of any possible conflict. Ships are scattered all over the world. It is true that probably they come into dangerous waters only at the end of their voyages, but unless the organisation and the material is available before they enter home waters, then we shall have missed the chance of defending a great part of the merchant marine for, sooner or later, every ship, or nearly every ship in it, will have to come back to this country.
I should not like it to be thought that I am suggesting that no steps have already been taken. That is far from being so. We in the shipping industry know that considerable planning has been done, and that great efforts have been made. We ourselves have even ventured to take certain initiatives in this matter, which we believe were not wholely unwelcome to the Admiralty. But, although the plans are made, and although a start has certainly been made, I do ask that what I might almost call token preparation should not be considered as more than a very small beginning to something that has to grow a great deal larger still. Even if it does mean—as I am sure it does at the present time, when we are limited in material resources more even, perhaps, than in money—some diversion of resources from other things. I venture to suggest that the defence of our merchant shipping should have, if not the highest place, at any rate an extremely high place in our list of priorities.
At sea, I believe, we are all set, given the right materials, to reach a reasonably satisfactory position to defend our merchant ships against the more probable forms of attack. But I am not so sure that the position is quite so happy regarding ships in port. When a ship comes into port, even in peace time, a rather curious change seems to come over her. She ceases to be on her own; she becomes a part of something else. She becomes, for the purpose of the Factories Act, a part of a factory: she even becomes liable to be requisitioned by the Ministry of Education. I quote that rather silly illustration to show the very wide range of authorities which concern themselves with ships as soon as they come into port. The fact is that the defence of merchant ships against attacks in port is as important as 1017 defence at sea—indeed, in some ways it may be more important, for if a ship is sunk at sea it means losing the ship and possibly her cargo. But if a ship is sunk in port we may suffer both those losses; and if she should be sunk across the entrance to the harbour it might mean denying for a long time the use of that harbour to a large number of our ships. Therefore. I think that the defence of ships in port is of extreme importance. It would be reassuring to hear from the noble Viscount who is to reply this evening that this question is receiving urgent attention.
The weapons by which we may be attacked in port are of a terrible kind—so much so, indeed, that it is seldom considered even decent to name them. But if, in fact. we are to suffer attack in our harbours by atomic bombs, let us at least know that we are alive to that danger, and that some steps are being taken to meet it. I believe that technically it is possible to put up a considerable defence against attacks on ships in port by what arc called "weapons of mass destruction," but that will not happen unless the whole of the organisation of that defence is much more co-ordinated than it appears to be at present. On that subject I should like to say one thing further. If the defence of merchant ships at sea and the defence of merchant ships in port are to be the concern of two different authorities, then let us be extremely careful that there is no gap between the two. Can the noble Viscount tell us that there is some method in existence or about to be devised to ensure that the whole of a ship's voyage, whether she is at sea or in port, is a continuous responsibility and all part of a single operation?
Then I should like to ask that, so far as possible, within the limits of security and other considerations, we should be told as much as the Government feel they can tell us about what they are doing in these matters. It was suggested at one time—I hope wrongly—that matters of this sort, if agitated and spoken about in public, would cause alarm, and that it would be thought that we were on the brink of a conflict. Seamen are called by many odd names, and very strange birds they may appear to be; but there is one kind of bin I they are not—and that is the ostrich. They know well enough, many of them from repeated personal experiences, what it is like to be the victim 1018 of an enemy attack at sea. I beg your Lordships to believe that they will be made confident and assured, rather than alarmed, by the thought that already, in advance of a conflict which we hope may never come, real organisation is going to be their protection if that eventuality should come to pass. If it encourages our own seamen, surely, by the same token, it will discourage any potential enemies. I hope that there really is progress to report in these matters. Let there be no discouragement from blowing the trumpet with no uncertain sound. Whose trumpet it is I do not care, but let it be blown loud and long, and let us then all prepare ourselves for the battle.
My Lords if we are thinking of defence merely in terms of the next year or two years, we cannot do much on the other side. We cannot do much from the defensive point of view to improve the quality of our ships themselves. We can equip them; we can see that the equipment is on hand for the proper defensive armament of the ships we have, but from the defensive point of view we can do little towards getting ships which would be of more use than our present Merchant Fleet. That is a problem which the Americans are tackling with considerable energy, and they are spending large sums of money on the production of very fast merchant ships. They are, perhaps, in a different position from ourselves in that respect. Merchant slipping is an important element from the point of view of their defence, but it is not one of the vital elements in their lives. They are a richer country than we are, and they can spend more money on the purely defensive aspects of shipping than I think we can.
Our own merchant ships must earn their keep in peace as well as in war. If we are to improve the breed of ships, and particularly if we are going to improve their general speed, inevitably we shall increase the cost both of their construction and almost certainly of their running. It will become even more difficult than it is to-day to do that, if we have to contemplate that, even in times of peace, merchant ships will have to spend something like half their lives m port, where all the capital, the labour and the thought which has gone to the improvement of their performances at sea are simply lying idle. Therefore, from the purely defensive 1019 point of view I think it is most important that we should, so far as we can, ensure that we are in a position, in peace as well as in war, to get ships in port turned round a great deal more quickly than unfortunately is the case in this country and in many countries in the Commonwealth.
As to ships, we are unfortunately worse off to-day than we were in 1939. We have a higher proportion of old ships, and although our tanker fleet has greatly increased I doubt if it has increased proportionately to the increase in the need for tankers. Our dry cargo fleet is smaller than it was, but I do not think the need for it in time of war would be any less. We start, therefore, at a certain disadvantage, and anything which handicaps the remedying of that is, from a defensive angle as much as from any other, to be deplored. I do not wish to wander from what may appear to be the main purpose of this debate, but even such a matter as the continued prohibition upon the sale to foreign buyers of modern ships (although perhaps somewhat old in years), but which may be unsuitable for their purpose, is one of the minor difficulties which I think could be removed without much difficulty, and which would have a considerable effect in encouraging the production of further tonnage.
I should like to ask His Majesty's Government a question on this point. We all know that we are considering defence matters as one member of a Grand Alliance. I do not mind for this purpose whether it is the United Nations or the North Atlantic Powers. We know that we can draw upon a very large reserve merchant fleet in the United States which the Americans have in "moth-balls." That fleet cannot be brought out overnight, and there may be some difficulties in manning it if it is brought out. But it is there, and we are glad to think that it is behind us as a strategic reserve. But do the Government think that as long as a ship belongs to one of the North Atlantic Powers, whether it is an American, a Dutch or a Norwegian ship, it is as good and as useful from the point of view of defence as a British ship? If they do, I can only say in advance that I profoundly disagree with them, and I think most noble Lords will also. But, if the Government do not think that, then I should like to draw their attention to 1020 just one further consideration. I think that somewhere about two-fifths of the production of British ship yards is at present for foreign account. We do not complain about that. Obviously, we must all be extremely glad to see so valuable an export being produced. But I think that some of this production ought to be for British account, and if, in fact, the production of British merchant ships were going ahead a little faster than it is—
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
The noble Viscount has so much knowledge of this subject that perhaps I may ask him a question. Would he say that the proportion of two-thirds has been upgraded since the war? Is there not a changed figure? Has not the noble Viscount built a fair amount of British tonnage since the war?
§ VISCOUNT RUNCIMAN
I am afraid I did not make myself audible to the noble Lord. I said two-fifths. I am afraid I have not the figures in front of me at the moment, but I think that proportion is more or less right. Naturally, it varies from time to time and, to some extent, with the kind of shipping that is being built. In any case I do not know that it matters greatly whether it be two-fifths or three-sevenths; it is under half.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I should like to get an understanding with the noble Earl, who knows a great deal about this subject. I gather that he wants us to agree to take up the point of the sale of modern ships which have been built for home service and are now found to be unsuitable, but he is not satisfied with the proportion which is being built for export. I cannot quite reconcile the two points.
§ VISCOUNT RUNCIMAN
I am sorry if I did not make my meaning clear. I had hoped to avoid going into any lengthy explanation, and perhaps I shall be able to, but the point I was making was that at the back of this problem is the question of how we are going to pay for the ships that we build. It is permissible to sell old ships on foreign account because I suppose it is thought that they will come to the end of their useful life soon. That is why up to now there has been some control. I agree very reasonably exercised by the Ministry of Transport, upon the sale of more modern ships. It is obvious 1021 that one can get a much better price for a fairly new ship than one can for a fairly old ship, but it is not a bad moment for a shipowner to sell a ship when he finds that, although it is fairly modern, it may not be the best ship for the purpose which he has in mind. He can thus get money for it and so build a better ship. That is the only point I was seeking to make, but I think it does accord with the other point which I was making—namely, that I should like to see more British ships built for British use.
Without wearying your Lordships with details, I think it is also fair to say in this connection that it would be difficult to dispute the general statement that, so far as the financing of new ships is concerned, every North Atlantic country is in a more favourable position than are the owners of tonnage in this country. That is a broad generalisation, and if the noble Viscount asks for details I can furnish them. I think that your Lordships would prefer that I should not do it here and now, because it is a long and complicated story. But it does lead up to this point, which, if we are looking at defence from any long-term aspect, is I think a fact—or shall I say an opinion (for I give it as my opinion) upon which we should do well to ponder: namely, that about one-fifth of the British Mercantile Marine was built before 1930, and is therefore already becoming ready for replacement; that three-quarters was built before 1946; that shipbuilding costs to-day are four times what they were in 1930, and half as much again as they were in 1946, and that they show every sign of going, and remaining, higher still.
Even if shipping freights remain at their present high level—and all experience shows that they are not likely to do that indefinitely—on the basis of such calculations as I have been able to make, it Will be impossible, I believe, for any British ship built before 1930, and for a great many of those built before 1946, to earn in the course of their normal lives enough money to pay for their ultimate replacement, so long as the present proportion of their earnings is taken away in fixation. I do not wish to labour that this afternoon. It raises an issue which clearly goes considerably beyond the subject of defence. But I say it here anJ now for one reason only: 1022 as I think we all agree, the British Mercantile Marine is as essential a part of our defence as any of the Fighting Services. If ever we were unable to bring into this country by sea the food and raw materials that vie need, all other defence would be in vain; and not only we but I daresay the whole Grand Alliance might be in a fair way to losing the war before it ever started.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, it is a sour kind of satisfaction to anyone, and certainly to us on these Benches, to see disregarded advice and unheeded warnings justified. At any rate, we find it an Indigestible kind of satiety. In March, 1949, we had a debate in this House in which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, speaking for the Government, gave us some reassurance about the defence programme. He said:The factories are, of course, still in existence, and it has been possible to keep a small number of them on aircraft or engine work. A few are used for Government storage and are maintained on a 'care and maintenance' basis. In the went of an emergency they can he made available rapidly. There is also a substantial reserve of plant and machine tools that are peculiar to aircraft manufacture.In another debate which took place in this House about a year ago, my noble friend Lord Swinton asked some searching questions about production capacity and equipped factory space. Speaking at the end of the debate my noble leader Lord Salisbury, referring to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, used the following words:When we asked him whether those orders could be carried out, he said he refused to he drawn. I do not blame him altogether far that; I think it was ho nest of him; but it was not particularly encouraging. The Leader of the House was rather more optimistic than Lord Alexander.Lord Alexander here intervened and said:I think I said I had no doubt that the orders could he carried out.The Report of the debate then goes on as follows:'THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY: Could the orders he carried out now? As the noble Lord, Lord Caldecote, said, that is all that matters.VISCOUNT ADDISON: Might I ask the noble Marquess to deal with realities? You do not produce tanks like mushrooms. You know that an order for these tanks is merely 1023 an enlarged order on an existing production. It necessarily takes a certain amount of time. They do not spring up overnight.THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY: No, but they can start the construction of them now?VISCOUNT ADDISON: Yes.In the light of those remarks in this House I think noble Lords ought to ponder upon the Third Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, dealing with rearmament, published in May of this year.
May I call your Lordships' attention to the evidence of a representative of the Rover Motor Company, a Mr. Wilks, before that Committee? The Chairman or one of the members of the Committee put to him the question:I think you have also said that the rate of your expansion is also regulated by the shortage of machine tools.Mr. Wilks replied "Yes," and the report of what followed proceeds in this way:As well as the shortage of floor space?—Machine tools first and then materials.There was no reserve of machine tools?—At the end of the war, except for the machinery which we held together in a small shadow factory, all the rest was disposed of.When you say 'disposed of,' does that mean given to the Ministry of Supply and stored, or does that mean sold?—I think most of it has been sold. We have been hunting round trying to find it in the Ministry of Supply strategic reserve, but we cannot find much of it.A later passage in the same part of the Report (Mr. Wilks was still giving evidence) runs as follows:Have you been into the Ministry of Supply's strategic reserves?—Yes.Have you had a look there?—Our men have been round where the Ministry have sent them, and so far we have only been able to find a few, and some of them will need alteration.Further on in the Report we find these words:Now Mr. Wilks, I think you did refer to the disposal of machine tools after the war, and I think you mentioned that you had been able to find a tenth of the total requirement.To which Mr. Wilks replied:Something like that—as a round figure.It is the same story with regard to the machine-tool industry which, as everyone knows, is the most important ingredient of the defence programme. It appears, from reading this Report, that soon after the war valuable stocks of machine tools were dispersed throughout the industry. They were sold, not hired 1024 out, and no register was kept. It is the same story about aircraft manufacture. I apologise for quoting, but this really is a matter of extreme importance. Listen to an aircraft manufacturer. He said in evidence before the Committee:If we are talking about the programme which exists at the moment, which is a 'warming up' process for the programme which is coming along, then I think the industry can cope with it, because, as far as I can see, this programme as it stands has been really a slightly improved replacement of the economy cuts which the Ministry made some 18 months ago or two years ago; and the programme which we expect to hear about in a month's time, which will be finalised by orders in roughly three months' time, is a problem which is completely different.Later, he went on to say:There is certainly not enough space on the engine side of the industry. Most of the space that was used for the aircraft industry in the last war has gone for something else. If those places come back, then we can cope with it, but in the meantime they are making all sorts of things which are probably very vital to this country,The Report of the Committee's proceedings goes on:What is your assessment of the time necessary for these arrangements to be made before you can get into the first stage of production?—Well, if we are talking about new factories, at the pace at which I have tried to add 10,000 feet to the requirements of our organisation, on which I have had to consult 13 Departments to get permission to do it, I should think about 50 years.It is the same story about building in the factories. Again I apologise to your Lordships for reading so much, but I think that direct evidence is better than hearsay. Consider for a moment this piece of evidence:I think you know that there are very considerable delays in putting up a shop. My own company waited from November to June for a licence to extend a foundry before we could start at all.It is, therefore, small wonder that among the Select Committee's recommendations is one to reduce "administrative formalities" in extending buildings in connection with the defence effort. If I may, I will read that recommendation to your Lordships as it stands. It is Recommendation 10, and it appears on page xxi of the Report. The Committee say:We recommend that methods of reducing administrative formalities should be found and brought into effect where urgent defence building work has to he done.Indeed, the whole of this very important but rather melancholy Report is a plea 1025 for greater speed and less red tape in the defence programme. Those who have the Report should study the diagram on the last page, which shows what seems to me a jungle of administration into which the whole organisation of the Ministry of Supply has got. May I take one example from the electronic industry? In the introduction to this Report those who are reporting say:Negotiations with the radio industry are thus handled by two different branches of the Secretariat. The Admiralty order direct from the industry all electronic equipment required for their ships. Evidence showed that these orders had been placed without difficulty. Your Committee note that, in the Ministry of Supply, the duplication of the channels of negotiation with the radio industry has been under review, and recommend that if disadvantages are found to outweigh the advantages of the present system, urgent action should be taken to improve the system.The last sentence, I think, is especially noteworthy. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is not present for me to congratulate him on the fact that his Department has extricated itself from the toils of the Ministry.
Again, in the case of this electronics industry we have another unhappy illustration of lack of foresight in planning our defence. I refer to page xii of the Introduction.Your Committee were concerned to hear of an instance where two high-speed production lines were begun, in 1946–47, for the automatic manufacture of certain valves, but were discontinued in 1947–48. A new contract has recently been placed in order to revive the project, but it was stated that it would take from eighteen months to two years before there would be any high-speed production of valves. The importance of the project lies in the fact that the alternative is to produce such valves slowly, in rather small numbers, by employing large numbers of unskilled workers: a further disadvantage of this method is that the variability of the human element does not permit of the rigid uniformity in production which is required. Your Committee were impressed by the need for high-speed production machinery for making these valves, since they heard in evidence that many millions would be required annually. They recommend that special steps he taken to expedite the construction and installation of the high-speed production machinery required.In a series of White Papers we have been told, though not in detail, about all the research work carried on by the Ministry of Defence and other Defence Departments. We have been told, too, that the time is not vet ripe to bring these new types of equipment into production. Surely, after five or six years of experiment, 1026 we might expect that prototypes of Airily vehicles would be ready and that the necessary specifications would be ready to go into production. Here, again, I refer to the Report at page xiv of the Introduction. In paragraph 31, we Lind this:The version which one of these firms is to make is to be used to drive a new 5-cwt. light fighting vehicle, and the firm has since received a contract for making this. Production of the vehicle is expected to start about the end of the year. In the development of other vehicles, however, the design of the chassis and bodies for which the new range of engines is intended has fallen from two to three years behind the design of the engine. This has led the Ministry of Supply to defer letting contracts for the production of the engines, until the designs for the chassis and bodies are ready. Your Committee recommend that, where the designs of the new bodies and chassis are not yet complete, steps should be taken to accelerate their completion, and that in the development of any other new type of vehicle care should be taken to keep in phase the progress of development of engine and chassis.I should think so! Naturally the technicians will continue to strive for perfection, but surely it is the duty of the Minister of Defence and those who are under him to see that within a reasonable time a design is completed, so that it can go into production when needed.
I would again refer to what the Report says on time-lag in delivery, in page xi of the Introduction:For the delivery of any item of equipment for which production capacity now exists. there is a time-lag between the receipt of the indent from the user depa-tment and the delivery of the finished article, which varies from eight to twelve months for an article of clothing to twenty-one to twenty-four months for a new type of aircraft. Some of these intervals seem to be increasing, as a result of the shortages listed in paragraph 6, but it is too early to form a reliable judgment on the trend of deliveries.We all realise that the launching of a rearmament programme is bound to be full of difficulties. Vie make every allowance for administrative delays and realise that in the post-war world the Government have been working shorthanded. But there is no excuse for living in a world of pretence. There seems to us to be a lack of any sign of urgency and drive. As the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said, time is rot with us; it is against us, unless we make it our ally by realising its value. In the speech which he addressed to your lordships yester- 1027 day, the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said:When the programme is complete, the state of our defences will, indeed, be vastly improved.I hope it will, after the expenditure of £4,700,000,000. But military strength is relative. When our programme is completed, how much stronger will Russia and her satellites be? No scheme of armament, however well conceived, will be effective if it is too late.
The same applies to home defence. Earlier this year I addressed your Lordships on this subject. As I then said, we must recognise that much of the expenditure on purely passive defence will hamper our capacity in sending arms to Europe, where we must try to fight the war, if it comes, for the security of our home bases. I am not going to re-traverse the arguments I then employed. I will merely repeat that I am convinced that the operational effectiveness of the Regular and Territorial Forces will be immensely reduced unless a large part of the home defence duties can be handed over to the Home Guard and Civil Defence immediately on the outbreak of war. That means that the Home Guard, as well as the Civil Defence, must be raised, trained and practised before war begins. I am still convinced that there is an immense waste of time and manpower involved, unless home defence, including the Home Guard and Civil Defence, is conceived and planned as a whole. We must not make the mistake of planning for the last war, nor must we be dazzled by all the propaganda for the atom bomb. It is a fearful weapon. It will cause great devastation and very heavy casualties, if used in densely populated areas, but it is definitely limited in number and, for my part, I believe the most serious danger to this island is from air attack in the form of high explosive and incendiary bombs. I regret very much in these threatening times that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary has more closely associated himself with stressing and re-stressing the vital importance to our national safety of the Home Guard and Civil Defence organisations.
I do not suggest that we should waste money, man-power or material on expensive shelter policy, but I believe that much more could be done to improvise 1028 relatively cheaply a shelter system which would give confidence and a great measure of security against the effect of all kinds of bombing. How are the building regulations being administered in this regard? Is it laid down that new buildings should be constructed with adequate shelters, which will provide shelter for the inhabitants of the surrounding district? What about the new housing estates? This is the time to do it. We must not wait until it is too late. As I have already spoken at some length on this subject in a previous debate, I will not continue on this question.
I have given the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, notice that I intended to ask him a series of questions on this subject and I hope, if I read them out now, that he will discuss them in detail and individually. They are:
(1) Have any field force units or formations of the Regular or Territorial armies been allotted a Civil Defence role? (2) If so, how soon is it expected that these can be relieved from this secondary rôle? (3) If not, how will the roles ultimately to be undertaken by the Home Guard in support of Civil Defence be filled pending the embodiment of the Home Guard? (4) How will the anti-aircraft duties to be undertaken by the Home Guard be fulfilled during the time the Home Guard are being embodied and trained after a state of emergency has been declared or war begun? (5) Has one or more Civil Defence mobile column, experimental or otherwise, yet been formed? (6) Have any administrative arrangements been made by the Ministry of Labour to ensure that, if part-time men and women volunteers are enrolled in Civil Defence mobile columns during peacetime, these same volunteers will be available, if required, for full-time duty in war? (7) What progress has been made with the selection of Civil Defence headquarters and the laying down of communications? (8) What progress has been made with the planning of air raid shelters? Has a beginning been made with their actual construction in areas considered most vulnerable to air attack?
I should like particularly to stress the importance of Civil Defence mobilised columns. I know that the Government, 1029 anyway, officially, are seized of the importance of these columns, because the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in the debate which took place in January in this House, said:I would mention, however, that the column establishment has now been worked out, but it will have to he put to severe practical tests. With this end in view, arrangements are now proceeding for the actual formation of an experimental column. At the moment a headquarters is being sought, and as soon as this has been found steps will he taken to appoint a permanent instructional staff around which the columns will he formed.Until these columns are formed, I cannot see how the army and the operational units can be relieved of their home defence rôle. As the strategy of the Western Powers, and especially that of the United Kingdom and the United States, is being planned and integrated as part of the problem of the defence of the free world, so must our own defence organisation be conceived as a whole. Home defence is not a side issue, but a most important and urgent need. I was very glad to read the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in yesterday's debate on the Finance Bill. But I hope that strong words will result in decisive action, and that we shall not once again see dashed the hopes that have so often been disappointed hitherto.
I was particularly interested in the noble Lord's reference to "plausible and insidious arguments"; and again, to the use of the word "twaddle," in reference to an article in a Socialist Sunday paper. But against whom were those words directed? Not against the Opposition, who have given His Majesty's Government consistent support whenever they have felt that the Government were pursuing policies tending to increase the country's strength. They were directed against members of the noble Lord's own Party. It does not seem to me that it is a dignified position for any Government to be kept in office by men who are in active disagreement on a fundamental issue of politics. Surely nothing is more fundamental than an attitude towards national safety. Those who put their nation before their political beliefs are in a quite different camp from those who put their political ideology before the strength and independence of their own country. There are plenty of examples of the latter breed in Europe in the last five or six years. We on these Benches are not 1030 directly concerned in internecine strife within the Socialist Party, except in so far as it reflects on the national safety. The danger of the situation is summed up in the words "delay and compromise." Time is one of the most precious elements in this struggle. It is not only the programme, but also the speed and efficiency with which it is executed, that matters. ButHope springs eternal in the human breast.We shall continue to hope, and to give appropriate support to all policies which make for the efficient and speedy rebuilding of our strength.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, we are now on the way to a Peace Treaty with Japan, and there are some frosty gleams of light from Korea; but I fear it must be agreed that the world situation has been getting worse. Great perils at the present moment confront the free world, and at times seem very imminent; the signals outside every station at which we want to stop seem to be set at danger. While we are struggling to rearm, we are confronted by a great many intractable problems, mostly bound up with the question of rearmament. There is the question of German rearmament; of the inclusion of Greece arid Turkey in the North Atlantic Treary Organisation support for Yugoslavia; this very vexed question of the Mediterranean Command—surely, it is time that was settled; Persian oil; Egypt and the Suez Canal; and also the question of Spain. I confess that I found myself very much in agreement with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, on the subject of Spain. For a long time now I have thought that we were behaving extremely stupidly about that country. But in regard to each of these problems to which I have referred, and which we are failing to solve, it must be borne in mind that each failure is a Russian gain.
So far as our own contribution to Western defence is concerned, we hear a continual tale of orders being placed for tanks, for aircraft, and so on; but there is always this long time lag between order and delivery; and even after delivery there is the question of training. It is said that we need fifty divisions to deter, if not to defeat, Russian aggression in Europe. The ugly fact is that even by the Spring of 1952 General Eisenhower will have only some twenty to twenty-five 1031 divisions for the defence of the Rhine line. I wonder how many divisions, between now and the Spring of 1952, Russia and the satellite States will have added to their already great forces. These gaps in Western defence are caused by our own weakness in the air, and by the weakness of the European ground forces, and they cannot be closed before 1953. It is true, of course, that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation grows stronger, but the question is whether Russia is not also growing stronger, and even more rapidly than we are. And may it not be that Russia is completing her armaments programme, while we are still buildings ours up, and will be doing so for some time?
Then there is the position of America. Apart from America's possession of the atom bomb, we must not get into the habit of comfortably believing that all is well in America. It has just been revealed in the American Senate that she is very short of B.36's to carry the atom bomb. The American Chief of the Air Staff has asked for the 95 air groups already planned to be stepped up to at least 140. It is in the air that America can become, and remain, superior to Russia. But 95 American air groups (which is the figure at present) leave the North Atlantic Organisation in a state of inferiority to Russia in tactical air strength. The ground forces of the Organisation can never be quantitatively equal to those of Russia, and, failing air superiority, they will be destroyed. It is true, however, that such air superiority must be the affair of America, because our own aircraft industry is too small and the European aircraft industry is virtually non-existent.
In this matter of defence we are depending greatly upon General Eisenhower. He recently made a plea for European unity which it seemed to me met with a very chilly response. I understood Mr. Morrison to feel that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should have priority over such unity, and the Prime Minister made a very tepid reference to a speech of "wide sweep" needing careful study. It seems that not even General Eisenhower can sell the idea here, and now and again one feels that the Government are rather isolationist about Europe and do not really want 1032 close ties with the Continent. General Eisenhower seems to think that as a result of this attitude we get—and I quote his words:procrastination, timid measures, slow steps and cautious measures.He has been given a very hard job and he feels that without the unity for which he pleads he is being deprived of the essential ingredient of success. He is up against territorial fences, against tariffs, against duplicated burdens, against encumbrances of all sorts due to his having to deal with a multiplicity of Governments. He says:With the handicap of enforced division, it is clear that even the minimum essential security effort will seriously strain the resources of Europe.General Eisenhower is not arguing a political or an economic concept about Europe. He believes that unity is a military necessity for security, and it seems to me that nothing but that unity will ever render Europe independent of American aid.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has not the equivalent of the wartime meetings between Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. There is no organ of decision bringing together and consolidating the various organs of collective action which have been set up by N.A.T.O. We want an organisation, additional to those set up, where Ministers with power to bargain and decide will meet after an a inaugural meeting of the N.A.T.O. Prime Ministers. Without some such organisation we have General Eisenhower's warning that N.A.T.O. cannot be co-ordinated or European security achieved without unity. Those are the Supreme Commander's views on these matters.
At this juncture we have also been provided with some more advice about our discontents. A pamphlet has been issued entitled One Way Only, and the foreword contains these very noble sentiments:Silence at such a time would he cowardice. No one who is in a position to influence the minds of his fellows is entitled to stand aside and let the streams of human endeavour meet and leap towards catastrophe without doing his utmost to avert the tragedy.I must say that after reading that passage my eye immediately caught a phrase which is new to me—"Hemispherical self-sufficiency." I must confess that I 1033 thought of three of Æsop's frogs sitting in a row. The thesis of the pamphlet is broadly as follows. Russia, though misguided, has been to some extent forced into her evil courses by the power politics of the West. She is possibly open to an approach. The pamphlet says that she might even co-operate in a world plan for mutual aid and that her strength is probably overrated. In fact, one gets a glimpse of the villain of Victorian drama who could be redeemed by the love of a pure and virtuous maiden. But the real villain apparently is across the Atlantic. It is said that we have been led astray by American hysteria into embarking upon a largely unnecessary rearmament programme, using up money and resources which ought to be devoted to the development of the world's backward areas. What we have to do is to disentangle ourselves from the American. State Department and pin our faith upon Mr. Walter Reuther, who is the President of the United Automobile Workers. All will then he well. According to the authors of this pamphlet, it is not Russia who should be our main preoccupation. These are their words:The social revolution in Asia, Africa and the Middle East is the dominant fact of the Twentieth Century. The danger to-day is twofold, first, that hysterical fear"—I hope your Lordships will note the adjective "hysterical"—of Russian aggression will blind us to that challenge and, secondly, that breakneck rearmament will render us impotent to meet it.I wish the rearmament programme were a bit more breakneck than we have been hearing about to-day.
There art some very remarkable statements in this pamphlet on the subject of Russia. It speaks of:The degree of rearmament necessary to deter the Russians from military adventures.How on earth does anyone decide what that degree is? Statements of that sort are merely word spinning. It is absolutely impossible. It is not like reading the thermometer in the morning to see what the temperature is. How do you decide with any degree of accuracy what degree of rearmament is necessary to deter Russia? What degree of rearmament deters ground forces of 4,000,000 under arms which was the figure quoted 1034 by a Minister over the week-end? Then we come to this astonishing statement:The latent power of the Western Powers is vastly greater than that of the Soviet.And, apropos of the failure to attack Jugoslavia:May not the explanation be that Russia is a good deal weaker than is generally supposed?We are told that some of the charges against Russia are unfortunately true, but—and here I quote:they leave out of account the various military measures which have been taken by the Western Powers such as the establishment of American bases from Japan through the Middle East to Iceland.The pamphlet also speaks ofthe inter-action of power politics driving Russia into particular courses.While all this time we have been thinking of Russia as the aggressor threatening the West, it is apparently exactly the other way round—it is the brutal, bullying West who is threatening a really weak Russia who would behave quite differently, were it not for the power politics of the West. We are told that:the policies of the West are based on a gross over-estimate of Soviet strength and a cringing inferiority complex about Soviet political warfareand that the Western Powers must:subdue their hysteria about Communism which has driven them to present a picture so much at variance with the facts.I do not know how many of your Lordships read General Marshall's testimony to the Senate Committee recently. I think we can trust him to estimate Soviet strength rather more accurately than the authors of this pamphlet; and, whatever may have been the short-comings of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, certainly a cringing inferiority complex about Russia or any other country or anybody else was not part of his make-up
Then about America, apparently we have to wrestle for the soul of America. We must:see whether by our example and pressure we can spread sanity across the Atlantic before it is too late.If this pamphlet is an illustration of sanity, I am driven back to one of my old perplexities, and that is to know on which side of the bars the lunatics are. It is said that the Allies should:exercise their restraining influence on the United States of America.1035 But the authors of the pamphlet are kind enough to say that:We do not, of course, suggest that the Alliance should he broken.You can say anything scornful and hurtful about your Ally, but you do not suggest that the Alliance be broken. Another extraordinary statement is:Under a Tory Government we should have surrendered to MacArthurism, and the Korean war would have spread to the whole Pacific. Under a Labour Government we have checked the aggressive tendencies in the United States.Well, my Lords, I followed the Senate inquiry pretty closely, and I read a great deal verbatim, but I never realised that America had surrendered to MacArthurism. All the evidence is the other way round. If a Tory Government had wished to spread the war from Korea to the whole of the Pacific I am quite sure that America would not have come in, and the Tory Government would have been left to fight that Pacific war without American aid.
I will not weary your Lordships with further extracts from this pamphlet, except to touch upon one matter. For the moment, Russia is waging a war of nerves, and using every psychological weapon to split the Western Alliance. The American air force, with the atomic bomb, represents at present the one effective deterrent to Russia. That air force cannot operate without bases in Britain; and the possession of those bases in Britain has, of course, greatly increased the striking power of the American strategic air force. But for America's possession of those bases here it is a possibility that Russia might have felt that there was a good chance for her if she went to war. Without the build-up of the American's strategic air force our defences would have been greatly impaired. And this is the moment which Mr. Bevan chooses to lay down conditions, and very insulting conditions, upon which America may be allowed to continue the use of these bases: no American bomber is to leave one of these bases upon any military mission without the express consent of the British Government. In my opinion, the idea that America would start operations from this Island without our consent could be entertained only by a man with straws in his hair. These bombers are here at our 1036 invitation; they constitute at this time practically our sole defence—and a defence which would not be used without full consultation with us.
I heard the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman say, earlier this afternoon, something about the ostrich. I think the sponsors of this pamphlet and its authors have got their heads in the sands, and they are exposing their thinking parts. They are not looking facts in the face. The facts are that Europe is in fear, and rightly, of Soviet military power; and people in this country who study the facts know that we have no effective air defence, while being the most vulnerable target for an atomic bomb attack. I do not know if the authors think we can "go it alone." If not, it seems a very clumsy mistake to insult our strongest Ally. We must reconcile ourselves to America's taking the lead because, to be quite frank, there is no leader or leadership any-where else in N.A.T.O. To think otherwise is to be wilfully blind, for the sake of playing politics, in an attempt, in the pursuit of personal ambition, to weaken our link with America which alone offers a measure of security. The sponsors of this pamphlet will not oppose outright the whole idea of rearmament, or advocate leaving the Atlantic Alliance. But the pamphlet contains not one line to strengthen the rearmament effort in this country, or to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance. It contains only what would impede both objectives. Outside the lunatic fringe of Mr. Bevan's party the verdict will be against him. Speaking of the sponsors of this pamphlet the Manchester Guardian thinks that:The country is to be congratulated on having lost their services.The country may also feel some doubt about the judgment, or lack of judgment. shown in their services ever having been employed.
The Socialist Party has been bred and nurtured on pacifism, international good will, and the desire to help backward countries. These are very right and laudable aims, and the men who hold them strongly are honest men. It must be very hard indeed for them to admit or grasp the fact that, in the interests of national security welfare has to yield to rearmament. Their position is one with which one cannot help but sympathise. Mr. Bevan, however, knows perfectly well 1037 that welfare must yield at the present moment. After all, he has sat in the Cabinet and watched the build-up of the present situation. But, in spite of his knowledge, he plays on the emotions of those men whose honest uneasiness of mind I have endeavoured to describe. He also plays on people's fears, trying by half-truths to persuade them that what they hate can be avoided, and by picturing an American use of the bomb, taken independently of us, which would draw atomic retaliation upon us. So far as I know anything of politics or history, I think that those who strive to get ahead in the world by playing on other people's fears usually fail in their endeavour, and frequently come to a bad end.
I hope that people abroad will realise that this pamphlet—and it will be closely read, studied and marked abroad—is not a serious contribution to the question of our rearmament. It is the opening broadside in a campaign to win the leadership of the Socialist Party. Well, my Lords, as between Mr. Attlee and Mr. Bevan some people may find the choice not an appetising one or one calculated to arouse much enthusiasm. But I think Mr. Attlee can afford to use to Mr. Bevan words which Charles II once used to the Duke of York. He said:Brother, they will not slay me in order to make you King.So far as it deals with rearmament, this pamphlet is an attempt to sabotage our rearmament programme and the Anglo-American Alliance. As a nation we do not much like or practise sabotage, and our Allies need not be perturbed by this pamphlet. They will find us faithful to our Alliance. The noble Viscount. Lord Swinton, indicated to-day that he thought the Government were perhaps open to some criticism on their handling of the rearmament programme. At times I thought that I detected a feeling, from what the noble Viscount said, that possibly a Tory Government would have done very witch better—but perhaps I am doing the noble Viscount an injustice in suggesting that. But I am perfectly sure that the Government, according to their lights and to the best of their ability, will carry out this rearmament programme. Ministers' speeches over the week-end bore witness to that. They will put the rearmament programme through, and will not be led away by these insidious arguments advanced in One Way Only. I 1038 hope that our Allies abroad will note also that His Majesty's Opposition, and the people of this country, are determined to support the Government in putting the rearmament programme through.
§ 5.20 p.m.
My Lords, most of the speeches to-day have been on a broad basis, but I feel that I must get down to some actual details on defence matters. Before doing so, I should like to add my support to what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman. There is no doubt that if the present incidence of taxation on shipping continues, the time will come when it will be impossible for ship owners to maintain their fleets at their present levels, either in numbers or in efficiency. I need hardly point out to your Lordships the grave situation that would arise should this occur. What is more, no taxation relief will be of any avail if it is delayed until there are no resources left to replace the tonnage because of excessive taxation in earlier years. I think it is true to say that whenever a demand for a modification of taxation policy is made by the shipping industry for the renewal of their fleets, the Government reply is that it would involve treating the shipping industry as a special case. But I maintain that the shipping industry, in fact, is a special case. That has been clearly shown by two world wars, and the in dustry undoubtedly has a right to claim special consideration. In any event, no other major industry could survive without shipping. In time of war, the lifeline of the country as a whole would be placed in jeopardy.
We have had little reference to-day to the Navy, except as regards the necessary co-operation from the air for a successful naval operation, which I think was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk. I should like to turn for a few moments to the shortage of pilots in naval aviation. It is true that the recent announcement of new terms for shore-service commissions may improve recruitment, but I suggest that that is nothing like sufficient. I suggest that we should have no further financial inducements and so on, because I do not think they will provide the real solution to the problem at all. The real cause of the lack of enthusiasm in naval aviation, I would say, is the poor career prospects, a matter which has been mentioned here on a number of occasions. 1039 After the end of the short-service commission, the chance of employment as a commercial pilot is very poor. The training of a naval air pilot, with deck landing and so on, is primarily training with single-engined machines. That sort of training cannot be the kind required to fly our big air liners, which are now run by all our big air corporations. Then, again, the chances of permanent commissions are bound to be very small indeed.
Your Lordships will remember that the division of the spheres of air activity between the Navy and the Royal Air Force was settled in, I think, 1937 by the Inskip Committee, which decided that practically all shore-based flying should be the responsibility of the Royal Air Force, and that the only naval flying from aerodromes should be by carrier-borne squadrons when the ships were in harbour and carrying out operational training. I suggest that the time has come when the recommendations of this Committee should be reviewed, with the main object of providing long-term career prospects for Naval aviators. I do not propose to argue this evening whether it is desirable or not to transfer Coastal Command to the Navy. But I do suggest that consideration should be given to the transfer, either for a period or, perhaps, even permanently, of naval air crews to the Royal Air Force for coastal reconnaissance duty, after their short-service commissions in the Navy. I cannot help feeling that while the Royal Air Force retains Coastal Command, the influx of ex-naval pilots would be a valuable asset to Coastal Command, and even an economy. Of course they would be already thoroughly trained in warship recognition and reconnaissance work, and it would open up a really worth-while career for young naval aviators.
In fact I will go further, and suggest that the Navy will find itself short of senior air officers unless some such scheme as I have suggested is commenced, because the flying duty of these men will be practically finished by the time they reach the age of twenty-eight or thirty. The hazards of flying from, and alighting on, carriers mean that only relatively young men can carry on with this difficult job, because of the very high speeds of aircraft to-day. It is true to say that deck 1040 landing speeds have practically doubled since the beginning of the last war. In the Navy, at the present time, when a pilot becomes too old for deck flying, there are very few flying jobs left open to him. If it were decided to transfer the short-service naval pilots to Coastal Command for a period, they could then be re-transferred back to the Navy at the end of their time with Coastal Command, and these officers would be very useful for air staff duties at sea. That, I feel sure, would be of great benefit both to the Navy and to Coastal Command.
During previous debates on Defence and the Naval Estimates, a number of your Lordships raised the question of the composition and conditions of service of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. I do not want to go again over the whole ground, which has been so effectively covered in previous debates, but the fact remains that the shortage of recruits for this important and vital service is causing grave disquiet in naval circles. During the last year no candidates appeared from the universities, none from private shipbuilding, and none from the Navy. I understand that it was only with difficulty that three dockyard apprentices could be found who had a high enough standard of training and knowledge to be suitable candidates. I am all in favour of having an influx of dockyard apprentices, but for the good of the service as a whole it is essential that candidates should appear not only from the dockyards but also from our universities and the large shipbuilding concerns.
A few months ago I was a member of a deputation to the previous First Lord of the Admiralty on this very matter, and a promise was given that consideration would be given to the pay and conditions of service of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, with a view to inducing more recruits to this important branch of the Service. I would again suggest that, unless the pay and conditions can be improved, the Corps should be fully embodied in the Navy, and that members should have naval ranks appropriate to their qualifications and responsibilities. Your Lordships will remember that this suggestion, which has been put forward before, has the support of at least two distinguished Admirals of the Fleet who sit in your Lordships' House. I should like to ask the noble Viscount who is to 1041 reply whether he has any observations to make on this important matter. At a time when the new naval defence programme is in full swing, the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors, instead of expanding is steadily declining in numbers. Young officers continue to resign, and they are altogether dissatisfied with their conditions. I think it is true to say that the strength of the Corps in May, 1950, was only 174 fully trained officers, plus 35 temporaries, although, as your Lordships may remember, the Eastham Committee recommended that in peace time there should be a strength of not less than 300. I would even go so far as to say that there are not sufficient naval constructors to design and supervise the large number of small ships which are now under construction. This, of course, is a very serious matter.
I should also like to ask the noble Viscount who is to reply whether he can inform your Lordships of the state of our coastal forces, because we really have no clear picture of this aspect of naval activity. Your Lordships will have seen that numerous Questions have been answered in another place, but they have been very inconclusive. I believe that at the end of the war we had some 1,200 craft of the M.T.B. and M.G.B. categories, but I think it is true to say that the great majority of these craft have been sold or scrapped, and that the total number remaining is something like 140. It was stated by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty in another place that there are 54 patrol craft in the active Fleet, and 67 in the Reserve Fleet. I should like to ask the noble Viscount who is to reply whether all the 54 boats are, in fact, in full commission and engaged in regular exercises. Are they properly equipped with radar and the necessary armament? I should also like to ask what is the position with regard to the 67 boats in the Reserve Fleet. Are those boats being fully maintained in a seaworthy condition, with serviceable engines and other equipment available for them at short notice? Are the hulls of these boats, which are, of course, made of wood, being properly looked after, inspected periodically, painted and so on? I understand a number of them are berthed in mud berths and, is many of your Lordships are aware, unless they are well looked after they soon become subject to dry rot.
1042 I have put some searching questions about this matter, but I think that we should have a very much clearer picture than we have at present. I do not in any way wish to suggest that our coastal forces are inefficient, but I feel that the public should be told a little more about their numbers and activities, what is the complete rearmament programme for these forces, and whether or not we are falling behind with this programrne which, of course, is so vital for the safety of this country.
§ 5.32 p.m.
My Lords, the subject under discussion covers a very wide field, but I wish to make only a few remarks on the production and supply side of defence. I do not profess to be an expert on this subject, but I had some experience in ordnance factories during the war and at other times. There were many hold-ups in production, particularly at the start of the war, and, without wishing to disparage anyone who was in charge at that time, I feel there are questions that we should ask ourselves to-day as to whether we have learnt by the mistakes then made and have put our house in order.
We ended the war with vast stocks. One of the big problems that developed was that of storage. Have we dissipated too much in order to relieve the storage problem? We have all known of good stuff being sold off at very reasonable prices in recent years; in fact, I believe that disposal sales are still going on. I was surprised to see in the Economic Survey that such things as tents, ground sheets, web equipment and so forth, were urgently required at the present time. Did we overlook the fact that there might be difficulties in supply when the jute came from Pakistan and the mills were in India? Of course, some things have a limited life in store, particularly in this climate, but have we explored the possibilities of having strategic stores in more favourable climates?
Packages and containers were also a big problem. It may be necessary to have a different container for war purposes as compared with those of peace, the one suitable to stand up to years of storage and the other which will do for a few journeys on a quick turn round. I remember large teak boxes with brass fittings and so forth, with which we 1043 started the war and which were quite unsuitable and, in fact, impossible to put into mass production. we should have alternatives ready as soon as possible for war production—proved substitutes that could be used at once, without creating a shortage in other directions. I remember some hectic experiments which were carried out to find a textile as a substitute for pure silk, which, as your Lordships probably know, is used in large quantities for cartridge bags. When Japan came into the war the position became acute, and it seemed extraordinary that there was no substitute which had been thought of and proved beforehand.
The position of the Royal ordnance factories is admittedly very difficult. At the start of a war an ordnance factory has to carry the load whilst industry is turning over to war production. These ordnance factories must be efficient, and yet they are really half dead. That is nothing new; it happened in years gone by. I remember in 1920 doing a job in a fuse factory which was disused. It was like working in a city of the dead. There were only two or three of us in an enormous factory that had previously housed thousands. I do not know what has been the policy in regard to shutting down factories, but there is no doubt that during the last war many ordnance factories, and others for that matter, were planned much too large. In fact, to my knowledge, large sections of them were never completed, for the reason that they completely drained all the labour and transport for miles around, robbing everything else. In planning an ordnance factory there is a tendency to feel that there will always be available unlimited labour which can be attracted in case of necessity. I hope that, in the light of past experience, such deficiencies in layout have been put right in the last five or six years, and that these factories are now planned more on a basis of their being operated by a minimum of labour.
I remember being very astonished in 1939 to find that there were three different gauges of railway in Woolwich Arsenal. That may have been all right in peace time, but it hardly assisted efficiency in war-time production. There was another large filling factory in another part of the country which was planned to receive 1044 everything by rail. That may have been all very well in peace time, but when there was a shortage of railway wagons it was ridiculous that a lorry load could not be sent into the factory without its being put into a wagon at the gates. I do not know what is the present system of stocktaking in factories. I believe that in depôts, the stock is very carefully checked, but I do not think that was the case in factories at the beginning of the war. I remember that some fuse powders which were in extremely short supply were, in fact, shown as factory stock, and I, myself, spent an afternoon in 1940 trying to find them. We never found them. The reason given to me was that stocktaking was done on a 5 per cent. check per annum. The whole system may have been changed, and I hope that there is a 100 per cent. visual stocktaking at least once per annum in all ordnance factories to-day, just as there would be in any commercial concern. Your Lordships may think that I am making rather much of this point, but I remember that it took several months to find two 9.2 guns which, after all, are not things which anybody puts into his pocket.
All this really comes down to a question of management, and that, I agree, is a very difficult problem A good chemist or cordite maker may be an excellent superintendent in peace time, but he is probably lost when put in charge of a factory employing 20,000 or more people and covering several hundred acres. Moreover, he is paid a very inadequate salary for such a task. I do not think it is fair to the man. He has had no experience of mass production. Something might be done to make for a better atmosphere and to keep "on their toes" those who are collected together in these factories in rather depressing surroundings. I do not know whether it would be possible to reintroduce something on lines which existed in war time, when there was a Select Committee, which might have had a rather technical bias, to carry out inspections at intervals. Another suggestion is that it may be possible to let some of those in charge—at all levels—go, at different times, to see a few live factories. It does not matter whether the factories are in exactly the same line of production as those with which the people are concerned, so long as they are doing something in mass production and are efficiently run. I feel 1045 that otherwise these people must get out of touch with modern practice.
Another possibility might be to have the larger factories on a care and maintenance basis, and run a comparatively small plant full out and really efficiently. In that way, although there would perhaps be a smaller number of trained personnel, they would probably be better trained men if it came to a crisis. After all, the big source of trained technicians in the last war was commercial industry, and particularly Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. I must say they did a wonderful job in that respect. In my opinion it was the experience of those men in the hurly-burly of world competition and commerce which made them so much more conscious of time and costing. There was the instance of one weapon—I think it was a 2 inch mortar shell, which I remember being filled in one of the agency factories. That was an ordnance factory run by one of the big commercial firms. They put the work on a Swiss roll basis and in a matter of weeks halved the standard tint of filling. It was a wonderful performance.
I do not wish to discuss—nor am I capable of doing so—the merits of the.280 rifle, but I should like to say that I welcome the decision that something has to be done in that direction. I am sure that a rimless cartridge would be an enormous advantage over the present.303. But I urge that before the final decision is made for tooling up, the job will be costed in the commercial sense by people who are accustomed to mass-produce suet things. This weapon will be made in millions, and a very small modification in design may greatly assist in mass-producing the weapon more quickly, at a lower cost and without interfering with its efficiency. in that connection the production facilities overseas should seriously be borne in mind. The question of a propellant for rifle and cannon may appear a detail to the outsider, but it is really a basic matter. I would not Pretend to argue with experts on the merits of cordite versus N.C. powders regarding wear, stability, consistency, flash, smoke and so forth, hut I do know that when we were in great need in 1940 none of our friends (except for a negligible production in India) were capable of making any cordite to help us, and we were the only people who used it. Eventually, we used large quantities of N.C. powder with success. I hope the 1046 powers that be have considered that problem. It may be a case for major decisions on policy, and it would mean a big change-over in certain factories. We hear a great deal at the moment about shortage of sulphuric acid, but really it was nitric acid which was the controlling factor in explosives at one period during the war.
There is one other point I should like to mention and that relates to the question of inspection. The output of a factory has to be passed, and I believe that it is the general responsibility of the C.I.A., or the equivalent naval inspector. But if there is a hold-up on inspection for any reason, the effect on a factory can be extremely serious. The C.I.A. must have great difficulty in training the necessary personnel and finding people with sufficient initiative. I recollect that there was another serious difficulty—the lack of gauges. This for a time limited the inspectors' best endeavours. In conclusion, I should like to say that though I feel I may have expressed myself badly, I have not intended in any way to criticise any individuals. I had many friends in the Royal Ordnance factories and I do appreciate some of their difficulties and their good work. Explosives and weapons may change, but the problems remain very similar. If we learn by the mistakes of the past, I feel quite confident that we can set up a firm basis for defence against any enemy.
§ 5.47 p.m.
My Lords, in the few minutes during which I want to address your Lordships I shall try to confine my remarks to one matter only—that is, the question of the issue of the campaign medal for present operations in Korea. I make no apology whatever for introducing this subject into a Defence debate, because, whilst, very rightly, the discussion this afternoon has largely centred upon what may be called physical planning and preparations, we ought not to overlook the other, the psychological, aspect. However well conceived may be physical preparations as a safeguard against future hostilities, how easily their effect may be blunted if the idea gets abroad that the recognition of individual efforts in present operations is not also a matter that calls for some immediate concern! In raising the point in this way I hope I shall not be accused of saying that the modern Service man only 1047 gives of his best in the hope of reward. That is the last thing I would say, and it would be a most improper suggestion if it were to be made. But I am quite certain that reasonable reward, spontaneously given, can have a most stimulating moral effect for achieving just that little extra—the achieving of something which has sometimes been described as the impossible—which we need so much in our rearmament drive to-day.
I am aware that this matter of the campaign medal was raised in another place in the spring of this year—on March 5, to be exact. It was then stated in the course of the reply that the time was not opportune. I am not quite sure whether the subject has been raised again since, but, rightly or wrongly, the impression that has gained ground as the result of the reply then given was that the British medal was being held up while the question of a United Nations campaign medal was under consideration. I do not know whether that is a correct interpretation or not. I can well understand that it would take a considerable time for agreement to be reached on the question of a United Nations medal. When the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, replies, perhaps he will be able to say whether my interpretation is correct. If it is, surely the only possible explanation must be that the Government hold the view that there cannot be two medals for the same campaian—a British medal and a United Nations medal. Why not? There is ample precedent for there being two medals for one campaign. I will not weary your Lordships by giving a string of historic precedents, but I would mention two: the Egyptian Campaign of 1882, when there were both a British campaign medal and the Khedive Star and, much nearer home, the Third China War, when a British Force was taking part with an international force under a foreign commander, and there was a British campaign medal irrespective of the medals issued by the other nations. If we looked into the First and Second World Wars, I think we should find that the issue of British medals was never delayed by consideration of what our Allies might be going to do.
If it be argued that in the past we have never been in any hurry to issue medals before the end of hostilities. I would agree 1048 that that has been the case. It may well not have mattered very much in those days, but to-day the situation is entirely different. I maintain that there is no room whatever for any delay in this matter. I decided to raise this question some time ago, before there was any suggestion of negotiations in Korea, but even if the negotiations result in the end of hostilities, that will not mean the end of tension in other places. The need for building up our Forces will be as pressing as ever. Both Regulars and National Service men returning home, as they are already returning home, will not be able, as in the case of past wars, to put their uniforms away and forget about them altogether. Even National Service men will have to take their uniforms out from time to time and do their part-time service with the Territorial Army. Is there to be no distinction between the men who have done so gallantly in Korea and those other National Service men who, through no fault of their own, have spent their two years in the security of some regimental depot at home or on the Continent? Many members of your Lordships' House, in the course of long and distinguished military careers, have earned rows and rows of medals. I think I can say without impertinence that noble Lords would agree that the first medal they earned was the most important of them all. For many young men, for whom I am now speaking. this will be their first medal.
I am fully aware that the choice and preparation of a ribbon and the minting of a medal will take a considerable time, but if these are the limiting factors, there are steps which can be taken more immediately. There is already in existence a General Service Medal, of which there are probably considerable stocks. If this were to be approved, it could be worn for the Korean War immediately, with some emblem on the ribbon analogous to the "I" or the "VIII" of the First Army or the Eighth Army on the Africa Star. It might be a "K." The only delay which then would occur, but which would not be very much, would be the time needed for the preparation of the "K" clasp. On the other hand, if it were felt that ultimately there should be some entirely new ribbon—and I am inclined to agree with that view—as a purely interim measure, so that the men coming home might have something to show where they 1049 came from, there could be some distinctive shoulder flash which could be prepared and issued immediately. We want something so that when these men land in this country, as they have already started to do, and go to their home towns and villages, everyone can see that they have been serving in Korea. To my mind, the case for action seems unanswerable and I think a great many people in the country would agree with me. Therefore I hope that when the noble Viscount comes to reply—and I have given him notice that I was going to raise this matter—he will be able to give some assurance that something will be, or possibly is already being done, on the lines I have suggested. It will ill reflect on a grateful country if it appears that nothing is being done. For the men themselves, it is the least we can do; and as an addition to our rearmament programme, I am sure it would pay dividends.
§ 5.54 p.m.
My Lords, the question of the revival of the Home Guard has already been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, and I do not propose to weary your Lordships with a repetition of what he said, but I have a few suggestions to make which I have already notified to the noble Viscount who is to reply. So far back as September. 1948, I brought up the question of the revival of the Home Guard in a debate on Defence in your Lordships' House, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, who replied, then said:The Civil Defence Services generally are likely to make a very heavy demand on the available man-power of the country. This is of particular importance in considering whether it will be possible to form a Home Guard. The Government are, however, fully alive to the value of the Home Guard, and its resuscitation is one of the possibilities which is now under consideration.I think it is generally allowed that recruiting of Civil Defence personnel has been very disappointing, largely because we are dealing with a more or less hypothetical situation instead of an actual state of war or even a near threat of one. I have also heard it argued that many men may be hanging back because of the possible resuscitation of the Home Guard. That may well be the ease, if we remember the enormous number of men who served in the Forces during the War, who are now in civilian employment, who 1050 would have to remain, at least in their own estimation, in civil employment if war came, and who think that service in the Home Guard would be "up their street." We have not yet had a chance of testing whether this is a fact or not. It can be tested only by actually re-forming, or attempting to re-form, the Home Guard now.
No doubt there is a lack of urgency with regard to the situation in which we find ourselves, and this has not been improved by one or two recent utterances by Ministers and by those who have been Ministers. Surely it must be plain to everybody that, if war should unhappily come, we should be up against something which would put into the shade what we were up against in 1940. So far as I can see, from the outset of war, there can be no such thing as a voluntary system for either Civil Defence or the Home Guard. There will have to be a rapid and complete screening of the whole available man-power remaining in the country to see how they can be fitted into these two services and any other service that might be necessary. Since the debate in 1948, the question of the revival of the Home Guard has been raised in both Houses on more than one occasion. I believe (here I speak subject to correction, and I have asked the noble Viscount to let me know about it) that appointments can now be made, presumably by Territorial associations, to the post of sector commander. If I am right in this, will the noble Viscount tell us how far this process has gone, and what the next step is likely to be? In the late war the Home Guard was considered an essential part of home defence—and may even have been one of the factors which decided the German High Command against invasion. At the present time the existence of a Home Guard would have its deterrent effect; and, after all, the whole reason for our rearmament programme is for its deterrent effect on a possible aggressor.
If war should come, we should have to face two main dangers, which perhaps we did not face to the same extent in the last war. First, there is the fact that we have in our midst a large potential force of saboteurs—a fifth column; and secondly, there is the fuller development of the airborne arm. From zero hour (this is fairly obvious, I am afraid, but I state it to make my point), we should 1051 have to be prepared primarily to provide against those two things: first, airborne attack—possibly, in the first place, just the dropping of expert saboteurs, agents, and so forth, who would naturally be dropped in the most out-of-the-way places—and, secondly, saboteurs in our own country. For these purposes, so far as I can see, a Home Guard in being is the only answer. We have heard little about its revival for a long time. If it cannot be achieved now, to what extent, and at what level, should we make preparations which will ease the burden and the inevitable scramble of sudden mobilisation? If something has been done in the way of the appointment of sector commanders, would it not be possible, and wise, to proceed now with the appointment of battalion commanders, the kingpins of the Home Guard branch of the Services? That may have been done, but I have heard nothing about it. If it could be done, I think a great deal of useful spade work might be carried out.
What about the records of the last Home Guard? Where are they? I imagine that a great many have been destroyed in the optimism of victory, but there must be a large number in private hands, or with the Territorial associations—records of plans of defence, maps, strong points, as well as of personnel. I mention that because I see no particular reason why, if we revive the Home Guard, the plans which were proved good during the last war, so far as we were able to prove them, should not hold good to-day in the matter of home defence. Battalion commanders, if appointed, could explore the possibilities of future Staff officers, administration appointments within their areas, and the division of their areas into convenient platoon areas for recruiting purposes. They could talk over with managers of local factories the question of factory protection and they could survey the possibilities of buildings suitable for headquarters. It must be remembered that, at any rate in large urban areas, there would be a good many more buildings left vacant than are to be found at present. Although this would all be very tentative, it might prove to have been well worth while if and when the necessity for the Home Guard arose.
I should like to make one last point. I fervently hope that we shall have a 1052 Home Guard as soon as possible. I believe that it is a definite complement to Civil Defence, and I have never been able to see why it has been left out of the reckoning, though one realises the immense importance of training for Civil Defence now. But if we are to have a Home Guard, for heaven's sake let it be a mobile Home Guard. I remember that in my own battalion during the last war, we had one extremely doubtful lorry which was always breaking down. We had a very large area to look after, and it might have been necessary at any moment to rush a platoon here, or a platoon there, and yet we had nothing but private cars, with practically no petrol, to carry out the operation. We know something about the weapons required for the Home Guard, and there would probably be little difficulty about that. But do let it be mobile, particularly for the wider spaces, such as the moors of Yorkshire and Scotland, and the hills and dales of Wales. We must have extreme mobility in those districts. As I have said before. I believe that the Home Guard would be complementary to the Civil Defence which is absolutely essential if by an unhappy chance we should go to war again.
§ 6.7 p.m.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for long, but I should like to refer for a few moments to one or two aspects of this subject of defence. The first point is that made in General Eisenhower's speech—namely, unity of purpose. Unity of purpose can apply to various points in a defence programme, and the point I wish to raise for a few moments—and it is a warning—is the unity of purpose on the production side of the materials for defence. We all know that recently (this matter has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Winster) there has been published a pamphlet of an extremely disgusting nature, called One Way Only. To put it mildly, I consider that almost treasonable at the present time. We can hardly realise yet what effect that pamphlet may have on the workers, particularly those in the various branches of rearmament. we know very well that there is a large fifth column movement active in this country. I cannot help feeling that this is a most 1053 unfortunate time for this pamphlet to be published, a time when the object of America and ourselves has been to show a production lead to the rest of the nations who have joined with us in the Atlantic Treaty.
It was only about ten days ago that a number of your Lordships and myself had the interesting experience of listening, in one of the Committee rooms of your Lordships' House, to the late Communist, who has since changed his opinions and gone over to the Roman Catholic faith: I refer to Mr. Hyde, the late news editor of the Daily Worker. Mr. Hyde spoke for nearly an hour, and he did not mince his words. I can assure your Lordships that the sabotage dangers to this country, as expressed by Mr. Hyde, were not idle fancy. No doubt the Government are aware of the feeling in the Civil Service, and also in one or two trade unions of the engineering industry. In fact, we have been warned that if certain of their demands are not met, discontent and strikes will occur, which is very serious indeed for unity of production at this period. I do not wish to say any more on that matter at this moment, because I referred to it in a speech that I made in this House on the last rearmament debate, and the noble Viscount who is to reply to-day then gave me a certain measure of encouragement. I am only hoping that the Government are still firm in their purpose that production shall be kept right up to the mark, at whatever cost to the political creed or régime of their politicians, in whatever walk of life.
I should like to refer for one moment to unity of purpose with regard to economic supplies to foreign countries. I had brought to my notice the other day the fact that there is considerable disunity in certain Government Departments and Ministries as to what supplies should go out of this country to possible enemy countries. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs at this moment. We have had assurances in this House that essential materials shall riot go, and I hope the Government will be firm, and will stick to a united policy on that subject.
The third point upon which I wish to touch is foreign affairs, which has already been described as essentially part of this debate. The first point I wish to raise is with regard to Spain. It seems a pity that an object which stands 1054 out in the strategic conception of European defence should be a matter of dissension between the United States and ourselves, who should lead the other nations to agreement. Spain's particular creed should be a matter of secondary consideration where the defence of Europe is concerned. I am very glad that America has been firm on this point, and I can only hope that our Government will follow suit and see the light of sense in this matter. I would also refer to the good news that both Greece and Turkey are likely to be coordinated in the defence of the Eastern Mediterranean. That is a great step in the right direction. I have not the information necessary to enlighten your Lordships on the full extent to which their co-operation has been accepted. My last point concerns Germany. This is a matter upon which I feel very strongly. One or two of your Lordships this afternoon have referred to the German position. I would stress the fact that it has been proved without doubt that the one country Russia fears is Western Germany. But without the co-operation of America, England and France the proposed rearmament of Western Germany can never be a successful project. A rearmed Western Germany, without full-scale, tri-partite agreement between England. America and France, can never succeed, because I am quite convinced that a rearmed Germany without a full backing will mean the immediate attack by Russia from the east.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, noble Lords opposite will no doubt feel that they have come in for a certain amount of criticism this afternoon, not all of which, I regret to say, has been heard by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, who is to reply, or, indeed, by any members of the Government whom we on these Benches usually associate with matters of Defence. I hope very much that it will not be long before the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, is in his place on the Bench. Criticism there may have been, but I think we shall all agree that that criticism has been constructive, as it was m milt to be, and directed towards placing us in a position to meet our obligations, both to the United Nations organisation and to Western Union (that meets the point of 1055 the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi) and working in harmony and at profit with the United States of America. In this way we shall be ready to provide our fair share of the armaments—our agreed quota, if you prefer—required as part of our share in the effort of the United Nations, Western Union, or what you like, and thereby to forestall war. I think that was one of the major points which was made by my noble friend Lord Swinton in moving his Motion to-day.
This constructive criticism from these Benches is not the only criticism of the rearmament policy which the Government have had recently. This debate can almost be held to have begun yesterday, because the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham (I am sorry that I did not hear his speech, but I read it this morning) opened it with a statement of the Government policy on armaments. From that statement it almost seemed as if he had been reading the pamphlet called One Way Only, and that he was at some pains to refute certain propositions advanced in it. I will come to the rest of what he said in a moment. I have read that pamphlet and so, indeed, has the noble Lord, Lord Winster. I am indebted to him, because he has relieved me of the necessity of making more than the briefest reference to some of the fallacies, to which Lord Pakenham referred, in that pamphlet, which do not coincide with the Government's conception of what lies ahead. I shall make only a very short reference to One Way Only, and that for two purposes.
The first, if it is not improper for me to do so, is to sympathise with His Majesty's Government for having in the ranks of their supporters people who subscribe to a document like that. I shall say no more about that aspect. My second reference to this matter concerns the point with which Lord Pakenham dealt yesterday. I should like to say that I, and, I think, my noble friends on these Benches, are in full agreement with the substance of what he said. To my mind, that pamphlet contains one major fallacy and one major error. The major fallacy is that it is possible or proper to indulge in any scale of armament which is not fully calculated to meet the threat which we think is before us at any given time. Any idea that we 1056 can go part of the way with an armament programme, and then stop, for some reason unconnected with the threat (which is what I read in the pamphlet) is wholly wrong—although I know that the view contained in the pamphlet is not shared by His Majesty's Government. It is not only wholly wrong, but it is extremely wasteful; and, as my noble friend Lord Portman said, it savours strongly of something like treason. Therefore we must all agree—everybody, that is to say, except those who subscribed to this pamphlet—that if we are preparing against possible aggression we must prepare on a scale sufficient to forestall that aggression. Nothing more is necessary, because we all subscribe to the doctrine of minimum force. Nothing less makes any sense or would be right or proper.
The major error is that of believing that the threat from the Russians or other possible aggressors is not so great as is supposed. I think the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, dealt fully with that point yesterday, and I should like, if I may, to endorse his remarks very fully. That pamphlet appeared in the names of three gentlemen. The military qualifications of two of them are not known to me. The third was trained as a soldier, and I am sorry to think that he has fallen into the very common error of underestimating one's enemy. It is an error which I think the Government have not fallen into. That deals, I think, more or less briefly, with the pamphlet. As I say, if we are going, to arm at all to meet any threat we must go all the way necessary or else it is not much use doing it at all. Nor can we assume that if we stop rearming in order to protect the Welfare State, the Welfare State, when the aggressor comes in, will go on, whatever happens. That is an assumption to which none of us would agree. So, supposing that we had exhausted the attempts we intended to make in rearmament, and the aggressor walked in, One Way Only would be a very apt name, for it would be a cheap day ticket, non-return, for anybody who liked to come in.
Now let me turn to our own more positive propositions. Before I do so I should like to say one more word concerning the reference made to defence by Lord Pakenham in the debate on the 1057 Finance Bill yesterday. I think I ought to say that, while I agree fully with the propositions which the noble Lord put forward, they may be regarded as a statement of policy and intention. By itself the statement gave us no clue as to how far the policy was on the way to fulfilment. I have no doubt that Lord Pakenham will say that this is not the right moment to give that clue; but, having heard something of chapter one from Lord Pakenham, we should like to hear a little of chapter two, about the fulfilment of that policy, from the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, whose remarks we so eagerly await. Half measures are the next most wasteful thing in which we can indulge. I say "the next," for the most wasteful thing for any country is war, and the next most wasteful are preparations which cost a great deal in men, money and equipment but which prove inadequate to meet the threat. That is why so many of my noble friends this afternoon have laid such great insistence on whether these preparations are going to result in real units, real 'planes and real ships, and whether the orders have been given at the proper time.
Of course, all these points are old friends in these debates. They come back again and again to the same things that we have talked about ever since, at any rate, 1946: the time factor, the state of readiness, and all those things. And as we are still not in a much better state of readiness, so we must go on inquiring and probing, and insist that these plans shall come off the drawing board at the proper time and be translated into action. Otherwise, what use is it for General Eisenhower and Lord Montgomery to be in Paris? Then again, how can we get over the condition of what I shall describe as an acute strategic weakness—because it lacks a final decision—in regard to the rearmament of Germany? How can we get over that position unless all the other countries are convinced that we mean business? We cannot; and so long as there is any doubt whether our contribution is going to be really effective, so long will those doubts he felt far beyond this country in the nations of Western Europe and in Western Germany itself. Therefore, any positive contribution we make will be positive not merely in the sense that it will be an improvement in our own physical defence condition but that it will mean a definite im- 1058 provement in the morale and the will to resist aggression among the nations of Western Union and in Western Germany itself.
We have had this afternoon one or two expert speeches, and I am glad we have had them if only because they show how very far-reaching is this business of defence. The subject ran into the debate on Finance yesterday, and it will run into the debate on Foreign Affairs next week; and in this debate we have touched upon many kinds of things: shipping, manufacture of explosives and war equipment, aircraft and home defence. The range is wide, and yet every one of these speeches was in order and within the limits of the debate. I will not comment on all those speeches, because every one of my noble friends made his case. But I want to make one or two short comments on some other points which perhaps were not dealt with fully. I want to go back to a remark of Lord Pakenham's yesterday. He said that peace in Korea would be only one phase and not the end of the threat. I could not agree with him more than I do about that. It is the second phase: surely the end of the air-lift was the first. This, as I say, is the second; and those who like to prophesy can say, if they like, where the venue of the third phase will be. I could have one or two guesses and so could other noble Lords. But that is the pattern of the phases, and the phases will go on; and the more ready we are to deal with them, the shorter the phases will be and the more successful to us will be their conclusion.
Then there was a point which was made by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk—a very important point—of the historic difficulty of commanding forces of Allies. That is not a new problem: it has been well known in military history for three hundred years at least, and it has never been successfully solved. And nowadays, with more people concerned and with present communications, the problem has become more complex and more liable to become seized up or bogged down. This complex machinery is becoming more and more complex. There are the difficulties of getting agreement, the insistence on small points. As compared with that, the Communist machine, whatever else it may be, does seem to be capable of quick decision. 1059 So, this question of machinery and of staff duties—not only General Eisenhower's headquarters staff but staff duties generally—is one which must be studied fully if the machine is to work and if the political leaders of the countries concerned are to be in their right place and taking their right decisions vis-á-vis the Service chiefs and the production chiefs and everybody else. We still have a long way to go in that direction.
Then we come to equipment. To-day, we have not mentioned standardisation, but I should like to say how much I welcome the announcement made by the Minister of Defence in another place (I think it was on July 6) that the whole question of the.280 rifle is to be reconsidered from a standardisation aspect. After all, as I say, it will be difficult enough, even with a high degree of standardisation, to produce the equipment and have the equipment inter-available for people fighting on the same side; but if we get a low measure of standardisation, nothing at all will happen, the time will come when equipment will not be interchangeable and the battle, whether in the air or on the ground, will suffer. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, spoke about vehicles. I believe that the vehicle situation is one of the most serious of all. Of course, none of the hopes which the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, had for a mobile Home Guard can possibly be satisfied until the vehicle situation is good enough to supply our own field forces. Though I have looked into this matter carefully, I have seen no signs at all of any great stirring among the motor-car and vehicle-building industries. There has been stirring elsewhere. There has been stirring in the aircraft industry, but not in regard to weapons. If there is any real stirring in the vehicle-building industries, then all I can say is they have been very quiet about it.
I come now, shortly, to the point made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley and the noble Lord, Lord Hampton about the Home Guard and Civil Defence. Here we are a long way behind. There is no real planning. The Ministry of Labour, who ought to be taking control of part-time man-power—I do not apologise for saying this again, 1060 although I know that I have said it before—are not coming "up-stage". The responsible Ministers do not appear personally to be leading the Civil Defence campaign. believe that departmentalism in Whitehall and the Punch and Judy show between the Home Office and the Service Departments in regard to the Home Guard and Civil Defence are as bad as ever. Why, when there were so many lessons to be learnt after the last war, is every single one of them disregarded (I say this with some knowledge) in the handling of the Home Guard, Civil Defence and part-time man-power? Those may seem disconnected points, but they are not disconnected. I conclude by returning to the note on which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, opened this debate. We have been trying from different angles to look at this problem as one whole. In this debate we have been trying to encourage the Government, by what we intend to be constructive criticism, to look at this problem as one whole. We want to make our contribution to the national will to prepare to resist aggression, and to the faith that it is right to do so.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH)
My Lords, we have had a fairly long and detailed debate to-day on a subject which we must all agree is of considerable importance. It is so important that it is vital to our existence in the future as a free nation. On all sides of the House, and in all sections of the community, we have to be prepared to stand up to a responsibility which, if we failed to accept it, would eventually put us into such a position of weakness that we might expect the worst to befall us. On the other hand, whilst I recognise that, for example, the speeches of the noble Viscount who opened the debate and of the noble Viscount who has just addressed the House were in a very large degree constructive, and were addressed to the whole general problem, it is essential at such a time that we should be looking at the problem as a whole and thinking of the whole structure of those free nations who are now banded together in order to produce adequate defence against aggression; we must not be for ever thinking that there is only one "nigger in the woodpile," only one thing holding up the advancement of our de- 1061 fence—that is, the wicked Government who happen to be in office in this country at the present time.
The two noble Viscounts who, respectively, began and ended the debate did not offend greatly from that point of view; I acknowledge that, and thank them for the spirit of their speeches. But one or two remarks have been made which could not be included in the same category of appreciation. I think, too, that your Lordships will agree that, at this time and after such a debate, with questions addressed to me fore and aft, it would be quite impossible for me to cover all that ground in detail except in the course of an answer of such length that it might not be tolerated by this House. Nevertheless, I think that, if one endeavours to deal effectively first with the speech of the opener of the debate, a great many of the other points raised will fall into line. If other points that have been raised in the debate can be followed up between myself and the Ministers concerned, then perhaps the noble Lords who have raised those points will regard them as having been effectively dealt with.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who opened the debate, said that there were two fundamental truths in regard to international defence problems which would have to be recognised in the making of plans: first, that the threat of Communism is universal and that, therefore, there should be one front for Allied strategy over-all. The second, of course, was the noble Viscount's emphasis that it was essential that there should be a policy of complete collaboration between the British Empire and the United States over the whole ground. I do not disagree with those two main principles, although I am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, that we must always be careful, in accepting those two general truths, to remember that it is not Communism as a philosophy that we fight: we have to deal with the Russian interpretation of how to use a dictatorial and imperialistic Communism to the stage of aggression.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I assure the noble Viscount that I am not concerned with long-haired idealists, but rather with short-haired activists.
Viscount ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
Then, on these things, the noble Viscount and myself are, apparently, completely in accord.
1062 Nor should I miss the opportunity of saying that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, is quite right when he says that my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty dealt adequately with the contentions made in the course of a certain pamphlet in other places. I thought the First Lord of the Admiralty stated the facts admirably yesterday, and his statement seems to have been generally welcomed in your Lordships' House. On that matter, to save time, I rest myself entirely upon the statement made yesterday, and say that that is the view of His Majesty's Government. I would however add this to the noble Viscount who has just sat down. When he said, with the most bland countenance and assurance, he felt sorry for the Government in having such supporters, I cast my mind back to the period of rearmament from 1935 to 1940: at that time there was not exactly complete harmony in the Conservative Party as to what should be the policy to be pursued. However, that is a matter for each Party concerned to deal with as its own business.
What is needed in the world is the belief in, and the visual evidence of, the progress of the rearmament programme of Britain as a contribution to the general defence of the free world. Do please let us remember, as I have tried to point out to your Lordships before, not only in February but last year as well, that if there is to be general criticism of our attitude, and bouquets are to be thrown to other countries—and it seems that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, thinks we are often taken by surprise—I suppose that of all the nations in the free world to-day none was taken less by surprise in regard to this general problem than the Government of this country. I must remind the House that spent three months in 1946 at the Paris Peace Conference. To those of us who had eyes to see and ears to hear it was perfectly clear how the situation was developing; and that was one of the main reasons why the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, whose great work for the country as Foreign Secretary will never be forgotten, collaborated with myself and others early in 1947 in framing a policy of conscription before even the United States of America had thought of going as far as that.
To take the point further, for people who talk about the difference between 1063 Land Forces, Sea Forces, and Air Forces, it was plain that if we were to get a raised morale in Europe to stand up against aggression against the free world, then this country had to make a real gesture. It was that beginning which led to the Treaty of Dunkirk which together with Ernest Bevin, had the great honour of signing on the beaches, and without which we should have had neither the Brussels Treaty nor the Military Organisation set up by the Western Union; nor, at that time, should we have been able to invite observers from the United States and Canada to come and see what was the real problem in Europe, and how far they were likely to be implicated before it could be well organised. Do let us sometimes give a little credit to Britain when credit is due. That is the factual history of the position.
I agree with what the noble Viscount said in opening the debate with regard to the importance of the Middle East. That, as well as the relation of Egypt and Cyprus to it, is very important indeed. He referred to the Press reports which have been issued in regard to the Commonwealth Conference on defence. I can assure him that that Conference was very worthwhile and very reassuring, and that the impression that he gained is correct. We are very pleased with the results, and I can assure the noble Viscount that there was very good feeling amongst all representatives of the Commonwealth present at that Conference. When he spoke on the question of the Mediterranean Command I noticed that he said that he would very much welcome an American Command. Of course, when we were dealing with the North Atlantic Naval Command there was severe criticism from the Party opposite. If I may say so, the general situation which has emerged from the North Atlantic arrangements has been widely accepted right through the whole of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. With regard to the Mediterranean, the noble Viscount referred to a matter which is now under active consideration, and one which I think will have to be related to the other matters now under discussion—namely, the important question of the position of Greece and Turkey, and the type of command which will be set up in the Middle East. The immediate requirement of General Eisenhower has been met by the publication, with which 1064 your Lordships are already familiar, of the name of the commander who will take over the southern flank of General Eisenhower's Command. But I hope that the much wider question will be covered by a permanent appointment soon. That appointment will be announced as soon as it is made.
The noble Viscount referred in general to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Amongst other things, he said that he did not like some aspects of the machine. I had a warning from him in regard to some of the points he was going to make, and I made some inquiries to strengthen me in my previous recollections about the matter. Let me begin by saying something in regard to the progress that has been made in building up the defence of the area covered by the North Atlantic Treaty. Since April 1 of this year, when General Eisenhower assumed command of S.H.A.P.E., very good progress indeed has been made. General Eisenhower has been concerned initially with three big problems: first, to build up an adequate command organisation in Europe; secondly, to bring up to date and streamline the defence plans for Western Europe which were already being prepared by the three European Regional Planning Groups of the Organisation; and, thirdly, to make arrangements for the training and organisation of the forces allotted to his Command. The work of creating a Command Organisation has now been completed so far as General Eisenhower is concerned. Not only has he built up S.H.A.P.E. into a fully integrated headquarters, but commands responsible to S.H.A.P.E. for the Northern, Central and Southern sectors of Europe have also now been established.
The United Kingdom is well represented throughout the Command Organisation. For instance, not only is Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery General Eisenhower's deputy, and will assume the post of Supreme Commander in the event of his absence, but he has a special responsibility for the training and organisation of the various forces allotted to S.H.A.P.E. Therefore he continues to carry out within the larger area of General Eisenhower's command those functions for which he was responsible as Chairman of the Commanders-in-Chief Committee of Western Union. So far as S.H.A.P.E is concerned, the Command Organisation has now been settled. The wider problem 1065 of command throughout the North Atlantic Area is still under discussion. I have already referred to the command in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean, the solution of which depends on the solution of political issues with regard to Turkey and Greece; but I am very hopeful that Ike shall come to a satisfactory arrangement over that.
Before I leave the question of N.A.T.O. I should like to mention two other points. It has often beer, said in the past—I am afraid that I was responsible atone stage for the introduction of the phrase—that there has been too much harness and too little horse in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have taken some steps in the last few months to remedy that defect. The most important of these has been to amalgamate the three Ministerial Committees into one Committee which is now called the North Atlantic Council, upon which Foreign Ministers, Defence Ministers and Finance Ministers can sit as seems desirable. Instead of having one separate body meeting from time to time and reporting to another separate body, we send to the one Council the people who will have to come to decisions on the matter which is on the agenda at that particular time. We are due for a further meeting of the North Atlantic Council in a month or so.
If I may follow down the speech of the noble Viscount, he referred to what was the actual position under conditions of war—that is to say, when the war had been in operation for more than two years and the United States were brought in by the attack upon Pearl Harbour, from that time onwards there was set up a Joint Staff Organisation and also there was the direct contact, which proved to be so valuable, between the Prime Minister of this country and the President of the United States of America. But we are not at war at the present time, although everyone realizes how very important in present world circumstances are the activities that we have to engage in as members of N.A.T.O. I would point out, however, that so far as the Staff side is concerned, we have all the elements ready to put into operation in war-time by that part of the Organisation which gives direct representation to our Forces in Washington, and that the Standing Group of N.A.T.O., composed of Staff officers of three countries only, contains able representation from this country. I think I 1066 was right before leaving the Ministry of Defence to take the steps which sent Air Chief-Marshal Lord Tedder to Washington considerably more than twelve months ago, and I think that his succession there by Sir William Elliot is going to be extremely valuable also. Therefore, I do not anticipate any difficulty from the point of view of Staff organisation. The point to which I think tae noble Viscount addressed himself particularly was the contention that there ought to be something different in the supreme control—as it were, by the Ministers of the rank of Prime Minister in all the different countries. As I suggested just now, I hope he was thinking of all the countries concerned and not merely of this country.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I said so in terms. I said that the Prime Ministers in all the countries must give directives. I was not making any criticism with regard to arrangements in this country in particular.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I welcome that statement by the noble Viscount. I must say—and I think it is well known, since the publication of the original While Paper by the Minister of Defence—that in this country the Prime Minister is nearly always in the chair of the Defence Committee, which has had such a vast amount of work to do in the last four and a half years. Consequently the same bass which the noble Viscount desires to see adopted in the event of war is actually in operation.
The noble Viscount next raised a question in reference to the statement which I made in June, 1950, regarding the contributions which each country had agreed to make to the general pool for the defence of the Western area. He asked whether we agreed with the quota which we shall make in the matter of the Army, the Air and so on. He also asked questions concerning the sizes of the forces which each North Atlantic Treaty country must provide for the defence of the whole of the N.A.T.O. area. The sizes of the forces were determined and approved at the end of last year. Each country is now engaged in building up its defence forces in accordance with those targets. With regard to the noble Viscount's question as affecting this country, I can say, with all firmness and sincerity, that we have every intention of reaching our target.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
This is most valuable. Do I understand that the aggregate is settled, and that each country has accepted its quota in the aggregate?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
That is putting the matter in more detail than is covered by the advice which I have asked for. I must not go further than my brief. It says that each country is now engaged in building up its defence forces in accordance with the targets which were agreed upon at the end of last year. The noble Viscount has held office as a Minister for a long time, and I do not want to bandy words with him. When these things are in course of deliberation and are the subject of co-operation with other countries, I am always anxious to see them finalised in national budgets. I have told the noble Viscount the facts as they are and I cannot say more at the present time.
I think the next point raised by the noble Viscount was that relating to Germany. He said that Germany must come in; that the defence of Free Europe must include Western Germany. Of course, that is an enormous problem. I do not think anyone would wish to disagree with the proposition that in the defence of the free Western world a contribution from Germany will ultimately be essential. But progress has been made on the military and technical level by the discussions at Bonn between the three Occupying Powers and the Western German authorities, and by the discussions in Paris which have been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. Those discussions have been completed and the reports arc being studied by the Governments concerned. Discussions have also taken place upon the French proposal for a European Army. The German problem is to a large extent a political problem, and, having studied the reports of the discussions which have taken place in Bonn and Paris, the Governments concerned will now have to consider again the political issues involved. I have here an additional note which does not make very much difference to what I have said already on the subject of the Commonwealth Conference and I do not think I need refer to that subject again.
In view of the reference made by the noble Viscount to the desirability of having the widest possible front, it would not be right for me to omit a few words about the contemplated Pacific Defence Pact. 1068 As is well known, the draft has recently been initialled by the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States. I want to make it clear that we welcome this development since it is complementary to our own arrangements with Australia and New Zealand within the Commonwealth framework. I think it is also an essential part of a satisfactory Japanese settlement which will also comprise the Peace Treaty with Japan and the proposed defence agreement between the United States and Japan. Looking to the future, we see the Australian-New Zealand and United States Pact as a big step in the direction of even more far-reaching arrangements in the Pacific. But, in view of the contacts we have had, the time for further arrangements is perhaps not yetripe. However, as I say, it is certainly a very good step in the right direction. The noble Viscount next referred to the sort of contribution which each of the countries concerned should make to the common pool of defence. I agree with him entirely that whatever country is concerned it should be a contribution, whatever its size, of an effective fighting force.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I agree also that it is essential that in the organisation on a collective basis of those forces there must be adequate integration, otherwise success will not be achieved in any intensive or widespread campaign. A further point raised by the noble Viscount—arising, I think, out of thequestion of what such an alliance means—was whether General Eisenhower has laid down his requirements with regard to air fields in Europe. The noble Viscount asked whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation had agreed to the requirements and whether the necessary steps to secure them are being taken. I have made an inquiry about that to-day, since the noble Viscount raised the question, and I am informed that the position is that S.H.A.P.E. have laid down a programme of air field construction, including numbers and siting—a programme for the immediate future. There is a further programme, of which we have not yet had the details, but which is being worked out by S.H.A.P.E. The first programme has been accepted by the Governments and is going ahead as rapidly as possible.
1069 The noble Viscount's next point was with regard to Spain. In all these matters it is the essence of the situation that, so far as we can, we want to be in hearty agreement and daily co-operation with the United States of America. On the other hand, no Government are without responsibilities to the public opinion of their own country and to the public opinion of their Allies, and the whole situation has to be taken into account. The disposition of the United States Forces in Europe is not a matter which concerns be United States alone, at least not when they are in a Grand Alliance. It is something vastly important to the other members of the Alliance. Because of that, we gave our views on the United States' proposal to negotiate for bases in Spain. Our view was that the project should not he proceeded with, on the ground that the bad effect on Western morale in Europe of the association of Spain with Western defence arrangements outweighed any military or other advantages of the proposal.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said something the other day about his experience in matters of security and intelligence, and from his experience he knows the tremendous power of intensified propaganda. I speak for myself when I say that, if we had not stated our objection, that would have been welcomed by Moscow, just as greatly as, and even more than, the overt action of the admission of Spain into total membership of the Atlantic Treaty Organisation. The use that could be made of that is of vast importance, and it concerns not only the people in this country, but the people of other countries of the Alliance in Europe as well. On the other hand, if the United States wish to deal with this on the basis mentioned by the noble Viscount, as a purely local matter and on a bilateral basis, there is nothing that can prevent it, so far as we are concerned. But as the disposition of forces ultimately affects all members of the Alliance, it was right that. the United Stales should ask our view, and we have given it. I think that the expression of our views will not be a deterrent to out friendship, but will be an advantage.
The noble Viscount also asked what progress was being made in the planning 1070 of Allied production. I do not feel able to-night to give any detailed reply to that question, but the Defence Production Board, who are responsible for the co-operation and stimulation of general Allied production, are getting down to their work very well under the new collaborator, Mr. Herod, of the United Stales, whom the noble Viscount probably knows. I am sorry that I am taking up so much time.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, the noble Viscount is being most helpful and is giving a very informative reply. We will gladly wait to hear him further.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
The next point raised concerned the prospect of the programme which has been agreed upon achieving its time-table. Reference has been made to speeches of Ministers and ex-Ministers, but I think that I have made the position of the Government on this matter plain and I need not repeat it. The noble Viscount asked about Canada and the new heavy bomber, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in a speech which I was bold enough to interrupt (sometimes one rushes in too quickly, and open confession is always good for the soul) also asked about the heavy bombers. I made my interjection in good faith, on the basis of the information on which I have been working for some months, but I now find that we have had to supply some Canberras to the United States for the proper development of their production of Canberras, which has somewhat delayed the equipment of the squadrons to which referred. I am assured that the production of Canberras has been stepped-up on a regular line of production which has a steep upward trend, and I am very hopeful about the whole situation. I am obliged to the noble Viscount for his reference to the new jet bomber. We are confident that we shall ultimately produce a bomber which is really worth while. Obviously, from the remark he made, the noble Viscount has heard about the successful trial, and I can say to him that an order for production has been given.
When the £4,700,000,000 rearmament programme was announced, it was estimated that the production element of the programme would cost, at prices then ruling, about £2,000,000,000 during the three years from April 1,1951. At the time 1071 when the programme was approved, full details of the requirements of the Services had not been worked out. Although the requirements of major equipment had been established, it was necessary, before orders could be placed, for the innumerable minor items required to be examined to ensure that the programme would be properly balanced. An adequate supply of all the major items of equipment is. by itself, useless, unless all ancillary equipments to go with them are available. In view of the many thousands of different types of stores required by the Services, the task of translating a broad programme into a detailed production programme is a very formidable one. Nevertheless, very substantial progress has been made in placing contracts against the programme, and by the end of May the value of the contracts placed totaled about £860,000,000. I estimate that by the present time this figure has increased to well over £900,000,000—that is, nearly 50 per cent. of the whole of the three-year programme; indeed, I should imagine that it is more than 50 per cent., because, as the noble Viscount will know from his experience, these contract figures do not include the orders given on the naval side in the Government dockyards. A good deal of the work there has been ordered, and, therefore, the real total volume of the orders placed to-day is already more than half the total programme for the three years.
There are a large number of items in the programme for which it is either unnecessary or impossible to place orders at the present stage. For example, the programme includes a number of items for which the design has not yet been completed. Thereare also some stores with a comparatively short production cycle, for which there is no necessity to place orders now for delivery in the latter part of the three-year programme. In cases where it is not possible or necessary to place firm orders now, the departments concerned are fully aware of the desirability of giving industry as much advance information as they can regarding the orders which are likely to be placed at a later stage. The value of contracts placed against the rearmament programme during the last few months—I think your Lordships will have gathered this from the figures I have already given—has been at the rate of about 1072 £100,000,000 a month, which is more than five times the rate at which defence contracts were being place in the early part of 1950.
Although the bulk of defence contracts are necessarily placed with industry in this country, every effort is being made to place orders, where possible, on the Continent of Europe. The scope for this is, of course, not unlimited, as the countries concerned are not equipped to produce the more complicated types of weapons used by the British Services. But subject to this, everything possible is being done. That was one of the points urged upon us some time ago. Orders totalling over £50,000,000 were placed in Europe between July 1, 1950, and May 31 of this year, and a special purchasing mission has been set up to insure that all available sources of supply are tapped. The most important orders that have been placed in Europe are those for machine tools, orders for which amount to more than £37,000,000. The bulk of the other orders are for general stores, textiles, and clothing. The placing of the contracts is, of course, only the first stage in carrying out the defence programme, and the essential thing is to ensure that deliveries are secured at the right dates. It is much too early at this stage of the programme to expect any spectacular increase in deliveries, but the following are some examples of the extent to which the output of some important items already in quantity production has been increased since the period before the Korean war. First, in the first quarter of 1951 deliveries of jet aircraft were double those delivered in the first quarter of 1950.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I well remember, not a member of the noble Lord's Government but a member of a Government I was in, once saying that a most remarkable advance had been made in that the number of anti-aircraft guns had been doubled. That was true; but the original number was one. It would be more informative if the noble Viscount could tell us the figure doubled.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
That is what I do not propose to do. However, I take the point. I was careful to make an inquiry on the matter, in order to make sure that I was not misleading your Lordships. That is why I was able to say that this 1073 was all in relation to commodities that were already in quantity production. There is no question here of doubling a single unit. I do not propose to publish to the world exactly how many jet aircraft we have manufactured. The same thing applies to deliveries of twenty-pounder tank guns—they have been doubled. The deliveries of anti-aircraft radar sets have more than doubled. Anybody who is familiar with this matter knows that we had a great task there, but already a year ago there was a rapid change in the situation, and I can say that deliveries since then have doubled. The increasing tempo of the programme is also illustrated by the fact that the expenditure on the defence production in the first quarter of 1951 was approximately 50 per cent. higher than in the last quarter of 1950—an indication of the steep increase that was taking place towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year.
I do not deny that there are many difficulties still to be overcome. It is well known that some difficulties arc being experienced over the supply of materials, and in other respects. The noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, read at great length extracts from the House of Commons Supplies and Estimates committee Report. So far as I am concerned, I can assure him that it was unnecessary to read them out to me. But no doubt he wanted to place them on record, largely for use subsequently in other directions. I do not blame him if the object, is a political one. We do not deny that the difficulties are there. Materials and machine tools are both vital; and the extent to which the Government appreciate that is indicated, first, by the large orders which have been given in Europe, as I have already indicated; secondly, by those given in this country; and thirdly, especially for some of the types of machine tools that cannot be obtained anywhere else, by those given in the United States. Altogether, we shall be obtaining something like 35,000 machine tools which are required for the programme.
The other point is the question of raw materials. I feel that it is hardly necessary (I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will agree) at this late hour to go into a re-statement of the Government's intentions and their policy, which 1074 have been announced and discussed in connection with the new Ministry of Materials. The House will be seized of the fact that this difficulty about raw materials has been taken up effectively. The other difficulty that was always likely to arise was a possible shortage of labour. Up to the present, shortage of labour has not proved a serious problem in carrying out the programme. There are, however, signs of difficulties to come in several areas where labour is scarce. The point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, about the Ministry of Labour and their contact with, or control of, part-time labour is one which can well be borne in mind in the light of difficulty which we may expect in pockets here and there. We shall bring in aids of all those kinds to deal with such labour troubles as they arise.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am not sure that I made my point quite clear. I was talking not only about part-time labour for industry, but also part-time service for things like the Home Guard and Civil Defence, which would apply all over the country.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I know that the noble Viscount's general point went wider. I have taken note of the point, because it is the kind of thing that will be useful in other directions, as I have mentioned. I think I was quite right in what I said earlier: that if I dealt with the speech of the noble Viscount the mover of the Motion I should deal with most of the points raised, and I have not yet finished with that.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, asked me not only whether we were getting designs of aeroplanes, but whether the right policy was being followed in the testing of prototypes. Are they being ordered and tested? I do not think there is to-day, any more than there ever was, any hesitation in the minds of the people who are responsible for design and for the development and production about doing the same kind of thing that they have always done.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The point was this. If you order one prototype, you run the risk that it may have an accident and then you are "done in." If you order half a dozen, you not only stop that risk but you can test them for everything.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I am quite sure that they are taking all necessary precautions. Whether the prototypes can be prolific will, of course, be largely governed by our economic circumstances. I am quite sure that the people responsible would not be so foolish as to rely upon one prototype which could be destroyed at any moment. I promise the noble Viscount that I will direct attention to the point he has made, and no doubt the people concerned will look into it. With regard to news of existing jet fighters and their successors, I may say that research never ceases. From his association with the Air Ministry the noble Viscount knows, as well as I do, that the people are at it the whole time, always devising something to take the place of the good. They have to see that they get the best for the next stage, and that work is going on continuously. At this stage I do not think I should say anything about the details without the authority—and I have not been able to see him to-day—of the Secretary of State for Air. I can say what I said before: that is, that there are very good 'planes in the development stage to succeed the present types. I should like here to associate myself with what the noble Viscount said in his tribute to the crews of the auxiliary air squadrons. It was impossible to secure effective training of that kind without their being willing to make a substantial break from their civilian occupation, and I am quite sure that the whole country will appreciate what has been done.
The next point the noble Viscount made was with regard to transport aircraft. I realise at once that noble Lords have never forgotten that at a certain stage we had to economise in the production of transport aircraft in favour of the need for the production of other classes of aircraft. I would say that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is probably right when he says that no immediate orders have been given for additional transport aircraft. I assure him, however, that we are so conscious of the need for transport aircraft at the present time that steps are being taken in order to try and obtain them from elsewhere. I would even follow that up by saying that that does not mean that we intend to relinquish permanently the production of transport aircraft by British industry, but 1076 in the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day we shall have to try to meet the situation by supplementing them with aircraft from elsewhere.
The noble Viscount referred to the old question of the "tail" and the "teeth." I was a little concerned that, when he came to the Air Force, an ex-Secretary of State should be so keen about the "tail" in the aeroplane.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
I know that, even in his day as Secretary of State, the noble Viscount saw a tremendous development, not merely in the type of plane but in the variety of fittings and instruments and everything of that kind. With every addition of facilities for modern flying in warfare, you add to the number of people who are ultimately required on the ground if the crews and the aircraft are to be kept in effective flight and service. At the same time, I would say that, whilst that applies perhaps not so widely, but to a considerable degree, in the mechanisation of the Army, the matter is not without attention in the case of the Air Force. The same Committee which has been examining the question of how to keep down man-power as far as possible, and transfer it out of the "tail" into the effective force, is still doing its work—and doing it well. In the case of the Army, the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, may know of the Committee set up under General Templer which is working, and, I am told, working extremely well, with some progress already made, although its Final Report may not be available for some little time.
The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, asked: Is the Royal Air Force Regiment really necessary? That is an interesting point. It has been examined again and again, from both sides of the fence—both from Army and Air Force interests—and the Air Force Regiment is still reckoned to be necessary. It is there to see—and I am sure the noble Viscount is familiar with this—that all the ground staff are trained for immediate defence of the aerodrome; and the trained Royal Air Force Regiment supply the instructors and cadres for the training of the general ground staff, so that they may be effective in defence of the aerodrome, as well as 1077 the Regiment contributing something effective themselves if the occasion should arise. That is the real reason why the Royal Air Force Regiment is still kept in existence. I have gone into the noble Viscount's speech in great detail. I have a number of answers to the noble Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, but, if he will forgive me, in the interests of the rest of the House I shall be obliged if I may send him the answers by post.
I was going to say a word to the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, who has now left. He raised very important points about the position of shipping. There was a plea, supported later by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, about the need for relief from taxation in order to assist the shipping industry to meet the kind of situation which we might be called upon to face. All I would say upon that point is that there is a vastly different situation in the shipbuilding world to-day from what there was in 1918 to 1924, or even up to 1935. As a result of the policy which has been followed in this country, the shipbuilding industry is greatly flourishing, compared with what it was in the period after the First World War. I think that the policy which was persued—perhaps with the best of intentions—of greatly reducing taxation at that time of rapid deflation, probably led to a much worse position, not only in shipbuilding in general but in the loss of the skilled men whom we so badly needed in the shipyards in 1940, 1941 and 1941 Therefore, I do not think that I can promise the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, anything in that particular direction as a special concession to shipbuilding. As he is not here now I will write to the noble Viscount with regard to the other matters.
Now, with regard to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, I may say that I am in much the same position as I was with regard to that of Lord De L'Isle and Dudley. I have the answers here and I can give them to him now, but it will take some time; and if it will be for the convenience of the House, I will post them on to the noble Lord so that the he gets information he requires. The noble Lord, Lord Rochdale, raised the question of a medal for Korea. I can only repeat at this stage the announcement which has been made, to the effect that the United 1078 Nations are actively considering the award of a campaign medal. It is, I understand, going on very well, and I cannot add anything to-night. I have had reported to me (I was not in the House at the time) a further remark made by the noble Lord, and I will certainly have his points brought to the attention of the authorities who are considering whether it would or would not be wise to have a British as well as a United Nations medal. That is the real point with which the noble Lord is concerned.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
Surely the point is whether or not it is wise to depart from the practice always followed in the past, that there should be a British medal where there is another medal.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
This is a general medal about which we are now talking. This is the first campaign, at any rate of this kind, conducted by the United Nations Organisation: we have had small essays in the past in connection with United Nations police work, and so forth. But I will leave it there and I will certainly bring Lord Rochdale's remarks before the people who are likely to be considering the matter.
Now, my Lords, I think it would perhaps be well that I should finish this very long and detailed speech at this stage. I hope I have said enough to indicate to noble Lords who have expressed some anxiety that there is no real need to be anxious about the attitude of the Government to the need for rearmament, or that there is any flaw in their determination to do all possible, from our known resources and from the co-operation that we are able to obtain from the Commonwealth and from our Allies, to resist any aggression against the free world. If we make that plain to our own people and the world, we feel that in the long run that may be the best safeguard against any possible aggressive intention.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, we are all much obliged to the noble Viscount for his full reply on the broad issues raised in this debate. He has been good enough to say that he is going to answer a number of questions of detail by correspondence. That, I am sure, will be very convenient; but may I make this suggestion? A number of these 1079 matters are of real interest, and the answers should be on record. It is always possible, after a correspondence, for a Written Question to be put down summarising the points, and the information the noble Lord has given in his correspondence could take the form of a Written Answer which would be available to the whole House and of value to us all. I suggest that perhaps that course might be followed.
I think this has been a most useful debate. The noble Viscount said that in 1946he and Mr. Bevin realised the situation. Well, my Lords, we certainly supported Mr. Bevin, and so did the noble Viscount; but some members of his own Party did not support him nearly as well. Mr. Bevin did render very great service. I do not wish to make a dialectical point, but I must say that if the noble Viscount realised in 1946 what the situation was, it seems a little odd that he then sold jet aircraft to Russia.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
May I interrupt, in self-defence? There was no such contract with Russia for jet aircraft after I became Minister of Defence.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am very glad to hear that. I am not quite sure when it was or when the noble Viscount became Minister of Defence. Perhaps it was not he who made the contract. I think it was after 1946 that the jet aircraft were sent to Russia. Perhaps the noble Viscount would like to take that matter up.
I appreciate the noble Viscount's difficulty in giving us figures, and percentages. He mentioned the speech yesterday of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. We do not dissent from the admirable and logical sentiment then expressed, that when our programme is complete we shall all be much stronger. That is indeed true. What we are interested in is how we are progressing towards the fulfilment of the programme. The noble Viscount knows where we expect to get by the end of 1951. What I did not gather from his speech was whether we are going to get there with the present systems operating in the Defence and Supply Departments.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I hoped it would be in- 1080 herent in what I said, because I did not want to be committed to a specific figure. I hoped it was specific enough, as to the amount and as to the orders that are being placed monthly, to indicate that at the present rate of supplies and materials there is no reason why we should not reach our target at the end of 1951. I indicated that we might have further difficulties to meet after that.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. As regards the Mediterranean, he said he thought it odd that we should be content to see an American Admiral in the Mediterranean but that we did not want to see one in the Atlantic. But, my Lords, they are different oceans and there are different considerations. Some of us thought there was no case at all for a unified command in the Atlantic. A sea is not just a sea, and these two differ. And the very reasons why some of us thought that an American command in the Atlantic was not happy would make us quite happy to see an American command in the Mediterranean. Then the noble Viscount said—and I agree with him—that General Eisenhower had done most admirable work and that he was setting up the kind of staff which he thought would best suit his purpose. I am absolutely content to accept whatever form of machine General Eisenhower thinks is best for his purpose. I would only say that the more complex the machine, the more difficult it is to work. That has been the view of every great commander I have known. He has always said, "For God's sake, simplify my machine." The machine has no doubt become more complex than it would be within a unitary system. But I still maintain that that machine, even if it can be simplified, will not work unless it gets the policy directed from the top. What I said about Prime Ministers was not directed merely to our own Prime Minister here but to all Prime Ministers. A cat may look at a king, and a mere private member may perhaps venture a little advice to such august personages.
As regards Spain, the House heard with interest the statement which the noble Viscount made—the circumstances in which His Majesty's Government expressed their opinion and the views they expressed. Having heard that, I am bound to say I must stand by the view 1081 I expressed in the debate. If the considered view of His Majesty's Government is that we will have no truck at all with the Spaniards, even to the extent of utilizing a base, an airfield or a port, then I really do not know why we have relations with Spain. It seems to me to be an odd point of view. Having heard that opinion expressed—the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is not here—I certainly must adhere to the view I expressed, and I believe I carry my friends with me. At any rate, the noble Lord concluded by saying that having said what they had said, the decision was with the Americans.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Bilaterally, yes; but I do not understand that we were asked to come in. It is a bilateral decision exactly as if we made a decision for a base in Iraq. we have rights in Iraq, on the Canal and in all sorts of places—bilaterally and usefully. In conclusion, may I add my appeal to that of those who have asked for the Korean campaign medal? I know it is the first time that the United Nations have been in battle together. Please God it may be the last! But I think there is something more behind this point. I am an old Minister. I know all the prejudice there is against doing anything that has not been done, particularly in a matter of this sort, for the last hundred years. "It was not done 1082 in the Peninsular War so do not let us do it now." When that sort of thing is said by a Department, if an imaginative Minister says, "Let us cut out that red tape and trample on the precedent and give these boys the medal," he will be doing one of the best day's work he has ever done. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.