§ 2.38 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Swinton: to resolve, That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1955 (Cmd. 9391).
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY)
My Lords, I have had the honour of sitting in your Lordships' House for nearly ten years and have been present or taken part in most of the debates that we have had on defence matters during that period, but I believe many noble Lords will agree with me when I say that I cannot remember a better debate on defence matters than we have had so far. Yesterday was marked by a very impor- 1198 tant and notable contribution from the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York. Never have the great questions which have troubled civilised men for perhaps 2,500 years been posed in a starker or more terrible form. At any rate, after the most reverend Primate's speech, we cannot say with Milton:The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.He gave us that mental and spiritual sustenance of which we all feel in such great need.
I also greatly admired the intervention of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who has sent to me his regrets that he cannot be in his place to-day. I do not think that the situation which now faces this country could have been more lucidly or cogently exposed than it was by the noble Viscount. I am particularly grateful to him for his forceful support of the Government's White Paper on Defence. He said that in the years to come both patriotism and vision would be required. I entirely agree with him. I believe that a Service Minister has a special responsibility to refrain, so far as he can, from partisan politics and to look as widely as he can to the broad, national interest. The speech from the Opposition Benches of the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and the closing speech last night from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, were both notable for their absence of partisan politics. I, for my part, will try to preserve the level of debate, if not of eloquence.
I am sure that people are not interested in recriminations. What really matters to me is whether, broadly speaking, there has been a consistency of aim and policy for the Royal Air Force, let us say, in the last ten years, irrespective of Government or Party. Looking back over that period, I think both sides of the House can fairly claim that there has been a general consistency. I regard that as highly important. It is the more important as the period of development of modern military aircraft gets longer. It is now longer than the lifetime of a Parliament or sometimes of a Government, even when Parliament runs its full term or the Government is re-elected. Therefore, if I look back-wards, it is not to quarry in the volumes of Hansard for convenient phrases used by my opponents but really to look at the lessons which we may use for the future.
1199 There has been a good deal of comment and criticism about the production of aircraft. Some of it I regard as having been immoderate and unfair, but a great deal of it has been both helpful and informed. We ought to try to see these things in proportion. There are in the world to-day only three comprehensive air forces—by "comprehensive" I mean air forces possessing the full range of military aircraft. We know little about the Soviet air force, but we know a great deal more about the air force of our ally the United States. If it is not the largest, it is certainly the most powerful.
Let us see what has been spent respectively by the United Kingdom and the United States on their air forces since 1947. Actual expenditure for the Royal Air Force, as nearly as I can calculate it, using the Estimates for the last year, is about £2,500 million, and if we add to that something like £300 million on research and development which can be directly attributable to the Air Force, we get a sum of £2,800 million. During approximately the same period—it is not easy to get the same comparable basis—the United States have spent £25,000 million on their air force alone. That does not include the United States naval air arm or the United States Army aircraft. I should estimate that perhaps as much as 75 per cent. has been spent by America on the strategic air command. For my part, I regard that as the best possible investment on the part of the United States. I ask, what might have happened to the free world if the United States Government had decided, eight or nine years ago, to concentrate on defence rather than on the power of the counter-offensive? The front line of the United States Air Force is perhaps four or five times that of the Royal Air Force, but, as we have seen, they have spent nearly ten times the sum of money over that period. I say that only so that we may measure our efforts against theirs in regard to what we have achieved with a much smaller sum. I believe that overall we can take pride in the fact that we have allocated our expenditure with wisdom.
The late Government considered—and I agree that they were right—that they could not afford to re-equip the Royal Air Force with medium or heavy bombers of long range immediately after the last war. I think that Mr. Shinwell, speaking 1200 in another place, did rather less than justice to his colleagues when he seemed to doubt whether they had a firm policy for the deterrent in those days. Certainly I think that by their action they had. But, of course, the Royal Air Force had to tread a slower and rather more cautious path than the United States Air Force, with its much more ample funds, although, as I said, I believe that the theme has been consistent.
When I first addressed your Lordships as Secretary of State three years ago, I described the violent discontinuity which the development of jet turbine engines had brought about in the design of aircraft. I said then that both the United States and Russia had been quicker than we had in exploiting the necessary advance in aerodynamics and that, as a result, the Russians produced the Mig.15 and the Americans the Sabre jet more quickly than we had produced any comparable aircraft. But Great Britain has maintained her advanced place in engine design and it was possible, as far back as 1947, to see rather further ahead in the design of engines than it was in the field of aerodynamics, especially as in those days we had narrower resources in such valuable assets as trans-sonic and super-sonic wind tunnels. But, at any rate, in 1946 we could have confidence in the successful development of the axial flow jet engine, with the Rolls Royce Avon in the Canberra, which first flew in 1949 but which, in fact, took seven years from conception to service. It has been a very good aircraft and has already a great record, in several rôoles; but our great investment in axial flow engines is now, I think, producing its reward.
It is perhaps not often realised that the Royal Aircraft Establishment first started experimenting with axial flow engines as long ago as 1937, and British development has been continuous since that time. I think we ought not to be too modest about the achievements of our scientists and engineers and manufacturers. There are nine British jet engines built under licence abroad, and four of them are being built in the United States. Engine design is the heart of the matter, and the confidence of jet engineers in their design, which has been justified by events, enabled the Air Staff in 1947 to write a specification for a long-range bomber which they anticipated would not be delivered for nine 1201 years. Taken with the associated decision to have an insurance aircraft, which turned out to be the Vickers Valiant, I believe that was the right policy. It is a misconception to say, "How inefficient to take nine years over the development of an aircraft!" I suggest that the principal question is: when the Victor and the Vulcan are delivered, will they be the most efficient high-performance aircraft of their class flying at that time? The answer to that question is, "Yes." Nevertheless, I confess to your Lordships that it was with great relief that I saw last month the introduction into the Air Force of the first Valiant bombers. During the last three and a half years, when I have watched these things month by month, I have sometimes wished that I had been Secretary of State when the design, building and putting into service of a new aircraft took from nine to twelve months. That was only twenty years ago and the aircraft was the de Havilland Comet which flew in the England to Australia race. But our natural impatience must not obscure the magnitude of the, achievement of the great firm of Vickers, or of their most talented designer, Mr. George Edwards, in delivering the Valiant on time.
The ground of the hydrogen bomb has already been traversed a good deal in this debate and in another place and I do not intend to touch upon it this afternoon. My noble friend the Leader of the House will intervene during this debate and will make some reference to that subject. I will only say that, while I cannot imagine any circumstances in which we should engage in nuclear warfare without the United States of America, I believe that, with a properly trained, organised and equipped force such as we are building up, we shall ourselves have a very formidable deterrent to aggression. The supply of aircraft, particularly fighters, has been extensively discussed. I am extremely grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, for his courteous references to his visit, with the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition, to Wattisham. I am glad they saw the Hunter and were pleased with it. I should like to assure the noble Viscount that the remarks of my right honourable friend the Minister of Supply, to which he referred yesterday, were accurate, and the work done on the guns of the Hunter in the last few weeks 1202 shows that the difficulties about which the noble Viscount knows (but which do not, of course, prevent the guns from being fired) can be overcome, and modifications will be installed to make the guns fully effective.
The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to the flying boat, and while I do not propose to enter into a technical discussion with him, even were I qualified to do so, on the feasibility of a flying frigate, I believe that it would be a very difficult aircraft to design and I am not fully satisfied that, when designed, it would be desirable to build it. Any Government is open to contradictory criticisms, sometimes not ineffective, that it is attempting too much by spreading the jam too thinly or that it is casting away important projects, without due thought to the waste involved. To the flying boat enthusiast the flying boat is such a project. But Her Majesty's Government have thought deeply and most carefully upon this matter. It was not a decision of the Air Minister, for all the defence interests have been consulted; and in the light of defence priorities we have, with regret, come to the conclusion that we should not be justified in proceeding with the development of a replacement for the Sunderland.
The noble Lord, Lord Henderson, asked a question about the radar warning system. I know that the noble Lord feels very strongly the importance of having not only an efficient system in these islands but one linked with other systems, because the whole of the air defence system is interdependent. I agree with him that the subject is very important to our defences. We are linked with the Western European system and those links are being strengthened by various technical means as knowledge and facilities grow. I will not go wider on the further questions asked by the noble Lord, though these are very much in the mind of the Air Staff. It would be premature to make any announcement upon them.
The equipment of the Royal Air Force is complicated, and I can see no end to the increase in complications, in view of the rate of technical progress; but if the equipment is complicated, so is the trade structure. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in his brief but, as usual, extremely well-informed speech, 1203 raised the question of skilled manpower and its importance to the Services. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in replying to the debate, will deal with all inter-Service matters, but I know that The noble Viscount, with his long experience of the Royal Air Force, had prominently in mind the problems of that Service, probably because we have in it by far the widest range of trade skills of the three Services. May I again briefly glance backwards, because it is important to watch trends and, as it were, to go to the cinema instead of looking at "stills."
During the war there were one million men in the Royal Air Force; by June, 1950, the run-down had brought those numbers to 190,000. In a highly technical Service, however, total numbers are meaningless: it is the balance of skill and experience which counts. I hope that I shall not weary noble Lords by too much detail, but the interest taken by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, deserves a statistical reply. During the war there was no Regular recruiting, and by 1950 the enormous run-down caused a serious shortage of skilled men. Had it been possible to keep stable the size of our Air Force at that time, the situation, though difficult, would perhaps not have been critical; but the outbreak of the Korean war meant that a new process of expansion had to be undertaken, and by mid-1953 the total strength of the Air Force was 275,000. The increase in pay made by the late Government in 1951 was, I understand, designed to encourage Regular recruiting. In that it was largely successful, and in the Royal Air Force the strength of Regular ground airmen rose by March 31, 1954, by 43,000.
Skill must be accumulated, however; it cannot be suddenly created. The important thing is to keep in the Service those men who have undertaken Regular engagements. Thus it was logical and right for the pay increases made in 1954 to be more selective than those in 1951, giving a larger reward for higher skill. I can tell the House that re-engagements and extensions of service have been most encouraging. Even before the latest pay increases there was a rising trend, and the improvement since then has been most marked. During the past year, numbers entering on engagements of ten years or more totalled 6,500, compared with 5,900 in the year before. The total number of 1204 those on engagements of ten years or longer has risen from 35,000 on April 1, 1951, to 47,000 at the latest date. If we take the nine months from April 1, 1954, to December 31 of the same year, the numbers extending their service to twelve years have shown a threefold increase compared with the corresponding nine months of the previous year; and among advanced tradesmen the increases have been even more marked. In the trades of aircraft engineering, radio, armament, and electrical and instrument, the numbers extending their service to twelve years have been increased by a factor as great as eight. I know that we are dealing with fairly small numbers, but they are very important; and, although there is no ground for complacency, and while we cannot be certain that the trend will be maintained, I do affirm that there is a most encouraging rise in this very important sector which is vital to the future of the Royal Air Force.
I should like to deal now with the radio engineering trade group, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, referred particularly. Our manning is now up to 90 per cent. in the advanced trades. Of course, that is due partly to this improved Regular recruiting, partly to the improved boy entry, and partly, also, to the expensive but necessary training of two-year and three-year men with suitable aptitudes. By filling the establishments as we have done, we have been able greatly to improve the standard of maintenance in the Royal Air Force. I do say that for those officers, highly skilled in these matters, who have contrived this highly complex form of training, it is a notable achievement and one upon which they deserve our warmest congratulations. I realise that this is an expedient, and our aim must always be to fill as many as possible of the vacancies with long-service Regulars, because it lowers the turnover and lessens what is called "turbulence." High though it still is, the rate of turnover is declining, and that does bring a very necessary measure of stability to stations and units upon which their contentment and general peace depends.
Of course, there is another side to the picture. I again apologise for detaining the House so long on manpower, but it is a matter of the greatest importance. It is most important that the skill which we 1205 recruit should be profitably and economically employed. Here again, there is, I think, an equally promising situation which we can exploit. Some two years or eighteen months ago an interesting experiment was made at a station in Transport Command. It was a very important experiment by which the work and the actions of men in certain selected trades were watched and recorded, in order to see how their time was spent. Those records were very carefully looked at, analysed and tabulated. It was found, as the result of the analysis, that by a small increase in the supervisory grades—warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s—a unit's task could be carried out with an appreciably smaller number of men. So successful was this pilot experiment that the investigation has now been extended to other Commands and to a wider range of trades. One must not allow optimism to carry one away into enthusiastic statements, and I cannot give precise figures, but if the trends are as we think they are, I believe that the savings which will eventuate—it will take time, of course—may be reckoned not in hundreds but in thousands.
If I may summarise the situation with regard to manpower, the position is that we are gradually overcoming the result of the rapid but inevitable run-down after the war, aggravated by the equally rapid and equally inevitable build-up after the Korean war. And we are concentrating, on the other side of the account, upon the most economical use of our manpower. For, after all, manpower is of prime importance, both for the Services and for the whole national economy; it is our most valuable and precious possession, especially that portion of it which consists of skilled men. Naturally we have not forgotten that the ideal is a long-service Regular Air Force, but I must emphasise that in the present state of affairs the National Service man and the three-year National Service Regular, as he is called, are both playing a vital part; and in last year's intake of 33,000 National Service men as many as 85 per cent. were trained in some form of technical skill or another.
I come now to what is perhaps the most important of our personnel problems—I refer to air crew. In times like these, when the immediate state of readiness is all-important, when the cost of 1206 training a pilot is so high, our aim must be not so much to create a large reserve of pilots as to keep as many of these valuable and highly skilled young men in the Service as possible, and to offer them a career. Cranwell is still the centre of our officer training system for the General Duties branch, but even if we could fill it to capacity—and I regret to say that it is not so filled—it could supply only a limited proportion of our officers. That is why I attach such great importance to the direct commission scheme.
This scheme, as noble Lords may know, replaces the old short-service schemes. It has two forms. First, it offers a man a commissioned career as pilot or navigator to a pensionable age, and in addition a terminal grant of £1,000 tax-free. Alternatively, a pilot or navigator can engage for twelve years Regular service, with a tax-free gratuity of £3,000. He has, as well, the option to leave after eight years, when his gratuity will be £1,500. Those who choose a twelve-year engagement can be transferred, at their option, to the pensionable engagement, and their previous service will count towards pension. They have the opportunity of reaching the highest ranks. I think that scheme is well devised to give the maximum confidence to officers coming into the Service. It is agreeable to be able to report, that, as my Under-Secretary said in another place last week, 2,000 officers have already extended their service under this scheme. And the number of air crew we now have is adequate.
I should be less than candid, however, if I did not admit that the prospect viewed for a few years ahead causes me some anxiety. Though we get a great many applications from young men who want to join the Service as air crew, we are not able to accept, after the very rigorous testing which they have to undergo, enough to fill all the vacancies which future requirements dictate. This is necessary, because experience has shown that we must not lower our standards of admission, otherwise we have a great deal of unnecessary wastage in training. In the exacting conditions of modern aviation, nothing but the best will do. I wish I could say that I had a ready-made solution to our difficulties. As with skilled manpower where the position is improving, so intense thought and the pursuit of a number of lines of action may well 1207 evolve a variety of solutions to mitigate this potential shortage of air crew.
Since a high state of readiness is of such importance in the modern age, and depth of reserves is proportionately less important, it might be thought inconsistent on the part of the Air Council to arrange to train as many as 300 National Service pilots each year. But the fact is that out of these 300 we get a number of very valuable young men who after their National Service take Regular commissions. By the same means we ensure a supply of pilots for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. I hope that this is at least one proof of the concern which the Air Council feel for the future welfare of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. I should like to take this opportunity of congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, on his charming and informed maiden speech, to which we listened with so much attention yesterday. The noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Trenchard, in another notable contribution to our debate, told us how intimately the history of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force is bound up with the history of the Royal Air Force. I know that he is their firm and constant supporter.
Referring to the points which the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, raised in his speech, may I take the last point first—that of alternative rôles? The Air Council have given careful consideration to the question whether Auxiliaries should go on in their present r rôles or whether they might be diverted to another. We came to the conclusion that it is in a fighter rôles that the Auxiliaries can most easily co-operate and train with Regular units. Training is much more difficult, and administratively far harder, if Auxiliaries are allowed aircraft with two or more seats.
The second point the noble Earl raised, about which I should like to reassure him, concerns transport arrangements for air crew who go home over the week-end. If necessary, these pilots will be conveyed, not in their fighter aircraft, flying themselves, but in communications aircraft, so that they will be able to get home at seasons in which weather difficulties might otherwise prohibit their travel. It is considered that in all but the worst weather this should not form an impediment to the successful working 1208 of the scheme. Of course, there is weekend flying now at stations, such as Biggin Hill and West Malling, where Auxiliary squadrons are stationed. The Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, does not think that the fact that some officers and airmen on Regular stations might have to spend part of the week-ends helping Auxiliaries will be an impediment to the scheme. Indeed, the Commander-in-Chief, Fighter Command, has every confidence—and I share it—that this scheme can be made to work, that the team spirit and élan of the Auxiliary Air Force will be preserved and that opportunities of flying swept-wing aircraft will not diminish but increase their enthusiasm.
The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, also asked about the future of Coastal Command. I can assure him that Her Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of changing the present organisation. As noble Lords know, there have been many inquiries over the years. During the lifetime of the present Government the matter has been considered, and it has been decided that no change should be made in the existing organisation.
I have detained the House rather longer than I ought, and I will therefore stand between the imposing list of speakers and the Despatch Box no longer. All I would add is that, although I have had the privilege of holding this office for only three and a half years, I do not believe there has been a period in which circumstances have compelled a greater measure of change than that which has taken place during that period. One thing is clear: that the responsibilities of the Royal Air Force have been immeasurably increased during that time; yet, despite difficulties and some disappointments, I believe that the structure and the equipment of the Royal Air Force have been adapted to meet modern needs. Although its shape may have been changed, and though its equipment may be more costly and more complicated, the Royal Air Force preserves the same flexibility, the freshness of outlook, the zest for adventure into new fields which has earned it the confidence of the country in two great struggles in the past. It is upon the experience, upon the organisation, but above all upon the spirit of the Royal Air Force that so much of the future of this country 1209 depends. I believe that it will prove itself worthy of this fearful but splendid trust.
§ VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he say anything About the point that I very much emphasised yesterday, about removing the grievances of the Services in the matter of the education of their families?
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
My Lords, I am sorry if I was rather obscure, but I did say that my noble friend Lord Carrington would be dealing with all inter-Service matters.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ LORD NATHAN
My Lords, it was natural that, as Secretary of State for Air, the noble Lord should have directed his observations in the main to the Royal Air Force. I think your Lordships will agree that he made a speech which gave us a good deal of reassurance. We shall have an opportunity of examining it in more detail, no doubt, on the occasion which my noble friends will seek for a debate in your Lordships' House especially directed to the problems relating to the Royal Air Force. The speech of the noble Lord has to be set against the broader canvas, with a more sombre background, presented to your Lordships yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. I must confess that as I sat here yesterday and as the awful responsibilities enfolding us disclosed themselves, I could not get out of my head the old familiar words,Thus conscience doth make towards of us all.It is still with those words in my mind that I stand here to say for my noble friends that we are at one with Her Majesty's Government in this matter, and to assert that we on these Benches are firmly resolved that the country shall have the hydrogen bomb and that if need be the bomb shall be used.
There has been a startling change since the debate upon defence last year. The hydrogen bomb is a fact. It is possessed by both sides in the cold war, and that is another fact. The desire to escape from it by turning away from it is natural enough. Heaven knows! We all agree with what was said by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York 1210 yesterday, in that eloquent and magisterial speech:Would to God it had never been invented!But the determination to see that the bomb is not used is no less natural—and much more to the point. It has to be made, as the most reverend Primate insisted:a shield beneath which the work of peace-making can go on.The policy of deterrence, embracing all arms, hydrogen bomb and all, is a means, not the end. We are trying to prevent war, to save ourselves and the world by being ready. The end, as we have all concurred in this debate, is disarmament, which will require of our diplomats infinite patience and infinite wisdom, and which can come only when potential aggressors are convinced that aggression will not pay.
To be effective, the deterrent must be efficient. That is the point. Words are not enough. The deterrent must be calculated to meet all contingencies realistically—all contingencies whether all-out frontal attacks or piecemeal aggressions by infiltration, disruption or local wars. The hydrogen bomb is the essential part of the deterrent; but by itself it is dangerously insufficient, because the purpose of deterrence is to prevent great wars, not to make local wars into great wars. New model armies, air forces and navies are needed, not only to supplement nuclear power, but also to supply the flexible element in deterrence when nuclear power is inappropriate.
The first and overriding need in devising the shape and size of the Armed Forces is to face what are the likely facts. It has been obvious for a long time that the first principles in the new warfare are two: first, dispersal; secondly, a combined operation of all arms at every point. There have been some welcome words recently from the Government on the future of the Armed Forces in this new and revolutionary stage. The Secretary of State for War, for instance, the other day told us of new trial nuclear formations which are to be experimented with in Germany: lightly equipped and armed, with vehicles pruned to the utmost, with headquarters abolished wherever possible, and with their capacity to be lifted by air stepped up by every means. I am sure 1211 that that is right; and, in a sense, I may say that it is conversion with a vengeance, when I remember what was said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, barely nine months ago about my proposal for swiftly moving, self-sufficient, strongly striking and airborne battle groups. In other words, the paramount importance throughout the Services of mobility and dispersal before, during and after battle is now beginning to be realised.
Signs of the welcome conversion stretch further than the Army. There is the proposal to disperse Bomber Command, and, indeed, the other air forces, to save them from sudden assault in the mass and to multiply their striking power. There is the proposal, at last, to give Transport Command some of the far-reaching and capacious aircraft it must have if it is to move not only airmen but troops, also. All this is welcome and encouraging. It is true it is a little late; it is true that it is still provisional, still tentative, still in the experimental stage. But I bear in mind what the noble and gallant Lord said in his opening observations to-day, and I do not peruse past Hansards to make a mere point. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said yesterday [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 191 (No. 35), col. 1130]:We must try to build a force by land and air … which will hold the line until the full effect of the thermo-nuclear attack has been felt.We must indeed. But what sort of force can hold the line during the bombardment and then strike back? When shall we have such a force for the counter-attack, which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, says is our main defence? When shall we have the fighter aircraft on which, next to the counter-attack, he said Her Majesty's Government primarily rely? For time presses. We have three years at most, we are told, to make ready. And the cold war goes on all the time, and the shadow of the bomb looms larger over all we do as time passes. We must do what we have to do now, in self-defence and in the cause of peace.
The principles upon which our military revolution must be founded are not far to seek, though they may, indeed, be difficult to apply in detail. "Dispersal" is a term usually applied to the battlefield only. In fact, with the possibility of nuclear bombardment it has to be a 1212 guiding principle at every stage. There is a great danger of keeping all our eggs in one vulnerable basket. Dispersal of the bombing forces is only a beginning. We have many concentrated military targets in this country and elsewhere, and we have to ask whether, as well as the bomber forces, the strategic reserve and the Fleet should not be dispersed, with their ancillary services, outside the obvious target areas—which means, of course, outside this country. It has to be asked, too, whether such concentrations as the Antwerp base, to which I referred last year, and the Cyprus base are not now perilously out of date. We have to ask how we can—if indeed we can—disperse our people and our industry. And, above all, as I have insisted to-day and as I insisted last summer, the form of the Forces themselves and of their supply arrangements has to be adjusted in drastic and revolutionary fashion to this overriding need to disperse. Dispersal is the key to so much. This is the force which the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and his colleagues are trying to build. Plainly, the principle to be followed here, and followed wherever it may lead, notwithstanding tradition and reluctance, is mobility and self-sufficiency. The battle group and the task force, living on their own, are the models. The aim is to form, train and equip forces which will be viable in a nuclear war. Any other forces would be useless.
Perhaps some may say that other kinds of forces are needed for the flexible secondary deterrent, for non-nuclear operations. This, I am convinced, is an error. Mobility, self-sufficiency, speed and striking power are precisely what are required to cope with other likely calls, such as those made in Korea, Malaya, Indo-China, Kenya and the Middle East. The old, earthbound forces with their tremendous "tail"—and the air forces and the navies have their tails as well as the armies—are appropriate to no kind of likely need in any future that we can now envisage. I do not believe that this is now a matter of trial and error; I believe it is plain fact. There is not only a scientific revolution, but there has been a revolution in warfare itself.
Among the most obvious and the most important landmarks overtaken by these changes are the distinctions, traditional and longstanding, between the separate land, sea and air forces. For any 1213 particular purpose there is no absolute distinction. Every operation is a combined operation, and must be planned and prepared for as such. It is no doubt futile to talk about having one Service without any distinction, and I spend no time on that subject. At best, if it is desirable, it would take a very long time. Combined operations will, I believe, serve the purpose. What is needed is that the three Services should be mixed up at every point—mixed up wherever they have to act together; and this should be done from top to bottom. It should mean that at every point of command where their duties meet and mix, however high or low, the three Services should sit and work together. There should be no more of these ridiculous controversies about who should run Coastal Command or, indeed, about who should be responsible for the Army's air. These needs should be met by the different Services acting and organising as one. Mark you, my Lords, I do not say, "acting and organised as one," I say, "acting and organising as one."
This, to my mind, is the most important single prerequisite of modernising the Forces, and without it I doubt whether we shall have modernisation. These principles of dispersal and combined operations apply with no less strength to home defence. I mention that, merely by way of parenthesis, in order to give me an opportunity of saying that home defence is not part of my theme to-day, and that I am to stake out a claim for my noble friends for a separate debate upon this crucial subject of home defence at an early date, followed by debates on Motions on each of the individual Armed Services. Therefore, at this moment I say no more about home defence, not because I think it is so little important but because I think it is so important that it must be dealt with as a subject by itself.
I return for a moment to the Army, to point out that the new Army is impossible unless it can take to the air; and it cannot take to the air without the means to do so—that is, without the right kind of helicopters, the right kind of transport planes with vertical lift, when that comes, or without the right kind of supporting aircraft to serve as cavalry. None of these yet exists, though they are, I believe, being looked for. No decision 1214 has yet been made about the organisation or control of the Army's air. These are the kinds of question that cannot, in these days, wait for a process of trial and error which may stretch over years. We must take a chance in deciding them now.
I have already conceded that there is something of a conversion in ideas on these various problems, but I am not so certain about performance; and it is performance that matters. It is performance that has fallen so frighteningly short in the past year, and we have to do something about that. We must either solve swiftly the problems of development and production which have held up our native supplies so far, or we must make a much closer partnership with the United States, so that, while we concentrate our resources and our skills upon the things which we can produce, we can obtain from our Allies those things which we leave to them. I ask myself anxiously and seriously (and I think the noble and gallant Lord who spoke just now referred to this as a question which might be asked, though I am not certain that he approved of its being asked): are we not, as things are, trying to do too much all at once, and so producing practically nothing? Or are we just setting about things in not precisely the right way? At any rate, the upshot in these vital new fields is that we are left disturbingly naked.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
May I interrupt the noble Lord? Perhaps he could specify what he means when he says that we are producing practically nothing. It is important that loose phrases should not go out from this House if they cannot be substantiated.
§ LORD NATHAN
I am sure the noble and gallant Lord would not think it appropriate that I should state here precisely what I mean by that, but I will willingly inform him personally. I have no wish in any way to do an injustice, and instead of "practically nothing," shall I say, "not as much as we might have hoped"?
§ LORD NATHAN
I say that in a placatory spirit towards the noble Lord. At any rate, he will agree with this comment: that in all these vital fields 1215 the upshot is that we are left, as I was saying, disturbingly naked or, shall I say? not fully dressed. The proper use and deployment of our skilled technicians and scientists in the new model forces and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, said yesterday, in research and industry, is of fundamental importance for the whole future of the defence programme. In defence, as in trade, we live or die to-day by our skill. The test is not what we hope to have for our defence, but what we have, or what we shall quickly have. The main premises of the Defence Statement can be accepted by all those who hope to save the peace of the world by being strong against attack. But the programme which is proposed to implement it raises some points of doubt. Nothing is more perilous than a deterrent which is no deterrent at all—that would be fatal. The more encouraging words of Service Ministers in the last two weeks or so have shown them to be looking at last in the right direction, but what is needed, also, is proof that they are moving in the right direction; and this will require a much greater revolution in thought, habit and practice, not only in the Services but in the Supply Department and in the defence industries, than has yet been shown. Yet nothing less than that revolution can make us, even hopefully, safe and independent.
§ 3.38 p.m.
My Lords, when I read of the abolition of Anti-Aircraft Command last autumn, without any alternative for those concerned, I must admit that I felt rather like a dormouse being rudely awakened out of a very comfortable sleep. It is some time since I addressed your Lordships, and I am sorry that on my reappearance I have to make a frontal attack. I have a Motion down on the Order Paper on the Territorial Army, but the points I wish to raise are relevant to this afternoon's debate, and I am therefore grateful for this opportunity of addressing your Lordships. Before I come to Anti-Aircraft Command there is just one point with regard to the hydrogen bomb upon which I should like to comment. Surely, we, as an Empire, are in a far better position than anyone else, provided we walk arm in arm with the other members of the Commonwealth. 1216 I do not believe it is possible, even in a hydrogen bomb war, for an attack to be made in the earlier stages of the war on all the important points of the Commonwealth. It is possible—in fact, I should say probable—that the centre would be attacked and possibly destroyed, but we should immediately retaliate from many other places. Provided we have made our plans beforehand with the other members of the Commonwealth, our organisation would be dislocated to a much lesser extent than would that of either our great ally, the United States of America, or any prospective enemy, were their countries to be attacked.
The position of the Commonwealth is laid down in paragraph 13 of the White Paper on Defence, but I feel that it does not go anything like far enough. Also, I was surprised to read that the Secretary of State for War in another place last week said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 538 (No 48), col. 192]:If such a war occurred"—and he was referring to a nuclear war—then the vital and decisive factor would be the ability of the home base in these islands to struggle through.I have not the slightest doubt of the determination of all of us to fight to the last inch in these islands, were war to come; but it seems to me that, with a nuclear war and the resultant dislocation to an island of this size, it would be folly to rely solely on that when we have the whole Commonwealth to help us. Therefore I would suggest that our plans should presuppose that, upon a surprise attack, our own Government and a considerable number of our personnel would be destroyed. Our answer is solely from the strength of the Commonwealth. It is a strength that no one else possesses. I suggest, therefore, that we should immediately plan to dispose our atomic plants throughout the most inaccessible parts of our Empire, and at the same time plan that a change in the centre of government could be made immediately, should that become necessary. In fact, I feel that all defence matters should now be dealt with on an Empire basis. From these beginnings—and they can be built only through strength—can arise the chance not only of an Empire Government but of a Government of all the free countries of the world, which can give us security and, finally, world peace. 1217 If protection against the hydrogen bomb is possible in an island of this size, so vastly populated, then it must be mainly as it was in the last war, through voluntary service. That brings me to the specific points I wish to raise regarding the Territorial Army. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I refer briefly to the history of Anti-Aircraft organisation to stress this point. Your Lordships may remember that in 1920 there was no anti-aircraft defence at all in this country. In that year the first Regular regiment was formed, and in 1924 a Scottish medium regiment was transferred to anti-aircraft defence. Those two regiments, with some six mobile batteries throughout the Commonwealth, were all the anti-aircraft defence that we had in the Empire. In 1922, four Territorial anti-aircraft regiments were formed for the specific purpose of the defence of London. They were called county and city Territorial brigades. They were formed from the volunteers who came mainly from City of London places of work. They were not full to start with, because volunteers came as slowly after the First World War as they did in 1947; but in 1925 there was a recruiting campaign, and from that time they were up to their peace-time establishment. That meant that in 1925 there was an equivalent number of Regulars and Territorials in anti-aircraft.
Little happened for the next ten yeas, but it should be pointed out that in those ten years the personnel of those four Territorial regiments worked themselves up to a high degree of proficiency. That was proved by the positions they held in the Army as a whole in the Second World War. When, in the 1930's, war with Hitler was first a danger and then a certainty, there was a rush to join these regiments. Other anti-aircraft regiments were formed, and other regiments were transferred to the anti-aircraft rôle. In 1939, after the doubling of the Territorial Army, there were 116,000 men in Anti-Aircraft Command (as it then was), which was 28 per cent. of the whole of the Territorial Army. Meanwhile, there had been no change at all in the Regulars, who then represented a very small fraction of the total numbers in Anti-Aircraft Command. In the war there were between 250,000 and 300,000 people in Anti-Aircraft Command. They were led mainly by those Territorials who had worked during the peace-time years to equip 1218 themselves for the positions of senior N.C.O.s and senior officers.
The history of Anti-Aircraft Command during the war is well known to your Lordships. After the war, with the introduction of National Service, we again saw the Territorial Army building itself up with its own spirit, but helped by the National Service boys who came "unwillingly to school" but who, when they arrived, found, as most schoolboys do, that there was a great amount of amusement and interest to be had. It is no exaggeration at all to say that the camps for 1955 are being looked forward to with the same spirit as were the pre-war camps of the Territorial Army. There are not only the National Service subalterns, but the National Service men who have worked themselves up in these few years to the very fine rank of sergeant. They are going together to camp with a spirit unequalled by anything since the years when the Territorials built themselves up, in the 1920's and 1930's.
I have given your Lordships this brief history to explain the importance of the Territorial soldier to Anti-Aircraft Command and to emphasise the fact that that Command was built up purely through team spirit. Whatever our class, we are all taught from our earliest years the importance of team spirit. However good we are as individuals, we are not much use without the team. It is exactly the same in the Territorial Army. Then, four months ago, on the announcement of the abolition of Anti-Aircraft Command, the whole thing fell to the ground. Until a few weeks ago there was no alternative at all for those senior officers and N.C.O.s to whom we owed so much during the war and after the war. Even now I feel that the position is most unsatisfactory. The danger is that we shall lose the good will of these men, and that will, in itself, be a grave danger to the defence of this country. One can do almost anything with a volunteer except keep him in doubt and idleness. One can change his rôle, give him conscripts or amalgamate him; but leave him in idleness and one will lose that spirit of good will that is so important. Voluntary service has been rather belittled since the war. In my opinion it is still the mainspring of our defence, and I think we should do everything we can to en-courage it.
1219 I do not think anyone, particularly those who were in Anti-Aircraft Command, was in the least surprised when there came notice of the abolition of the Command. We never saw much of a future in it when science was progressing so greatly that a nuclear war became possible. But in May, 1950, when guided missiles were given to the Royal Air Force, it was surely time to think of what was going to happen to the Territorials when the abolition of Anti-Aircraft Command came. Now, nearly two years afterwards, we have no alternative to Anti-Aircraft Command—there are no guided missiles, and a great number of the men of the Command are left without anything to do. I am not in any way suggesting that we should keep Anti-Aircraft Command, but I should like to bring out two points about the anti-aircraft gun before finally we throw it into the melting pot, which I suppose is where it will go. First, I suppose there is the outside possibility that another world war might come without the use of the nuclear weapon. Gas was not used in the last war because of the enemy's fear of retaliation, but it did not stop the war. If we lose our guns we get right back to where we were in 1938, when we had all the men we wanted but no guns. In a year or so we shall still have all the men, even if they have been disbanded, with the knowledge of anti-aircraft equipment, but we shall have no guns.
But there is another job for the antiaircraft gun, apart from bringing down and dispersing enemy formations and firing against guided missiles; it has its influence on the morale of the civilians. I remember very well the autumn days of 1940, when, night after night, this great city was bombed and not a single gun was fired. We were not allowed to fire because we were supposed not to understand sufficiently about unseen targets. But we were becoming the laughing-stock of the civilians. They were getting morally depressed, and they looked at us and said, "What is the good of your guns if you never fire them?" Then suddenly one day all the group commanders were sent for by General Pile, who said, "You can fire tonight as much as you possibly can. If you have equipment for unseen targets, use it. If you have not, use your initiative." The noise of those guns on that 1220 night will never be forgotten. It was said that we brought down four planes. Even if that were true, it was the most expensive night's firing there had ever been, so far as rounds fired per target are concerned. But the change in the morale of the civilian was miraculous. If there is ever a war with great numbers of civilians in large cities, this point should not be forgotten.
We have now no Anti-Aircraft Command, no alternative and a number of Territorials without a job. I am certain that the alternative, the guided missile, will appear, and will presumably be controlled by the Regular Royal Air Force. But what about the Territorials? Surely May, 1953, was the time to think of what would happen to them. Yet, eighteen months afterwards no thoughts have been given to this position. Recently an offer was made to them to join the mobile defence reserve battalions. No idea of what that service requires has been given to them, and the offer is to individuals and to groups only. Why not to units? It has been said that the unit will know nothing about this job. The amount of technical knowledge gained by anti-aircraft personnel was very high. They tackled radar and other equipment, and I am convinced that they could easily tackle any other job that was given to them. Why not give them these guided missiles, even if it meant transferring them to the R.A.F.? It does not make any difference nowadays, and it would be infinitely preferable to the present position.
May I give your Lordships one example? I have said that in 1922 four Territorial regiments were raised. Only one of those now remains, and that is an amalgamation of four other regiments. All the young people are being kept and the older ones are being left out. It was these older ones who, before the war, joined as Territorials, who fought the war with the Territorials and Regulars together, and who, after the war, rejoined to bring back that voluntary spirit. Yet they are just left on the shelf. Surely there is room enough for all Territorials in Civil Defence, whether in the Home Guard, in these new regiments, or anything else—and for units and not just for individuals. It is the indecision which is going to kill the voluntary spirit. When war breaks out everyone rushes to help in every way he can—even bus drivers 1221 stop at "Request" stops and cars are driven by human beings and not by wild animals.
But we cannot wait until then—not because there is the immediate danger of a war, but because there is immediate danger of losing these voluntary servants. When the present Government were in Opposition we had a great deal of support from many of their members for the Territorial Army. Now, by reason of the treatment of the people in Anti-Aircraft Command, we hear from every Territorial soldier, "Is it going to be my turn next?" I apologise for taking so long on this one subject, but I believe that voluntary service should be not only encouraged but built up against an attack by the hydrogen bomb. The Territorial Army has served this country well in two world wars. Because the hydrogen bomb has come, we must not let them down—we must not say we can do without them. But in particular, let us not leave them in doubt any longer.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down said, I think at the beginning of his speech, that he was going to make a frontal attack. I should have thought that was rather a hard description of the speech that he made, because it seemed to me that he made a number of most helpful comments, particularly on the subject of the Territorial Army, to which I will return a little later. I was in full agreement, too, with a great deal of what he said on the subject of Commonwealth co-operation. I thought that I might be right in reading a little more between the lines of the White Paper where it deals with Commonwealth co-operation, and indeed possibly reading a little between the lines of the speech made by my noble friend Lord Swinton in introducing this Motion yesterday.
We have had a great many important and interesting opinions from other noble Lords on the general question of the hydrogen bomb, and the change of attitude that it has caused to our strategy and organisation. I do not want to say much about that at this stage of the debate, because I find myself largely in agreement with what was said yesterday by my noble friend Lord Hailsham, and also with many of the things which have been said this afternoon by the noble 1222 Lord, Lord Nathan. Some of the wrong thinking which has occurred arises because people think war can be divided into watertight compartments and that atomic war can be divided from what is called "conventional" war. In talking of "conventional" war and weapons, we should remember that they are conventional only in the sense that they are not atomic: they are certainly not conventional in the sense that no progress is being made in their design or use, or in the tactics with which they will be employed.
As can be seen from the Service White Papers, very great changes have taken place in recent years and are still going on, both in the nature of equipment and in organisation. In studying war one can regard it only as one thing. One cannot decide in advance what the enemy will do, or what divisions one will be able to make as between atomic and conventional war. To do so is to try to make up one's mind in advance what the enemy will do; and I can imagine no worse way of planning to lose a war. It is not for us to decide the enemy's intentions; it is for us to decide what possible courses of action are open to them. At present those courses may or may not range from the launching of the atom bomb, on the one hand, to a frontier "incident" on the other. Such an incident cannot be dealt with by the atom bomb but has to be dealt with by the commander and troops on the spot.
To rely only on the atom bomb, rather than on conventional weapons, is to ignore the old and sound doctrine of economy of force, a doctrine which has been preached for many years among those who study these things and which still applies. In considering the use of non-conventional weapons let us therefore remember that doctrine of economy of force. Let us beware of the watertight compartments with which we shall be faced if we try to consider home defence as a matter for local authorities, on the one hand, and Service Departments, on the other. I will return to that point, but I mention it now because I believe that much of our wrong thinking is caused by our attempt to divide a future war into compartments of arbitrary design of our own choosing.
Since it is clear from the White Paper that the power to exercise the deterrent largely depends on the strength of the 1223 alliances among the free peoples, it is surely quite wrong to believe that one can pursue this objective without a complete alliance and complete inter-Governmental and inter-Services co-operation on the part of the free peoples. For that reason I was sorry to hear some noble Lords say yesterday that it was a mistake for American air forces to be stationed in this country. I take precisely the opposite view.
May I ask noble Lords to consider what effect these changes will have on the organisation which we have to maintain in order to implement this new policy? How profoundly grateful we should be that the Ministry of Defence was established back in 1946, in the time of the last Government! Think for a moment of the confusion which would by now have arisen in dealing with these problems had the Ministry of Defence not already been in existence over a number of years—the possibility baffles description. We should thank our stars that the Ministry of Defence, by its early establishment, has now had time to practise some relatively easy exercises in co-ordinating Service Departments, and is therefore, I hope, getting into training for the harder exercise of co-ordinating supply and dealing with other matters affecting all Service Departments to which it will have to address itself in dealing with home defence. A right decision was certainly taken then, and we shall now reap the benefit.
Whilst I do not want to be partisan, I feel it a pity that when the Civil Defence Act was introduced, a year later, the same broad views were not taken and that the opportunity of knocking down more watertight compartments was missed. That would have been a great convenience in the intervening period, and those compartments must certainly be knocked down now. It is interesting to look back over Defence White Papers which have appeared since the war and to see how civil defence was treated—being given, first, only a very small paragraph—and how, gradually, the writers and sponsors of successive White Papers have realised that that subject must be regarded as part of home defence. In this present White Paper, civil defence has at last come into its own and takes the place which, with the advent of the atom bomb, it was bound to take. I believe that the name "Civil Defence" is almost a misnomer. It 1224 was invented at a time when thought on the subject was entirely different. To my mind, and I think most, the name implies a series of activities much more related to the threat from high-explosive bombs than to the action—not before the atom bomb comes, because that is something which, even with the best will in the world, civil defence cannot tackle—to be taken after the bomb has arrived, if, unhappily, it does arrive. What is now called civil defence is certainly not civil, and probably not defence either, because its future task cannot be the prevention of atomic attack. It must deal with the situation after it has arisen.
I was glad to see from the Defence White Paper that the static part of civil defence was still based on local authorities. I am sure that this is the right course, and that local authorities will be only too eager to play their full part. Perhaps I ought to mention that up to yesterday morning, so far as I could find out, the Home Office had issued no further instructions to local authorities based on the White Paper. I am not complaining of that—I think it is probably just as well. I should not mind if Government Departments took a little time for thought and consultation with each other before issuing instructions to local authorities. But let that pass for the moment.
Let us now think of some of the other people concerned. A great deal has been said about the Auxiliary Air Force—notably by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, to whom I should like to add my congratulations on his very useful maiden speech. I would add that I prefer the constructive proposals which he made for dealing with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to the rather less constructive proposals which came from the noble Lord, Lord Sherwood. Not being an airman, may I leave the point at that, and come, for a minute or two to what the Lord Moynihan said about Anti-Aircraft Command? I go a good way with him in what he said, because I feel, as I am sure do many other noble Lords, that in Anti-Aircraft Command there is a tremendous reserve of patriotism and good will, and it would be the height of folly to disperse it and not to make the fullest use of it. To be as fair as I can about this, I think I must start by saying that I consider it rather a pity that when, over a year ago, it was announced in this 1225 House that guided missiles were to be the immediate responsibility of the Royal Air Force, more immediate steps were not taken to deal with the problem of Anti-Aircraft Command. Surely every thinking member of Anti-Aircraft Command must have realised, if that policy was right—as I am sure it was—that it was no longer possible for Anti-Aircraft Command to exist as it had done. Therefore, there was bound to be a period of doubt and despair, and that doubt and despair were likely to affect thinking members of Anti-Aircraft Command more than others—which I think was a great pity. I hope that noble Lords in front of me will not mind my saying that. However that may be, it is spilt milk, and I am not going to cry over it any more.
Now we come to the decision of, I think, December 4 last, when it was announced that Anti-Aircraft Command was to be disbanded. Here, as all your Lordships know, we are always in a difficulty, because decisions of that sort should be announced first to Parliament—and that is the practice of Governments. But it is impossible to make a first announcement both to Parliament and to the Forces—or whoever may be concerned—at the same time. There is always a difficulty in that respect. I have taken a certain amount of trouble to find out exactly what did happen after that announcement had been made to Parliament; and, without wanting to condone what happened before that, I feel obliged to say that, from all I hear, the War Office and the Territorial Associations did their best to work the matter out properly, to make the announcement at the earliest possible moment, and to arrange for interviewing those people who were surplus. Now they are faced with the business of dealing with these fourteen or fifteen units of Anti-Aircraft Command which cannot be amalgamated or absorbed in the field forces and which must be disbanded. That still has to be done.
I do not think that anyone can be surprised that that is the position. After all, the Territorial Army, like the rest of the Services, was made for war: war was not made for the Territorial Army. Every thinking Territorial knows that. Every sound Territorial will, I am certain, be anxious to adapt himself to meet the needs of modern war—as in fact he has 1226 done—like all his predecessor volunteers throughout the ages. There is a good deal to be done. This time efforts should be made to avoid watertight compartments. It is also a time, if I may suggest it to noble Lords in front of me, when the fullest use should be made of what I may term the negotiating machinery which already exists to deal with these things. We have the Council of Territorial and Air Force Associations; we have the Territorial Army; we have the Air Advisory Committee which advises the Secretary of State for Air. Those bodies all exist to canalise the opinion of the voluntary Auxiliary Forces and to do their best to advise the Service Departments on the best way of making full use of the good will and patriotism that exist.
I hope that people will not be in a hurry. I hope that plenty of time will be allowed for this advice to be given. It has happened before that the advice was given after the decision was taken. If I may paraphrase the old proverb: it is easy to advise after the event. I hope that that will not happen. Here, between the Forces and the static civil defence, we have this new and largely uncharted field of mobile columns—I should say mobile battalions, for I was corrected upon that point before. These mobile battalions, so far as I understand, though I am not quite sure, are to be part of the emergency reserve. Do let us make certain that we obtain for all these mobile battalions, on the most favour-able terms, the surplus personnel, the surplus men and officers in Anti-Aircraft Command. Do let us remember that they stand halfway between the Regular Forces and the local authorities. Do let us remember that the Territorial and Auxiliary Forces' associations are designed to act as a link between the Auxiliary Forces and the local authorities. That is why, whatever Lord Moynihan may say, I am just a little glad that too much has not been settled already, because I should like to see the time we have available used for a little more thinking, a little more getting together between various Departments. I think that if that can be done our friends in Anti-Aircraft Command will not grudge a little longer wait.
I hope, too, that the question of allowances will be properly gone into and brought on to the right basis. It is ridiculous, for instance, that a man who 1227 volunteers for local authority civil defence, and is allowed to use his motor car, should have to do it on quite different financial terms from those of the Territorial soldier in a mobile battalion. I beg noble Lords in front of me not to allow any discrepancies of that sort—and I can tell them that there are many—to persist, when these new arrangements have been thoroughly worked out. That is all I want to say, partly in support of what Lord Moynihan has said, and, partly, as an alternative approach.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but I should like to conclude with one general comment on this Statement of Defence. Of all the White Papers that have come out since 1946, this is by far the clearest. And so it should be, because science has now advanced sufficiently in the matter of atomic weapons to make it possible for the Government to take a view and to state a policy. Hitherto, the attitude has been, I am sure rightly, that developments were going on so fast, and that the state of development was so indeterminate, that every year when the time came to produce a White Paper, no plan could be put forward without the risk of wasting a great deal of money and effort. Now the die is cast. We have a perfectly clear policy, clearly laid down; and, as we have seen to-day and yesterday, with a great measure of support from all sides of the House. It only remains that the details should be worked out with the firmness and the broadness of mind which has been used in drawing up the White Paper.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD LAWSON
My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree that it is refreshing to have such views laid before the House as have been expressed by the speakers in this debate. I refer particularly to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, who gave us his experience from what I might call the other end of the telescope. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, that the White Paper is clear, and I think it is right that in the situation which this country faces as the result of the production of the hydrogen bomb, the Government should be clear that the hydrogen bomb would be used in case we had to defend ourselves against an attack. I do not think any man or woman living in our age will forget that we gave proof 1228 between the wars, as perhaps no other country did, that we were ready to reduce our armaments. Indeed, we almost disarmed ourselves between the wars. No one who had responsibility for anything to do with the defence of our country in the period following Dunkirk will ever forget that experience. For my sins, I was one of two Civil Defence commissioners in Northumberland, Durham and the North Riding. It was our business to know our true responsibilities and we had to be told exactly what our defence position was—a position which the Prime Minister has revealed in his writings since. If at that time our enemy had understood how bare we were, he would have altered his tactics. I assure your Lordships that there were times when at dawn I looked out fully expecting to see the enemy arriving from the Norwegian coast.
The decision which has been taken is so grave that the Government ought to lose no time in getting together with the other great Powers to bring about some measure of disarmament. If only the world's wisdom were equal to its knowledge, then we should be living in a happy world indeed. For if we were wise, we should realise that this is the writing on the wall for all armaments. We should be happy indeed if a disarmament agreement could be worked out. The White Paper has created despondency among a great many people who want to help the country. I am glad the noble Lords, Lord Bridgeman and Lord Moynihan, brought up this matter. I have seen the effects of this despondency. Some people seem to have the idea that while we are going to manufacture hydrogen bombs, we do not need anybody to fire them. We speak about conventional weapons and atomic weapons as though they were going to fire themselves and did not need anybody behind them. There is a strange lack of understanding of the effect that this is going to have upon the men of the Forces.
The Government are again scrapping the second battalions of the county regiments. The second battalions have been scrapped, set up and scrapped again. I must say that I cannot understand why the great traditions and the comradeship, the experience and the courage, to be found in these second battalions should be so lightly abandoned with very little explanation. Perhaps your Lordships will 1229 allow me to speak of the first time I met the Durham Light Infantry, my own county regiment, after the war. It was in goal. I thought that would waken up your Lordships! The Durham Light infantry were billeted in Rangoon goal, after they had come out of Imphal. They were one of the battalions which had taken part in the relief of Imphal, where they had seen heavy fighting under terrible conditions. When I saw them they were billeted in the goal, so far as I could see the coolest place in Rangoon and perhaps the best possible building for billeting a great mass of men. I told them that I thought they were highly favoured, because they were the only people who had ever seen a Cabinet Minister in goal. They have to go, along with the other second line battalions. I think that is most unwise, unless some steps are being taken to use the men in another way.
It seems that behind this White Paper is the assumption that with the increased use of mechanised weapons and science fewer men are needed. But that has not been the experience of industry where mechanisation has taken place, although the industrialists and the people who had to use the machines thought it would be the case. They held that view from the nineteenth century until quite recently. It seems to me that the Government and the War Department are making the same mistake in thinking that once we have atom bombs and hydrogen bombs fewer men will be needed. So far as I can see, that is the only reason for abolishing the second battalion regiments.
When we come to Anti-Aircraft Command, as both previous speakers on this subject have agreed, there is some justification for handling the matter in the way proposed. But if Anti-Aircraft Command is to be abolished, the Government might, at least, have done it in the proper way: they might have said "Thank you" to those who have been doing the job. As Lord Lieutenant of the county, I was present at a meeting when an announcement was made about Anti-Aircraft Command, and, as a result of the statement, there were clear signs of despondency. These men, too, have their traditions and their sense of comradeship, as the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said. After their work in the Territorials, men have been giving up their spare time. Surely, 1230 this could have been done in a better way. I do not know whether this has been the experience of the two previous speakers, but I think the indecision, so far as the voluntary home forces are concerned, has reached to the Territorials generally. If I exaggerate, then it is worth while, because this is a serious matter and the Government ought to take careful note of it. The Territorials should know exactly where they stand. If this does extend to the Territorials, then I think it is time that the Territorial associations are given some clear indication of the use to which they are going to be put and of the way in which they can best serve the country. They do their work, I know, and they are responsible for the training of the men. But how far that is going to operate, as it has in the past, is not quite clear.
Then there is the question of civil defence—what is called the Mobile Defence Corps. As some of your Lordships will know, the idea of mobile corps is not something new. During the last war we had mobile corps which did splendid work up and down the country and gained great experience, which experience would be most useful to the Mobile Defence Corps. I do not intend publicly to go into the steps that we usually had to take in connection with the mobile units, but those units rendered splendid service. During the war, on the radio, we used to get news every night for months of a town in the north-east that had been bombed, although the town was never mentioned by name. We know now that the town was Hull. The condition of Hull at one stage was lamentable, and we had to send a mobile unit there to help them. During the war mobile units went all over the country, and the experience they gained would be well worth using. There again, the human side has been neglected.
A good deal of attention was given at one time to civil defence. The units were kept in being, but they were not called upon to do exercises on a proper scale because nobody knew quite what they were going to do. There is a great mass of voluntary service of very fine men and women at the disposal of the, Government. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say, in spite of that, that the civil defence organisation in this country at the present time is practically 1231 moribund. I have taken some part in meetings and I know something of the position generally. It would be as well if those who are responsible for civil defence, for the Government and through the Government, would make an investigation into what the position is in the country, and the sooner they make use of the fine human material and experience which exists the better it will be for the country.
I will not say any more. I wanted to say those things, although probably both my predecessors said them better. But it is necessary that I should have said them after this White Paper, with the stunning effect it has had, and the steps the Government have already taken to immobilise the anti-aircraft units. I know that some batteries are still in being, but I am not quite sure whether they are going to live or die, or how they are going to be used. I hope the Government will take notice of these matters, because they are of the first importance. In spite of the hydrogen bomb, men and women will still be needed, and we have at our disposal in this country a fine body of men and women who are prepared to give their services almost without limit in any way the Government want, if the Government are prepared to use them.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, I much regret that I was unable to be present in your Lordships' House yesterday to hear the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and of the other noble Lords who took part in the debate. I have done my best to repair the omission by reading the OFFICIAL REPORT, and it is in the light of the OFFICIAL REPORT and of my own reflections on the White Paper that I venture to submit to your Lordships to-day some observations on the problem of defence in its widest sense.
The problem of defence in essence is the problem of finding answers to two apparently simple questions. The first question is: What is the danger that faces us? The second question is: How best can that danger be met? Now the danger lies in the existence of a great Power with vast military resources, a dynamic creed and a policy of external expansion. That Power, in company with other like-minded Powers, controls the greater part 1232 of the land mass of the continents of Europe and Asia. More than this, it has outposts within the body-politic of other countries which still remain outside its control. Its self-appointed leaders look upon themselves as the agents whose mission it is, first, to maintain their absolute power at home, and, secondly, to hasten and direct the march of events, by force if necessary, along the predetermined course of history, as identified and plotted by themselves, leading to what they regard as the inevitable collapse of capitalism throughout the world and the progressive spread of their own authority.
The danger lies not only in a threat of force; it lies also in an unremitting assault upon the hearts and minds of our people. What is at stake is the future of Western civilisation, as we know it. For all its shortcomings, Western civilisation is based on the freedom of the human spirit. On the other hand, whatever merit there may be in the original conceptions of Communism, its application in practice in the Soviet Union and elsewhere has led to a denial of the freedom of the human spirit. The opposition of the two régimes, as they stand to-day, is therefore complete. Whether this will always be so, time alone will show.
That is not to say that a major assault by armed force is imminent or even probable. Western disunity or unpreparedness might indeed invite it. Unwise Western policies might provoke it. Soviet internal strains might precipitate it. But, in general, the Soviet leaders believe that history is on their side, and they may think it well to take their time, to pursue their ends with circumspection, and not to run unnecessary risks to the stability of their own internal authority, the maintenance of which is their prime overriding objective. Like other Governments, they have their own domestic difficulties. They also have their own defence problem, though, unlike ourselves, they are not required to advertise it. There is also the thought that too rapid a spread of Communism might outrun their power to control it. They may think that one China is enough for the present.
We therefore face a variety of dangers of varying degrees of probability, and we must be prepared for them all. There is first the danger of a deliberate attack by nuclear weapons. This seems at the present stage unlikely, if we in the West maintain our strength and unity. There 1233 is the danger of a full-dress attack with what are called conventional weapons. This is also perhaps unlikely. There is the danger of local actions with conventional weapons, which might lead to the use of nuclear weapons. This is less unlikely. Here, the danger would vary with the areas in which these actions might occur. Then there is the danger of progressive infiltration or subversion under threat. This danger is ever present. Finally, there is the danger of political action upon the public mind by way of threat, exhortation. cajolery and so on. That this will go on, we may take it, is a certainty.
How are we to meet these dangers? The answer is not a simple one. It is a complex answer, for defence has many aspects. But, diverse as those aspects are, they all form part of a single whole. I propose, if I may, to pass some of these aspects under review as briefly as I can. The first point to make is this. Given the vast power of the Communist world and the relative weakness of the United Kingdom, it is clear that we cannot meet these dangers alone. All the other free nations, including perhaps even the United States, are in the same position: hence, the need for combination. Happily, the necessary associations are, being formed, and they are being formed round the periphery of the Communist land mass, or round what the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, yesterday called "the outer circle." Thus, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, reinforced, as we hope it will be, by the Western European Union, holds the vital European front from Norway round to Turkey. On the Eastern flank is the new Balkan Pact linking Turkey, Greece and Yugoslavia, East of that again a new link is being formed which will join Turkey with Iraq and Pakistan.
Now, starting from the Far Eastern end of the outer circle or great defensive arc, there are the arrangements made by the United States with Japan, with South Korea, and with Formosa. There are the direct links between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. And now there has come into being the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation which brings the defensive screen round into South-East Asia. Between Pakistan and Siam there is a gap. India and Burma stand outside all these arrangements, 1234 though they can, and do, play a useful mediatory rôle.
We come now to the second and most obvious aspect of defence. Combination in itself is not enough. There must be armed force, and adequate armed force. Here, our new technological age has already surpassed itself. Back in the last century, Emerson said, prophetically:Things are in the saddle and ride man kind.And someone has more recently said that in our time there is a growing disparity between strong physics and weak sociology. Be that as it may, the free world must possess nuclear weapons so long as there is no comprehensive and effective system of disarmament. If we in this country are to be a worthy partner in the community of free nations, we must play our part and make nuclear weapons, since it is within our capacity to do so. For reasons set out in the White Paper, the existence of nuclear weapons does not make the possession of conventional weapons any less necessary than before. The arguments for this view seem to me to be quite conclusive. But to call these weapons "conventional weapons" is not in any sense to pay them a compliment: war is a sickening business whatever weapons are used to conduct it.
I come now to the third point. It is not enough to possess arms. The value of these associations among the free peoples does not lie only in the military sphere. These associations dispel feelings of insecurity and isolation and create bonds of comradeship. This growth of collective solidarity is in itself a source of strength and is, therefore, a contribution to defence. This is so because the attack is at the present stage perhaps more likely to be by way of intimidation or subversion than by major physical assault. The chief virtue, as I see it, of the Paris Agreements is not that they will make available a few German divisions; what is more important is that they will, we hope, knit the Federal Republic closely into the Western European Community as an equal partner. In the economic sphere, too, the Marshall Plan and the Colombo Plan have both made an indispensable contribution, a contribution to defence.
In another way also—and this is my fourth point—the mere possession of arms is not enough. There must also be 1235 the will to use them, if need be, and that will must be made known to the adversary. It has often been said that if we had made our intentions plain in 1914 and in 1939 there would have been no war. I have always rather doubted the truth of this. In 1914, the Germans discounted what they derided as our contemptibly small army. In 1939, we did in fact make our intentions quite plain by concluding a mutual assistance Agreement with Poland. What was lacking on both occasions was not so much certainty of intention as the possession of adequate armed force to make our intervention effective. That is an error which, whether successfully or not, we and our associates are trying hard to avoid this time. By bitter experience it seems that we have learnt our lesson.
The Government have been reproached, and I think unfairly reproached, for the alleged ambiguity in the statement in the White Paper about the use of nuclear weapons in the event of aggression. If there is ambiguity—or, as I would rather say, lack of particularisation—I think this is wise. It is plain from what is said in the White Paper that in a major war nuclear weapons would be used to repel attack by conventional weapons, since only so could we counter the adverse preponderance in such weapons. It is well that this should be stated. But what is not particularised, and rightly so, I think, is the precise kind of occasion on which nuclear weapons would certainly be used, and the kind of occasion on which they would perhaps not be used. Nor is there any precise definition given of what constitutes a major war. Nor, again, is it stated where and how the nuclear reaction would fall, whether only upon the attacking forces or also upon the enemy's industrial centres. This area of uncertainty is, in itself, as I see it, a powerful deterrent. To draw aside the veil would be a clear invitation to the adversary to take action in circumstances where he could count on not promoting nuclear retaliation.
My Lords, I do not know why it should be thought that Governments will be reckless in their recourse to this terrible and devastating nuclear weapon, unless perhaps it is because too many officers in high military positions talk too much and too often about what they think is going to happen. In any event, the decisions 1236 will not lie—or perhaps I had better say, ought not to lie—with them, but with their Governments; and it is from their Governments that these grave statements should properly come. On this point I have much sympathy with what was said yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. And so far as Governments are concerned, I think both sides have so far been pretty cautious and self-regarding. In the last war, neither chemical nor bacteriological weapons were used. In the Berlin crisis of 1948–49 neither side resorted to force at all. In Korea, nuclear weapons were not used, and the use of even conventional weapons was geographically circumscribed. There was similar restraint in Indo-China.
The danger of the situation to-day, in contrast to the situation in the past—even the recent past—is that the margin of tolerance has become very much narrower. In the West there is, one might almost say, no margin. In the Far East there is very little. The lines which must not be overstepped by an aggressor have been more and more definitely drawn by the defence. Nevertheless, we must not think that all hope is lost, however great the peril. In the present phase, we can still trust that the deterrent will keep the peace—Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.A deterrent is indeed not a permanent solution, but we can at any rate hope that it will keep the peace until a better basis can be found. To find a better basis must be our objective; but let us realise that it may take a long time to find it.
That leads me to the fifth point, the rôle of diplomacy as part of the wider complex of defence. The quiet and patient work of Foreign Offices and Ambassadors has born its fruit in the settlements reached about Trieste, Egypt and Persia. The more spectacular journeys of our own Foreign Secretary have brought results of the highest value for the peace of the world. In a wider field still, the field of disarmament, there is hope that talks may continue; and so long as talks continue we can still work patiently, if not perhaps very hopefully, for a scheme of real and comprehensive disarmament, with secure and workable safeguards.
1237 It seems to me that, if war can be avoided, given time and patience all these healing processes can go on. Given a respite from major conflict, we may come to a tolerable, if still perhaps uneasy and disturbed, period of co-existence. This would be the more likely to happen if there were to be signs of a favourable evolution in fundamental attitudes in Moscow. The evidence of history (I am not here speaking of Marxist history) would suggest that in course of time this may come about. But it cannot be said with any certainty that these signs have yet appeared, and it would in any event be unwise to count on spectacular results from any new negotiations. High-level conferences held for conference's sake are apt to bring disillusion and carry danger. There is perhaps more to be hoped for from the steady play of normal and discreet contacts. There are ample means for inter-Governmental communication through the well-tried machinery of diplomacy. We have in present service Ambassadors who, in general attainments, professional skill and capacity to handle great affairs, can stand beside any we have had in the past. I am not sure that they are being sufficiently used. Certainly the prevalent assumption, fostered by the public, by the Press, and also by Parliament, that the Foreign Secretary must so often conduct negotiations in person, is tending to place on one man's shoulders a burden heavier than one man ought to be called upon to bear.
For all that, however, I think the time is approaching when a Ministerial conference with the Soviet. Union might well be held, perhaps even at the top level. Since the Potsdam Conference in 1945, repeated attempts have been made to come to an understanding with the Soviet Union, particularly about Germany; but they have all failed. There would be no harm in trying again, once the Paris Agreements have come into force, to see whether there can be some approach to an agreement on Germany—and not on Germany alone, but also on other well-defined, specific issues arising out of present tensions. It seems to me that on the strength of the Paris Agreements, on the strength of the reinforcement which they will bring to the solidarity of the Western World, on the strength of the other arrangements which have been made around the periphery of the Communist land-mass, and on the strength of 1238 what we are given to believe is a still substantial predominance in nuclear weapons, and a declared determination to use them if need be, the Western Powers could enter a conference with calm and confidence, and with a firm basis upon which to negotiate. The best preparation for such a conference is to attend to the business of defence in all its many aspects. This, I submit, is what Her Majesty's Government and their partners are now doing, and that, in my submission, is why the White Paper is to be commended.
Finally I should like to comment briefly on one passage which is to be found in paragraph 24 of the White Paper. It is there stated—I quote:In the last resort, most of us must feel that determination to face the threat of physical devastation, even on the immense scale which must now be foreseen, is manifestly preferable to an attitude of subservience to militant Communism, with the national and individual humiliation that this would inevitably bring.This seems to be a considerable under-statement. What is at issue is not merely national or individual humiliation—that could, perhaps, be lived through. What is at stake is the future of the free world, which the adversary would like step by step to subjugate; and the future of Western civilisation, based on the freedom of the human spirit, the sanctity of the individual and the rule of law, which the adversary, as at present minded, means progressively to subvert if he can. That is why it might be necessary to take a decisive stand on what might, at first sight, appear to be a minor issue.
It is sometimes suggested that we ought to offer concessions for the sake of peace, and that we ought to be ready to give up some of our old loyalties in order to save the world from the catastrophe of nuclear warfare. But what concessions could we make? What loyalties could we surrender that would be at the same time sufficient to satisfy and buy off the adversary, and yet not so fundamental as to deliver the citadel into his hands? If once we started to surrender the essential loyalties, the loyalty of the believer to his faith; of the patriot to his country; of the scholar and scientist to their intellectual integrity; of the artist to the imperative dictates of his inspiration; and, above all, the loyalty of the common man to honour and good faith, the end would be near. But there is no need for 1239 us to contemplate such surrenders. If, in calmness, confidence and unity of purpose, the free peoples attend to their defence in all its various aspects, on the lines now marked out, we can have good hope that no such dire choice will be forced upon us. But if such a choice were presented, it is not to be doubted that the answer which free men would give would be in the spirit of that unbending maxim which has been called the general maxim of the laws:Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, I hope to confine my observations to some of the more evident political and moral aspects of the White Paper, and not, I hasten to add, the ethical and religious aspects. I have neither the knowledge nor the experience to follow many of the highly important technical and military arguments advanced by so many noble Lords, and with so much authority, in this debate; nor can I hope to add anything to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strang. It is my good luck and my misfortune alike that I seem to have developed the habit of following the noble Lord in debate. It is my good luck because, like others of your Lordships, I get the advantage of the brilliant clarity of his analysis. It is my ill-fortune that I fear inevitably the poverty and confusion of my own thought must be exposed. Some noble Lords will consider that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, was unduly pessimistic. I do not consider that he was pessimistic, but what real grounds can we perceive for optimism in the human situation to-day?
I am a layman—and an ignorant one at that; but when I reflect upon the hydrogen bomb, upon the cobalt bomb which will no doubt follow, and upon other things which, in the coming years, may follow that, I should not be prepared to say with great assurance that, by the end of this century, there will be much left of civilisation, human life or any life on this planet. I see no grounds for either optimism, or despair. I hope that, in what I now say, I shall give no offence to any noble Lords whose views may differ from mine, and whose grounds for forming a judgment are at least as good as, and probably much better than, my 1240 own. Though I see no grounds for optimism, I see a real danger in indulging a facile optimism, the kind of optimism that supposes we shall, somehow, talk ourselves out of the tragic situation which enmeshes us; that if only we can meet the enemy at the gate, and get together round the table with the Russians, then all this terror will disappear. I can understand many good, intelligent and experienced people taking that view, but I believe that high-level talks in the foreseeable future would do nothing to avert the danger hanging over mankind, and might do something to bring it nearer.
Those who urgently seek immediate talks with the Russians on the hydrogen bomb do so because they believe that, at bottom, the Russians see in the bomb the same threat to civilisation that we ourselves see. I do not believe that. The Russians see no threat to civilisation because they do not value civilisation; and the extent to which they see the hydrogen bomb as a threat to civilisation does not prejudice them against it: if anything, that prejudices them in its favour. In every Party, and all over the land, there are those who hold the view that it should be our duty, in this country, to draw together the Soviet Union and the United States of America, nations which now are apart, to the peril of us all, because of fears, it is said, which in some way we can conjure away. I believe that that view has very dangerous implications indeed, for it ignores altogether one very important fact—that is that, by and large, and broadly speaking, the Soviet Union is determined, if it can, to bring Western civilisation, as we know it, down in ruins; and the United States is determined, in so far as it can, to preserve Western civilisation as we know it. I greatly fear that if, in those circumstances, we try to act the part of the honest broker all we shall do is to incur, on the one side, deep suspicion, and, on the other, utter contempt.
It seems to me that there is one cardinal fact that we have got to get hold of in this country, and it is one of the clues to our present difficulties. The Russians have no more the same view of life, the same standards, the same values as Western civilisation, than the Barbarians of antiquity had the same view of life, the same values, and the same standards 1241 as the Roman Empire. If I say that Russia is a barbarian society, I hope that I shall not be thought, either here or elsewhere, to be forgetful of the very generous hospitality which I and others of your Lordships received at the hands of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union only a short time ago. I do not forget that hospitality. I do not forget the great kindness of our hosts, and I do not forget the very great friendliness which the Russian people, wherever we met them, showed to us. If I say that the Soviet Union is a barbarian society I do not mean that the Russian people go about dressed in skins or in woad, or that they use stone implements or paint pictures on the walls of caves—of course not. They are a highly gifted people. They have great writers, great musicians, great engineers and great generals. When I say that they are a barbarian people I am using the expression not in a pejorative or abusive sense but in a classical or technical sense. I hold that—except for occasional sporadic moments—they have never been members of an international society. Their relations with other peoples have been the relations of the Barbarians with ancient Rome, or of the Red Indians with the early American settlers—sudden forays across the frontier; and that is all.
When I went with the Parliamentary delegation to the Soviet Union there were two things which, more than anything else, impressed me. One of them was the reality of the Russian feeling for security. Before I went there, I had the idea that all the talk about danger from the Germans that we heard from the Russians, all the talk about fear of invasion, all the talk about their being surrounded by American bases, was just a sort of smokescreen behind which they were hatching nefarious plots against the Western world. I came to the conclusion that I was wrong, that that feeling was perfectly genuine. The Parliamentary delegation travelled over the length of European Russia from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and we saw for the whole thousand miles—or whatever it was—the shell craters, the wrecked tanks, the ruined villages, right away across the European Continent. And when one saw that one understood that the Russian feeling for security was as genuine as any human feeling could be.
1242 Unhappily, that does not get us very much further, because Russian ideas of security—ideas which derive from the fact that, as I have said, they have never belonged to an international society—are such that security for Russia means inevitably absolute insecurity for everyone else. In this country, in the United States, in France, in any Western country, we are anxious about our security; but we have to put up with 70 per cent. or 75 per cent. security. For the rest, we have to rely upon alliances, balances of power, agreements with our neighbours and so on. The Russians rely on nothing except themselves, and they do not feel secure until they hold everything. If we go to a high-level conference with the Russians in any immediate future, they will be after security. But what they will mean by security, I am certain, is that they have Western Germany where now they have Eastern Germany—under their heel; that they have 300 Communist Deputies in the French Chamber; that the United States of America withdraws altogether from Europe; that we in this island are completely isolated; and that the hydrogen bomb and thermo-nuclear warfare are banned for everybody except the Soviet Union. I am certain that if there were a high-level conference that is what the Russians would seek to get out of it.
There is just one further thing I should like to say to your Lordships. I said a moment or two ago that there were two convictions with which I came back from Russia. The second conviction, too, was one which I did not have until I went to the Soviet Union—it was that the Soviet Government are just as much afraid of the hydrogen bomb as we are, and just as little willing to be on the receiving end of it. And the fact that they may have a bomb of their own, does not, I think, necessarily alter the value, for what it is worth, of that view, because it seems to me to be one of the characteristics—a characteristic which is entirely novel—of thermo-nuclear warfare that there can arise a situation in which possession of the weapon by oneself, no matter in whatever quantities, cannot protect a nation against the consequences of thermonuclear warfare. And that, of course, I take to be the key, the central part, of this White Paper. That is why I support it.
Before I sit down, I should like to reinforce something that was said by my 1243 noble friend Lord Strang. He said that one day the time might come when a high-level conference would be appropriate. I agree with him, and I suggest to your Lordships that that day will come when the Russians genuinely seek that kind of conference in the same way and in the same spirit as we seek it. At present, in my view, there is no evidence whatever that any Russian approach on disarmament has contained in it any degree of sincerity. It has contained this real anxiety about Russian national security which I have tried to outline. I hold that the Russians are as afraid of the atom bomb as we are, but they do not talk about their fears quite so much. If we go to them urgently seeking a conference on the hydrogen bomb now, with our fears expressed every day from every platform and in every newspaper, we shall go in an attitude almost of supplication; and the result is bound to be disastrous. But if we have patience and if, above all, we maintain our unity, the day will come when the Russians will ask us for a genuine conference; and if on that day we are no longer in an attitude of supplication, then I think there may be some hope from it.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, like the last speaker, I find myself in agreement with the White Paper. It must be satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government that on this White Paper, which enshrines about the most important decision that ever has been taken, they are receiving the support of the whole country, with almost negligible exceptions. For them it must be a source of satisfaction. I am sure it is a source of strength to us and to our political institutions, and that is very important.
I regret the speech to which we have just listened. I differ from it profoundly. I find in it so many statements which conflict with other statements. I thought there was something for almost everybody to choose. But of this I am certain: the Party to which I belong adopted this policy when we were in office; Her Majesty's Government are adopting it today. We must negotiate with Russia when we can, but we must negotiate from strength. If we go supplicating with no strength at all, if we try to negotiate from weakness, I agree that that can do more 1244 harm than good. But if we negotiate at the proper moment, not from weakness but from strength, and if we show enough patience and, as the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York said in his memorable speech yesterday, if we are prepared to put up with many rebuffs, good may come of it. I do not think it helpful or useful, or encouraging to the people of this country, to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, said in one passage in his speech, that the Russians really do not mind if we destroy Russia; that they are quite determined to destroy us; or that they and we have completely different conceptions of civilisation.
I firmly believe that the policy we have to pursue at the present time is the policy stated in the White Paper. I think we have no option but to make the hydrogen bomb. The most reverend Primate put for me the moral issue, and answered it as I would answer it. I come from a Quaker stock. I can understand and respect, though I have never conformed to, the Quaker argument against any weapons of war at all. If we commit ourselves to a force using conventional weapons, I fail to see why we should not have these further weapons. I find it utterly illogical. If we are going to have bombs at all, surely we must have the most efficient bombs. What is the sense in saying that we should have bombs so long as they are not efficient? I cannot follow it. And, of course, if we have bombs, we must have the means of delivering the bombs; and that means we must have the most efficient Air Force we can contrive to have. At the pace at which we are going, I suppose that in the future the aeroplane may be completely outmoded as a means of conveying bombs. It is quite possible that in the future it will all be done by some kind of rocket, but for the present moment I understand that the only way the bombs can be delivered is by aeroplanes; and therefore we must surely have the most efficient.
I was interested and refreshed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Strang: I thought it an admirable analysis of the whole problem. It was a speech which might well have been made in a foreign affairs debate, he will agree; but that merely illustrates the point that foreign affairs and defence are inextricably mixed up together. We cannot consider one 1245 without the other. And with his powerful and penetrating analysis I would respectfully express my entire concurrence. I think it is odd that until the noble Lord, Lord Strang, mentioned it, no one had raised the question of the circumstances in which it would be right and appropriate that the hydrogen bomb should be used, though, as your Lordships may remember, that caused a considerable difference of opinion, even amongst members of my own Party, in another place.
I agree with the noble Lord that it is completely impossible to try to set out a catalogue of cases in which we shall use the bomb. We cannot do anything of the sort. I think it would be very foolish to accept the proposition that we shall use the bomb only if the other side use it first, because that means that we have all the pressure of conventional weapons. We might have the Russians advancing towards the Channel ports, if they find that they can do that satisfactorily, and by our statement we should be precluded from using the bomb. It would be just as foolish not to use it in that case as it would be foolish to use it in what I might describe as a frontier incident. We cannot conceivably put out a catalogue of cases in which we are or are not going to use the bomb.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in saying that the only thing we must plainly state is that the decision on whether the bomb shall or shall not be used is a decision which is to be made by the statesman and not by the soldier, however eminent the soldier may be. I hope it follows from that—and I should like to ask the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, this question—that bombs in this country, whatever the source of their manufacture, will never be used from this country save with the consent of the Government of the day. I was a member of the Government which authorised, and, indeed, invited, the American Air Force to come over here; and from the American Air Force we have derived great strength and help. It is inconceivable to me that, in the event of a war concerning Europe in which America is engaged and we are not (though at the present time it is difficult to imagine such a war), the Americans would use their Air Force situated in this country—would use this country, in short, as a kind of aircraft carrier—for their own purposes.
1246 I mention this matter particularly because my noble friend Lord Huntingdon, who spoke yesterday, made a thoughtful speech to which he had obviously given great care. He expressed the view that we must not be made to use the bomb in any circumstances which our Government, supported by our own people, have not determined and decided. As a corollary to that, my noble friend came to the conclusion that we ought to ask the Americans to withdraw their forces. I am quite satisfied in my own mind that there is no question whatever of the use of the American Air Force from this country, or of the delivery of bombs from this country, save with the full authorisation and consent of Her Majesty's Government in this country. I think it would be worth while if the noble Marquess would confirm me, if I am right, to put this matter beyond all doubt, because a misapprehension (as I venture to think) in the mind of a noble Lord as careful and accurate as my noble friend Lord Huntingdon may well have gone further afield. In the mean-time, we must, as the most reverend Primate said, rely on the deterrent, "frail and temporary" (to use his adjectives) as the deterrent is, until we can get something better. And for the rest, while we have a resting time (if we have) by reason of the deterrent, we must do our best, in season and out of season, at appropriate times, of course, by all the means we can, to seek a better understanding between the two peoples; and we must show that infinite patience which the late Mr. Bevin used to teach me was the one requirement of a Foreign Secretary.
That leads me to ask three questions on matters that I feel ought to be cleared up, of which I have given the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, notice. Believing as I do, contrary to the last speaker, that the more chance there is of the different peoples meeting each other, the better, I would call attention to the suggestion made in another place by the Leader of the Opposition: that there should be a meeting of the scientists, preferably from both this side and the other side of the Iron Curtain, in order that they may explore and give an authoritative statement on the nature and consequences of this bomb, and also to discuss the question whether the continuation of these experiments might in 1247 itself do considerable harm. The Foreign Secretary, while quite ready to state that he would not oppose such an idea—indeed, he said that he would be ready to consider it—did not, on the spur of the moment, say more than that. It may be that the noble Marquess will be able to say today whether the Government, having looked at this matter, think it a good idea; and if so, whether they will do what they can to enlarge the scope of the meeting of scientists, which I believe is to be held at Geneva shortly, so that they may consider this question. I very much hope that scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain will attend; but, even if they do not, I feel that it would be a good thing for our scientists to set out quite plainly what they believe the consequences of this bomb to be on the health and life of the people.
§ LORD COLERAINE
Perhaps I may interrupt the noble and learned Earl to ask a question. This is obviously an interesting idea. But assuming that scientists did come from the other side of the Iron Curtain, does the noble and learned Earl believe that we should get from them an objective and scientific report? Would there not be some danger of our getting from them, as it were, a political report?
§ EARL JOWITT
I have no doubt that there would be a danger of that. But they would be in contact with our scientists, and our scientists would be in a better position to give their views if they knew the views of the Soviet scientists. I believe it is a mistake, because you do not altogether trust these people, to say that you are never going to have any dealings with them.
The second question I want to ask of the noble Marquess arises out of an obscurity, at least to my mind, in what the Foreign Secretary said—it may be owing to my own lack of knowledge about these matters, or I may be probing into some point which is too delicate, and if the noble Marquess tells me that I am, I will pass from it. The Foreign Secretary was being asked in another place about the tests which are going on —it was thought that the mere number of tests might in itself be a serious danger—and he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 538 (No. 52), col. 1077]:Unfortunately, an explosion is not the final … expression of what is going on. We cannot exclude the possibility of experiments being carried out now without explosions.1248 Then later the Leader of the Opposition asked this (col. 1078):Do these other experiments which cannot be detected destroy the atmosphere, so to speak, as explosions do?Sir Anthony Eden then answered:That may not be the case. That is the other problem—the problem of the effect, and it is a very important one.That was reported in the newspapers under the heading, "Bombs without bangs." I am at a loss to understand whether or not it means that if, as a result of a previous explosion, we have constructed a bomb, there is no need to explode it each time; we can go on and mass produce it. If that is what it means, then I fully understand. But is there something more in it than that; and, if so, can we be told the nature of these experiments and these tests? If the noble Marquess could say something about it, I should be grateful to him.
The third question I want to ask is this. It is obvious that just because we are going to make the hydrogen bomb we cannot thereupon get rid of our conventional weapons. I want to stress this danger, however—I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Strang, quite put this danger, as I see it. I believe that the danger of the spread of Communism is largely combined with poverty and lack of food. I believe that the world as it is to-day, with its teeming and rapidly increasing population, ought to devote a much larger portion of its capital resources to increasing the areas supplying food. Unfortunately, we have to devote a huge proportion of our capital resources to these weapons of destruction; and, those resources not being available twice over, they cannot be devoted to the other purpose.
Therefore, the removal of poverty and ill conditions, which I believe to be the breeding ground of Communism (we all believe that; in fact we know it), is one of the considerations which every Government must have in mind. We spent vast sums of money on rearmament in our day. There must always be the question of striking a balance: how much can we afford to spend on these things which we take away from the other? That makes me wonder whether we are not in danger of straining ourselves too much by carrying on at the present rate with both nuclear and conventional weapons. In my view, that point needs 1249 to be thought about. What I should like to ask the noble Marquess is whether he sees any hope at all, by reason of our possession of the nuclear bomb, that we may be able to reduce somewhat our expenditure on conventional weapons, if not in the immediate future, then in the distant future. If so, I believe that would be some message of hope. Those are the three questions I wanted to ask the noble Marquess, and I have given him notice of them.
There is one topic upon which I should like to ask a few questions of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, because when talking to people I find rather a sense of despair about civil defence. The most reverend Primate said yesterday—and I have no doubt he was correct—that if a bomb were exploded on Liverpool, not only would it destroy Liverpool but, given the right sort of wind, it would destroy all life in Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Halifax, right across to the North Sea, provided—the most reverend Primate was careful to say—they did not take the necessary steps to protect themselves. On hearing that, many people have said to me, "What is the good of civil defence at all? If this awful bomb is to be let loose, why, trouble about it?" I believe that to be wrong, first, because it seems so entirely a defeatist point of view, and, secondly, because if we have an adequate civil defence system we shall convince everybody, including the Russians, that we are taking this matter seriously. Therefore I think we must get some good civil defence service. I do not blame the Government for not having thought the matter out fully at the present time, but I believe it is something we have to think about very fully. I assume that the most reverend Primate was approximately right in the information he gave to the House; I have no doubt he would not have made that statement without informing himself from competent sources.
I should like to ask whether the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has had his attention called to a letter which was published in the New Statesman by Professor Haldane on March 12—the White Paper was issued in February. I am not a follower of Professor Haldane, but on this particular topic I imagine he knows what he is talking about. He emphasised his view that much more might be done by shelters than the Government, from their White Paper, seem to think. I should 1250 like to ask whether the Government have anything more to say on that topic. Then I should like to ask them about protective clothing. I should like to know whether medical science today is able to do anything to help people who are suffering from the effects of radiation, and, if so, whether tentative arrangements are being made to try to bring that about. I should like to ask the noble Lord generally what he is doing, or contemplates doing in the future, with regard to the stockpiling of food, and so on. I think it would be useful if he said something about that in expansion of what is in the White Paper, if only to destroy the unwarranted pessimism, as I think it is, which is current about this matter.
I do not suppose the noble Lord can tell us anything about the length of war we should have to contemplate. Would it be a war that would end in an afternoon, or a war which might last for months or for years? It may be quite impossible to say, but I am sure that any help the noble Lord can give us in this debate will be of value. He must get the people on his side and tell them, by every medium of instruction—television, wireless, Press and every other way—what they can do. It is not the custom of the British people to do nothing under emergencies, but at this time they particularly want to be told what they have to do. I hope I have not kept your Lordships too long, but I should be grateful if the noble Lords, between them, could answer those few questions.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I am afraid that your Lordships must be beginning to feel that you have had almost too much of Government speakers in this debate. You have already had a speech from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, then you had a speech by the Secretary of State for Air, now you are faced with a speech by me; and, finally, as your Lordships know, there is to be a speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence who is to wind up the debate.
As I think the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, very rightly pointed out, in the speech to which we have been listening, just as in every Foreign Affairs debate there is an element of defence, so in 1251 every Defence debate there is an element of foreign affairs. This, of course, has already been trenched upon yesterday, especially in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the speech of the most reverend Primate, in which he gave such wise and courageous counsel to your Lordships; and it has been trenched upon again to-day by the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in particular, and the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, who speak with great authority and experience on these subjects. Indeed, I feel that on this particular aspect of our discussions very little remains for me to say. I rise merely to underline, as briefly as I can from this particular Bench on which I sit, what those noble Lords have said.
This debate has, of course, inevitably been dominated, first, by the emergence of the hydrogen bomb as a new and revolutionary factor in human affairs and, secondly, by the decision of Her Majesty's Government to manufacture that bomb. The week before last, the Prime Minister, in what I think will go down as one of the greatest of his speeches, reviewed the situation which has been created by the bomb and gave the reasons which have decided the present Government to manufacture it. I have no desire to venture far less effectively over the same ground that he so magnificently covered; but there is one thing I would say, and I think I must say it. My right honourable friend, in his speech, described the policy of the Government in this respect as the policy of the deterrent. That description has, I notice, been criticised in certain quarters as something new and inherently unsound—not in any positive sense of policy at all; rather the negation of a policy. But there is, in fact, nothing new about the policy of a deterrent—indeed, I should have thought it had been the basis of all foreign and defence policies since the beginning of time. It was certainly the basis of the policy of the balance of power which underlay our whole foreign policy up to 1914 and, equally, I would have thought, it was a main feature of the policy of the League of Nations which succeeded it, and of the United Nations which succeeded the League of Nations. All these policies aimed at convincing an intending aggressor that he could not win, and so removing his incentive to go to war. That 1252 was one of the main purposes for which they were framed. No doubt someone may fairly retort to me that that is no argument for the present policy, because all those past examples, as we all know to our sorrow, failed in their object.
Before we come to that melancholy conclusion, I should have thought that we ought to carry our argument just one step further, and ask: Why did those policies fail? They failed, I am pro-foundly convinced, not because the policy of deterrent was in itself a bad thing, but because the deterrent was inadequate. They failed because the aggressor still believed—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Strang, pointed out in his speech this afternoon—that he could "get away with it"; that the result of his gamble would be the aggrandisement of himself and his country, and that his country at any rate was not likely to suffer serious damage as a result of his aggression. Generally, most fortunately, that calculation has proved to be ill-founded, and I think I should be correct in saying that the great majority of the decisive battles of the world have been victories for defenders rather than for aggressors. But, of course, they were all, or nearly all, victories which were won at terrible cost, in the course of wars which previous policies had failed to prevent.
It is here that I suggest the discovery of thermo-nuclear weapons, so terrible in almost all other ways, may have introduced an entirely new element into the international scene. For instance, would Xerxes, Philip of Spain, Napoleon or Hitler have embarked on their attempts at domination if they had known that within a few days, perhaps within a few hours, their own countries would have been devastated and their populations largely obliterated by crippling retaliation which they could do nothing to prevent? In such circumstances, would they have embarked on the policies on which they did? Yet, as I see it, that is very much the position today.
The noble Lord, Lord Wise, in a speech which was delivered to us yesterday afternoon, asked me how many thermonuclear bombs would be necessary to destroy this country. For obvious reasons, I do not want to go into details on a matter of that kind, but I think I can say, broadly, that, under conditions of thermo-nuclear warfare, it really does not 1253 matter whether a country is big or small, whether it streches over millions of square miles, like the United States, Russia and China, or whether it is a little island like our own. These new weapons could put it, to use the Prime Minister's own phrase, "on an equality or near equality of vulnerability."
As I see it, that means, in plain words, that the same devastation, the same vast loss of life, would be common to all alike: to these great wide countries and to the smaller ones like our own—that is, of course, if the bombers and the bombs can get through in sufficient quantities. The method, in fact, already exists to produce that frightful result. It is only a question of the number and size of the bombs that are necessary, and, as I have said, of the capacity to deliver them on to the target. As I see it, that is what is new; and I think it is entirely new. The novelty resides not in the existence of a deterrent but in the nature and extent of the deterrent which is now available and which, I should hope, differentiates it from all other deterrents of the past. That is something, I suggest, which entirely transforms the situation. It is a factor which every intending aggressor will from now on have to take into account.
It may be asked (I think it was the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, who mentioned this point): if the power of this deterrent is so overwhelming, why should we continue to spend money on pre-nuclear armaments, on armies, on navies, on air forces and on the weapons which they carry? Why not scrap them all? That, at any rate, so it is argued, would be something gained. That is an argument which I know is widely, and I think not unnaturally, used among certain sections of opinion in this country; and we must admit that it has superficial attractions. But, like the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who made such a powerful speech, I thought, yesterday afternoon, I cannot help feeling that we should be extremely unwise to act with such precipitation as that before we even knew how we stood under these new and untried conditions. Russia herself has certainly not fallen into that particular error. As your Lordships know, she has, so I am told, stepped up her armed forces to nearly 5 million men, although she constantly tells us that she is well ahead of the Western world in thermo-nuclear weapons.
1254 Why does she do that? Very possibly, if I may diffidently suggest it, just for the reason that she hopes that nuclear weapons will be banned: so that she will have a clear way through to domination of the world. Moreover, in any case, in this, if I may so describe it, twilight period between an old and a new world, the ground forces, I should have thought, must play a vital part in marking the line beyond which Communist forces must not go without provoking a general conflict. If there are these huge forces, these millions of men, on one side of the line and none on the other, I should have thought it was almost certain that the dividing line would steadily get less clear, less defined, and that the Eastern sphere of influence would gradually, almost imperceptibly, lap forward until a point was suddenly reached where a halt had to be called; and at that point the danger of war would be very real indeed. It is far better, I suggest, that the line should be drawn now and that it should be made clear that, if that line is crossed, it will mean war, with all the new and incalculable hazards which war involves for an aggressor and for a defender. Therefore I submit to the House, without going into any further detail, that we cannot at present do without conventional forces, though the character of those forces must, of course, take account of the new situation.
There is, in addition—and this point has not yet been mentioned this afternoon—the most important work of a police character which the British Army and the British Navy are always liable to have to do, and which, as we all know, the Army is doing at this moment with extreme efficiency and devotion in places like Malaya and Kenya, and others. In these circumstances, I must say frankly to the noble and learned Earl that I do not see much chance at present of making the sort of reductions which he has in mind. But this, like all other aspects of defence, is just one of those matters that successive Governments will have to bear constantly in mind in the new situation with which we are faced.
For the same reason, the uncertainty of the position, I was very glad to hear the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, say from the Opposition Bench that he thought that we should be very unwise to pledge ourselves not to be the first to 1255 use the nuclear weapon. I entirely agree with him. I hope, of course, as we all do most profoundly, that we shall never be put in the position of having to use it. That is common ground in all parts of the House. But definitely to pledge ourselves not to be the first to do so would, I should have thought, largely destroy the deterrent which the possession of a weapon provides. That, I believe, is the correct answer to a point which was made yesterday by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that Her Majesty's Government ought to tell the people, much more than they have done up to now, exactly what we intend to do in this matter.
As the House will know, the Foreign Secretary, dealing with this particular question in another place on December 22 last year, made it absolutely clear that that particular decision would be a matter for Governments when the time came. He added [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 535, col. 2763]:It will, for obvious reasons, not be possible to publish the detailed arrangements finally arrived at.I think we should all understand his proviso. After all, we all wish to tell everything we possibly can, so far as we can do it without imperilling the cause of peace. But we must always remember that anything that we say publicly here in England we are saying also to our potential enemies; and that, as the noble Lord, Lord Strang, pointed out, would not necessarily serve the cause of peace. If those potential enemies, whoever they may be, could discount the possibility that a weapon would be used against them unless they used it first, there would be nothing to prevent the Communist Powers, with their vast land forces, from sweeping across Europe and Asia. The dreadful experiences of our own prisoners of war, which were published within the last few week, can show us something of what that would mean for the populations of Western Europe.
No, my Lords, if we believe, as I profoundly do, that this frightful new weapon is a deterrent such as there has never been before, I pray that we should do nothing to weaken the force which that deterrent provides. I would, however, in answer to a specific question which the noble and learned Earl put to me, say this: 1256 he is quite right in assuming that bombs which are based on our shores, even if they are in the hands of the American squadrons here, will not be used without our full agreement. I thought he would like to have that definite assurance. But if, for obvious reasons, we cannot define our position clearly as to the circumstances in which we should and should not use nuclear weapons, I feel it is equally important that we should do everything we can in our policy to ensure that they are never used unless it is absolutely necessary. I think everybody would accept that. To my mind, that is the supreme argument in favour of our manufacturing the bomb ourselves.
As my noble friend Lord Hailsham said yesterday, there are those who, for whatever reason, would like our country to dissociate itself as far as possible from what they call "this evil thing," and leave the full responsibility to our allies. I read a letter a few days ago in The Times which strongly expressed that view. I am not going to read the whole letter, but I should like to read two sentences to your Lordships. The writer said:Whether we like it or not we are already, and will continue to be, so long as the alliance lasts, shielded by the United States' possession of the bombs. A small additional stockpile accumulated at great cost in Britain adds nothing to the existing deterrent, but may increase our own danger if it attracts the enemy's bombs on Britain on the outbreak of hostilities.That, if I may say so, is not a very heroic view. But, apart from that, and what is perhaps even more important, it is not, I believe, a very wise one. It seems that there is a rather pathetic hope, which is still hugged by neutralists in this and other countries, that, just by sitting tight and doing nothing, we can keep out of trouble. Surely, to any reasonable man that theory, that illusion, should have been finally exploded by the experience of such countries as Holland, Belgium and Norway in the last war. The truth, the hard, inescapable fact, is that no one, however passive, can keep out of modern world war; all will ultimately be sucked in, as it suits the convenience of one or other party to the conflict. In attempting to conceal that fact from oneself, one is not being fair either to one's own connection, I have no doubt that the should achieve in fact by refusing to manufacture the hydrogen bomb would 1257 be, as I see it, to throw away gratuitously all right to be regarded as a great nation, and with it all power to influence or control the use of the bomb by anybody else, by any of our allies.
At present, as we all know, our experience, our authority, our record of courage and resolution in the last two World Wars, has won us a position in the councils of our allies whereby what we say is bound to have a profound influence. But were we now to try to shuffle off the greatest and most dangerous of our responsibilities on our friends and allies, I am quite certain that all that we have gained by our courage and endurance would immediately and irretrievably be lost. We should sink at once to the position of a second-rate or third-rate nation, as open as we are now to the dangers of the future, but with no power to influence the course of events. It might quite fairly be said that without these weapons it is not possible in the modern world for a great country to have an effective foreign policy at all, just as in earlier days it was not possible to have an effective policy without armies and navies.
I am certain that this is a situation in which boldness will pay. We must trust that this new deterrent will give us a breathing space, and we must use that breathing space to try and find some enduring modus vivendi between the Communist and the non-Communist world. I should have liked to say, "some enduring basis for peace. "Indeed, I do not believe—I refuse to believe—that even that is yet impossible; stranger things have happened in the history of the world. After all, new situations have arisen when the circumstances in which old enmities, old rivalries—rivalries on the Continent, rivalries over Colonial possessions, dynastic issues, religious differences—have no longer existed; they have, just ceased to be. A classic example of this is that up to a hundred years ago France and this country could never agree. Yet to-day, except as an historical fact, and nothing more, that enmity is entirely forgotten. It is not impossible that what has happened once can happen again.
Peaceful co-existence, which I am sorry to say now is very little more than a synonym for cold war, can easily mean something more. It can mean two systems of government ready and prepared to 1258 eliminate, so far as possible, the differences that exist between them, and over the remainder to agree peacefully to differ, until perhaps those problems settle themselves, as international questions sometimes do. But that requires, as Lord Strang has said this afternoon, a change of heart on the part of Russia and China, of which at present there is no evidence. We should be foolish if we tried to blink that fact. Yet it is for that supreme aim—and here I would agree with the most reverend Primate—that we must patiently and untiringly continue to work by all and every means in our power. We should be ready to examine every plan and every device that is likely to reduce the danger of another world war.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, has asked me what are the views of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in another place that the scientists of the nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain should meet and produce an agreed statement as to the short-term and long term effects of radiation—I understand that to be the proposal. We must all recognise the right honourable gentleman's deep and genuine concern in this matter—indeed, no one in any Party, I should have thought, would wish to neglect any step that could be of any real use in reducing the dangers with which we are to-day faced. But, with all deference to Mr. Attlee, I personally do not think that it would be wise to pin too high hopes to this particular proposal. The salient facts with regard to radiation are, after all, already known and are being further studied. As I think he himself said, they are now being released to the public, both in the United States and elsewhere, as opportunity occurs. I do not believe that the scientists concerned world in fact gain much new light by joint confabulations such as the right honourable gentleman had in mind.
Moreover, all our hard experience goes to show—I am sorry that it should be so, but it is no use blinking the fact—that the scientists who come from Communist countries do not come in reality as independent scientists like ours do; they come as Government agents primed to sing the Government's song. In that connection, I have no doubt that the House will have taken full account of the 1259 description of the Russian mentality which was given us by Lord Strang just now. In such circumstances, I am afraid it is at least doubtful how far such a conference would help to achieve the objects which the right honourable gentleman has in mind. I believe that the primary object of those Communist scientists who are likely to come would be to get, rather than to give, information, and that it might be impossible for other scientists freely to discuss with them the effects of thermo-nuclear weapons without divulging information on the nature of those weapons which it may be extremely undesirable that they should have.
As noble Lords will know, for I have said it many times in this House, I am all in favour of the free exchange of views, so far as that can be achieved, from side to side of the Iron Curtain. I believe that, in the long run, nothing is more likely to help in ending this unhappy division of the world into two hostile camps; but, frankly, I am doubtful of the wisdom of beginning this admirable process at the present stage, by an exchange of views as to the nature and effects of thermo-nuclear weapons; nor do I think that the inhabitants of the Communist world would be allowed to hear the results of those inquiries. Yet that is the main object of the exercise. I do not want to be entirely negative. What I have said does not mean that Her Majesty's Government feel that there should not be possibly quite fruitful discussions between responsible scientists, and that people should not be told as much as is practicable about the effects of these weapons. I believe that is absolutely right. It is of no use to conceal hard facts, especially from the British people, who are well able to take them. How that can best be done must be a matter for careful thought.
I would remind the House that all these are matters not only for ourselves but for our allies also. I am not yet certain whether there will be any extension of the terms of reference of the projected conference to be held in Geneva next August. I think noble Lords will remember that the main purpose of that conference, and the reason why it was put forward by President Eisenhower and the United States Government, was the promotion of the peaceful uses of atomic energy. An extension of this kind would 1260 hardly be in tune with that object, but I agree that it is a matter to which further consideration must be given, and Her Majesty's Government will give it that consideration. I hope the House will allow me to leave the matter there.
During the debate there has been talk of the possibility of Four-Power top level discussions. As noble Lords will know, Her Majesty's Government have always favoured this proposal on a proper basis and have consistently advocated it; but, for reasons which I explained after my visit to Washington last year, it has not been possible to arrange such discussions. I fear the situation in that respect remains the same. I entirely agree with the noble and learned Earl that we should keep our eyes upon the possibility of such discussions, or any others, should the climate change. As the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, said, the proper climate may not be there to-day, but I still feel we should watch out for it, especially after the London and Paris Agreements have been ratified. There would have been little purpose in doing so before. Were we to fail to keep our eyes open we should, as the noble Lord said, be guilty of dereliction of duty to our own people. I will say nothing upon disarmament, as the subject has already been dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton.
Finally, there is the suggestion specifically referred to by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, that pending international agreement on thermo-nuclear weapons there should be a ban on further explosions. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary dealt with that point in a speech in another place this week. He explained that at the point which we have now reached such action might not necessarily have the effect that those who make the proposal hope. Experiments could continue to be made without, to use the noble Lord's phrase, "any bang." The noble and learned Earl asked what exactly my right honourable friend meant by that statement. The meaning is simple. When the nations first adventured into the field of atomic energy the terrain was completely unknown, and we had, therefore, to feel our way step by step by experiments which often involved explosions at every stage. Now much more is known of certain types of weapons and much can therefore be assumed which previously had to be checked by practical tests. For that reason further tests of certain types 1261 of weapon (though not every type) are becoming, to that extent, less necessary. I will not deceive the House: that does not mean that we can have no tests. If tests are necessary they must take place; but the area in which tests are unnecessary has no doubt been steadily extended, with our greater knowledge of the nature of these weapons. I hope I have given the noble and learned Earl the information he wanted.
§ EARL JOWITT
I was wondering about the odd expression, "the tests poisoning the atmosphere." Sir Anthony said this may not be the case. In view of the explanation of the noble Marquess, which is what I had anticipated, I see no question here of the "tests poisoning the atmosphere."
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think my right honourable friend had that in mind. If a test is made it has a certain effect on the atmosphere. I think my right honourable friend had in mind the fact that it is not necessary to have so many tests. Perhaps it is not entirely a good thing, because people can continue to make the bombs without other countries knowing so much about their doing so.
In conclusion, I would repeat that Her Majesty's Government entirely agree that in the present unhappy situation of the world every method of trying to improve the position must be explored; but for the success of that policy of patience a breathing space is necessary. The Lord Archbishop of York spoke of a "shield." I use the words "breathing space." In the view of Her Majesty's Government only the H-bomb can at the present time provide that breathing space which we need. Ban it, and where are we? We are back exactly to where we were between the wars, with the same deterrents that failed last time and yet with more formidable conventional forces arrayed against us. Is that a prospect which any of us would willingly face? Those are the reasons which have led Her Majesty's Government to come to their decision on this vital question on which depends the survival of all we hold dear. No thinking person could be a light-hearted optimist in the present situation, and if any noble Lord were to ask me whether this or anything else will provide us with a guarantee of absolute safety, my answer 1262 is bound to be that no policy will guarantee absolute safety. I submit that this policy, on a balance of considerations, gives the best hope of passing safely through the immeasurable dangers which to-day encompass us. It is for this policy, therefore, that we ask your Lordships' united support to-day.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
My Lords, after listening to the discussion of matters of high importance I am grateful to be allowed to return to the more domestic affairs of the Territorial Army and Auxiliary Forces which have been mentioned several times. I will refer particularly to the effect of the recently announced disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command upon the voluntary element in Territorial anti-aircraft units. I think this is justified because of the major changes which affect a large percentage of the Territorial forces. Uneasiness has been expressed, here and in another place, as to the future of the Territorial anti-aircraft units and of the men in them, and there has been some rather strong criticism that the whole affair has been badly or clumsily handled, and that they have been left in unnecessary doubt as to their future. As it has been my privilege, since serving in a Territorial Army battalion, to be associated for a long time with the Council of the Territorial Army and Air Force Associations, and now, as chairman of the Council, to be much concerned in its administrative work including this particular problem, I venture to add a few remarks.
Lord Moynihan has spoken with the experience of one who has commanded anti-aircraft units and who knows the feelings of those serving in them. He has strongly impressed upon us the importance of losing no time in deciding upon fresh and suitable tasks and in assuring units to be disbanded that they are wanted, and quickly, even if in another form. In so far as there are doubts and anxiety as to the future, which to some extent is unavoidable, it is fair to say that steps were taken quickly to remove them, notably, for example, by setting up in each command representative boards to examine most thoroughly in their localities the cases of all affected units and individuals and to find the best ways of absorbing and re-employing them. If, on 1263 the other hand, decisions had been made hurriedly, wrong ones could easily occur, whereas what we all want is the right answer in each case, and not a wrong one.
Active consultation, in which the Mobile Defence Corps is included, is going on, and we in the Territorial Army Council realise that we must do our best to secure attractive openings for officers and other ranks. So far from its having been done carelessly, I would say quite simply that the greatest care has been taken by those concerned, from the Secretary of State downwards and at all levels, to announce and to carry out as helpfully and as smoothly as possible a big and difficult change which must tremendously affect the present and future of all those who are serving in the Territorial anti-aircraft units. This has been my experience; it has been confirmed to me by leading representatives of our Territorial Army associations, and I think it should be said here. With the regimental pride that is customary in this country, deep feeling and disappointment are natural when a sudden change of this kind is inevitable, with new methods of warfare bringing to an end our value in the form in which we have served and trained, but I feel that the Territorial Army units and all those voluntarily serving in them will recognise that it would be worse to continue to serve and to train with weapons and in ways that are out of date, and in a particular capacity which is no longer useful, and that recognition rather than criticism is due for an endeavour now to bring all these units and men again into the picture to greater advantage.
By no critic has disagreement been expressed with the actual decision to change our anti-aircraft defensive arrangements, and none has said in what better ways he could have made or announced the change. In these circumstances, it would seem a disservice to mislead volunteer members of Territorial anti-aircraft units with suggestions that their services are not valued and that something different and better could have been done. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, in a most friendly speech about the Territorial Army, indicated, however, that there was among the men in his part of the country—the North of England—a feeling that there had been a lack of gratitude and thanks. I am sorry that that should be 1264 so. I do not know how it has come about. It is within my recollection that every care was taken to express high tribute to the men in the anti-aircraft units. Moreover, we should remember that no man has so far been disbanded and everyone is doing his best to find the most suitable way of re-employing them. Until a man is disbanded one cannot very well say "Good-bye" to him and thank him. More often it is our business in the Territorial Army Council to be critical of the War Office, and to press for fulfilment of our requirements and removal of grievances. On this occasion I believe it will generally be found that action has been taken with the greatest possible care in dealing with this difficult problem.
I would mention one other matter. The noble Lord, Lord Wise, yesterday, in the course of some very friendly remarks, in particular expressed his support for an increased bounty for volunteers and Territorial men, a suggestion which, as he said, is meeting with strong Treasury resistance. I should like to give a reminder of the responsibility which is placed by Parliament upon Territorial associations for recruiting and for keeping up the numbers of volunteers, and especially for meeting the need for good N.C.O.s and leaders in all ranks. Much emphasis has been placed, in recent years, upon the importance of the Territorial Army. If it is found by the War Office that something more is needed, as suggested by Lord Wise yesterday, it is very much to be hoped that they and the Treasury will lose no further time in agreeing to this proposal.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, this has been one of the most valuable and interesting debates to which I have ever had the privilege of listening in your Lordships' House, and I imagine that every other noble Lord who has attended it will be of the same opinion. I thought that the speech of Lord Swinton set the debate off on exactly the right foot. It is the sort of speech one hopes may be read abroad, because, while it was non-provocative, it was resolute and a most clear statement of our position in this armaments matter. If I were to try to summarise that position, I would say that, while we hate the courses into which we are driven by this armaments business, at the same time the alternative to what 1265 we are doing is to be driven out of business; and we are not going to submit to that. We have every intention of remaining in business, and our business, in company with other free and decent nations, is that of defending liberty, freedom and decency.
I feel that the White Paper deserves the many compliments which have been paid to it, for the overriding reason that it shows a grasp—though perhaps at times a rather tentative grasp—of the mounting perplexities surrounding the armaments programme to-day, the extraordinary complexities attending the striking of a balance between conventional and thermo-nuclear weapons. Of course, there are criticisms to be made of the White Paper and of the Government on several points in matters of defence, but I feel that those criticisms will be better brought forward as each of the Service Estimates comes before the House in turn, when we can examine the relevant White Paper in detail.
However, there are three broad points that I should like to make to-night. The first concerns the proposal put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, that there should be an inquiry into the expenditure we are incurring on armaments. I think it is fair to say that, so far, we have had very little value for money in the shape of armaments. I think the public require reassuring on this matter. When I think of an inquiry into expenditure the question of the cost-plus system of working comes at once to my mind. I have seen that as much as £20 million has been spent on developing one aircraft engine, and I imagine that was done on the cost-plus system. That does not hold out much encouragement for economy. I remember that when the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, was at the Admiralty, with all the stress of war upon him, he fought the cost-plus system in shipbuilding, and even at that time was able to effect great economies, with corresponding benefit to the taxpayer. I must say that I am surprised that the deficiencies which have accumulated in the three Services should nave accumulated under the present Prime Minister. I should have thought that from him, of all men, we might have expected better value for money than we have had. I feel that the Prime Minister must have run out of his "Action this day" labels, 1266 and if I may make a respectful suggestion it is that it might be a good thing if he gave a repeat order for them to be printed.
The second broad point I should like to mention is the integration of the three Services, with which the name of James Forrestal must always be associated. In this debate the fusion of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force has been mentioned as a start in that direction. My mind certainly runs in that direction, too. We are shortly to have a new First Sea Lord. I have not the faintest idea of how Admiral Lord Mountbatten's mind works on this subject, but perhaps it works in the direction of some measure of integration. It is certainly true that, of all our great commanders, he has had great experience of combined operations and of working with all three Services.
I fully agree with the arguments put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, about the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. Of course, it is the right decision to take, to set the manufacture of the bomb in hand. We cannot say in one breath that our security depends upon the hydrogen bomb and, in the next, that we rely upon America to make them for us and to let us have them. We must stand on our own feet and pay our own insurance premiums. Those who say that we should not manufacture the bomb should be logical and should go on to say that they would never be a party to its use or to our being defended by other people using it. Some who objected to our manufacturing the hydrogen bomb indicated that there is a moral obloquy attached to making it. I do not much admire the attitude of mind which is prepared to let another nation incur that moral obloquy while we accept the shelter which it provides.
There are two or three questions which I should like to ask in connection with the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb. The first is about the aircraft for delivering the bomb when we have it. Will the bomb be ready before we have the aircraft, or will the aircraft be ready before we have the bomb? Then there is the question of tests, about which the noble Marquess said something. I presume that if we are to manufacture this bomb, we shall want to carry out tests with a bang, and I have been wondering where these 1267 tests are going to take place. Already Australia has told us that we can take our tests away; that they do not want them. If we look at the globe, it is a little difficult to imagine where we shall make these tests. Naturally the thought has come to my mind that perhaps we have some arrangement with America on the subject, because, if Australia is "out." I am puzzled to know where else but in America the tests can be made. But I am certain that the Government would never have decided to manufacture the bomb unless they had cleared up the point about where they will be able to test it. I am content to leave it at that.
My third question is more important than the first two. Can we undertake the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb without dropping something else? We are taking on a tremendous amount at the present moment, and I felt there was great force in what Mr. Aneurin Bevan said in the recent debate in another place on this subject. I think I may still refer to him as my right honourable friend, because his head has not finally dropped in the sawdust. The tricoteuses have not seen that happen yet. Mr. Bevan said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 537, (No. 44), col. 2116]:… there was all the difference … between inserting a great arms programme into an economy … at full stretch and an American programme inserted into an economy with a surplus productive capacity. …Undoubtedly our economy is at full stretch and we are undertaking so much that I wonder whether the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb will involve the dropping of something else. The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was quite right yesterday when he spoke about the shortages of scientists and technicians and of certain labour and materials. Can we really supply the scientists and technicians necessary for the manufacture of the bomb without taking them off some other work?
We have heard a great deal in this debate about "if and when" we use the hydrogen bomb. There always seems to be something rather unreal in all this talk about whether the Generals would be able to use it without the permission of their Government. I wonder whether it is part of the process of breaking it to the people gently that these weapons are here and that if ever we become involved 1268 in a major war, they will be used. Are we at a stage in the process of enlightening our people when we pretend that there will be a delay while the Government decide whether they are to be used or not, with, possibly, even a debate in Parliament on the subject? Some people talk as if that would be possible. It seems to me that they will certainly be used. You cannot issue weapons to armies in the field labelled: "Top secret: not to be opened until Cabinet permission has been sought and obtained."
After all, the great point about the hydrogen bomb is the speed, the result, the possible impossibility of recovering from a surprise attack by hydrogen bombs. The Government must decide; but all may be over by the time the consultation has taken place. There is an old saying:Twice is he blessed that hath his quarrel Just,But thrice blessed he who gets his blow in fust.I think that is peculiarly true of the hydrogen bomb. The General who incurred defeat by waiting about on the end of a telephone for permission to use weapons that had been issued to him to use might well find himself court-martialled. Equally, I think it is true that if two nations are involved in a major war, it may be that they will begin with a sort of agreement—as in the "phoney" period in the last war—not to use thermonuclear weapons but to fight the war with conventional weapons. But, even supposing such an unlikely thing happened, would any nation go down to defeat if it had thermo-nuclear bombs lying unused in its arsenals? Of course, no nation would go down to defeat under such conditions. Another fact that we must face is this. The secrets of the manufacture of thermo-nuclear weapons are rapidly becoming common knowledge. It will become easier and cheaper to manufacture them, and countries which feel that they want them will, in the result, be able to have them.
There is another point to which I should like to refer. The Prime Minister's last speech on the subject was most striking, but it contained nothing new, nothing that had not been said many times before. The old matter was knit together, arranged in clear perspective and forcefully presented, and it was a most valuable speech on that account. But 1269 many speakers and many writers on this subject seem to me to get involved in drama, and Press articles tend to become very sensational. I think that drama and sensation in regard to these weapons do a great deal of harm. We must look the thing calmly in the face. Whether we like it or not, it is the fate of our generation to be the first to have to withstand the tremendous impact of these weapons. Trotsky once said that if any man was looking for a quiet life he ought not to have got himself born into the twentieth century. Well, this is the twentieth century, and we have to face the facts of the time in which we live. We have to face the fact that these weapons are in the hands of an unfriendly nation whose leaders would not entertain one single moral scruple about using them if they thought they could do so to their advantage. Those are the facts, and the vast mass of the population can do nothing about them.
I listened to an eminent divine broad-casting on Sunday, and he said that we all ought to be doing everything we possibly can in this matter. On Monday morning, when I was dressing, I looked out of my window and I saw two gardeners sawing up a tree which had fallen in the recent winds, and I thought to myself: "I wonder what they are expected to do in this matter." The point I want to make is this. It is no good everlastingly frightening our people by talking of these matters in terms of drama and sensation. The thing to do is to tell them the truth. I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. I am not suggesting that anything should be concealed from them. They must be told the truth, but they must be told it in unsensational terms; and at the same time they should be told what I believe to be the case, that our Government—as any Government in this country would do—are working day and night in the pursuit of peace, and they are making the hydrogen bomb as the deterrent which may prevent the bombs from ever being used. In my view, that is the way the case should be presented to our people. I am open to argument about what the people should be told on the subject of civil defence, but I got some comfort out of reading the last report of the American Commission, which indicates that, in spite of what 1270 has been said, a great deal can be done by efficient civil defence precautions.
The final thing I want to say on this subject of the bomb is this—and I do not know whether the noble Marquess would give me any encouragement in what I am about to say. I think it would have an immense effect at the present moment if Great Britain and the United States could announce that from now on they are keeping no more secrets from each other in regard to the development and use of thermo-nuclear weapons. In saying that, I am quite aware of certain difficulties. I know quite well American public opinion about the traitors from whom we suffered so severely, and the tremendous impact that had on the American mind, which is so security-minded; and I am also aware of the facts of American legislation on this subject. But still, I believe that those obstacles-could be overcome, and I think it would be a tremendous demonstration of unity and of common determination if an announcement could be made that henceforward we were working as one country in these matters, with no secrets of any sort whatever being kept from one another.
I want to make one point about top-level talks. I must say that I deplore criticisms which imply that something could be done if only the Government would do it. I must assume that such speakers believe what they say. But do they reflect that it implies that the Government in this country are unique in not being heart and soul for peace and for averting a nuclear war? I think at this juncture to let the idea go abroad in any way that we have a Government which is dragging its feet in this matter must give the most misleading impressions, and may even create such impressions inside the Kremlin itself. I hope that these things will no longer be said, especially after the Prime Minister has just told us of his experience with Mr. Molotov. When President Eisenhower would not see eye to eye with him about a meeting, the Prime Minister proposed that he should go alone to a meeting, and Mr. Molotov, after the usual hypocritical fair words, deliberately sabotaged the whole idea. I think that episode in itself should put an end, once and for all, to any idea that our Prime Minister is reluctant in this matter. I was struck by what the noble 1271 Lord, Lord Strang, said about conferences. I have never been a great admirer of conferences; I am sure they can be overdone. I echo the words of the noble Lord in that respect, and words which were used quite recently: "Fewer conferences, and let diplomacy play its part more in the future."
Another point about the incessant demands upon the Government to arrange top-level talks is that it seems to me that very often the Government are asked to do things which the United Nations ought to do and which the United Nations was organised to do. I think, also, the Government could use the United Nations more than it does in connection with important announcements. I have in mind the fact that President Eisenhower went to the United Nations to make his most remarkable proposals about "atoms for peace." In doing that, he added to the prestige of the United Nations, and if our Government could increase the prestige of the United Nations in the same way it would become a much more effective instrument for resisting aggression. My last words are these. Much has been said about conventional weapons. In the old days there was a conventional weapon called the "partisan," and there were bodies of men called "partisans" who used this weapon. In the matters which we have been discussing to-day I have no wish to be a partisan or to use a partisan. I think we had all better be bi-partisan in regard to it.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ LORD BOYD-ORR
My Lords, I think there is little difference of opinion between the two sides of this House on the important question we are considering to-day. I have listened to many interesting speeches, perhaps the most interesting being that of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with most of whose speech I am in complete agreement. But I should like to make one or two points which might go a little further in certain directions than he would be prepared to go or, indeed, than it might be wise for him to go, in the position which he holds.
The first point is that there is a great deal of propaganda about banning the hydrogen bomb. I do not think it is very intelligent, and I am not sure that it is very honest. With so many different nations getting the thermo-nuclear pile, 1272 they are able to make hydrogen bombs; and with the silent method of testing them international supervision becomes almost useless. I think we must be quite clear that, if a war comes, not only hydrogen bombs but every other devilish device which modern science has created will be thrown in. I think we are agreed on that, and it would be foolish if the people of this country were allowed to delude themselves. Another point I want to make is about the fear of massive retaliation as a preventive of war. If that were the only permanent method we had, then the whole future of the human race would be in jeopardy. We have to look forward to something more than that because, with both sides piling up hydrogen bombs, neither side knowing how many the other has, one side may be afraid that, in a push-button war, the other will throw in the bombs to get a tremendous advantage at the first blow. Therefore, we must have something more than that as a long-term policy.
I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the only solution to this difficulty is the abolition of war itself. Everybody would like to see that, but that would bring about the biggest revolution which has ever taken place in the whole evolution of human society. Tribes and nations have always been accustomed, as a last resort, to settle their differences by trial by battle, and we are now faced with the fact that, with the enormous powers we have, we cannot do that. We cannot use those powers without committing suicide. It is difficult for nations to give up power. Sixty years ago, when I was a boy, we had the Pax Britannica. I was a little sorry that we should have given that up, because it would have meant safety for the world. What were at the end of the nineteenth century the six great Powers of Europe are no longer the main Powers in the world: there are two new Powers. But how long will these be the great Powers of the world? They may realise that their day will pass as Western Europe has passed. Remember how rapidly Japan, thirty years ago a poor country, rose to be a great world Power. If China, which is industrialising herself as rapidly as possible, maintains that ruthless totalitarian government with about 600 million people, in thirty years or so she will be the most powerful country in the world.
1273 There is a further thing to which I wonder our statesmen do not pay a little more attention—the calling by the Colombo Powers of a conference of Asian and African nations; a conference of more than half the people of the world. This is absolutely revolutionary, and it may be against the West. One of the difficulties about the Asians is not so much nationalism as racialism. They are against domination by the white man, and one of the most pleasing things that I experienced when going through many of these Asian countries was that they liked the British. They trust us because of our modern policy, and because they know that we have revolutionised our society in the last fifty years. They know that we are no longer seeking world domination. These are the conditions of our rapidly changing world, when power may shift. New scientific powers are appearing, and all the time we are under the threat that the whole human family may be wiped out.
The only solution is some form of world government, and I entirely agree with the Prime Minister who said a few years ago that, unless there is some form of world government, there is no hope for the future. To set up world government is as revolutionary as to say we will have no war. It means entirely new political and economic ideas, and the first thing the nations have to realise is that we are now in a world which is so small that their fate is linked. They have either to go to war for their mutual destruction or co-operate for their mutual benefit. We have the policy of peaceful co-existence, which is a step forward. But that will be a negative peaceful co-existence, with both sides piling up further armaments; and that will place the world in a very precarious position. What we have to do is to try and get links between warring countries.
I said earlier how things had changed. In the first war, nobody could be more evil than the Germans, and now the Germans are good people. Before that, nobody could be more evil than the French; and now nobody could be more evil than the Russians. In spite of the difficulties—and well I know them—we have to try to establish links or some points of contact. One of the best methods is to get trade going; get the business men to meet with the commissars 1274 for trade and make a bargain which is of mutual benefit and interest to both. Develop these lines and you make points of contact. Indeed, for this country that is our only policy, because we have to multiply world trade by four times or be in a difficult economic position.
Another method is by getting people of different countries to meet. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, spoke of getting the physicists of the world together. There may be objection to that idea, because they would give away secrets. I would say: get the medical men of the world together, and invite the Russians to come, because there are no secrets there. Get as many people as you can to come and see this country. When I was in Moscow I remember telling them how we in this country had revolutionised ourselves in the last fifty years or so, and what a wonderful country we had; that Communists were of no use to us and that we did not want to destroy them. It was all printed in the Press the next day. We need as many contacts as possible. Politicians on both sides are going to Russia and China, and talking to them; and what they say gets through. If we can get the peoples of the world to meet in trade and create links like that, then we can gradually build and replace fear and distrust by some feeling of confidence. That is the only background against which there can be a meeting of the leaders of the States.
There is one last point I should like to make. I think we should have less talk about the horrors of war and more talk about the wonderful new world we can build. If science were applied not to war but to co-operation by nations to promote good for the people of the world, we could, within ten years, and with only 10 per cent. of the money that is being spent on armaments, build a new world; we could eliminate hunger and disease in 75 per cent. of the world. If the nations would begin to co-operate, it would lead towards world government and would free the nations from the fear of war. There are only two ways. With all these powers that science has let loose—and we cannot bottle them up again—it is impossible for us to exist with both sides piling up more and more weapons. We have to get the nations ultimately to agree to co-operate and we have to get world public opinion 1275 behind us. I think that we in this country and Commonwealth should take the lead in that. In passing through countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, one of the most gratifying things to do is to talk with the people there, to get done with politicians and realise the great prestige which this country has there. It does not depend upon building more hydrogen bombs. Countries in all hemispheres look to us. We have a great prestige, but we may lose it. I believe that, if we had that change in the future which we should have, it might be the destiny of this country and this Commonwealth, by preaching these ideas to the Russians until they listened, and to all countries, to lead the human race away from what the Prime Minister called "peering over the rim of hell" and to set foot on the wonderful new world which modern science can create.
§ 7.12 p.m.
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate. I shall not detain your Lordships very long, but I should like to say a few words about the Home Defence Forces. There have been suggestions—and I think they were very good ones—that the time has now come when a Director-General or a Commander of these Home Defence Forces should be set up. I suggest that the place for such a directorate would be within the structure of the Ministry of Defence. Obviously, one does not want to set up yet another directorate, but I think that would be the correct place for it. The importance of these Home Defence Forces has been explained in the White Paper, and was further explained by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, in his opening speech, and by several other speakers. It is most important that there should be a chain of command, from Director-General or Director (whatever he may be called) of Home Defence Forces right the way through, taking in all the regional parts of home defence, and the coordination of civil defence as set up by local authorities and the Home Office with that set up by the military authorities.
As I see it, if a nuclear bomb were dropped early in a war there would be at the disposal of this country several different forces or units which would be able to undertake the duties of civil defence, rescue work or whatever it may 1276 be. Those are normally what is still called the Civil Defence Corps (which possibly may in the future have a different name) and all its ancillaries—the civil police, the Home Guard, who would undertake, obviously, the duties of civil defence in the early stages, and the units to be newly formed, the mobile defence battalions. Besides that, there would be units of the Regular Army, who would be trying to mobilise, and units of the Territorial Army. The co-ordination, direction and control of all these forces would be most important. I feel it would be inevitable that, were a nuclear weapon to be dropped upon this country, for a short time that well-known warrior, General Muddle, might easily take command. It is only by having really good command, control and direction of these Home Defence Forces that his tenure in office can be cut down to the bare minimum. I hope that the Government will consider setting up this directorate, as I suggest, at the Ministry of Defence.
The noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition has said that some people have said to him in despair: "What is the use of civil defence at all?" I am certain there are people who go about saying: "What is the use of any of these voluntary services?" They almost mock at those who, out of a sense of duty, take part in them. Those people, I consider, do a great disservice to this country. Moreover, it has often been said: "It will be all right on the day." I am sure that "on the day" many thousands of people will come to help; but the trouble is that surely they will then have come too late. Would it not be better for them to come now and get some training, so that their effectiveness may be doubled by their being trained when that day comes?
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, at this stage in a two-day debate, when nearly thirty of your Lordships have spoken, it is clearly the duty of a speaker to be as short as possible. In any case, it is beyond my powers to sum up a debate of the kind that we have had: it has been really a number of debates rolled into one. We have had a most effective and interesting debate on the Auxiliary Air Force, in which the contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, was particularly valuable and interesting. 1277 We have had a debate on the Territorial Army, again with contributions from a number of noble Lords of great experience. We have had, in addition, a small Foreign Affairs debate, while overshadowing all, of course, there is the question of the new weapon, the nuclear weapon.
The noble Lord, Lord Winster, complained that the newspapers dramatised unduly the effects of the new weapons, and said he thought the information should be given to the public in unsensational language. I am sure that in America they have succeeded in putting over the facts about the power of these weapons in conspicuously unsensational language. Nevertheless I think one cannot deny that the information itself is so full of sensation and drama that it should strike the imagination of everybody, as I believe it has struck the imagination of the general public. For unsensational language, I think one could hardly beat some paragraphs from the Report of the Atomic Energy Commission, which state thatone A-bomb of the earliest type equivalent to 20,000 tons of T.N.T. (20 kilotons) would produce a blast sufficient to destroy or damage severely residences within a radius of more than a mile.Then, the Report goes on to say thatThe United States … has developed fission bombs many times as powerful as the first A-bombs, and hydrogen weapons in the ranges of millions of tons (megatons) of T.N.T. equivalent.For good, sound, official English that could not be bettered; indeed, I like the sound of terms like "kilotons" and "megatons"; in relation to T.N.T. they tend to take some of the sensation away.
It is too late to go into the question of the hydrogen bomb, but I should like to mention one or two things in the White Paper that have interested me. It is good to see that Her Majesty's Government put forward so prominently their aim of "striving for a practical scheme of disarmament." But we hear constantly repeated that we must negotiate from strength. At what point do we consider we have the strength to negotiate? We are told that now we have the hydrogen bomb and the Russians have not, and that for a period—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
May I interrupt 1278 for one moment? We are negotiating now, at this particular moment, on disarmament, just as I said in my speech. We did it all last year; we did it in London and then at U.N.O. The Conference now sitting at Lancaster House is discussing how it can thresh out a scheme of disarmament. We have not waited.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I quite agree. The noble Viscount has corrected me. There is a Disarmament Commission sitting—a United Nations body. At the same time, when any suggestion is made that there should be something out of the ordinary, something out of the routine series of talks, it is always met by the blunt reply that we do not trust the Russians, and that the Russians do not trust us. But this period of three or four years, which we are told is likely to be the time during which we have a great preponderance of power over the Russians, is surely the time when, if ever, we can come to an agreement.
Another thing in regard to disarmament has occurred to me on reading the White Paper. The conception of disarmament in paragraph 8 appears to be that the parties should achievemajor reductions of conventional armaments and armed forces to agreed levels which would redress the present Communist superiority.Surely it is not realistic to go into negotiations expecting that the other person is going voluntarily to give up his advantages. We should not be willing to offer to the Russians to redress the superiority which we enjoy in nuclear weapons. Why, therefore, should we expect the Russians voluntarily to give up their advantages? If that is, in fact, the aim of Her Majesty's Government in disarmament negotiations, it is hard to see how any one can hope that they will result in success.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am loath to interrupt the noble Earl, but am I to understand that he thinks that nobody should give up advantages in disarmament negotiations? If so, I do not think they can possibly succeed. The argument has always been that the Conventional and non-conventional weapons cannot be treated separately, and that everybody has a contribution to make. The contribution which the Central European Powers, the Communist 1279 Powers, would certainly have to make would be a great reduction in their conventional armaments.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
In their armaments. But would you expect them to give up their preponderance of armaments? It seems to me that you must expect both parties to give up some of their advantages. But put baldly, as it is in the White Paper, to expect the Russians to agree to reduce their conventional armaments to the same level as ours, does not seem to be realistic. After all, any agreement on disarmament can result only from a lessening of tension, from the lessening of fear and suspicion—the fear which the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, mentioned he had detected on his recent visit and suspicion of the motives existing on both sides. I had not the extreme pessimism of the noble Lord who, I am sorry to see, has just left; I think it is the hope of us all that a lessening of tension will result in a lessening of fear and suspicion, and will enable some agreement to be arrived at.
I should like to refer now to something that my noble friend Lord Henderson said yesterday, when he advocated that greater efforts should be made to put over to the other side of the Iron Curtain more information about our weapons. After all, if the possession of nuclear weapons is to be a deterrent, the men in the Kremlin will know all about it. But I wonder whether the ordinary Russian in the street knows about it? I wonder what Her Majesty's Government are doing in the line of propaganda, in psychological warfare, to ensure that, so far as is possible, the facts about our armaments are being put over to the Russians. As has been said before in debates in your Lordships' House, propaganda or psychological warfare should be a part of our defence effort. To my mind, that is just as much the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence as any of the Fighting Services is.
There is only one other thing I want to say. I thought the White Paper exceedingly realistic, certainly in its opening parts. As the most reverend Primate said, it sets out brutally frankly the situation that faces us all; but scattered about in the White Paper are 1280 some terms that have what I can describe only as a slightly "olde worlde" ring about them. We read that something will enable us "to defeat the enemy." I thought "defeat" and "victory" were rather passing into the realm of obsolete terms. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, yesterday spoke about "co-destruction" and "co-annihilation" being the only alternatives to co-existence. Then in many places there is reference to a "strategic reserve." How is this strategic reserve to be moved about in conditions of nuclear warfare? There is mention of a naval striking force, with the task of containing and destroying enemy forces on the sea. How much is that going to be possible in conditions of nuclear warfare?
Then there is the phrase, in paragraph 26 of the Statement on Defence, which really gives the whole object of the maintenance of conventional arms:We still need troops on the ground to hold the enemy well to the East in Europe in the vital initial stages of a war. This would give time for the effects of our strategic air offensive to be felt.That calls up the picture of two long lines of opposing armies stretching across the Continent of Europe, with the strategic air force flying over and bombing the rear areas. That happened in 1914 and again in 1944–45; but is it the picture of a major war on the Continent of Europe? We all believe that there will be nuclear attacks at the outset of another war. The Western nations have said that any major aggression will be met with nuclear counter attack. There is bound to be nuclear attack from the outset, so what grounds are there for picturing this sweeping of hordes of men across Europe from East to West, this conventional sweep that we believe the Russians will take? Surely if they want to defeat us they will use the quickest way and the most efficient weapon, the nuclear-atomic or hydrogen bomb. From a range of some 450 miles they could bombard the centre of government in this country without the need for moving a single division in Europe.
What is the object of a war? To achieve your policy you want to make your enemy change his mind. You want to impose your will upon him. You would not do that by blotting out the whole of his cities and factories. You want, by the threat of doing so, to bring his population to accept your will and 1281 to submit their own. For a major war conventional armies appear difficult to defend. Certainly we need armies for overseas, for the cold war; we must have an Army, and a good one; and we want a large Regular element in that Army. We on this side of the House, as my noble and learned Leader has said, support the main policy of Her Majesty's Government, to keep the deterrent hydrogen bomb and the means of projecting it, to maintain sufficient conventional forces and to ensure the civil defence of the country; but I wish that we could hear a little more to remove my doubts on some of the points I have mentioned.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (LORD CARRINGTON)
My Lords, the position of someone who winds up a two-day debate in your House, particularly a debate of this importance and length, always reminds me of the poor man who feeds on the crumbs from the rich man's table. Everybody has had a very satisfactory meal and there is not much left over for the person who winds up. But perhaps if he is not there the crumbs may litter the table and the carpet; so he performs the useful function of tidying up and preventing litter. That is what I shall try to do.
The Government's White Paper on Defence was published in the middle of last month, and since that time there has been in the Press, on the wireless, in another place and now in your Lordships' House an enormous amount of comment and argument on the decision announced in the White Paper to manufacture the hydrogen bomb. Indeed, it has been difficult to pick up any periodical without finding an article about nuclear warfare, or to turn on the wireless without hearing some expression of opinion about the rights or wrongs of the decision. It follows, I am afraid, that I do not have anything at all new to say this evening about the subject, but, in common probably with most of your Lordships, I have read and heard a great many of these opinions and wonder whether perhaps there are some who stand in danger of overlooking the real issue.
I think, however, that one of the most interesting and encouraging facts, both from the debate here and in another place, is the very large measure of agreement 1282 on all sides of the House in support of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Naturally the decision which the Government has announced has not been reached without most careful consideration, and the implications of it are grave. It is, therefore, all the more encouraging to know that it has the broad support of the people of this country. But, of course, having said that, I admit that there are quite a number who feel, for one reason or another, that we are doing the wrong thing. These naturally include the pacifists, who are entirely logical in their point of view. We respect their point of view, though I think they are utterly wrong. At any rate, they are logical.
There is a second class of person who objects to the announcement that we should manufacture the hydrogen bomb. They say, "Ban the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb," and yet, curiously enough, they did not say, "Ban the manufacture of the atom bomb"; they do not say, even now, "Ban the manufacture of the block buster or the rifle." Perhaps there are some who, faced with the unknown consequences of nuclear warfare, are apt to forget that conventional warfare, as we have known it in the last two world wars, is utterly degrading and horrible. What every one of us who went through the last war, or even more the 1914–18 war, has seen in human suffering and misery does not lead us to the conclusion that these were chivalrous wars whose recurrence we can view with calm acceptance.
Some people seem to hold the view that the difference between nuclear warfare and what has now been called "conventional warfare" is so great that it is utterly immoral for us take any part in it. The real issue is not whether or not we should make a bomb which does not exist. The bomb does exist. The only issue is whether or not we should join those countries which already possess the hydrogen bomb. These same people argue that the possession of nuclear weapons will in itself weaken our position in the world and that we can be of much greater service if we divest ourselves of them and retain only the ability to defend ourselves with those of the conventional type. This has been called the neutralist argument, but I think it overlooks one or two of the facts of life, the most important being that, first, we are not neutral. We 1283 are part of a great Commonwealth. We are allied with the United States and with all the other nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We are committed to resisting aggression from whatever quarter it may come. We are members of the United Nations and must be prepared to accept the obligations which that membership entails.
It is perhaps natural, when faced with problems so vast and so awe-inspiring as this, to want to contract out of the argument and leave it to somebody else. But we cannot and should not do that. We are a great Power, with great interests and with a great tradition. We have declared unequivocally where we stand, and we must be prepared, whatever the consequences, to defend what we believe to be right.
Thirdly, there is a much more curious point of view. Those who hold it say, "We agree with you that it is necessary to manufacture nuclear weapons; we believe that in doing so you are right; but you must declare in advance exactly on what occasions you intend to use these weapons, and you should in no circumstances use them except in retaliation. "My Lords, I can understand the other two points of view which I have described, although I do not agree with them, but I do not understand the logic behind this argument. You put yourself at an enormous military disadvantage. If David, in his fight with Goliath, had announced beforehand that he intended to stick to conventional weapons, Goliath would have strolled over and annihilated him with one blow of his sword.
It seems, too, that if you announce beforehand what you will or will not do in a given set of circumstances, it amounts to a direct invitation to your enemy to go as far as he dares without suffering the consequences of his actions. Those who argue in this way seem to me to try to place responsibility for these decisions on the wrong people. The real responsibility rests with the aggressor. Any Power which is prepared to threaten the peace of the world by aggression runs the danger of starting a war more terrible than anything we have ever known before. It is not we who are going to start a war. Oddly enough, some of these very same people complain that we are still keeping a standing Army and Navy. "Why 1284 bother? Why waste money," they say, "when nuclear warfare has made all these things out of date and old fashioned?" Yet in the next breath they say that nuclear weapons should be used only in certain circumstances. With what then do they intend to defend themselves? It seems to me to be an extraordinary example of muddled thinking. And so, my Lords, the Government decided that we should manufacture the hydrogen bomb, not with the idea that the possession of it would, in a war, give us victory, or material profit, or glory or territorial gain. Words such as these have now no meaning. A nuclear war would present us and the enemy with devastation and misery on a scale which we cannot even imagine. The prevention of such a war must be the supreme objective for all of us, and it is the primary object of our defence policy to build up a deterrent against aggression and so to prevent war.
But, of course, we must and we shall continue to work for disarmament. Those of my generation, and perhaps even more those of your Lordships who are older, may give a rather disillusioned smile when we talk about disarmament. We recall the sad experiences of the 1930's and the lip service paid by everyone to the principles of disarmament, contrasting strangely with the lack of positive action. But the prospect which faces us and our children, of two sides poised ready with nuclear weapons to start a war resulting in mutual suicide, is such that nobody who has thought about the problem at all can view it with anything but horror. There is only one solution however long it may take, and however difficult it may be—and that is complete and all-round disarmament. I think it will be agreed that the Government's record of patient and hard work on this subject over the past years bears witness to our real belief in it.
I feel that the noble Earl who has just spoken did rather less than justice to our point of view on disarmament and the work we have been doing over the past three years. Always we must be realistic. It is not good enough to say, "Ban the bomb." Not only does that give overwhelming advantage to the Communists, but surely it is much the most difficult part of disarmament to achieve, both in principle and in detail. If we could 1285 achieve that, the rest would be relatively easy. As the White Paper says, disarmament must be real and comprehensive, and there must be secure and workable controls. Until the time comes when such a system has been secured, we must build up and maintain our strength with the emphasis on the deterrent. And science has now placed in our hands a new a ad overwhelmingly powerful weapon.
There are others who accept the decision to produce the hydrogen bomb but argue that this should lead to a more radical adjustment of our conventional forces than we have yet undertaken. The way in which these further adjustments should be made is not always clearly stated, and, if stated, is not always consistent. A great many conflicting suggestions have been made. Nevertheless, I think it is a point of view which deserves a good deal more consideration than the others I have described, and I should like to deal with it for a moment. In the first place, what have we done to adjust the shape and organisation of our forces to meet the new conditions? I think the record is good. In the Navy, plans are being made to introduce a new class of guided-weapon ships to replace the cruiser. A radical reorganisation of the Reserve Fleet is taking place which will greatly improve its state of readiness. Research and development with the application of new weapons to the war at sea is being pressed forward. Advances have been made, and more are coming. In the Army, we have abolished Anti Aircraft Command—and I will come to Lord Moynihan's speech in a moment We are building up a strategic reserve. We are experimenting with far-reaching changes in Army organisation, both in fighting units and in supporting units. A special unit is being established to investigate the use of air transport, including helicopters, for the supply of the Army in the field.
With regard to the Royal Air Force, my noble and gallant friend the Secretary of State has in his speech this afternoon announced what we are doing.
§ LORD SHERWOOD
The noble and gallant Lord who represents the Air Ministry did not say much about the Auxiliary Air Force. If something could be said about the future of that force. I think it would be appreciated.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
I listened to my noble and gallant friend's speech, and I thought he dealt very fully with the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. At any rate, I am not equipped to deal with it, and my noble friend has said what he has to say.
In the sphere of home defence (I prefer to call it home defence, and not civil defence) I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, said: we have taken decisions of the greatest importance, affecting the use of the Armed Forces in aid of the civilian population in time of war. We shall train all members of the Armed Forces in civil defence duties. We are about to begin building up a Mobile Defence Corps as part of the Army and Air Force Reserve Services. The whole field of civil defence preparations—evacuation, shelter and the rest—is being urgently considered to meet the new problems.
The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, who made what I felt was a most interesting and constructive speech this afternoon, criticised us on the grounds that all this was coming along rather slowly. That raises an old problem. If you rush blindly in, you are likely to waste a lot of money without necessarily getting the right answer. If you are too cautious, you may not be ready should the need arise. We are trying to strike a sensible balance. I can assure noble Lords that the whole of our defence forces are only too anxious to adjust themselves as quickly as they can to the new and strange conditions surrounding us. That is the reason why we welcome suggestions and debates of the kind that we have had for the last two days. I can assure your Lordships that we shall study very carefully all these matters and all that has been said.
The noble and learned Earl, the Leader of the Opposition, who has apologised because he has had to leave the House, raised a number of questions about civil defence. The broad position is that until fairly recently our plans were based on certain assumptions. Recent developments have shown that many of those plans will require recasting, and this we are actively doing. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, said that he or one of his noble friends proposed shortly to put down a Motion on civil defence. At this moment, therefore, I do not think it would be wise to attempt to go into too great detail, but 1287 I will try to deal with one or two questions which the noble and learned Earl asked me. First let me say a word on the affected area. This really divides itself into three main divisions, although there is no hard and fast line of demarcation between them. First of all, there is the area of total destruction; then there is the area of damage, varying from serious to slight; and, finally, there is the much larger area which may be affected by "fall-out."
The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when in another place, gave a good deal of information about areas of destruction, and there is little I can add to what he said. But I may perhaps remind your Lordships that with the Eniwetok bomb there would be total destruction within an area of three-mile radius, and moderate to slight damage would extend over an area of ten-mile radius. With a bomb of a thousand times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb, the corresponding figures would be five and fifteen miles. As regards "fall-out" the United States have indicated that if a thermo-nuclear device comparable with that fired at the Bikini Atoll in March, 1954, were exploded at ground level, the area of contamination down-wind would be about 7,000 square miles.
In the area of total destruction, obviously, there is little that can be done. Elsewhere—and I emphasise this, because I think it is important that we should let this be known—a properly organised civil defence can play a vital part. Considerable protection can be obtained in areas outside that of total destruction. An ordinary house gives some protection. A slit trench with adequate covering will give very good protection. There is still a good deal of research work, of course, to be done in this field. Protective clothing, which the noble Earl mentioned, is of no value against radiation. The noble Earl also asked a question about the length of time for which an area remains contaminated by radiation. This varies very much. In the area down-wind immediately beyond that of total destruction, contamination is very serious and the direct danger to human beings may last at least a week. As one gets further away, the degree of contamination diminishes and its persistence is much reduced, until at the outer limits of the affected 1288 area the danger period may last for only an hour or two.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked about the future of the Territorial Army and pointed out that in his view the way in which the disbandment of Anti-Aircraft Command has been done is discouraging to potential recruits and to those who are already serving in the Territorial Army. He does not complain of the decision itself, and I have heard no criticism from any quarter. I think all your Lordships will agree that it is a right decision, in keeping with the Government's realistic approach to defence problems. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, was largely answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and by the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, but I feel I should say a further word. When it was decided to disband Anti-Aircraft Command, it was felt that the news of the decision should first be announced in Parliament, not only because that is the proper place for it to be announced but also because if representations and consultations had taken place before the announcement there would have been much greater uncertainty. No one but a very few people knew of the proposal until it was announced on December 2 by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence. Immediately afterwards the first examination was carried out by antiaircraft group commanders, in consultation with Home Commands, the chairmen of Territorial associations and all honorary colonels. The first plan was submitted to the War Office and then returned to Home Commands and Territorial associations for the preparation of the official plan for reorganisation. It may be said, I suppose, that this took rather a long time, and that the decisions might have been announced earlier, but it was felt better to consider all these matters together and not announce decisions piecemeal, so that the plan could be kept as flexible as possible and changes made up to the last moment.
The essence of the plan is to keep in some form as many as possible of the Territorial Army units of Anti-Aircraft Command, and I think it has been largely successful. In spite of these efforts, obviously the disbandment has inevitably caused distress throughout the whole of Anti-Aircraft Command and to 1289 the Territorial associations, and a large number of men will unfortunately be rendered surplus. All possible steps are being taken to absorb every single volunteer who is willing to continue to serve. Local boards have been set up throughout the country to examine the case of each individual and it is hoped that volunteers will be absorbed into the new amalgamated anti-aircraft units or into the Army Emergency Reserve. Surplus volunteers in disbanded or running-down units will be offered the opportunity of transferring individually or en bloc to the new mobile defence battalions.
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, touched on what I think is a very important subject. Anti-Aircraft Command has a great record, and those who serve in it are largely volunteers. When a decision of this kind is announced I think it is very important that it should be properly and decently done and that all those concerned should be thanked for what they have done in the past. A great deal of care was taken by the War Office to do this. I am sorry that the noble Lord has the impression that this was not so. Perhaps I should point out that Anti-Aircraft Command were honoured by a message from Her Majesty, thanking them for all they had done and drawing attention to their fine record. Then my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence, when he announced the decision on December 2 in another place, went out of his way to thank most warmly all ranks who had served in Anti-Aircraft Command. I am going into this question at some length because I think it is important that these things do not go out wrongly.
The General-Officer Commanding, General Chilton, circulated a letter to all units under his command for despatch immediately following the original announcement in the House of Commons on December 2. Within one week of the announcement all unit officers had been personally addressed by the G.O.C. or one of the group commanders. The G.O.C. and his group commanders have also been touring units ever since the announcement. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for War in another place emphasised his regret at the winding up of a Command which had done great service for the country. There can be no need for me to 1290 say this evening how much we appreciate what the Command has done and how much we remember, during the blitzes of 1940 and 1941, the feeling of confidence that the guns inspired on those occasions, and the contribution they made to the flying bomb problem in 1944. Nor is there any need, I hope, for me to emphasise the importance which all of us attach to those men and women who are prepared to volunteer for the service of their country in the Territorial Army or in other branches of the Services and Civil Defence. Whether or not their rôles change and the names of the corps alter, there will still be the greatest need for volunteers willing to serve in the defence of their country. I hope no one will think that because of the reorganisation which has been announced there is no further need for an Army Emergency Reserve or a Territorial Army.
Yesterday, the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, made out a strong case for the provision of some form of education grant for Service men. If I may say so, I think he stated the problem extremely clearly and with great force, and I noticed that most of your Lordships who were here then supported him. I should not like it to be thought that we are not aware of the problem. Children's education as it affects Service parents is not one which one can discuss and solve in complete isolation from that of parents in other walks of life. We all agree that the Service man is constantly being posted from station to station, whether at home or abroad, a state of affairs with which his civilian counterpart does not have to contend. But, as all your Lordships know, in the past few years there have been increases in Service pay which have been particularly aimed at helping Service men with families. I see the noble Lord shaking his head. Perhaps I may just quote the introductory note to the White Paper of March, 1954, which reads as follows:In the case of officers, the increases cover the middle range and it is within this range that the present conditions of Service life press most hardly on officers, particularly those with family responsibilities.Of course, I do not claim that these increases have solved the problem. We have evidence to show that difficulties of this kind are still a great discouragement to those who want to join the Services as 1291 a career. All I can say at the present time is that my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence and his other colleagues are considering it with a real sense of urgency, but I am afraid that I cannot go any further this evening
I am not trying to pretend that the changes which I have described and the picture presented in this year's White Paper is in any sense perfect or final. It is neither described as such, nor has it been presented to Parliament as such. We shall certainly see many more changes in the years ahead. What I do claim with some confidence is that at the present time, in the present conditions and with our present resources, the defence programme for the coming year is a realistic and forward-looking attempt to meet the country's present defence requirements. I hope and believe that as such it will command the general approval of your Lordships' House.
In conclusion may I come back to my main thesis? The object of defence is security. If we cannot yet obtain security by international agreement and disarmament, we must rely on the deterrent. The deterrent rests primarily on the nuclear weapon. But it is more than that; it lies in the resolution to use it if need be, in spite of its appalling consequences, in defence of our vital interests. It lies also in the unity of the free world in standing up to blandishments and threats and in actively resisting minor 1292 aggressions in the cold war; it lies in defensive strength which will take toll of the enemy if he attacks; it lies in realistic home defence preparations which are evidence of our intention never to give in, even if it should come to nuclear warfare. Given all this, it is surely not too much to hope that every nation and all Governments will come to realise that there is literally no future in war. Thus we may achieve security. And through security we may ultimately win peace.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.