Before I call the Motion on the Order Paper, I ought to tell hon. Members something which I am sorry to say will be rather unpleasant to well over 100 of them. It is quite impossible in these two days for 100 hon. Members to catch my eye. Therefore, all I can assure them is that I shall do my best, but a great many will not be chosen. I cannot help it. However, I would remind hon. Members that between now and Easter we are to have the Estimates for the three Services on which there will be an opportunity for raising many of the points which I think my correspondents would like to raise now. May I say quite frankly, and in all friendliness, that it is no good hon. Members coming to me in the Chair and arguing the case by saying, "I have a special claim," and so on. I am not doing that this time.
May I ask your advice on that point, Mr. Speaker? It would appear from what you have told us that there are over 100 hon. Members who are desirous of speaking in this debate. The allocation of time between the five Front Bench speakers, and the 100 back benchers, only some of whom will speak, seems to be an unfair distribution of Parliamentary time. I wondered, Sir, whether you would consider using your good offices with both sides of the House because, quite frankly, I think most of us would agree that there is little necessity for five Front Bench speeches in a debate on Defence.
I do not know. That is not my responsibility. I might point out to the House that, after all, this is a debate on a wide and important issue, the defence of the whole country. It is not a Service debate, it is far wider than that. Therefore I am not at all sure that those who have wide experience and responsibility ought not to have a fair crack of the whip. At the same time I am fully in sympathy with the ideas of back benchers.
I beg to move,
That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government relating to Defence contained in Command Paper No. 8146.
Since the Defence debate last March, international relations have unfortunately deteriorated. Even a year ago there was little improvement in the attitude of Soviet Russia towards the Western countries, but there was nothing to indicate that the situation was likely to get worse. At that time there was no reason to fear that far heavier burdens were to be imposed upon us.
The position was altered by the North Korean attack on South Korea in June. This was the first serious act of aggression and showed that the Communists, who up to then had not ventured beyond cold war methods, were now prepared to try to gain their ends by open force. [HON. MEMBERS "What about Malaya?"] It was an experience which we could not ignore. Other, and more vital, parts of the world might seem equally tempting if the experiment in Korea proved successful. Berlin or Western Germany might be the next step; and the threat to Western Europe had become plain.
Plans to organise the defence of Western Europe were beginning to take shape at that time but the forces were not strong enough to man a proper defence line. There is no doubt that tremendous forces are available to Soviet Russia and her satellites—probably the largest and most formidable forces ever maintained by any country in peace-time. I gave the House some figures of Russian military strength last July. There is no reason to think that it has diminished since then, and there is evidence that the strength of the satellites has increased considerably.
A further striking development has been the intervention of China in the Korean war. So long as that continues it will require much ingenuity and patience to prevent the fighting from spreading, while at the same time we support the United Nations in upholding the rule of law.
The danger of war has become more acute in the past few months and we should be neglecting our plain duty to the country if we did not strengthen our defences. Moreover, in the absence of a negotiated solution—for which we shall constantly strive—our best chance of averting war—and this is the supreme objective of our defence policy—is to build up as rapidly as possible forces strong enough to deter a potential aggressor; to remove in fact the kind of temptation which was offered in Korea.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has made great strides during the past year. At Brussels in December decisions of importance were taken when plans were approved for establishing an integrated force for the defence of Western Europe under a Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe. The appointment of General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander immediately afterwards was greeted with enthusiasm by every member country, and, as the House knows, he has already visited every one of those countries. A Defence Production Board has been set up to co-ordinate production questions.
In short, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has been transformed from an international military planning body into an effective defence organisation for the North Atlantic area. The development of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation provides the means of building up forces strong enough to deter the potential aggressor more rapidly and more successfully than seemed at one time possible, provided that all the member countries fulfil the tasks they have agreed to undertake.
Here I must remind hon. Members that our own contribution is one of the most vital. If we are to fulfil our promise in regard to the defence of Europe while carrying our commitments in other parts of the world, nothing less will suffice than the measures now proposed by the Government. I must make it clear, however, that what we propose will not be undertaken in isolation from other countries. It is part of a general plan based on the principle of collective defence.
It cannot be said too often that there is nothing aggressive in what we are doing. We have no intention of making war on anybody. But, on the other hand, if we fail to strengthen our own defences, in a world where others are arming with great speed, and with modern weapons, we shall invite attack. Nothing would give the Government greater satisfaction than to be able to say that all other countries have demonstrated their desire to settle differences peacefully. Unfortunately, that is not so, and in these circumstances we have no alternative but to press on with the measures for strengthening our defences. This is distasteful to us, but we are impelled to this course by events not of our making.
I now propose to deal with two major questions: one is manpower for the Forces and the other is production, leaving the economic implications of the new programme to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor when he speaks later in the debate.
In the field of manpower, we have always had two main objects in view—to strengthen our active Forces and to build up trained reserves. These are still our aims. But the recent worsening of the situation has forced us to pay special attention to the strengthening of our active Forces. I have referred on previous occasions to the problem of extracting the largest possible number of fighting men out of a given total strength, and of keeping down the numbers engaged on administrative duties. I have always felt strongly about this. When the figures are examined it is difficult not to feel that a far larger number of front-line troops could be found from the total number of men available to us now.
I can give the House some figures to illustrate the present position. There are 391,650 officers and men in the Army, made up of 193,850 Regulars and 197,800 National Service men. Of the total, about 222,950 can be regarded as fighting elements, including infantry, armoured units, artillery and that proportion of R.E.M.E. and R.A.O.C. troops who take their places in fighting formations; while 168,700 can be regarded as non-fighting elements, these including all the purely administrative units of R.A.O.C., R.E.M.E. and other similar formations.
Of course the development of a large "tail" is a necessary consequence of the rapid technical advances during the last generation, with the constantly increasing mechanisation which has resulted from them. Each one of these developments adds to the number of men required behind the scenes to support a fighting man in the front line. Every army in the world has been affected by this trend and it is idle to expect that we should be exempt.
Since I have been associated with the Service Departments, I have repeatedly attacked this problem, both in my present capacity and when I was at the War Office, and I believe that my efforts were not without some effect. It is a problem which needs to be constantly watched and attacked and I can promise the House that I shall not relax the pressure.
I want now to discuss the steps which we have taken during the past few months, and are taking now, to increase the total manpower at the disposal of the Armed Forces. The immediate response to the new scales of pay introduced last September was encouraging. Recruitment went up from a monthly average of 3,673 in the period January to August, 1950, to a monthly average of 7,374 in the period September to December. We cannot expect the peak rate to be maintained indefinitely, but we hope that recruitment this year will be much better.
This was the Army.
After the outbreak of fighting in Korea it was essential to retain trained troops with the Colours whose periods of service had expired and to recall to the Colours numbers of officers and men of the Regular Army Reserve and of the Naval Reserve. We shall continue these arrangements for the time being, but men will not be required to serve beyond the expiry of their Colour service for more than 18 months in the Navy, 12 to 18 months in the Army, and 12 months in the Royal Air Force.
The next main element in our Forces is the National Service men. The National Service scheme has proved a success and we could not have met our commitments without it. In order to increase the strengths of the three Services the Government decided last September to increase the period of service from 18 months to two years. This will enable us to add about 77,000 men to the active Forces between September, 1950, and March, 1951, a very valuable addition. Not only that, but the longer period of service will make it possible to make more effective use of each man's service after his initial period of training.
We have considered what other steps we could take to increase the National Service element in the Forces, and have decided that the Services must make more use of men in the lower medical categories. We shall make the best possible use of such men in those activities for which they are best fitted. We hope to find perhaps 10,000 men a year in this way. In last year's Statement on Defence, it was stated that the total strength of the Armed Forces during the year 1950–51 would be some 700,000. As a result of the measures I have just described it is likely to be 800,000 by 1st April this year and should be approaching 900,000 by 1st April next year.
The House will now want to know what these numbers mean in effective operational formations. In the Navy and Air Force, front line strength is conditioned largely by the availability of ships and aircraft and I propose to deal with them a little later when I come to speak about production questions. It is the Army which takes the bulk of the manpower and it is in terms of divisions that I wish to speak now.
It was stated in a previous debate that our intention was to have the equivalent of 10 divisions in existence by April this year. We propose to increase the contribution to the defence of Western Europe, which we shall make jointly with other nations, by sending an additional division to Germany from this country, thereby increasing the number of British divisions in Germany from three to four. Meanwhile, we are building up a regular strategic reserve in the United Kingdom.
Another big consumer of the Army's manpower is Anti-Aircraft Command. We must maintain this part of our defences at the highest possible state of readiness, both to safeguard the country against air attack, and to protect our fighting units and lines of communication. I shall mention a little later the steps we are taking to strengthen its manpower and modernise its equipment.
The decision to recall certain reservists, and in particular Class Z reservists, for a period of training this year has attracted considerable attention. There were two main reasons for this decision. First, the 10 active divisions which will exist this year will lack certain supporting arms and administrative troops which would enable them in an emergency to be transformed from a number of separate formations into an Army.
We shall accordingly recall for 15 days up to 115,000 men in order that they may learn something of the role they would have to play in the event of mobilisation. This exercise will be confined to formations in this country. It may be that in the light of further consideration we shall not require to call up the whole of these men, and of course no man will be called up if we do not want him.
We are also anxious to improve the state of readiness of the reserve divisions which could be mobilised in the event of war. These reserve divisions would be formed by mobilising the Territorial Army, with the addition of small cadres of Regular troops. Voluntary recruitment for the Territorial Army has shown some improvement during the past year, but it is still not sufficient to build up our reserves to the required level in the near future.
The flow of National Service men to the reserve Army is still in its early stages. It began last year and by July, 1954, it is planned to raise the reserve forces to their peak level. But, as hon. Members are aware, the process was retarded when, last September, it was decided to extend the full-time period of service by six months, so that while we strengthened the active Forces, we weakened our reserves for the time being.
The only remaining source from which we could man the reserve divisions, should the necessity arise in the next year or two, was the men who had served during the last war, or who had completed their service since the war but had no liability to serve with the Territorial Army. We should have preferred to call only upon this second category, that is the men who saw no active service in war, instead of also calling again on those men to whom the country was already so much indebted. But it has to be borne in mind that our aim is to build up complete, balanced formations—and that means selecting men with the right qualifications for the jobs that have to be done. For this reason it will not be possible to adhere strictly to the principle of "Last out, first back"—but we are doing what we can to relieve the men who saw active service in the war of further obligations.
In addition to the men needed for the reserve divisions, who will number about 80,000, we also propose to call up for 15 days about 40,000 men for training with Anti-Aircraft Command. I have already referred to the importance of this part of our defence system, and we shall not neglect to maintain it at the highest state of readiness.
From the Army point of view, therefore, we are much better off now than we have ever been in peace before. Never before have we had ten Regular divisions in existence in peace-time. The measures we now propose to take will enable us to mobilise the reserve divisions with much greater speed than has ever been possible before in our history. Moreover, if we say that we will find a division, it will be a division; quality as well as quantity tells in war, and no one can question our contribution in Korea from the point of view of quality.
But I must also emphasise that our whole success in the future depends on the recruitment of officers and men of the highest quality for the Regular Army, which forms the hard core of our defence on land; and also that the need for volunteers for the Territorial Army is now as great as, or even greater, than ever.
For precisely the same reasons we must strengthen the fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force—our first line of defence against air attack. We therefore propose to recall two separate classes of men for training. We shall embody the fighter squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for about three months. We regret having to subject these men to so much inconvenience. We are doing it only because the part they play in our defence system is of such special importance.
We shall also call up, for 15 days, 10,000 officers and men who would be required to man the control and reporting system in case of war. These latter men will come mainly from the Class G Reserve. In addition, about 1,000 aircrew reservists of the Regular and Volunteer Reserve will be called up for three months for refresher courses and about 200 may be recalled for flying instruction duties for periods up to 18 months.
The Navy will be recalling 6,000 Regular reservists for 18 months' service, and 600 officers for a similar period. This, together with the retention of serving officers and ratings, will enable additional ships to be put into commission, ships' complements to be brought up to strength, and front-line naval air strength to be increased.
These proposals have aroused a good deal of criticism. On the one hand, we are told that they subject a large number of people to unnecessary hardship; and, on the other hand, that they are quite inadequate. I can assure the House there will be a minimum of hardship and the schemes of training we propose will prove both their adequacy and ensure their success. Moreover, I can give the House this assurance—that no Class Z or Class G or Volunteer reservist called up for training this year will be called up for similar training in future years; and men who volunteer in future for the Royal Auxiliary Air Force will not be liable to be called up for the three months' training, except in case of emergency or mobilisation.
I cannot accept the charge that a fortnight's training is too short to be of any value. The reservists are the men selected to mobilise with their units if, indeed, they are required to mobilise at all. This is an immense help to the speeding up of mobilisation if we can get the men together. They will get to know each other; and the real value of every man can be known so that he can be fitted into his proper place. I give the House my assurance that a great deal of very useful training will be packed into the 15 days.
The Government have not been at all eager to take these decisions, but they are in no doubt whatever as to their necessity. We are living, as I have said, in a world where other Powers, already heavily armed and showing few signs of a cooperative or peaceful policy, are adding rapidly to their strength. Common prudence dictates that we should put ourselves in a position to stand up to them, if that should prove necessary.
On the other hand, we must not play the enemy's game by adopting panic measures which the present situation would not justify and which would do grave injury to our economy—and our ability to hold our own in the world depends in the long run as much on our economic strength as on the strength of our Armed Forces. The Government are, therefore, confident that the proposals they have put forward strike the right balance.
Legislation to give effect to these proposals will be ready for submission to the House almost at once; and it will include adequate measures to protect the men concerned against loss of employment and to give every other possible safeguard.
I turn now to the production of weapons and equipment. We must do everything possible to ensure that a situation does not arise in which we may have to send men into battle without a sufficient supply of up-to-date equipment. The House knows that for reasons which at the time were generally accepted, the Services were compelled to live mainly on their stocks for some years after the end of the war. In many cases stocks had been exhausted, vehicles were wearing out and weapons were becoming out of date. In 1948, at the time of the Berlin airlift, we decided to place orders for jet aircraft which were designed to double the then rate of production. A year ago we included in the 1950–51 Estimates a substantially higher provision for production than in previous years.
Then came the war in Korea. We decided immediately to authorise the expenditure of an extra £100 million on additions to the production programme; and in August we put forward the £3,600 million programme of which some 40 per cent. was to be devoted to production. Immediate authority was given for the expenditure of a further £100 million to enable the acceleration of production and the expansion of capacity to go rapidly ahead. Altogether, over the last three years we have spent about £630 million on production and research and development.
Then, following on the decisions taken by the North Atlantic Council at Brussels, came the Prime Minister's statement of 29th January in which he announced a still larger programme which might amount in all to as much as £4,700 million over the next three years. Of this, we aim to spend about £2,200 million on production and research and development.
This will give the House some idea of the way in which the production programme has been stepped up during the past few months. Some results have shown themselves already and others should bear fruit very soon. We have, for example, almost completed the re-equipment of the fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force with jet aircraft and have made excellent progress with the re-equipment of the fighter squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force. Aircraft are now in production which will enable us to start equipping bomber squadrons of the Royal Air Force with jet bombers shortly. The output of weapons and equipment for the Army in 1951–52 should be almost double what it has been in 1950–51.
During the last two years considerable effort has been devoted to improving the readiness of Anti-Aircraft Command for war, and much progress has been made. Of the heaviest type of gun, a proportion have had their efficiency greatly increased by conversion to fully automatic control and programmes are in hand to convert the remainder. The stocks of effective searchlights have increased and are sufficient for our requirements.
The rate of production of the latest type of radar has been considerably stepped up, and the stocks held have increased by 45 per cent. The majority of the regiments for which guns are available can now be equipped with these latest types. In addition to this progress in equipment, special measures have been taken to increase the speed of deployment of Anti-Aircraft Command, and arrangements will shortly he completed to reduce this time by 25 per cent.
There is thus a great deal to show for what has been spent already. We are now going ahead energetically with the creation of new capacity. We are setting up two new tank factories and laying down new production lines for the latest types of jet engines, and we plan to lay down still more. We are placing advance orders as rapidly as required in order to secure timely deliveries of equipment.
Already contracts to the value of £450 million have been placed, for completion over the next three years. We are also alive to the importance of giving industry as much advance information as we can so that they can plan ahead and reduce to a minimum the dislocation caused by switching over from civil to defence production.
I should now like to deal in rather more detail with our production plans for each of the three Services in turn.
In the case of the Navy our main preoccupation is to improve our power to deal with the formidable threat of the submarine and the mine. We shall therefore increase the building programme of frigates, minesweepers and small craft; and re-equip our front line naval aviation with new types of aircraft. We are also speeding up the conversion and modernisation of existing ships, and the provision of equipment and stores for commissioning the Reserve Fleet. All this is expected to cost at least £70 million more than last year, that is to say, about double.
Production for the Army, too, will be approximately doubled. There will be an emphasis on tanks and new types of combat vehicles; on providing Anti-Aircraft Command with new and modernised guns, ammunition and equipment, and on supplying the stores which would be needed in the event of mobilisation. We are fortunately placed in having in production a modern tank, the Centurion, which is second to none of its type in service in the world today. The output of this type will be greatly increased so that re-equipment of our armoured divisions can be rapidly completed.
Provision for the Royal Air Force, again, will be nearly doubled. As I said earlier, we have already nearly completed the re-equipment of our fighter squadrons with jet aircraft. But we have to remember that those excellent types, the Meteor and the Vampire, have now been in production for some years and we cannot expect them to carry the main burden much longer.
Deliveries of a new fighter, the Venom, will begin this year. This is the latest product of the De Havilland Company, and is a fighter of very fine performance. Other new types which represent a really big advance on present types are not far off, and have been ordered in large numbers. We are also exploring the possibility of acquiring a number of American F.86 aircraft. This is the fastest fighter actually in production today.
As regards bomber aircraft, the Canberra is now in production and the rate of output will be greatly accelerated. The formation of squadrons of this type will begin shortly. There is agreement throughout the world that this is an exceptionally fine aircraft and we expect to find that it will be adopted by a number of allied countries. A further important advance towards the re-equipment of our bomber forces is marked by the placing of the first production order for a four-engined jet bomber to replace the piston-engined Washingtons which are the heaviest type we have in service in the Royal Air Force at present.
There is no dispute that in the design of jet engines we lead the world. The Avon and Sapphire engines, for example, are acknowledged to be unequalled anywhere. The licence for manufacturing the Sapphire has been acquired by the United States and it is to be produced in quantity there. As I have said, we are greatly increasing our production of jet engines. A modern jet engine is a very highly developed piece of precision engineering, and the new lines of production we are setting up will call for great quantities of specialised machine tools and a good deal of skilled labour. The capacity we are creating will be a most important national asset.
When we have completed this programme we shall have enormously increased our strength in the air, and based it firmly on a large and healthy industrial capacity, producing the most modern types. In my view air strength—
I am sorry to interrupt, but I think that the right hon. Gentleman said, "When we have completed this programme." Is that in terms of months or in terms of years, or what?
This is, of course, a phased programme, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows. It will be proceeded with as expeditiously as possible, and indeed as we desire that it should proceed; but the programme is intended to cover the years up to 1954. It is a three-year programme.
I was about to remark, and I think it very important to make this observation, that it is my view—and the view of others with much more experience than I possess—that air strength has first priority in our defence system, and it is my resolve to ensure that it is developed with all possible speed.
In addition to strengthening our home defences, the expansion of the Royal Air Force will also enable us to make a substantial contribution to the integrated North Atlantic Treaty force. Several new squadrons have already been formed in Germany, and a much larger number are to be formed as the programme proceeds. Our increased contribution will take the form partly of additional fighter and ground-attack squadrons and partly of a substantial force of Canberra bomber squadrons, which, together with the squadrons of Bomber Command, will make up a formidable element in the defence of Western Europe. For the close defence of the United Kingdom we are embarking on a further major expansion of Fighter Command. The doubling of the day fighter force has been completed; we have now begun to double it again. We shall also greatly increase the night fighter force, with the new jet night fighters which are now coming forward. Simultaneously, we are improving the radar system on which our air defences depend.
To complete the picture, I should add that we are increasing the size of Coastal Command, we have stopped the run-down of Transport Command, and we have already formed certain new squadrons in the Middle East, as the beginning of a considerable increase in our strength in that theatre. Altogether, we have embarked on much the most exacting expansion programme for the Royal Air Force that has ever been initiated in peace, and we are determined that it shall be carried out without loss of quality, that at the end the Royal Air Force will still be what it is now, the best-trained air force in the world, and properly backed, not merely a front line and nothing else.
I want to emphasise again that the results of the new programme must be progressive. In 1951 we shall get a useful accession to our strength: in 1952 things will begin to happen on a big scale. [Laughter.] I am not astonished that there is laughter from the back benches opposite at that observation, but I must say that I am really astonished that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in- dulges in laughter, for no one knows better than he what the experience was in the last war in building up a programme over three or four years out of practically nothing.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to me for a moment. The reason we have not felt entirely comfortable about what he has said is that he is always saying, "We have doubled this; we have doubled that," without our knowing what "this" is. He says that we have made a 40 per cent. increase. On what? On x, and so on. Now he used two phrases, that there would be a considerable improvement and that there would be really large-scale production; but none of these things has anything definite in it. He must excuse a certain amount of scepticism and doubt where there is no foundation given, no datum line from which the multiplication takes place.
As regards what I have said about doubling our programme, I had the advantage of listening to the right hon. Gentleman during the war years and before the war years. The word "doubling" was used frequently by him and I see no disadvantage in using it now. Besides I have referred to the re-equipping of our squadrons. When I talk about re-equipping squadrons, I mean re-equipping them, and I am not using the term fictitiously. That is all I am prepared to say to the right hon. Gentleman, but I repeat—
I repeat that when I find the right hon. Gentleman indulging in laughter when I refer to a phased programme—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I repeat that I am really astonished that he should do so. I do not object to political laughter, but we are dealing with a serious issue, and I beg of the right hon. Gentleman—I say it most emphatically to him—not to indulge in political manoeuvres.
The right hon. Gentleman said something about the conditions at the beginning of the last war. It must be remembered that the Air Force that won the Battle of Britain and saved our lives was one which was entirely set on foot, and the squadrons and the machines and everything organised, before 1940.
That may well be. I pay tribute to what was done. But the programme necessary to enable us to gain a victory was a phased programme built up in the course of years. Obviously, we cannot complete a programme of this character, with all the expansion it demands, in the course of a few months. Nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman; and if his hon. Friends behind him are unaware of the facts it is due to a lack of knowledge on their part, and nothing else.
I repeat, and I want to emphasise again, that the results of the new programme must be progressive. In 1951 we shall get a useful accession to our strength: in 1952 things will begin to happen on a big scale; and in 1953 the new production should be running at its peak. By that time the annual—
No. You will not get the Government you want. I give that assurance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Stick to defence."] I am quite prepared to stick to defence if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford can induce his supporters to restrain themselves; but if they will indulge in stupid observations, they must expect a reply.
In 1953 the new production should be running at its peak. By that time the annual output should be about four times what it is now, provided no serious delays have been caused by shortages of machine tools and raw materials. Obviously this is a scale of effort which is going to make heavy demands on the nation. If we use resources for defence we cannot at the same time use them for private consumption or for economic development. I shall leave these aspects of the problem to be dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I said just now that the fulfilment of our production programme was subject to there being no serious hold-up caused by shortages. I want to amplify this by sounding two important notes of warning. The first is that when one is dealing with the expansion of industrial production it is no use expecting miracles. One is up against physical limitations some of which cannot be surmounted.
We saw this very clearly in the last war when vast programmes of production set in motion in the early days took two years to show real results. One cannot wave a magic wand and expect to find the goods rolling off the production line overnight. Prototypes have to be built and tested, machine tools ordered, obtained and set up—all this before production can begin at all—and it takes time. And when production has at last begun it still takes time to work it up to a high rate of output.
My other note of warning is this. The execution of a big programme according to schedule depends on the necessary instruments being available in the right quantities at the right time—the labour, the factory space, the machine tools and the raw materials. There are major problems to be overcome if we are to ensure that the machine tools and the raw materials will be available when we want them.
Remember that we are not the only country embarking on a programme of this kind. Other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation have only jut begun and the United States has set in motion a very large defence programme. We shall do all we can to solve these shortages in co-operation with the other countries concerned. So that what I have said about our production plans is always subject to the reservation that physical shortages may cause delays. We shall do everything in our power to minimise those delays.
Meanwhile, we shall press on with research and development, a subject which does not lend itself to detailed discussion in open debate, but about which I should like to say a few words. It should not be thought that the emphasis we place on getting speedy results implies any intention to put less emphasis on research. A nation which is short of manpower must retain a margin of advantage in technical development; and there is no country to which that applies with more force than the United Kingdom.
We must therefore go on developing scientific capital which will pay us dividends in future years. The House will not expect me to give details but I can assure them that we are making most satisfactory advances in the fields of guided weapons, aeronautics and in the many fields to which the principles of radar can be applied. In addition, a new impetus has been given to the development of weapons for the Army, with special emphasis on anti-tank weapons.
The House will understand that our capacity to carry out research and development on the many requirements put forward by the Services has always been seriously limited by the shortage of scientific and technical staff. The supply of these highly qualified men has considerably improved during the past two years as the universities have begun to turn out graduates who entered immediately after the war.
On the other hand, the demand keeps ahead of the supply, and I cannot say that the position is much easier. There are still serious shortages in certain branches of technical manpower, particularly draughtsmen. In these circumstances, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the best use is made of what is available to us, and we are taking special steps to ensure that this is done so far as defence establishments are concerned.
Nearly every aspect of this great new defence programme will involve additional works services. Airfields, storage accommodation, factory space—these are just examples of what will be needed. This will make big demands on our already overtaxed building industry, and special measures may have to be taken.
Now as to the cost of the programme. I have already said that its total cost—including expenditure on civil defence—is estimated at £4,700 million and that we shall do everything within our power to complete it in three years. Before the latest expansion, announced in the Prime Minister's statement, expenditure on defence during 1951–52 had been estimated at about £1,100 million. The effect of the new programme on this figure has not yet been precisely worked out, but it is likely to be in the neighbourhood of £1,250 million, of which about £510 million would be for production and research and development and £270 million for pay and allowances of Regular and reserve Forces.
Clearly, this represents a very heavy burden on the nation, but we should not ask them to carry it if we were not completely convinced of its necessity. Other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are facing similar tasks. Most of them have increased their period of military service and are expanding their production of military equipment.
For example, the Canadian Government has announced its intention of spending 5,000 million dollars on defence over the next three years: for the coming year, the rate of defence expenditure will be four times as great as that envisaged before the outbreak of the Korean war. The French defence budget for the present financial year represents an increase of 75 per cent. over that voted in July last year, and the Italian Government will be spending almost twice as much on defence this year as in any previous year since the end of the war.
Finally, I might remind the House that the Congress of the United States have approved the expenditure during the fiscal year 1950–51 of the enormous sum of 41,800 million dollars, or nearly £15,000 million. Moreover, countries like Denmark and Norway in spite of their small populations and lack of industrial capacity, are making most praiseworthy efforts. General Eisenhower, after his recent visit, referred in specially enthusiastic terms to the fine spirit he had encountered in Norway.
We shall co-operate fully with all these countries, and we shall support any joint efforts in the production field which will be to the common advantage. We are all helping each other. We have been able to supply useful quantities of equipment to the French. The Canadians have made over to the Dutch complete equipment for one division and they are now about to do the same for Belgium. We have also worked out with these countries common training schemes, exchanges and the like. Obviously, we cannot lag behind. We have never taken the line that we must be on the watch for fear we may be doing more than someone else. It is our right and our duty to take the lead and set a high standard.
The countries of the Commonwealth, too, are playing their part, as they always have done, and our defence policy is based on the utmost possible co-operation with them. Canada, of course, is, like ourselves, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and our defence planning with her has been carried out through that machinery. During the year, defence discussions have taken place with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Ceylon and there has been the usual close collaboration between the Services of all the Commonwealth countries.
Defence was not the immediate subject of the Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers held in London in January, but naturally the opportunity was taken to have a general exchange of views on defence questions of common interest. We are also exploring the possibility of making more use of colonial manpower in order to strengthen our armed forces.
What I have described to the House represents—let us face it—a big step towards re-armament. There may be some who fear it means that war is considered inevitable. I reject this assumption: nothing could be further from the truth. Our primary purpose in undertaking this formidable task is to ensure that war can be prevented. We believe that our best hope of averting another war lies in making ourselves, along with other countries, too strong to be attacked, and that, once we have reached a position of strength, not only will it be possible to negotiate with other countries outside the North Atlantic orbit more successfully, but there will be a tremendous revival of confidence and morale throughout the free world.
There is one matter to which I must refer before I conclude. The charge is sometimes levelled against the Labour Party that we are not enthusiastic about re-armament. I admit that we should prefer to see our resources in manpower and production directed to more peaceful and beneficial ends.
We do not like re-armament for its own sake: nor do we believe that to be the disposition of the nation. We are also aware that there are some people, not confined to the Labour Party—they are to be found in all parties—whose conscience revolts against the organisation of defence preparations.
Yet, when exposed to danger, which derives from the mischievous activities of anti-democratic countries, who have no scruples about piling up huge stocks of arms, we must, with resolution, accept the responsibility of providing adequate safeguards against aggression, and, if we must choose between submission to tyranny and enslavement, on the one hand, and the safeguarding of our liberties and pattern of life, on the other, even if our preference involves temporary burdens and hardships, there is no other course open to us than to defend—at whatever cost—our security. Let us never forget that, above the hesitations, dissensions and partisan manoeuvres, stands the safety of the country and its people.
With the concluding sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence, I think every hon. Member on this side of the House will be in complete agreement. He has made a speech of remarkable breadth and sweep, and has given us a comprehensive survey of an immense subject, and I think we are all indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the information he has provided which certainly adds something to the rather meagre information which we received in the Prime Minister's statement. But, even with all the technical advantages at his disposal, he has not been able, as I am sure he would agree, to cover the whole field. Moreover, he felt obliged—no doubt for good reasons—to rely at one point on those vague mathematical formulae which I must say are familiar to me from old times. [Interruption.] Yes, but then we were at war.
And you have neglected your lesson. "Doubling." "100 per cent, increase," and all the rest, all depend, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, upon the starting point. But what shocked me was that when pressed as to the starting point, the right hon. Gentleman used the phrase, "Starting from practically nothing." At one point in his speech, but only at one, he seemed to be a little better at offence than at defence, but perhaps that was just a piece of the old Adam coming out. Doctor Johnson once made a parody of some famous lines and re-wrote them as follows:
Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.
The right hon. Gentleman's new version is, "Who makes stupid interruptions must expect a stupid reply." In any case, I cannot hope to cover the wide ground that has been opened up today, and I shall therefore leave very many detailed points to my hon. and right hon. Friends who have made a particular study of this question, I shall only try to pick out some of the major problems on the correct solution on which depends the success or failure of the whole national effort in which we are now engaged.
In the course of a similar debate last September, it was my duty to go back over the whole story of the Government's handling of our national security over a period of five years. It is indeed a sorry story of hesitations, weakness, vacillation and delay. I earned on that occasion a rather pompous rebuke in the best Wykehamist manner from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. I can assure him that I do not intend today to risk his renewed displeasure by any repetition of this painful and distressing history. Nevertheless, I think I might remind him and his colleagues that Ministers really cannot have it both ways. They cannot make a solemn appeal for national unity one day in the week and then pursue policies during the rest of the week calculated to stimulate the deepest national dissensions.
At the same time, I think it would be ungenerous not to recognise that this third edition, so to speak, of the Government's programme marks a substantial advance. In the first place, certain illusions have disappeared—the illusion that security can be got on the cheap or that it can only be sustained if large American money subventions are forthcoming. Those two illusions have been abandoned, and there is a more realistic approach to the problem. But, of course, the acid test remains, whether these plans will prove largely paper plans or whether they will be implemented as a first priority regardless of other more attractive and perhaps more popular projects, and in such a way that the strength of our economy can be maintained for the long as well as for the short run.
The problem of defence falls under many separate heads of which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt mainly with two—manpower and equipment. I shall say a word or two about organisation and our relations with our Allies. In all these matters we require at the moment both a short-term and a long-term plan. Having left everything so late, it will need the utmost skill and contrivance with the greatest possible drive and sense of urgency if one is not to interfere with the other. We have the immediate dangers against which we must do what we can, and then we have the further goal of achieving something like security in three or four years time. We have to try and reconcile the two.
In the short-term, we must face the realities of the modern world. What is to happen if an attack is made this summer by the Russian satellites upon Yugoslavia, by what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) called the other day a "Balkan-Korean process"? Incidentally, can the figures which my right hon. Friend gave of the new satellite strength be contradicted or confirmed? I would add one point. In view of the dangerous situation which has been allowed to develop in Albania and the fortification of the Port of Valona by nearly 4,000 Russian technicians, it seems to me that the Adriatic will present many difficulties even if resources of men and materials were available.
What is to happen if pressure is brought upon Persia this summer resulting in a threat to our Middle East interests, interests which are vital and essential to us, for without the oil supplies of the Middle East this country would indeed be in jeopardy. Oil is at once the Achilles heel of Russia, for she is a very small oil producer, and in the Middle East lies both Russia's greatest prize and the shrewdest blow which could be struck at Britain's strength.
We have also to face the fact that the strategical problem is infinitely more difficult than it was before any war. Then, in the event of war, our troops could move from Indian bases very rapidly either to Iraq or Iran, as indeed, they did. Now we have no bases in India, no Indian Army and no British Army in India or in Pakistan available for such tasks, and we have abandoned the only effective naval bases in the Eastern Mediterranean. This has meant a great gap in our defences and I do not see how it is easily to be filled.
It seems, therefore, that the first test that should be applied under the head both of manpower and of arms is how to prepare the maximum number of formed units that it is possible to make ready by land, sea and air during these dangerous days. Secondly, how to make the maximum number of field formations and units mobilisable at short notice. Thirdly, and very important, how to make a really efficient Civil Defence available in the shortest possible time. Lastly, how to produce or obtain the necessary weapons to make these units effective, and the necessary supplies of materials, including food, to give us at least some sense of security.
The maximum number of standing formations is, in my view, absolutely essential if European defence is ever to get under way. These must be visible and to a large extent stationed in Europe. Their equipment need not be complete down to the last dental chair, but their presence is the only way to stimulate European countries to make the contributions they are called upon to provide. It is for this reason that I so deplore the obstructive, not to say even contemptuous, attitude which the Government have shown towards the one effort that certain European nations are trying to make, which they call the European Army.
I know all the difficulties of that conception. They are, of course, very great, but any of us who have been in touch with our colleagues in different European Parliaments know that unless something of this kind is done, then the latent resources of France, Italy, Germany and the Low Countries will not, in fact, be developed to the full. Even if His Majesty's Government cannot see their way to join this organisation with a contribution of their own, surely they ought to have sent not the British ambassador in France with perhaps a military attaché—for he will only be an observer who can take no part—but high ranking officers who could take part in discussions and advise and make constructive suggestions.
If I have aright the figures that the right hon. Gentleman gave, at present there is one infantry division in Germany, and there are two armoured divisions, of which one is in process of formation. There is shortly to be another, which will make four in all. Four divisions will be our contribution to the European force. The Minister will correct me if I am mistaken, for it was difficult to follow in detail, but I understood him to say that we hope to have altogether by April of this year the equivalent of 10 divisions. I was rather struck by that phrase "equivalent of 10 divisions," because he used it just after he told us that he was not going to talk about numbers any more but about effective fighting units. If that is so, there are four divisions in Germany. When will there be six formed divisions available in the strategic Reserve, and what part, if any, will be in Britain available for use in Western Europe? Perhaps the Secretary of State for War may be able to answer that question.
I now come to a further point. How can these four divisions which do exist, or will exist, on the continent of Europe be brought up to effective strength by the present plans of the Government? Will the calling up of the Z Reservists be of the slightest use to them? Surely the Z Reservists will not be sent there for a fortnight's training. Therefore, the only use these Reservists can be is, not to sustain these divisions as formations, but merely to fill up the gaps on mobilisation. I am informed that a large part of the service troops for these divisions in Germany are at present supplied by the Germans. Is it proposed to continue this system, and will the arrangements now being discussed at Bonn at least give us the assurance that this valuable contribution from the Germans is made permanently available to us? Or have we to rely on filling their places by Z Reservists sent from this country after mobilisation before whose arrival, of course, these divisions are completely immobile? All this seems to me to be rather vague and somewhat risky. There is also a proviso.
I must here say a word with regard to the general question of the 15 days call-up. [An HON. MEMBER: "What proviso?"] I will come to it, but I want to insert a point here. Had the Government thought fit to propose a longer period, let us say a month, they would have had our support. The fortnight is certainly a useful exercise for the Territorials, if only, as the right hon. Gentle- man said, to introduce them to their comrades and to let them find their place and get accustomed to their equipment and arms. I have no doubt that the enthusiasm and the skill of the devoted officers and N.C.O.s who serve in the Territorials, with the assistance of the permanent cadres, will do everything to cram as much training as possible into this very short period.
But perhaps it should really be regarded as an expensive mobilisation test, because the proviso which the right hon. Gentleman made today, I think for the first time, seems to me somewhat to reduce the value of the scheme. If I understood him aright, he gave a guarantee that the same men would not be called up for training next year. This seems to be a very serious pledge to have given quite gratuitously in the dangerous conditions of today.
What surprises me about the general proposals on the Class Z Reservists is that they appear to have been in the Government's mind as long ago as 1948. The then Minister of Defence said:
Schemes have, therefore, been worked out by the Service Departments to meet this need."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 1107.]
How much better it would have been if we had set about this three years ago. Or is it only since the attack upon Korea that Ministers have decided that the Russians are a source of danger to the security of the world? There was something that was said by the right hon. Gentleman that seemed to confirm that view. But what about Malaya and the conquest and enslavement of the greater part of Central and Eastern Europe? What about the rape of Czechoslovakia? Were those not aggression?
At any rate, the Government can take this credit as regards the call-up. I think they should have full credit for it. They have placed the technical needs of the Services first. That has necessarily involved a discriminatory system. I am sure that those who are affected will realise that this over-riding compulsion, based on the technical requirements of the fighting Services, is one that the Government had to adopt. Nevertheless, from the psychological point of view, there is really nothing more disturbing to the individual than uncertainty as to both the principles and the application of this discrimination.
I would therefore suggest that, without perhaps issuing a comprehensive list of reserved occupations—that there is much to be said for and against that—it would be feasible, surely, to inform those Reservists who are quite definitely required, and always will be required, in civilian jobs that, so long as they remain in similar employment, they will not be recalled on mobilisation. There is a further matter which cannot be overlooked. There is a widespread feeling in the country that the list of reserved occupations, in the event of mobilisation or war, ought not to be so loosely or so widely drawn as to prove a sort of soft option, an easy method of avoiding a national duty. I think those Reservists now called up will cheerfully accept their obligations, and they will understand the need. I think the general body of Reservists would like to know where they stand, but I think also all of those who have served or may be called upon to serve in the future—indeed, the whole population—would like to feel that, so far as the needs of essential industry allow, national obligations of service shall be fairly spread throughout the whole of His Majesty's subjects.
I turn now to the question of arms and equipment. The Prime Minister told us very little about this. Paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 in the White Paper are very obscure. The Minister of Defence has told us a good deal more today, but there are some further points on which I should like to have some information. First of all, are we envisaging a British programme taken in isolation? Is it intended to cover all our requirements, and only our requirements, by land, sea and air, and to provide them from the factories of this island; or is it a combined British and Commonwealth programme? Is it intended to marry the resources and the productive capacity that exist and that can be made available throughout Britain and the Commonwealth, or is it intended to have a joint programme of all English-speaking peoples—Britain, the Commonwealth and the United States?
How far are we trying to be self-sufficient? How far are we going to try to draw upon outside help and get it wherever we can, both for the major arms of war and for the minor items of equipment—clothing, vehicles and things of that kind? It may be argued that the plan should be wider still, and that the whole of the European resources should be drawn into it, but I am bound to say that at this stage anything that Western Europe can produce for themselves they will have to keep for themselves.
That is the first thing to settle. I am particularly urged to ask this question by a sentence in the Prime Minister's speech, which the right hon. Gentleman somewhat, but not very largely, elaborated today. The Prime Minister said that the first order is being placed for the four-engine jet bomber. If my information is right, the facts are these. Four British firms have been working upon this project for several years, and one of them has made a prototype. No doubt, I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I have to use the information available. That prototype has not yet left the ground; it has never yet flown. If, therefore, the production order has been placed, it is being ordered, as we used to say, from the drawing board—always a somewhat hazardous expedient, even in time of war. None of these bombers can be made available except in the long run. None of them will be ready for three or four years.
That is all to the good, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is a risk. I am sure that he and his advisers would be the first to say that they would rather see a prototype flown before they gave an order for it. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny that these machines cannot be ready for three or four years. Of course, the Canberra, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred as a bomber, is not really a heavy bomber at all; I think it is now being considered as something in the nature of a fighter-bomber or intruder.
I understand that for our short-term needs in heavy bombing we have taken the American B.29, and I am told by my friends and others who are well informed that the new British bomber, when it comes, is likely to be a better machine than the American B.36 and perhaps even better than its successor. I have no doubt that the British and American industries in their competitive effort will continue to leapfrog each other, and I think this is a very healthy competition in design which should continue, but I think that careful thought should be given to the question where bulk production is to be placed.
For instance, it might be desirable that the production of the new British bomber should be placed, either in part or in whole, in the Commonwealth or in the United States. This is being done to some extent with the Canberra. I am naturally thinking of the immense pressure of effort which we have got to make. We have to keep going our exports, which are largely provided from the same kind of industries and from the same capacity as is needed for re-arming. We have only a limited capacity and only a limited amount of skilled manpower. I cannot answer all these questions, but I think they should be posed, and they are the kind of questions which will run through the whole programme, if it is really to be an effecive joint effort of the free peoples of the world.
A similar point was put to me the other day about certain types of ships. Many people fear that in the event of war our large ports might be put out of commission either for short or long periods. I remember that in the late stages of the Mediterranean war we were very much hampered by the shortage of small ships which could be used in the smaller harbours along the Mediterranean coasts. This will be even more the case in the future, because for a good many reasons the tendency is for the tonnage of merchant ships to increase. Is any provision being made for tenders or landing craft, or whatever may be necessary, for the unloading of ships standing out to sea, which may not be able to get into the great ports? This seems to me just the sort of thing which should be agreed between the Allies, and these are the class of orders which could well be handled overseas, by factories rather than by conventional shipyard production.
This leads me to the next point—the question of standardisation of weapons. After the war I heard a good deal of the joint committee which was supposed to be studying this problem in Washington. I have, of course, not been informed of its results, but I should like to have some reassurance on the matter. I remember very well in the dismal, dark days in the summer of 1940 trying to find somebody who could make 300 ammunition to use with the American rifles which came to us as the gift of the President. This has always stuck in my mind—the absurdity of having this great mass of rifles and the very limited ammunition and the impossibility of manufacturing it. It must be remembered that the armies which may now take the field in Europe, if they have to, which God forbid, under the command of General Eisenhower, will be complicated enough with their various lines of supply, and if anything can be done towards the standardisation if not of weapons at least of ammunition, and bore and calibre, the problems of the Staff will be correspondingly reduced.
Here, perhaps I might be allowed to say with what a thrill of emotion I heard, as did all my friends, of General Eisenhower's acceptance of his new duties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I had the privilege of trying to serve him in the first great campaign which he undertook, and anyone who has lived close to General Eisenhower at such a time knows that there is no man who could have a greater claim upon our confidence and our gratitude.
Apart from these general arguments, there are one or two special points which I should like to raise about the Air Force and Navy. In regard to the Air Force, I am sure everyone agrees with the decision to call up the Auxiliary squadrons for a three-month period. But, as the right hon. Gentleman very generously said, this is a heavy burden upon a number of patriotic people, often men playing important roles in civil life. Since there is still a certain amount of doubt about this, I should like to ask a question. Are the squadrons of one flight or of two flights? If they are still of one flight. when will they be two-flight squadrons? And if they are still of one flight and cannot be brought up to two flights, what is the reason? Is it because the aircrew are not available? Is it because the ground staff are not available? Or is it because the machines are not available or because they are obsolescent? Or is it that instead of ordering sufficient jet fighters for ourselves, when we ought to have ordered them, the Government encouraged the manufacturers to find their market overseas?
I hesitate to speak about the Royal Navy because of the old tradition that their Lordships always get what they want and the Navy always travels first-class. I am bound to say that their Lordships have not come off too badly here, but there are one or two points to which I should like to call the attention of the House for, after all, without the command of the sea an island is not a very agreeable place in which to live and is not a very convenient base of operations.
The dangers to sea communications are greater today than they have ever been before in our history. The Russian submarines are ten times as numerous, and some of them may be twice as fast, as those which we had to face at the outbreak of the last war. As the House well knows, they are fitted with various devices which make them difficult to detect and destroy. I am quite sure that the brains of the Navy, and those who serve them, have been making progress in dealing with this problem.
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman might consult his right hon. Friend or ask Stalin to answer the question. I cannot tell him. As a rule, submarines have a way of moving about the seas; that is what they are for.
These are the facts and they are not pleasant. In 1939 we had 158 destroyers and 61 frigates, and the Germans had 30 ocean-going submarines. Today we have 112 destroyers—we always seem to get rid of destroyers when wars are over—and 164 frigates, but Russia has not 30 but between 300 and 400 submarines. It is said by some authorities that they are likely to have 1,000 within two years.
Everybody must recognise that those of us who have to speak on this side of the House have responsibilities, which we try to fulfil. We are not given the information which, of course, only Ministers have, but if the right hon. Gentleman says that my estimate of 300 or 400 is absurd, I ask him, when he replies, to make his estimate.
I have offered no estimate to the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I have not offered any estimate to the House. I am asking the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who himself has made an estimate, a simple question: How does he know? Or is it simply guesswork?
I am now becoming more and more lost in the tortuous nature of the right hon. Gentleman's replies. He now tells us how dangerous it would be if we were to tell the Russians how many submarines they have. In any event, I think it will be admitted that the preponderance and danger is far greater than it was at the outbreak of the war and, therefore, that nothing should be left undone to increase the readiness of the Fleet and of the Reserve Fleet in respect of destroyers, light frigates and similar craft.
We were, however, given some assurance in the right hon. Gentleman's speech today, and to some extent those assurances satisfied us, but I should like to feel that a great drive is being made in respect of this most vital aspect of defence, for without sea defence all the rest falls to the ground. One thing I may add. I hope the Admiralty will not sell any more ships to Egypt or to anybody else in present conditions. Even the cost of refitting them before transport to their purchasers is an extra and unnecessary call upon our resources. No more ships and no more jet fighters should be sent overseas except as part of an Allied plan.
I should like to say a word about organisation. I think there is general agreement—and much was said on this in recent debates—that nothing effective will happen in the realm of strategy until and unless a proper structure exists representing the three great groups of free nations—Britain and the Empire, the United States and Europe—which can give effective political directives to the commanders and the organisers of rearmament. All the great machinery which was built up in the war must be reconstituted and it must include our European Allies.
Apart from this higher problem, which was debated only the other day with great force by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), is our own organisation altogether right? I have not the knowledge to answer all the questions which I pose, and there is one question which, perhaps, I rather hesitate to put, although I feel that the House ought to be thinking about it. There are many people who feel that if war should come the first thing a Prime Minister would do would be to reconstitute the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Of course, if that is not so, the question falls to the ground; but, if it is so, should it not be reconstituted now?
Even if the Ministry of Supply were in the hands of a Minister in any way comparable with the men who held that office during the war, I should still feel that this Ministry was overburdened. It has the whole task of Army supply. It has all those regulatory functions over a great sphere of activities that go with the Ministry, and it has now apparently undertaken the management of the iron and steel industry. I feel that a Ministry, and, above all, a Minister gifted with drive and energy, are necessary if the Air Force is to get the magnificent supply service which it got from the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the last war.
I should like to say a word about materials. It has been the policy of His Majesty's Government during the last year to sacrifice much in order to improve the dollar-sterling exchange and the balance of payments. To the extent that this has been done merely by postponing purchases it has been wrong, for His Majesty's Government have done collectively the opposite to what every business man in the world has tried to do individually. Every business man has tried to get out of money into things, but the Government have postponed buying some of the most necessary things, which could have been bought at half the price a year ago, in order to show a surplus of money. It is a very doubtful policy.
However, some things can still be bought, and anything that can be bought now, so long as it is something which, in war, figures in the essential import programme, should be purchased, with a view to saving tonnage, wherever it can be got, and stockpiled. It might even be wise to try to get a little meat.
We were told that the Prime Minister had taken up with the President—very late; but, still, better late than never—the possibility of reconstituting the Raw Materials Board. I should like to know what progress has been made. We were told in answer to a Question yesterday that 20 nations had been invited to send delegates to the various standing committees for each commodity. I hope that we shall not follow the bad example set by the Government in another sphere: I hope we will send full members, and not mere observers.
Of course, I admit that it is not possible to exercise in peace—or what we term peace—the full sanctions which were used in war. Then, of course, the decisions of the Combined Materials Board were enforced by the British and American Navies through the navicert system, but this fact confirms the conclusion to which I already have drawn attention, that unless some political overriding authority is rapidly set up to give effect to the plans of the free peoples, then these committees, and all the rest of this machinery, will become consultative and advisory and no effective action will be taken.
Above all these questions and criticisms, this plan will not be carried out unless it is in the hands of a body of men who have the ability to preside over its design and development, and have the strong sense of urgency to sweep aside all difficulties. Neither the Government as a whole nor the particular Ministers selected for these immense tasks have so far shown more than a modest degree of administrative capacity. But there must be something even more than that. There must be the power to abandon prejudices, to rise to the level of events, to follow a steady and a consistent course, and to appeal to the deepest instincts and to the indomitable resolution of the whole nation—in a word, to lead.
I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House are united in deploring the necessity for this largely increased expenditure on armaments; but the Minister of Defence said today that the Government were in no doubt as to the necessity for them. I think that what the House is still a little in doubt about is as to the effectiveness of the proposals that are before the House. General Bradley, the United States Chief of Staff, said the other day, speaking of the American programme,
The minimum risk and maximum security lie in creating and in maintaining forces that are reasonably adequate for defence but obviously inadequate for conquest.
and he declared that, as far as the American programme was concerned,
Such are the forces envisaged, within the limitations of honest human judgment, in the American programme.
I think the question which we have to put to ourselves today is: Can we say the same about the proposals before the House and the country today? Are they adequate for defence? Will they enable us to fulfil our part in the Atlantic Pact organisation to deter aggression? That, after all, is the acid test, which, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman will accept, of these proposals.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) said, it is a little difficult to know on what calculations these proposals are based. In July the Minister of Defence gave us the Government's assessment of Soviet strength. To meet that we had to have a programme, he told us, of over £3,000 million expenditure in a period of a little over three years. Now, a little over six months later, we are told we have to face an expenditure of over £4,000 million in the same period. What has happened during that period? The Minister said today that the strength of the satellite Powers had increased. He then went on to say that the intervention of China was a new factor. I should have thought that in any calculation made at any time of the forces that we have to meet it would have been a consideration that Communist China might throw her weight in with Communist Russia, and that that consideration must have entered into that calculation. Therefore, it is a little difficult to say on what basis these new proposals are made.
The proposals ask not only for an acceleration of the programme of this country. That is common to all the Atlantic Pact countries. There has been an acceleration in America and in Western Europe. What we should like to know is whether we are to be faced again in a few months with a new assessment and with a new programme, possibly involving even greater expenditure—in fact, if we now today know the worst, and whether these measures are part of a greater, co-ordinated plan of the Atlantic Pact organisation. Or are the Government just simply "putting up the ante"?
Now, whatever may be the contribution that this country is asked to make to the common defence pool our first duty is to secure our own supplies. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley spoke of the submarine menace. It is an extraordinary thing that in the years before 1939 we forgot how near we had come to starvation in 1917; and in 1943, so grave was the submarine menace that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), among his many other preoccupations, had himself to take over the chairmanship of the Atlantic Committee, which showed how urgent was the priority that had to be given at that stage in the war to that particular problem.
What is the position today? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley pointed out, quite rightly, that in 1939 the Germans had not a very strong submarine force. The submarine position is very different today. We are not in a position to know the exact figures. The right hon. Gentleman quoted some rather grim figures of Russian submarine strength; but even the Minister of Defence himself, in July, said that the Russians had a strong submarine fleet, and I think that he added that most—or, at any rate, many—of those submarines were of a modern type. For five years they have had the advantage of the technical skill of German technicians, which is certainly a very serious consideration in this matter, and we all realise that many developments that we know of have taken place, principally the Schnorkel device, which is a very formidable development indeed.
All those factors make it vitally necessary for us to give high priority to this recurrent, continual menace to the life and the war effort of this country. It makes it absolutely vital for a high priority to be given to the improvement of the speed and the detection apparatus of destroyers and other anti-aircraft ships. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman, although only in a passing reference to this menace, say that we were to have more frigates and more naval aircraft for this purpose.
It is an enormously important consideration that we should strengthen Coastal Command, because Lord Tedder has pointed out that it was estimated that in the last war, of enemy shipping lost over the area of the Baltic and the North-West European seaboard, 88 per cent. of the enemy ships sunk and damaged fell to aircraft, and 77 per cent. in the Bay of Biscay and the North Cape area. That is a very remarkable new fact which must be taken into consideration. I hope that Coastal Command, which did such amazing service—unspectacular service—in the last war, guarding our shores day and night, will be given a high priority in the defence programme of today.
This matter not only affects the vital supplies of this country, the food and raw materials coming in, but also affects the supplies of men and materials coming from America and Canada, upon which, after all, the defences of the free world must very largely depend. This duty of escort and transport has always fallen very heavily upon this country, and I am perfectly certain that it will continue to do so if we are so unfortunate as to be engaged in war again.
I should now like to say a word about the proposals for the Army. A few months ago the Leader of the Opposition said that the odds against the Western land Forces should be estimated at about eight or nine to one. So far as I know, no one has challenged that estimate; perhaps it may be challenged later in the debate. But what is our contribution in this respect? It is obviously not for us to provide a manpower Army; we are not in a position to do so. With our limited and restricted manpower capacity our contribution must be in highly trained divisions. I think there is universal agreement on all sides of the House that the two most vital proposals are, first, to make the present standing Army effective and to provide it with a full complement of up-to-date equipment plus reserves and, second, to provide more fully equipped divisions. We should like to know whether the Government's proposals will fulfil those two vital considerations—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me that those are the two vital considerations. First of all, are they going to provide the reserves?
The right hon. Gentleman nods his head. As he said earlier, there has been a great deal of criticism of the 15 days call-up of the Z reservists. We are told that 15 days is either too long or too short; that if it is to be merely a mobilisation exercise it will be too long; but that if it is to be a refresher course it will be too short. I should have thought that was rather a summary judgment. I am informed that for some branches of the Service a fortnight may be quite adequate and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, may provide very useful experience. On the other hand, for certain highly skilled trades in the Army I should have thought it would be less than useless. It is perfectly true that the development in certain branches of the Service has been so revolutionary—radar is given as one example—that it would be almost impossible for the reservists to do anything but start from scratch. Is the period likely to be extended for certain trades and branches of the Service? Are the refresher courses to be repeated? I think the right hon. Gentleman said that they were not.
I gathered so from his speech. We should like to have a little more information on that, because if the period is to be restricted to a fortnight even for highly skilled branches of the Service it will not get us very far. If this call-up is to be a mobilisation exercise, or a first instalment of a wider plan, then I believe that a good deal of the uneasiness in the public mind would be allayed. But if it is to be a "once-for-all," then I think that it will serve a very useful purpose.
I think there is a misunderstanding here, which I should like to clear away if possible. It must be kept in mind that at the end of this year, and thereafter for two or three years, up to 1954, we shall be getting the National Service reservists; that is to say, the men who, having served two years with the active Army, will come up for their reserve liability, so that it may be unnecessary to repeat this exercise next year. It all depends on the number of men available and the circumstances.
But supposing an emergency arises before we are in a position to have those reservists we should have to rely to a great extent upon the men who are called up under this particular scheme. Therefore, it seems to me to be taking rather a risk, certainly as far as the time limit is concerned, if we are to rely solely upon the National Service men coming in in the ordinary way.
I imagine that they will then be called up for longer periods. The right hon. Gentleman is postulating whether war will then have arrived. I imagine that the defence proposals now put before the House have as their object the prevention of a war and the deterring of aggression, and it is in that light that the House is today called upon to consider these proposals.
The second question is whether these proposals will provide more fully equipped divisions. As far as I can see so far, they will not provide one extra division. The right hon. Gentleman said that we were going to have the equivalent of 10 divisions. That is what he said in his speech today.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the reservists who will be called up for the fortnight for refresher courses will have modern equipment for their training, such as it is?
The right hon. Gentleman does not say anything about the Z reservists who will be called up for the Army. Is it certain that they will be able to train with modern equipment, if they are all equipped at the same time, as they will be? We remember only too well the experience before the last war, in the third year of re-armament, when, as I think the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in his book, the Guards were training with flags instead of machine-guns, and it was impossible to equip the Territorial Army simultaneously with the Regular Army.
We hope that if these exercises are to be effective, more Z reservists will be able to train with modern equipment. The Prime Minister said in his statement earlier this year that our plans for expanding equipment would depend entirely on the early provision of machine-tools, many of which could only be obtained from abroad. This may entail a good deal of delay. It is the crux of the whole programme, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say whether, in the intervening period before the Government are able to get these machine tools from abroad, they are making arrangements to get equipment from the United States to tide us over that period.
The Leader of the Opposition referred today, in an interruption of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, to the difficulty of assessing the progress that is being made in providing equipment for all branches of the Services. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of doubling this and increasing the production of that. I well remember sitting in the House for many years before the war and hearing the speeches which were then made by other Ministers of Defence and other Secretaries of State responsible for the Services, in which they were able to give us the same assurance about doubling this and increasing the number of that, and it was very difficult to assess the progress that was being made.
I do not set much store by secret Sessions. I do not believe that a great deal of information would be given or received in that way. But I do wish that a body analogous to the Committee of Imperial Defence might be revived. It served a very useful national purpose. It was a very small body composed of only a few Privy Councillors in the House to whom information of a detailed character was given. I think that it will be agreed by all sections of the House that it worked most effectively and did very good work in the national interest. I do not know whether it would be possible to revive a body of that kind in order that some detailed information might be given to it.
After all, we cannot assess the quality of the re-armament programme by the expenditure that is devoted to it. We remember that in the years before 1939 we spent nothing comparable to what we are spending now on re-armament, but it was a very considerable sum of money in those days. We were told in the House by, I think, the Prime Minister of the day that we were building up a power that was terrifying. In the event it frightened no one more than ourselves and our Allies.
We lost a good many battles before we got to that one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh! "] Certainly. It was only the resolve of a few picked and brave men, to whom I pay great tribute, with a few machines, which eventually won that battle. No one can say that the Battle of Britain was won because the Government, before 1939, had produced efficient or effective defences for this country.
I am sure that the noble Lady wishes to be fair in this matter. To sum it up, the success of the Battle of Britain was due to the radar chain that existed on the East Coast of Britain and the high quality of the eight-gun fighter, the idea of which was conceived in 1932.
I pay tribute to those who took part in it, but I do not think that anyone can say that the winning of the Battle of Britain was due to the efficient defences built up by the Government before the war. Most of the experiments which were made then were made by our scientists, and they were not due to any expenditure of money by the Government of the day. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to have a fair, impartial and well-informed opinion on the state of the defences of this country before 1939, let him read the account given by the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps I may be allowed to refresh the minds of hon. Gentlemen with only one quotation. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the gross neglect and deficiencies in our defences and said that the responsibility for the failure to fulfil the promises made to us rested on those who had governed and guided this island for the preceding five years.
I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his interruption. In answer I would say that I think it is beyond dispute that this country never went into war with such good defences as it did in 1914. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It had for the first time, organised by a Liberal Government, a Territorial Force, and also, which was vital in those days, the strongest Fleet in the world, and I think that it can be said that we acquitted ourselves extremely well.
After this long controversial interlude, may I say that I hope that this time we shall profit by the tragic mistakes which were made in those years. I hope that this time we shall make our defences sure and take our full and effective part in deterring aggression and in securing that peace which is, after all, the earnest desire of the common peoples of the world, not only in the free countries, but, I believe, behind the Iron Curtain, as well.
I listened with pleasure to the hon. Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who has spoken with such impartiality on these matters and has given historical proof of what she has been saying. I could not help thinking, while she was speaking, that the dilemma which confronts us today is somewhat similar to the one which confronted her distinguished father in 1914. I think that her father would have desired to go down in history as one of our great social reformers, a man whose desire it was to improve the lot of his fellow men, especially the work-people of this country. But the disaster of war overtook the world, and he now figures in our history not only as a great social reformer, but as one of the great warriors of the ages.
That is the dilemma which is also confronting us. Let us be under no illusion. This re-arrpament programme upon which we have been forced to embark is nothing less than a disaster. It is a disaster that so much of the work of mankind should now have to be devoted to the production of weapons of death. The desire of us all is to see peace in the world, and that is our object in everything we are doing. We want to see peace on the basis of liberty and economic survival of our country. We have no aggressive intentions. We desire to work for a system whereby the raw materials and trade of the world can be shared. We want to see the labour of mankind devoted to the purposes of producing food, clothing and all the necessities of life. That is the basis on which we must approach this matter.
Every Member has had to face the terrible crisis of war in the course of his life-time. On the last occasion we faced a great crisis alone, but we are now facing this problem in association with our Allies. This places a responsibility not only on us but on our Allies. We must now give consideration to something we did not have to take into account before, when we and America created the greatest military and economic organisation that brought Hitler down. We cannot now enter into arrangements to turn our industrial machine over to war purposes without a firm guarantee on the part of America that we shall not be left with a machine that cannot be used for peacetime production. I believe that the Government will see the need for this kind of negotiation now.
We have based our hopes and plans upon the United Nations. The Labour Government have stood firmly by the United Nations since 1945. That is the rock upon which we must build. We hoped, in 1945, for co-operation among the three Great Powers—the United States, the British Commonwealth and the Soviet Union—but that co-operation did not materialise, and we are now facing the effects of that lack of co-operation. We hoped for international disarmament, for an international security force and international control of the atomic energy. All this has been denied to us, and my verdict is that the major blame for this catastrophe rests on the Soviet Union.
I do not say that with any enthusiasm or venom, but state it clearly as a fact. I hope that we shall be able to avoid its consequences. We should be ready at any time in the future months and years to go back to what we hoped for in 1945, which is to have the closest possible cooperation with the Soviet Union, with Western Europe and with the United States. I believe that this policy can succeed. But once we were faced with the possibility of a failure on the part of Russia to co-operate there was only one sort of safety for ourselves and other nations—to combine together and use the tremendous power of the democratic nations as a bulwark of strength.
It is no use running away from facts; they catch up with us in the end. We have seen Russia extending her control over other Powers one by one—Hungary, Roumania, Czechoslovakia, North Korea. East Germany, Poland and Bulgaria, That is what confronts us at the present time. Yugoslavia came within that orbit, but she escaped. We have also seen what happened in regard to Berlin. The Berlin blockade could not fail to have impressed anybody. That was an attempt to starve two million people into submission to the will of another Power. That terrible fact must also be taken into consideration in deciding what our course should be. I do not say this in any spirit of ill-will or hatred. I merely state it as a fact.
But with North Korea we were faced with a new factor, which was military aggression. The United Nations decided to resist aggression in North Korea, and that decision was one of the greatest decisions in history. Events did not go as well as we thought, but great human sacrifices have been made. This brings me to the question of China. I regard Chinese intervention in Korea as a national disaster from her point of view, as well as an international disaster. I can understand people making excuses for Chinese aggression, but I cannot understand those who say that there is no Chinese aggression. We must accept this as another fact.
I believe that the British policy in regard to China has been the right one. We are told by some that because China has now been labelled—I prefer not to use the word "branded"; let us tone it down as much as we can—there is no hope for any future negotiation. I cannot believe that to be true. Britain did not sponsor the resolution to label China as an aggressor. If Chinese statesmen are wise, they will play their part around the conference table and abandon all aggressive actions outside their frontiers. None of the Chinese problems can be solved by military force, and her problems are very vast indeed. China needs the help of the outside world, and she can get it if she will act wisely at this moment. Not the least difficult problem about this is the problem of the future of 100 million Japanese people on the islands of Japan. The Chinese should remember that their brave and noble efforts against aggression would have been in vain had they not been matched by the bravery and sacrifice of Britain and the United States, and they would not today be a free and independent Power without the co-operation and help of Britain and the United States and the countries of the British Commonwealth.
We cannot state too often that we do not want war with China. To my mind it would be a most stupid action on our part to enter into conflict with that country, but that does not mean that we shall not resist aggression if she goes outside her own frontiers. That follows logically from everything that we have done. We must continue to resist aggression. The only sanction which I should care to put upon the Chinese rulers is that they should have the privilege of ruling China. They will find difficulties enough, and if they successfully rule 450 million people they will find a great place in history. I believe it is possible to create a basis of peace with China.
We should get away from the idea that we are waging an ideological war. I do not think that this is Communism versus Capitalism, or Social Democracy versus Communism. This is an effort against the ambitions of the Russians to subdue the rest of the world. Let us not put it on an ideological basis. If we are to remain free, we have to combine everyone from Tito to Truman. That, of course, brings me to the difficulty of the Leader of the Opposition, because in his long career he has gone very close to Tito and he has wandered far on the right side of Truman. We may have difficulty in fitting him in. In order to remain free, we must have tolerance in political ideas and great breadth of vision in our economic ideas. We must be prepared for a planned and ordered world in the economic sense.
That brings me to the subject of German re-armament. The other evening it was asserted that an hon. Member on this side of the House had attacked the Germans much worse than anyone else. I think we had better forget some of the things which were said about the German people in the past.
Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend; they are not so bad, and we want the friendship of German democracy. That is the only basis on which we can go forward. We want no friendship with those responsible for the horrors and terrors of the camps in Europe and for the horrors of the last war, and we cannot appeal to the German people on the basis of letting free the tormentors of Schumacher. That is the position which we must take up. A place must be found for the German people in the new Europe and in the world.
The Government have accepted German re-armament in principle, but no executive action is to be taken to implement it until it is considered at a four-Power conference or we have abandoned hope of such a conference. No one on this side of the House wants German rearmament, but if we are ever forced to the position under which Western Germany must be defended, then I do not want to see British Z Reservists having to do the job. On this subject we can negotiate with Russia, provided she is willing to sit round the conference table and consider the future of Germany. The statesmen of the world can find a solution better than re-arming Germany. With common sense and co-operation amongst the war allies, we could immediately pass to an entirely new situation.
It is very difficult to get the military-minded to pass into a new age. They stuck to cavalry during the First World War and they tried to go back to pikes during the Second World War. We have now passed into the atomic age. Weapons like tanks can only take the place of police forces. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Korea?"] We have not passed into atomic warfare in Korea; we have deliberately prevented it, but if a great conflict breaks out among the major Powers of the earth, I see no prospect of avoiding atomic warfare. We must face that fact, as must the people in the Kremlin, because if it means the end of our civilisation it also means the end of theirs. On that basis we can do something to reach a compromise which would enable us to make progress in the world, freed from the fear of war.
The most important aspect of our problems today is the economic aspect. If we could use in a magical way the immense power of Britain, the vast power of the United States and the latent power in Western Europe for production, we could move forward into a state of society in which we could easily defend ourselves and still lift the standard of life of the peoples of the earth in the areas which we control. We should not take a gloomy view of what is in front of us, but with courage and audacity we should move out of this difficult situation into one which would mean a great advance in progress for humanity. We should make a great effort to set up a real world organisation with the Soviet Union inside it.
I now come to the Opposition. One difference between ourselves and the Opposition is the question of planning—to plan or not to plan. I notice that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) has abandoned his former position and has come out as a planner. The Tory Party have always had—
No, there are a great many differences but the chief point of controversy between us—let me put it that way—is to plan or not to plan. During the period 1945–50 they declared that they would not plan the world, but would leave it so that everything would go to chance. They claimed that by that method it would run very much more effectively. How people responsible for the greatest plan that the world has known, the plan that brought down Hitler, could abandon planning altogether, passes my comprehension. We in the Labour Party say that unless there is national planning and international planning, there will be disaster. It is fairly easy for the Opposition to change their tune in times of danger because they change in every war. They are ready to plan for war purposes but not for peace purposes. We must be prepared to have international planning. I see no way of avoiding 101 times the pre-war price for wool, nine times the price for rubber and six times the price for tin, unless we have international planning on a grand scale.
The other thing I want them to do is to be a patriotic party. I want them to put the interests of the nation first. Let us consider what their position is. We have nationalised a number of industries. We have nationalised the steel industry. That has been the verdict of the people. What has been the attitude of the Tory Party to nationalisation? Every effort to make things difficult in the nationalised industries has been made by them.
I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for that intervention. I believe that unless this nation goes forward fairly unitedly, if we have any section against the great national effort, we shall not succeed. I want to face that fact, in making my appeal to the Opposition and to the Tory Party to mend their ways, because that is one of the best ways in which they can help forward the affairs of this country. I will quote from a speech made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) at the Tory conference. This is what he said:
There is only one other thing I want to say, and I am putting this by way of warning. In the industries which are menaced by nationalisation at the moment there is a very small minority of people who do not resist the Government wholeheartedly in its nationalisation methods because they have got at the back of their minds the hope that they are going to get a job on these nationalised hoards. Let us therefore make it clear, so that there is no misunderstanding in the minds of those industrial quislings, that betrayal and appeasement never pay in the long run.
If the Opposition approach the organisation that takes place in the steel industry in the spirit of regarding anyone who helps the Government of the day to carry out the will of the House of Commons as an industrial "quisling," they will meet with disaster. I ask them to put the
affairs of their country on a higher plane than that.
Hon. Members who were here the other day heard the debate on meat. I am going to end my speech with a word to America—if she will listen. I want America to do something that the Tory Party refused to do the other day, and that is to assist this country in these meat negotiations. I cannot believe that if Senor Perón had been able to commission 300 people to do as much damage as possible to this country and to assist Argentina, he could have found 300 to do it more effectively than the Tory Party did in that debate. They did it with obvious glee. I believe that I saw representatives of Argentina sitting in the lovely seats in the new House of Commons, and I say that they should be well satisfied with the work that the Tory Party did. I want to say to America and those who are responsible for the meat negotiations: "The British great rearmament effort cannot be carried out on eight pennyworth of meat."
America, with its vast reserves in food and wealth can assist us in this matter. Unless we start off on a basis of comradeship, friendship and help in this matter we are bound to fail. My appeal is that the Americans should be a little bit more pro-British than the Tory Party.
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) in his arguments, partly because this is the first time I have addressed the House and partly because I want to be brief and not detain the House for long. I want to put forward a few points on matters which, after the speeches we have heard in the debate, may appear to be small, but I think are important. Unless they are attended to, I believe that much of the great re-armament plan may break down.
The first thing I want to urge upon the Government to do is to reconsider their decision to call up the Z reservists for only 15 days. I do not think that it is possible adequately to train even an infantry man in that time, considering all the complications of weapons and ground training that he has to carry out. There are many weapons, and in that time there will be the opportunity only for lectures to remind the Reservists of the workings of these weapons or to give demonstrations of their use. There will be no opportunity for the men to get used once again to handling them and knowing well how to use them. Perhaps that is all that the 15 days are supposed to do, just to refresh the minds of the men who are called up. Like many other hon. Members, I have done a number of refresher courses during my time in the Army. I think we would all agree that it would have been impossible after a lapse of two years, to re-gather in a fortnight such efficiency as we possessed in the past.
There are many subjects that we have to learn. Take field training, which is of vital importance. A man's whole life may depend upon it. If he cannot use his weapons with the sureness he should have, the efficiency of the whole unit may be impaired, if not indeed the whole unit endangered. There are many weapons of a specialist nature which many men have to re-learn. Even in an infantry battalion there are anti-tank weapons of various sorts, mortars and other equipment, such as wireless. They all demand a high standard of efficiency if they are to be properly used. It is absolutely vital that all these weapons be used efficiently and surely by the men who may be called upon in an emergency to fight for their country. It is not just a question of using them on the barrack square or in the barrack room on a flat, even surface. The terrain may be bad; it may be very cold, which may affect their competence in using them; it may be dark and they may have to know the feel of the weapon; and they may be under heavy fire, which is extremely unsettling in itself. Infantry training requires more than 15 days.
A great deal longer is required for some of the other arms. For instance, the Royal Armoured Corps is composed almost entirely of specialists. Each member of a tank crew has his own function, and it is often found that one man cannot carry out more than two of the jobs in a tank. These men need a greater degree of skill in operation than do the ordinary infantrymen. I should have thought that a longer period of training was required to get the full use out of the Armoured Corps. A tank is a very valuable and somewhat scarce piece of equipment, and if we are to make full use of the tanks it is essential to have competent men to man them and so minimise the chance of unnecessary loss.
More important perhaps than all that is that this House has a duty to ensure that everything is done that can be done for the man who is called up to serve his country in order to provide him with the maximum safety. If by reducing his period of training we so reduce his efficiency that he is not able to carry out his duties effectively and so endangers himself and his comrades who may have had longer training, we should be doing a very wrong thing.
I want to give the House a practical example of how this worked out in the last war. Two battalions were advancing in Holland in an attempt to relieve Arnhem. One was a regular British battalion which had been training hard and had served at Dunkirk and had many men of great experience. During their training in England the men had covered almost every feature of infantry training which was required. The other was a United States battalion of comparatively recent creation. I assure the House that what I have to say is intended in no way to be disrespectful to the United States troops, because they were very brave and fought magnificently, but they had not had the training.
The British battalion went up the street of a town with orders to clear it. They went up the side moving in the approved fashion from door to door and taking cover, with the men behind getting into the houses and clearing them of enemy and other men manning the windows to give protective fire to the men advancing up the street. It was a well-organised and well-planned operation. They had casualties, but they were remarkably few. The Americans approached the matter in a very different spirit. They advanced gaily up the middle of the street firing in what I might call the approved Hollywood style. They suffered casualties. As the front men were mown down others took their place. It was very brave but very wasteful, and it would have been very much better to have adopted the other system. I quote that story to illustrate the argument I have been using.
Another aspect of the problem, which has already been touched upon, is that if men have to work and fight together they must get a certain amount of the team spirit, and if they are to have that, surely it is important that the men who are called up should do their period of training with the units in which they will fight. It appears that these units will be those at present stationed in Germany, which are far below their peace establishment, and that means that on the basis of their war establishment, their present strength is about 50 per cent. That means that those battalions have in a very short time to fit in the men recently called up and accustom them to the new surroundings. Surely it would be better, even at the expense of the time taken in expanding the period of service, to send those men out to Germany where they may have to serve in the future?
That is not all. As the Minister of Defence stated, we are committed to maintaining certain divisions in Germany up to strength. I understand that in the autumn manoeuvres in Germany some tank regiments could not get their tanks on the roads without the assistance of Germans because they had not enough drivers. I also believe that many units have been forced to employ German mechanical assistance to keep their vehicles going. Surely it is time we put that matter in order.
I have a small suggestion to offer. I do not know whether it would work, but I believe that it is at least worthy of consideration. There are a large number of men retired from all the Forces on pension. Many of them have found that, because of their age, it is impossible to settle down in civil life or, in some cases, to get jobs. Would it not be possible to invite them to rejoin the home establishment and so release younger men to fill the vacancies in Germany?
The staff posts on the new divisions have also to be filled. It seems to me more important still that the men who will work together in those formations should have every chance of getting to know each other. Many of the jobs will be left vacant until the call-up and I do not imagine that it will be possible to fill them all with the number of officers at present available. Would it not be possible when the call-up takes place in the summer, to select in advance certain officers for staff training and let them go to Germany to learn the job on the spot, get used to the ground and meet the colleagues with whom they would work? That would give them a thorough grounding in the jobs they would carry out.
I have tried to make some suggestions which may prove of some use, but all sides of the House hope that the preparations about which we have been talking will not prove necessary. At the same time, it would be extremely foolish to neglect any opportunity to improve our defences, and, as it does not appear likely or even possible for us to have very large ground forces, let us make sure that the quality of our Forces is good. We are undertaking this policy to safeguard our position in case of attack on the one hand and, on the other, because the Government have undertaken—almost everyone in the House has agreed with the undertaking—to make a contribution of substantial size to the mutual Defence Force provided for under the Atlantic Pact. If we do not put the Army on a stronger basis, we shall not be able to honour this Treaty which we have freely entered into.
Furthermore, all Western Europe is watching us. They know exactly our strength and they are not likely to increase theirs if they see that we have not done much ourselves. Therefore, it behoves us to take all necessary steps to increase our efficiency and build up our strength if the whole of this Western European Defence Force is not to become a hollow mockery. For these reasons, I urge the Government to think again on the call-up and to see if they cannot do something to make it a little more effective.
Amidst all the turmoil which sometimes flows backwards and forwards across the benches of this House, it is nice to think that occasionally there are interludes, such as the one which has just taken place, when an hon. Member makes his maiden speech and the next hon. Member to rise can be an hon. Gentleman and say a few kind words, such as are so often lacking when we take part in debates in this House.
This is one of those occasions. I congratulate the noble Viscount on his excellent and very modest speech, backed up as it was by personal experience of the subject on which he spoke. He must be flattered by, or at any rate pleased with, the attention which was given to his words. Many of us who have been in this House for a number of years remember his illustrious father when he was a Member and the courageous attitude he showed before the war on a certain occasion—an attitude indicating our right as individual Members, all elected in the same way, whatever our birth or position, and one which I hope and am sure will be followed by the noble Viscount when he takes part in debates on more controversial occasions.
I notice that some of my hon. Friends have Motions on the Order Paper. I would say to them that there is no copyright in the word "peace." I think I am expressing the views of all hon. Members when I say that not one of us, however ardently we may support the Government in their effort, welcomes this occasion. Occasionally, however, it is necessary for the House of Commons, which, after all, is the mirror of the country, to express its views in no uncertain terms. Our liberties and our freedoms and our privileges to live our own way of life cannot be obtained merely by putting Motions on the Order Paper, or by expressing those excellent platitudes which we so often say about the things we desire. We have to work for them in this life and occasionally, I regret to say, in this predatory world we have to fight for them.
Defence in itself, or defence of this magnitude, is no complete answer to the problem with which we are faced today; but if diplomacy is to serve a useful purpose and achieve some peaceful method of settling international disputes, it is obvious that this country must be in a position to make her point of view heard amidst the march of men drowning the sound of the march of progressive views. I was particularly struck when I read in the books of reminiscences published by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, remarks made to him by Generalissimo Stalin, as he then was, when he was pressing for a second front. Always he came back to the same point: how many divisions have you got? No amount of explanation by the then Prime Minister, or by others who went to see Stalin, could be so convincing to him as evidence that we had teeth, and plenty of them, with which to bite.
We have encountered the mailed fist before. We have overcome aggression and intolerance. In the end we have been successful, but it has entailed tremendous sacrifice by the people of this country. Therefore, I say to my right hon. Friends the members of the Government that I applaud the courage which they have shown—and if I may say so, they of all people, particularly some of them—in giving a lead to this country, as I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence did today. I was very pleased with some of the remarks he made. I only hope that those remarks are backed with tangible evidence, which we shall see soon, of the military strength which he said was necessary and with which most of us in this House agree.
If diplomacy is to follow its natural course, we have to examine the defence programme that has been offered to the House this afternoon by my right hon. Friend. After all, we have to pay a very big price for it—£4,700 million in three years. Although I do not doubt the good intentions of the Government, I cannot forget that in 1935, when I first came to this House as a Member, we were presented with a White Paper offering a defence programme to be spent over five years costing £1,500 million. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, we know now, after the event, that White Paper programmes do not always produce either the men or the weapons commensurate with the magnitude of the money programme.
I want to examine for a few minutes some of the more salient parts of the defence programme of my right hon. Friend. Before I come to the British part of it, may I touch briefly on the question of Germany's part in the total defence organisation. I do not want to deal with the situation as it was dealt with on Monday night. As far as I can understand the words of the Government, it has been settled to this extent, that we accept the inevitability of a German contribution to the total defence programme. I mention this matter because I read this morning in "The Times" an interesting report from their own correspondent in Frankfurt, which no doubt other hon. Members have also read.
M. François-Poncet, the French High Commissioner, made some remarks at a
meeting on Tuesday about the trend of the discussions which are to take place in Paris, starting tomorrow, on an agreement which he said had been reached between the Atlantic Pact Powers in Brussels last December. The House should observe that we are only sending an observer to that meeting. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) has pointed out that that observer is our Ambassador. Indeed, he asked that somebody of more technical and, perhaps, higher status should be sent to this meeting. The meeting in Brussels last December was an official meeting, and M. François-Poncet has stated, if he is reported correctly, that certain decisions were taken there to bring Germany into the defensive organisation of Europe. He went on to say:
The conception at Brussels"—
that is where the official meeting took place at which Government representatives were present—
of equality for West Germany was that as and when a German military contribution was made and as a consequence West Germany assumed more commitments, she would be granted wider political liberty and the present system of occupation would have to be replaced by negotiated agreements.
There is only one other remark of the French High Commissioner to which I want to draw the attention of the House—because I shall have to say something in this connection about what is known as the European army, which is to be discussed, I understand, in Paris this week. He went on to say:
The purpose at the Paris conference was to agree on the structure of a European army, which, together with"—
note this, "together with"—
the armies of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, would form an Atlantic army and would be composed of interchangeable elements.
I have on occasions questioned the Opposition, or those who have spoken for the Opposition, as to what they understood to be the meaning of a European Army. I myself—I have said this previously—am all in favour of a German national army being incorporated in Western defence, as I believe will have to be done, when some sort of peace treaty, which I think is not very far off, is made with Western Germany. It would be far better, I agree, if we could get a united Germany and a completely demilitarised and dismantled Germany, as we have attempted
to do, but unfortunately there is one of the Allies of the last war which does not see the problem in that light and which is doing its best to arm a portion of Germany—for what? To foment, to create and to provoke civil war in Germany at the appropriate moment—one of the worst wars that one could conceive.
If that is the view of one of our Allies in the last war—signatories to the various pacts we made with them to demilitarise Germay—then what realistic attitude must we take today? The attitude I would take is that the sooner we get on with the job of getting German soldiers, as we are trying to get British soldiers, for the defence of Western Europe, the better.
As to the European Army, I think that there is a difference between the Opposition and the Government. It may account for the fact that the Government are sending only an observer to the Paris conference. Last Monday the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) touched on this matter and told us quite clearly what he thought was meant by a European Army. He said:
To carry the argument a little further, this European Army would, of course, form part of General Eisenhower's Atlantic Force. French, Belgian and German units would be represented in it, and may be others also. I should hope that we would be there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 49.]
I am not quite certain whether the idea is that there should be integrated units—Members with military experience will understand the meaning of that term; that is, no bigger units than battalions or artillery regiments, and so forth—all gathered together under one command, composed of various nationalities and operating in divisions, presumably, as a European Army, or whether it is the idea which was expressed more clearly, more forcibly, and, I think, more rightly, by the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke in the debate on 12th September last year. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:
There should certainly be 10 divisions from the United States. …
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say what the form of the European Army should be, and said:
I must say that the suggestion of three"—
that is, three divisions—
from Germany and one and a half or two available here does not seem to me to be a proportionate contribution, even making allowance for the fact that, although we have got rid of India, we have still important obligations to meet in tropical countries … Germany and Italy should also contribute eight or 10 divisions apiece. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 986.]
Those were the contributions to the total, which the right hon. Gentleman put at about 60 or 70 divisions. It is no wonder that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence smiled and was taken to task by the Leader of the Opposition. If we are properly to understand this proposal of defence, then we must make up our minds what part Germany is to play in Western defence, and get on with the job as quickly as possible.
Coming to our own programme, it appears to me—I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will have something to say about this when he winds up the debate—that the Army is the least efficiently organised and trained for effective warfare, if that should unfortunately come, of all the three Services. First, they have to make the biggest call-up of Z Reservists. I agree with the noble Lord. From the point of view which he put, I do not see how it is possible to give that training which will be necessary to Z Reservists or to others in 15 days. I do not believe that it can be done, but I do believe this: that that is not the real purpose of the Government. Of course, it would be improper for me to ask what advice the Chiefs of Staff had given to the Government in this matter, but it may very well be that the 15 days is a compromise. I can well understand the difficulties of the Government. The calling up of, perhaps, more than 200,000 Z Reservists will not be a pleasant thing for those who have to serve again after thinking, probably, that they had done their bit in serving for four, five or six years in the war. But we should not embark on such a proposal unless we mean it to be of the highest possible value to the Army in all its departments.
Hon. Members who have served in the Army—and they are on both sides of the House—will know very well what happens to a man when he is called up, whether as a raw recruit or as a Reservist. Those hon. Members will know the procedure which such a man has to undergo. If we allow—indeed, I believe it is accepted in Government quarters or by those who speak for the Government—say, three days for the various administrative tasks, kitting-up and so forth, there are 12 days left. Those of us who have been in the Army know very well that the Army does not set about doing much of practical training in the first 12 days after one has been called up.
I believe that the purpose of the call-up is, as is said in the Prime Minister's statement and in the "quiz" which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has placed in the Vote Office, for the purpose of getting the key men in position and in the key jobs. It may very well be that the Government fear that this may be a very dangerous year, and, without going through the process of mobilisation, they want to make sure that they have got some people there ready if, as we used to say in the Army, "the balloon goes up," who can operate quickly and smoothly. If that is their intention, I applaud it and, although I regret the necessity of it, I do not say anything against it.
One would like to know something more about Anti-Aircraft Command, the largest home command. One fears from all one hears that, in spite of what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon about improving that command, it is still lacking many of the elementary necessities needed to make it thoroughly efficient. I do not suppose that a debate like this can give us information, as, for example, about guided missiles which proved so successful against flying bombs and such things in the later stages of the last war and with which we would have to contend in the next war. People often talk as if the atom bomb is going to be used in the next war and going to be the real weapon. I doubt it. The so-called conventional weapons and arms with which we finished the last war will be used with very great effect and, therefore, it is very necessary that our Anti-Aircraft Command should be in a state of readiness for an emergency.
One remark made by the noble Lord I agree with entirely. I have advocated it in this House before. I can never understand why it was not possible to organise Anti-Aircraft Command at home from large numbers of men who have done their service in the Army and will live near the stations to which they will have to report when war breaks out, if that should occur. Whatever one may say about mobile units which have to go overseas in the event of war, I believe that many of these gun stations can be operated by men, perhaps no longer young enough to serve even as specialists in mobile units, who can do their job to some extent like the Home Guard did in the last war.
I pay full tribute to the Opposition and I do not desire to claim all the credit for the idea. In answer to the hon. Member's other question, if I may be permitted to say so, my tenure of office was perhaps not long enough for me to put into practice some of the things I preached. I can assure the hon. Member that that was certainly not my fault. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War replies, I would like him, if he can and if he will, to tell us what the 193,000 Regulars mentioned by the Minister of Defence this afternoon consist of. Do those 193,000 Regulars mean men serving on Regular engagements, including those who are being kept a year or 18 months after termination of their contracts, or Reservists called up from civil life? If it is really a Regular Army figure, I say to my right hon. Friend that the Government have done very well to get so many Regulars together. How long they will keep them, I do not know.
I was very much surprised that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said this afternoon that no Reservists called up this year will be called up in future years. I should have thought that if we were calling up key-men and putting them in key positions, we would have to keep them for the emergency which may come. I do not mean to say that we should keep them there longer than 15 days, but those are the people who, I should have thought, would need refresher training year after year so long as they are eligible for call-up.
I would like to have dealt with certain other features of the defence programme. because I agree with the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), who spoke for the Liberal Party. I think it is not sufficient for the Government to take into their confidence certain leading members of the Opposition, Privy Councillors, and tell them what their plans are and leave the House in comparative ignorance of how effective those plans are going to be. They have not continued this process, not because the Government are not prepared to do so, but because the Opposition do not wish it. I agree with the noble Lady that it ought to be possible for some, particularly those who are, shall I say, understanding of military matters and have considerable experience, to be gathered together in some sort of committee in order to examine Government plans which could be dealt with in that manner in a much more convincing way than they can be dealt with in debates like this.
A few months ago when I spoke in this House, I said that I did not think this Government, with the somewhat tenuous Parliamentary majority it commands, could carry some of the immense programmes needing—
I was criticised on that occasion. Although I am pleased to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), committed himself to a Coalition Government in wartime, I have never been in favour of Coalition Governments. As many hon. Members know, I was not a wholehearted supporter even in wartime. Sometimes they are an evil necessity but I understand on high authority they are now quite taboo. What I had in mind was a military committee of this House that could tackle these matters in what my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Proctor) was pleased to term a patriotic manner. These matters dare not be made the subject of party controversy, especially in these days when the whole nation is so evenly divided as it appears to be in the House of Commons; the times are much too grim for that.
Therefore, I say to my hon. Friends that I do not know what the solution of the problem is going to be—I mean. solution of the problem of presenting defence and all that it entails to the country in the most effective way to get the most complete results; but I think that if the country cannot find the solution by constitutional means, we shall be in a state of confusion which will impede the defence forces which my right hon. Friend says he is going to organise. I only ask that the House will take my remarks in the context in which they have been made. I have occasionally said all sorts of unpopular things and I am not seeking popularity from any side of the House. I think events are overtaking men and Governments today. All I ask is that the Government shall be adequately equipped to deal with defence in a way that the country will accept, as Britain has done before, and will do again.
My excuse for what I hope will be a very short intervention is the somewhat detached position I occupy in this House. May I make it clear that on this and on all occasions I do not speak officially for the Opposition, although I agree 100 per cent. with the party in what they do, but in the historical rôle which I have obtained by no merit of my own, of being Father of the House.
My position is this—and I apologise to hon. Members who would like to catch your eye, Sir, and have a greater modern knowledge of events than I have. I am, with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition, the only Member of the House who has had the appalling experience of being a Member of it through two terrible wars. Although I have never been great myself, I have been near the great, and I can perhaps, in a short speech, tell the House something of the causation of events, if I may use that phrase, which led to those wars and which must be avoided if we are to avoid another world war.
I should first like to pay a sincere tribute to the noble Lord the Member for Bournemouth, West (Viscount Cranborne), for the quality of his maiden speech. Perhaps I might say, speaking from a personal angle, that I have had the honour of the friendship of his father and grandfather, and that an uncle of mine was a great friend of, and served in the Cabinet of, his great-grandfather. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord acquit himself so well.
We have heard one or two valuable suggestions from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I should like to pay him a compliment, which, I think, will be echoed by my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, by saying that he always has the courage of his convictions, and is not afraid to express them whether they are unpopular on this side of the House or on his own side. The right hon. Gentleman very properly appealed for as much unity in matters of defence as was possible, if I understood the sequence of his remarks aright, in a controversial period of internal politics such as we are going through. I heartily agree with him.
It was absolutely deplorable that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Defence, and who, in the eyes of the public at any rate would, therefore, seem to have a semi-official connection with the Ministry of Defence, should have made the speech which he made the other day. Apart from the fact that he broke every canon of good taste, and an unwritten rule of the House—I thought it was out of order—by accusing hon. Members on this side of the House of being drunk, he made a statement of a most serious character emanating, as it did, from the Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister. As it is relevant to this debate I shall quote it. It is the kind of statement which those who do not know the hon. Gentleman, and who might attribute to him an importance which no one who knows him would do, those foreigners, for example, people in the United States who merely knew him in his capacity as Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister, might be alarmed and astonished to read.
The hon. Member said:
I believe that the issue of German re-armament is today an issue between the two parties, because the Conservative Party today, as they have done in the past, want at all costs not only to stand up to the Soviet Union—that is the stalking horse they are using at the moment—but they want to suppress social revolutions wherever they are to be found in the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 136.]
Nothing could be calculated to do more harm than that utterly untrue observation. There is no serious difference between the parties; it is only one of degree. The hon. Member might, before he made that speech, have had the decency to realise that the effect of it was to charge his own Government with trying to suppress social revolution in Germany and elsewhere. I wish to enter my emphatic protest against a speech of that character being made by a person in the hon. Member's position. So long as the Prime Minister permits hon. Gentlemen who occupy official or semiofficial positions to make that kind of statement, he cannot ask for much unity in defence or anything else.
I wish to put forward, very briefly, one theme only. It is a sombre thought, it is a horrible and haunting thought, that for the third time within 40 years we are faced with the possibility of a third world war which, in the event, would in all probability prove more devastating than its predecessors. As an old Member of this House, I am at times slightly surprised—I am not criticising—that up to now, it seems to me, we have not, in any of our debates, sufficiently emphasised the horribleness of this situation. The theme which should dominate this and every other debate on the subject is that that possibility can be turned into an improbability if the democratic world can attain a balance of defensive power compared with the Communist nations which will make those nations ready and anxious to negotiate a permanent peace settlement.
Indeed, although I cannot elaborate the theme, it amuses my somewhat satirical mind to realise that after all these years we have come back to that horrible thing which was so denigrated by Lord Cecil of Chelwood, Sir Gilbert Murray and all the other archdukes or archbishops, whatever they were, of the League of Nations—that horrible condition of affairs, the balance of power. After all these years, after all the talk, after all the euphemism, the League of Nations and U.N.O., we have come back to the old, old thing which preserved this country from invasion for 100 years—the balance of power. As an old-fashioned person, I am glad to see it back.
The fact is that we have today—we should be frank in these matters—an alliance between the United States, Britain, some of the Commonwealth countries and the Western European Powers, of course within the ambit of U.N.O., but, nevertheless, an alliance. I wish to make in tabloid form one or two points, some of which have been made already and some of which have not. First, as my right hon. Friend pointed out in his most admirable speech, it must be a global defence so far as that is possible. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) said in his speech in our recent debate, we must have proper co-ordination and canalisation.
I would, with respect, suggest—again speaking from my somewhat detached standpoint—that all of us need to be careful about using terms such as, "We must fight aggression wherever we find it" without qualifying that phrase by adding the words, "where it is militarily possible or desirable." Otherwise, we become the slaves of phrases exactly as we did before the war, with such damage to the interests of the world. As a matter of fact it is already the policy of U.N.O., although no one has said so publicly up to now. If that were not so, if it was the policy of U.N.O. to intervene everywhere, we should have had intervention in the fight between Israel and the Arab Powers, and we should have had intervention to prevent China from invading Tibet, with ultimate risk to India.
It is true that we did intervene—I think it came within the ambit of what I have just said in that it was wise for us to do so—very properly in the case of the Korean aggression. One observation should be made. Although I do not necessarily agree with what I think is the majority opinion in the United States—the very large majority opinion—that we should take more aggressive action—and by "we" I mean U.N.O.—against China, though I heartily endorse what the Leader of the Opposition said in putting a question to the Prime Minister some three months ago, that we have to show caution in this matter, I must say that I think that the American people have a very legitimate grievance against the views expressed by many in this House and outside it.
The whole House, with one or two exceptions, approved the intervention to
save Southern Korea. But after China intervened in the most flagrant and open way a considerable body of opinion in this country veered round and said, "In no circumstances should we impose sanctions against China." Those views have been voiced again and again by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in Leftist papers of all kinds in this country like the "New Statesman." That being so, surely the Americans are entitled to ask—and I would ask one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite who, I know, have been taking that point of view in their writings, how they would answer the question; perhaps some of them will do so in the subsequent debate:
Is this the view of the British? When a small bully comes along and unjustifiably attacks another country, you must hit her as hard as you can; but when a bigger bully comes to her aid, you must be careful to pull in your punches, despite the fact that we, the Americans, are suffering at the moment from those punches to a greater degree than any other U.N.O. national involved in the Korean fighting.
It is not surprising that the Americans should say, "We find it very difficult to understand British logic." After 47 years in the House I do not believe it exists. I find it difficult to understand the arguments of the "Tribune" and the "New Statesman" and other Leftist publications and what many Socialists are saying about China, about our policy being quite different from appeasement, and nothing like what the wicked Mr. Chamberlain said. Mr. Chamberlain was right—and as a member of his Government I still believe he was right—to make the attempt which, incidentally, was supported at the time by the whole House, with cheers from the other side—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—yes, the whole House. Hon. Gentlemen who are saying "No" were not there—except one. It was supported by the whole House. Mr. Maxton, speaking for the whole of the Labour Movement, said he approved of what had been done.
What did we do at Munich? We tried, rightly or wrongly, to avoid war. And what is it being suggested should be done today? We have been punched in the belly by China, but we must not do anything to incite her. We must not do anything involving sanctions. We must not do anything which might involve us in a war. But that is not appeasement—it is something quite different from what the wicked Mr. Chamberlain said.
No wonder the Americans may say, "We like the British"—or the "Limeys," or whatever they like to call us—"but they are the biggest"—something—"humbugs that ever existed." Those sort of arguments are used. Well, this is a debate, and perhaps someone will answer this question: If what every Leftist is advocating today vis-à-vis China is not clear appeasement, what is it?
I am not saying what I want. I am saying that it is sheer hypocrisy to attack the Tory Party for their alleged appeasement in the past while advocating vis-à-vis China, something which is more appeasement than anything that was done by the Tories. That is all I wish to say about it.
There is, I know, one argument constantly used by hon. Members of the party opposite and it is a practical one. I have no grievance against hon. Gentlemen opposite. I believe that in their heart of hearts they are fair-minded, and that they will agree with a great deal of what I have just said. They may possibly give one explanation. They may say, "After all, we are doing it on practical grounds, because if we do not do it we shall lose—or run the risk of upsetting—the political and military support of the Asian countries."
I should like to make a reply to that. Never in this world was greater nonsense talked than what is being said today in some quarters: that there is a common point of view in Asia. We have only to look at the facts to see that. We see the Jews and the Arabs loathing each other as two races have not loathed each other for many years; ready to attack each other across the frontier. We have only to look at India and Pakistan. We were told by the Foreign Secretary in one of his recent speeches—one of those speeches more removed from reality than most of the speeches from the benches opposite—that there was more strength and military power in the Commonwealth now that India had been given self-government.
What is the position today? In Pakistan and India there are two armies growling and scowling at each other across the frontier. War might break out at any moment. It is certain—and I say this with some knowledge—that if a world war broke out neither India nor Pakistan could afford to send one man or gun in support of the cause of the Allies. What I am going to say may be out of date and old-fashioned, but I am prepared—
The hon. and learned Gentleman is a little wrong in his view. The people they are fighting are the Chinese Communists. I do not want to pursue that matter further, but I would like to say—there is nothing new in what I am saying—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]. There is something new in what I have just said, to judge from the attention with which hon. Members opposite listen to it. It was quite obvious from their faces that they had no answer. I shall be very interested to hear in the course of the debate what their answer is.
I wish to associate myself with all the speeches made in this and the foreign affairs debate and to say that there should be the assertion by all—and here, I think, there is no party disagreement—of three principles. There must be a global defence system properly canalised and co-ordinated against the potential aggressor, qualified by the consideration that we can only fight where it is politically and militarily possible. Second, all our defensive plans will fail if the public of the principal Allies snap and snarl at each other's actions, plans and views in respect of defence, or if their Government fail to check Communist "fifth column" sabotage and illegal actions. Finally, and this cannot be too often said; I am speaking for every one of my right hon. and hon. Friends when I give emphasis to it—and it certainly represents the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite—never has a military alliance, combination, entente, call it what we will, less reason to want war than the one to which we belong. It would be absolutely devastating for us. But to lose such a war would be the end of us all and of civilisation. That, I suggest, is the, sole and sufficient moral and practical justification for re-armament.
In my final words I wish to make—
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? I have waited until the end of his speech, but I would like to make two points. The right hon. Gentleman made two statements, at least, which were not true. I have never given myself airs and graces or ever attempted to appear more important than, in fact, I am. Over and over again in the House in debates when the noble Lord has been here I have made no claims because I happen to have served in the Army a long time. I have divested myself of my rank. What more I can do I do not know. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell me if there is anything more I can do. The second thing is that I did not say that any hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House was drunk. I did not know, it was a matter for medical examination, and I could not say.
The hon. Gentleman is even more offensive this evening than he was yesterday. I think he may be left to his own shame. That is all I wish to say about it. I hope he will contemplate what he has just said and that when he reads it in HANSARD he will be ashamed of what he said.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), not for the first time, has taken a very fair point; and as the hon. Member for Dudley has challenged my quotation I should like to read out what he actually said. I do not like to have to bring this into what was to be, I hoped, a serious speech. He said:
Hon. Members can laugh, but I am used to alcoholic jeers. Hon. Gentlemen are sitting some yards away, and I cannot smell it"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 137.]
If that is not vulgar imputation of alcoholic excess against this side of the House, I do not know what it is.
That is what the noble Lord said. Let us not depart from it. He said that is what my hon. Friend had alleged. Then he read the extract from HANSARD. [HON. MEMBERS: "It could mean nothing else."] I am not responsible for the interpretation placed upon these statements by hon. Members opposite. If the noble Lord says that a reference to alcoholic jeers means drunkenness, I do not know—
I do not know. I am relying on what the noble Lord has said. He alleged that my hon. Friend had alleged that hon. Members opposite were drunk. That is not contained in HANSARD, and I must say to the noble Lord that he has no right to make these allegations.
I understand the words:
Hon. Members can laugh, but I am used to alcoholic jeers. Hon. Gentlemen are sitting some yards away, and I cannot smell it
not to contain any imputation of drunkenness against hon. Members on this side of the House. I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that, supported with all the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. Very well, I accept that.
No, I will not give way again. I accept that those words are not intended as an imputation of drunkenness. I think that people outside, when they read them, will put their own impression on them. I can only describe the statement as a vulgar and thoroughly unjustified observation which should not have been made by an hon. Gentleman in the responsible position occupied by a Parliamentary Private Secretary.
If the House will allow me to intervene, I would point out that we are discussing defence at the moment. Those hon. Members who are old enough, as I am, will remember that we once had an accusation made in the House and we had a Select Committee on the matter. The House decided that no hon. Member of this House ever got drunk.
You have, Mr. Speaker, with admirable and inimitable humour, most satisfactorily disposed of the whole situation.
I apologise to the House for having been delayed 10 minutes in my peroration. The House will now be delighted to learn that I am about to come to it. It takes the form of an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. Although he never mentions the fact himself, being a very modest man—if I may pay a tribute to him in his private capacity—the Prime Minister had a very fine war record as a regimental officer in the First World War. He and I happen to be among the few Members in this House, we are almost the only ones, who are proud to call ourselves "old Gallipoli-ites." That is to say, we fought in that terrible peninsula where British troops suffered as much as they have ever suffered.
Whatever the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) may have said in her speech, we suffered most grievously in Gallipoli from the lack of the provision of arms by the Liberal Government. It is only fair to say that it was not the fault of Lord Haldane, nor was it the fault of my right hon. Friend the then First Lord of the Admiralty, both of whom pressed again and again on their colleagues for more money to provide arms. It was the fault of the supporters of the Liberal Party, who constantly attempted to prevent proper provision being made for arms.
My appeal to the Prime Minister is on these lines. He knows, and so do some hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, what it meant in that war and what it meant in the last war to have to suffer that state of affairs, and to see people, one's best friends, killed at one's side, not so much by the action of the enemy, or not primarily due to the action of the enemy, but through failure of sufficient weapons to give us support. I say to the right hon. Gentleman in all humility and, I hope, with all respect, that he will bear fearful responsibility upon his shoulders which, in the event of war, will haunt him until his dying day, if he does not insist on proper re-armament and if he does not resist any attempts, if there be any, in the party opposite or in the country, to prevent our re-armament.
The speech of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) disappointed me in one particular. He said at the beginning that he would give us the advantage of his experience as Father of the House by giving an account of the causation of events which led to the outbreak of the First World War and the Second World War. We looked forward to that. He has all the experience, all those years to look back upon, and I sat here with many of my hon. Friends and waited for an account from him of the circumstances which led to the outbreak of those wars. That would have beer very useful indeed, because we are conscious that exactly the same thing is happening all over again and we want to learn how to stop it.
We see the atmosphere developing today which developed in 1914 and before 1939. The noble Lord might have told us from his experience what could be done to stop it. But he was diverted by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and by a lot of other unpredictable factors, and he never discussed this important question of the causation of events. No doubt, we are the losers.
The noble Lord, if he did not give us any explanations, at least asked us some questions. He asked us what was the difference between the attitude of those of us on this side of the House who regret the branding of China as an aggressor and the Tory appeasers before the last war. I will attempt to deal with the causation of events more than did the noble Lord, and I suggest that this is the difference. When Germany was appeased by the Tory pre-war Government, she was a naked and unprovoked aggressor, whereas the whole essence of the issue in regard to China is that, unfortunately, by the saddest development of events and as the result of an advance made contrary to the advice of the British Cabinet and the British Chiefs of Staff, the whole matter developed in a way which many of us on this side of the House—and we are as good patriots as the noble Lord or anyone else—believe rendered China's intervention understandable.
The noble Lord said, and I think rightly, that the use of the word aggression and the definition of aggression was of great importance. That was a relatively illuminating observation.
Well, then, it is a pity, because it would have been a uniquely illuminating observation. We have to study and consider what is an act of aggression before we permit it to set in train what may prove to be a series of very grave events.
As the hon. Gentleman has referred to me, may I say that what I said was—he has paraphrased it, and I quite agree with it—that it was wise beforehand to establish the point of aggression and see where responsibility lay.
The view which some of us on this side of the House take—and I am only attempting to answer the question which the noble Lord himself raised—is that China, as she saw her territory approached by the forces mainly of a Great Power which had not recognised her Government, led by a commander whose association with the Chinese Nationalists and Chiang Kai-shek was extremely well-known could reasonably and understandably regard her security as threatened. We take the view that the counter-action which she initiated, when faced by what we believe she could reasonably regard as a threat, should not have been branded as an act of aggression. But be that as it may, we say there may at the least have been provocation in this case which did not exist in the case of Germany before the war, thus making a clear distinction between our attitude to the case of China and the standpoint of the Tory appeasers before the war.
No, I cannot give way; I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.
Whatever our views on that point, the noble Lord will agree with me and with the rest of the House that, if this defence programme is to go through effectively and efficiently, we want a united nation and a united country, whatever our differences of opinion upon those matters to which I have referred.
I want to consider a matter which I think is of great importance if we are to have this necessary national unity behind our defence policy. I look at it from the point of view of the Z Reservist, and I get fairly easily into his mind, because I am one myself, and therefore it does not take a great exercise of imagination on my part to consider what his viewpoint is. I think the first thing which he wants to be quite certain about is that his time will not be wasted during those 15 days. I do not think that 15 days is too short a time, provided that it is not wasted.
A right hon. Friend of mine below the Gangway some little time ago ventured the proposition, if I may paraphrase it, that it was unthinkable that anything could start happening in the Army until at least 12 days had elapsed. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for War on the Front Bench, because I take the view that, if these 15 days are not to be wasted, it does involve a tremendous administrative effort by his Department.
I do not think that 15 days is too short a period because in that time we could have an effective mobilisation exercise, which is something, and we could have headquarters of Territorial Army formations operating at full strength and gaining invaluable experience. We could also have, as a very important feature, the Territorial Army formations, apart from their headquarters, throughout their whole strength exercising on an operational footing. These matters are emphasised by the military correspondent of "The Times" in today's issue of that paper, in which he gives a very admirable defence of the period of 15 days as being sufficient.
The second point which I have in mind about the Z Reservist is this. It may be very sad and wrong but, human nature being what it is, one feels that it becomes perilously near an injustice and hardship if there is going to be in our lifetime a long succession of upheavals and call-ups, and the same section of the community each time is to have the benefit of deferment and exemption. I think there is a great deal of feeling about that. I hesitate to develop that further. Shall I say that I know that other members of the Z Reserve hold that opinion?
After all, they come out of the Services—and I am thinking of many constituents of mine who are on the Reserve—and they find that deferred personnel and exempted personnel have won great advantages during the Reservists' absence on Service, such as promotion, better pay and all the rest. They think that it is too bad if all the burden is to be placed on them again. One appreciates the point that what the defence policy requires is a call-up of trained men, and one recognises that those people who were previously deferred and exempted are, for that reason, not qualified. Nonetheless, I invite my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to bear in mind the desirability of studying now the possibility of a scheme which, if a conflict comes, will have the consequence of bringing in large elements hitherto exempted and deferred in order that they shall play their part and make their military contribution. The Z Reservists should not be required to carry a disproportionate burden.
Far more important than the two matters to which I have just referred, in getting this national unity which we all want to see—and also affecting not merely the members of the Z Reserves, but all our population, now facing the coming burden that is represented by the expenditure of £4,700 million in three years—is the factor that we must marry up this defence programme with a positive policy to discover a peaceful solution of existing international problems.
The noble Lord, in a becomingly naive observation, said that insufficient emphasis in this debate had been placed upon the horribleness of the situation. I quite agree with him. I listened sadly to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence churning out his melancholy and ghastly programme of planned destruction and horror this afternoon. I know it is his duty, but I do not envy him that duty.
The most important factor of all, if we are to have an effective national unity behind this defence programme, is that it should be married with a constant and positive effort to achieve a peaceful solution. At various times in recent months the Government have achieved a status in public opinion and in world affairs which has been an encouragement to national unity. They have done this by their attempt to develop a positive policy for peace and to develop effective collective security.
The Government did it in the first instance when we went into Korea with the United Nations' Forces. They did it again in the summer and the autumn when it was quite obvious to anyone observing the situation that they were restraining United States policy with regard to Formosa, and their efforts were most effective. They did it a third time at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. It was a proud moment in our history when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference, representing great peoples of many races, of East and West, were in a position to publish a united communiqué making it quite clear to the world that they had an outlook upon the situation which was perceptibly distinct from that of the United States.
On those three occasions the Government were in close harmony and in tune with British public opinion, and so long as that harmony exists they will get national support for the whole of this terrible defence and re-armament programme. But the Government must be careful not to lose that harmony, and I venture to express the view that on the vital matter of the branding of China as an aggressor a mistake was made. But I am not making that a ground for withdrawing my support from the Government, because I recognise the record of this Government in restraining the bellicose elements in other countries in the last few months. Though I may regret one action or one decision, I recognise how far more dangerous and troublesome it would be if right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in control, because even if the differences between us in these matters are largely differences of degree, it nonetheless remains a true and interesting fact, and one worthy of study, that hon. Members opposite would prefer a much closer alignment of British policy with United States policy than we on this side.
The national unity which is the necessary condition of the successful development of this re-armament programme must be established upon a basis of absolute equality between the British Commonwealth and all the other countries of the United Nations. I am tired to death of all this talk of our becoming a secondary Power. That sort of talk is going on all the time, and it is a strange interpretation of patriotic requirements on the part of hon. Members opposite that it is so constantly emphasised. But the British Commonwealth and all that it represents can stand upon equality with the United States or with any other country, and if there ever gets into the mind of the British people the idea that we are, in fact, being dragged along by the United States, that will lead to such a revulsion among our people as would vitiate the whole of this defence and re-armament programme.
That is the first basis that must exist for national unity in support of this policy. The other basis is restraint. I believe it is sometimes said about those who hold the views that I hold that they are anti-American. Nothing could be more untrue. I recognise that the participation of the United States in a world organisation for the maintenance of peace after the Second World War is easily the greatest event of post-war years. It is of supreme importance. But I am bound to say that, from what I read, a great many Americans seem to be underestimating just what it is going to mean to us in this country if there is another world war. They are going to be a little bit further away, after all, and I think that, in the particular context of this situation, it is our duty, in the interests of peace, to restrain the United States. It may be that there will be other occasions later when it may become their duty to restrain us. I do not know. I only think that at the present moment it is the duty of the British Government to continue to restrain United States policy.
There is a parallel between the Far Eastern situation and the situation in Germany today. In the Far East, China has been branded an aggressor. But the emphasis must be on the Good Offices Committee. In Germany, the re-armament of that country has been admitted in principle, but the emphasis must be upon inquiry and investigation by the Western Powers into what really are the proposals of the Soviet Union. In either event, the emphasis of the policy of the British Government must be upon finding a peaceful solution of the problems that exist. If the emphasis is properly placed in that way, public opinion will give the full support necessary to this re-armament and defence programme.
The Labour Party are faced by a real, inescapable crisis in this matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We recognise it, I think, but its significance is this. I know that peace is desired by hon. Members on both sides of the House, but there are differences of view as to the way in which it can be maintained or achieved. We in the Labour Party believe that peace can best be attained by a policy of moderation and restraint upon the bellicose forces now alive and active in the world. I still think—and there are many on this side of the House who still think—that the basic motive of Soviet policy is fear. We may be wrong, but we want to go a great deal further in investigating what their proposals are. When I say that the Labour Party are faced by a crisis, I mean that if we were to adopt the attitude that war was inevitable, that the drift must continue towards war, and that it was futile to investigate what were the Soviet intentions, we would be doomed. On the other hand, if we became the party really probing for a peaceful solution of these problems, then our future would be prosperous indeed.
My hon. Friend said that Russian policy was probably based on fear. Will he say for how much longer we are to have this excuse for the Russian expansionist policy? When they attacked Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, and when they engulfed Poland and Czechoslovakia, it was always suggested that they were trying to get a defensive line. Are we to wait until the whole world is seized by Russia?
I am very glad to answer that. I think I can answer it most fairly by saying that if my hon. Friend had been in Russia during the World War, he would now understand Russian fear of German re-armament. One thing which the country will not permit is a Government resigned to an inevitable conflict, and the duty of those of us on these Benches who take that view is to resist any such temptation all the time. If we proved to have resisted in vain, it would still have been wise to have resisted.
We get support from all sorts of odd quarters. It is a curious feature that when we express views of this kind we get support from persons of the calibre of Lord Salisbury, whose views upon an approach to Russia expressed by him before Christmas were most acceptable to many hon. Members on this side. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) writes letters to "The Times" which I find acceptable. It is not our fault if our supporters have such distinguished lineage. On the contrary, it is the very essence of what is best in the Tory tradition. We on this side can see what is best in the Tory tradition far more clearly than can hon. Members opposite. They are too near it to see it. I suppose.
I have hesitated to intervene to deal with these high matters, but I have done so because in the debate on Monday and in the debate today I felt over and over again this crippling deadly sense of a drift towards war. Now we want to gather our forces on these benches and in the country to check and stop that drift. War always kills the best people. It is the finest homes that are mutilated. Hon. Members on both sides know that. I want to express my determination to do what I can to prevent this Government or this House from surrendering to a deadly decadent drift towards another conflict without first investigating every possible prospect of saving the peace.
Lieut. Colonel Bromley Davenport:
During this debate several hon. Members opposite have stated with great clarity of thought, as though they had discovered something new, that they were in favour of peace. Of course, all of us want peace, but the trouble is that we do not feel confident that peace is safe in the hands of His Majesty's Government.
What are the facts? Guerilla warfare has been going on in Malaya for years. In Korea the United Nations are outnumbered and the tide of war ebbs and flows, first in favour of one side and then in favour of the other. The question we are all asking is, when will it stop? But what is far more important, we ask when, if it comes, will the world war start? I understand that the Foreign Ministers expect the acute danger period to occur this summer. Therefore, we are today back in very much the same conditions that we were in in 1938 and 1939.
There is a difference in the general picture, however, and I should like to remind the House very briefly of the conditions as they existed at that time. Mr. Neville Chamberlain led a National Government. The United States of America were completely isolationist. Hitler was on the march and war seemed to be inevitable, but in all those years before the war, practically right to the outbreak of the war, the Labour Party consistently opposed re-armament.
I will give three very simple examples. On 23 October, 1933, as reported in "The Star," the then leader of the Socialist Party said:
I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army, dismantle the Navy and dismiss the Air Force.
It was Mr. George Lansbury. He added:
I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world, 'do your worst'.
I am not going through all the past history, as hon. Members opposite often do. I want to jump to 1939. Four months before the war started we had the present Minister of Labour speaking in a Parliamentary debate.
I am sorry, no.
The present Minister of Labour said this in that debate:
What argument have they"—
That is, the National Government—
to persuade the young men to fight, except merely in another squalid attempt to defend themselves against the redistribution of international swag?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1939; Vol. 346, c. 2139.]
That was four months before the war started. Four days later, Mr. Neil Maclean, the then Member for Govan, said:
This conscription Bill is a Bill which I for one shall advise every young man of 19 and 20 to refuse to accept"—
Lieut. Colonel Bromley Davenport:
Oh, go and play chess. Mr. Maclean went on:
… I shall advise mothers not to allow their boys to go, and I shall advise the boys not to be conscripted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1939; Vol. 347, c. 128.]
Lieut. Colonel Bromley Davenport:
If the hon. Member is feeling restless why does he not go out and play draughts or marbles? Instead of huffing here why does he not go out and huff outside?
Four months before the war started, 138 Socialist Members of Parliament, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and many of his own Front Bench colleagues, voted against conscription. I know we can argue for quite a long time as to who were or who were not the guilty men, but I feel very strongly that the real and the heaviest guilt lies on the shoulders of those who opposed re-armament right up to the time that the Germans entered Prague.
In spite of this, when the war came we were strong enough to stand alone against the two great dictators while all the world wondered. Thanks to the development of our aircraft armaments under Mr. Chamberlain and the building of the Spitfire, we won the Battle of Britain and with it the war, and saved civilisation.
Why does not the hon. Gentleman go and play that hopping-over game, huff his own hon. Friends?
Today in 1951 the United States of America—[Interruption.]
On a point of order. May I ask your guidance, Sir, in view of the many interruptions which are taking place? Is it possible to keep those two hon. Members of the "Z group" quiet?
Lieut.-Colonel Bromley Davenport:
In 1951 the situation is entirely different. The United States of America are not isolationist. They are financing the rearming of the Western Allies as hard as they can, and they are pouring in millions and billions of dollars. Also, this Government has got what we on this side never had, and that is a loyal Opposition. We have supported every vital defence Measure which has come before Parliament. Can anyone imagine my right hon.
Friend the Leader of the Opposition, or any hon. Member on these benches, shouting out, as a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer did, "Refuse to make armaments, refuse to use them. Every possible effort should be made to stop recruiting for the Armed Forces"?
How strong are we today? I heard the Minister of Defence say something about starting from practically nothing, building up over the next three or four years, and that this was a big step towards re-armament. Whose fault is it that we are not prepared today? It is certainly not the fault of hon. Members on this side of the House. Since 1947 our Front and back benches have been urging this Government to hold recruiting drives and to raise the pay of the Forces, but, as usual with this Government, they did absolutely nothing until 1950, when they raised the pay, and then it was too late. What has been the result of these bad pay and conditions which have existed in the Forces ever since the last war ended? Officers and men have been leaving as fast as they can to go into "Civvy Street" and try to get some decent pay.
So, when the war does start there are not enough troops to send to Palestine or Malaya or Korea. What happens? Someone has to go, and the result is that boys of 18 and 19, inexperience and with only a few months' training, have to go instead. I have with me a list of the casualties in Palestine for one year, from April, 1947, to April, 1948. We find that boys of 18 and 19, with between seven and 11 months' service, have been killed. That is young to die. I understand, too, that in Korea the first casualty was a boy of 19.
The hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Blackburn), speaking in the debate last September, said he understood that the total contribution in Korea amounted to some 2,000 troops on the ground, that the average age of these boys of the 1st Middlesex Regiment was under 20, that quite a lot were under 19 and most of them had only had four months' training at home. I have never seen or heard that denied. I do not want to be misunderstood. We know that these National Service men have got to go, and that they will fight and, if necessary, die for their country as their fathers did before them. Indeed, theirs has been a splendid record. Those boys have fought like men; their morale is high, and all praise to them. But they were not given a fair chance. They were not given the best possible chance, which is what they should have had.
Some of those boys had just left school; they are young and green, with only a few months' training and precious little collective training. How can we expect them to give a good account of themselves in those conditions—to have a rifle thrust into their hands and have to fight for their lives in the most skilful form of warfare against trained guerrillas in Malaya and in the difficult conditions of Korea? It should never have happened, and I do not consider that some of those boys had a fair chance. They were not properly trained. I urge the Government to see that these boys are trained properly—let them grow up a bit before they encounter the enemy. I am not alone in these beliefs, but I personally feel very strongly that the age of 18 or 19 is too young.
I heard the Minister of Defence ask a most extraordinary question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) when he was developing this point, raised by the hon. Member for Northfield. I heard him ask my right hon. Friend, "What training did the youths of 18 have in the 1914–18 war?" I consider that to be the most ignorant and stupid question I have ever heard in this House; coming from the Minister of Defence, it is absolutely appalling. We are now in 1951. It is not like 1917–18, when there was a world war and we were suffering the most fearful casualties, when we were scraping the bottom of the barrel and we were almost down to our last man, and facing the possibility of defeat.
The situation today is not as it was then, when Earl Haig issued that famous message to all troops on the Western front:
With our backs to the wall, believing in the righteousness of our cause, each man will fight on to the end. Victory will belong to the side which holds on longest.
These are days of peace compared with 1914–18. We are not even mobilised. I consider that the Government have a fearful responsibility for having neglected our defences and, through bad pay and conditions, having allowed the Regular Forces to run down. What is to be the cost? What was the cost in
the past? I understand that the average cost since the end of the war amounts to about £1,000 million a year. No Parliament in British history has ever voted a Government so much money in time of peace. But, in spite of this, it took months to form and send one brigade group to Korea, and we know how many young boys had to go into it. The taxpayer did not get much value for that. The question is: What value will he get in the future?
We heard today that over the next few years £4,700 million are going to be spent on our defences, and this will entail enormous sacrifice on all our people. Surely it is absolutely essential to ensure that there is no waste, that we get the best value out of every penny that is spent, and, above all, for our national security and the safety of this country, that we build up our defences as quickly as possible. One would think that with such an enormous sum of money to spend and with such tremendous responsibility, the Prime Minister would select for this purpose the best men, the most efficient, the most successful in the past—men who have not wasted public money.
But, no. The Prime Minister works on entirely different principles. He selects with the very greatest care, as the Minister of Defence, a past Minister of Fuel and Power who cost this country £200 million. For the Secretary of State for War he selects a past Minister of Food who cost the country £36 million trying to grow groundnuts, from which I do not think this country even got a bag of peanuts. And what about the Minister of Labour and National Service—that key position? Who does the right hon. Gentleman select for that? He selects a past Minister who was responsible for the most fearful failure in our housing programme and, above all, who has caused more hate and disunity in the country than any other Member of the present Government. These are the "Big Three" who are going to pull the country through.
This total of £4,700 million was reached gradually. It was stepped up over three separate defence programmes. Why, we may ask, was it not decided to spend this sum of money in the first place? We all know the reason, and so do hon. Members opposite. The reason was political. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister cannot carry his party with him; there are too many pacifists and fellow-travellers in it.
One would think that the Prime Minister would try to get rid of them and to get some loyal support on the benches behind him. But what happens? At the latest by-election the Socialist Party, with the greatest care, select as candidate a pacifist who is opposed to rearmament. It was only as a result of the public outcry that, at the last minute, the Prime Minister withdrew his support. but that has not prevented hon. Members on the back benches opposite from going to Bristol and supporting the candidate. That is their loyalty to their own Front Bench! That is a united party! I wonder what the Class Z men think of being called up by a Government who select to support them a pacifist who is opposed to rearmament.
Let me speak these words of comfort to the Prime Minister. However nervous he may be about the future, he need not doubt the loyalty of his party. In the end they will be loyal—in the Division Lobbies; because, however disloyal they may be outside the Lobbies, they have a greater loyalty, which is to the £1,000 a year, largely clear of Income Tax. Hon. Members opposite may try to disguise it, but the Government is split from top to bottom. They have no confidence in themselves, the people have no confidence in them, and the sooner they hand in their portfolios and get out of it, the better.
I feel sure that, whatever may be the value of the contribution made by the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) to the defence debate, it will look very well in the "Knutsford Evening News," or whatever is the paper which circulates in the hon. and gallant Member's constituency. I imagine it was made very much more for that purpose than for the purpose of contributing to the subject before the House.
The trouble about speeches like that of the hon. and gallant Member and that of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is that they provoke some of us to do the same sort of thing, and I do not think that is of very much value. I had already discarded quite a part of my speech in the interests of other hon. Members, but I have had to bring some of it back because we cannot permit statements like that made by the hon. and gallant Member to go by default. Unless those statements are repudiated, the Press of the country will publish them and they will go unchallenged. The trouble with the hon. and gallant Gentleman is that he does not know the difference between a party in which members may hold differing views and be free to express them and free to make their impact upon the policy of the party, and a party like that to which he belongs, of people who, blindfold, will always go, willy-nilly, into the Lobby and will never have an opinion of their own.
We have never disguised the wide differences of opinion which exist in this party. Some of my hon. Friends may charge me with being at the extreme end of the party, but, after having been in this House for some 13 years, I confess that I was a little appalled by the speech of the noble Lord. I had come to believe that appeasement was a rather discreditable term and that nobody wanted to be called one of the "men of Munich." I never thought I should live long enough to hear a Member of this House glory in the fact that he was a "man of Munich." Let me repudiate at once the noble Lord's statement that the appeasement policy of Munich found support on both sides of the House. I am one of those who opposed the policy in the House, and I left the House that night and went to Bristol and spoke against it. Records will prove that that is true—and, believe me, it was not the easiest thing to do.
On every occasion when there was an opportunity to protest against the disastrous foreign policy, I took it. It may satisfy the hon. and gallant Gentleman to know that very often, if not in the vote, certainly in the vocal proceedings of this House, I enjoyed the support of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). In fact, if the noble Lord condemns us because we dared to criticise Munich, what has he to say about the Leader of the Opposition or about the right hon.
Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) who, shortly afterwards, resigned his appointment in the Government because he could no longer support the appeasement policy of the Prime Minister and of the Tory Party? The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford must not try to come the "cheap non-sense stuff" in this House, because it does not count.
It seems to me that these debates are the mechanics of the Foreign Affairs debate which we had on Monday and I should like to say how much I enjoyed the speech of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington on that occasion. I thought it was an honest and realistic speech, but I could not help wondering whether it reflected the opinions held behind him. I imagine that he still has memories of being driven out of office by the members of his own party, some of whom now grace the Front Bench on that side of the House.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine), I believe there are too many people in this country who have already made up their minds that war is inevitable, and there are too many saying, "How quickly can we have it, because the sooner we have it the better chance we have of winning it." I will make this confession frankly and honestly to the House: I am on record for my consistent opposition to Communism and, only a little while ago, I felt quite sincerely that war was inevitable, that there was no hope of avoiding the clash between the conflicting ideologies. My point of view was changed in a journey from Birmingham to London, and it was changed through reading a simple pamphlet called "Christianity and the Crisis." It convinced me that my bounden duty, however much I feared the worst, was, as long as possible, to strive for the best, and the best is to try to avert the awful calamity which looms above us all.
I believe the Government do not accept that war is inevitable. Because we believe that and because we are still prepared to strive to reach an understanding—as long as there is any hope of reaching an understanding—we are told by the Opposition that we hate America. That is not true. We used to be told by the Opposition that we could carry on the Government of this country only because of the charity of the American nation. Now that we are free and able to stand on our own feet, now that we are acting like the great nation I feel we are, and now that we are insisting upon deciding our own line of action in international affairs, we are told by the Opposition that we hate the American nation. Has Britain no right to an independent line of thought on anything? [Laughter.] Hon. Members on the back bench opposite may laugh, but their laughter reveals that they never had an independent thought in their lives—and I very much doubt whether they had.
America must understand that we insist on being free and equal partners. In that connection, may I say how disconcerting it is, after the Prime Minister said in this House on Monday that, in the opinion of the Government, the United Nations Forces should not advance beyond the38th Parallel in Korea and that this nation should be consulted before that decision was varied, to find recorded on the tape tonight that United Nations Forces have landed 100 miles north of the 38th Parallel without any consultation with His Majesty's Government.
It would be an overwhelming tragedy for this stricken world now if we were to be engulfed again in another war.
No. It would only prolong my speech, and that would not be fair to other hon. Members who want to take part in the debate. Let me revert again to the speech of the noble Lord. I really think it would be a bit too much to accept the castigation he made of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for the speech which my hon. Friend made on Monday when, as the noble Lord ought to have known, he was under the extreme provocation of the foul speech of the hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). One would not mind that sort of thing if the hon. Member for Flint, West, had any qualifications to make a speech of that type; but it is unfortunate that he should have done it. I looked to see what possible qualifications the hon. Gentleman could have to launch such a vile attack. I was proposing to quote some of the things he said, some of the aspersions be cast upon men, some of them not Members of this House and who have no opportunity to defend themselves. I always thought that to attack men who had not an opportunity to defend themselves was a thing not to be done. But, of course, the hon. Gentleman has no qualifications.
We learn quite a few things about him, and the chief thing we learn is that he has written a book on the Conservative Party. It is not in the Library. I went to see, because I wanted to read it. It is a pity that, instead of writing a book about the Conservative Party, he did not content himself with reading what his own leader has had to say about the Conservative Party, because I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was able to describe the Conservative Party a good deal more accurately and more objectively than the hon. Member for Flint, West, has been able to do.
I was interested to learn that the hon. Member for Flint, West, is a member of three clubs in London. The first of them is Brooks's, of which I know nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] It may be cheap, but so was the speech of the hon. Gentleman. Hon Members ought to remember that I said at the beginning that if people make these foul aspersions, they ought not to be surprised if they find they are answered. [HON. MEMBERS: "What aspersions?"] I am only seeking to show that the company which the hon. Gentleman keeps is, of course, the real inspiration for the bringing out of his speech. We find that, apart from his membership of Brooks's, he is a member of a club called Pratt's. His third club is White's and I should imagine that it was in the salubrious inspiration of White's Club—
If you had waited a moment, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I may say so with due respect, you would have seen, because I was about to show the qualifications of the hon. Member for Flint, West. He describes his recreations as including the reading of history, and the remainder of my speech is going to deal with the reading of history. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are the other hobbies?"] Hunting, shooting, fishing, gardening. The hon. Gentleman treated us to a reading of history up to the outbreak of the last war. I could not help but feel, as I listened to him—
The argument I am going to adduce is this. We may profit from our experiences in the past, and I propose to examine our experiences in the past to show how we may be able, possibly, to avoid the recurrence of similar circumstances, and avoid another war. That is what I was coming to, and I am coming to it very quickly now. I am dealing with the passage of the hon. Gentleman's speech which led him back to 1935, although I would not presume for a moment to go back that far; but I think it is as well for us to examine the period preceding the war so that we may avoid a recurrence of some of the pitfalls of those days. I was going to start at the period with which the hon. Gentleman was dealing the other night—1935. He talked of that period. I should like to have a look at it.
If I may digress for a moment, I would observe that I believe that this Government—a Labour Government—however repulsive it may be—[Interruption.] Repulsive it may be to hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they have lost power for the first time in their lives. That is why the Government is repulsive to them. However repulsive it may be for us to do some of the things we are bound to do now, the Government are charged with the great responsibility of ensuring the safety of this nation, and it is a responsibility of which I would accept my own share of the burden. I know of no case in history in which weakness has ensured immunity from attack, and I believe that if we are to go into negotiations either with the Chinese Communists or with the Soviet Union we shall negotiate with a much greater likelihood of success if we negotiate from strength rather than from weakness.
It is of no use, of course, having men if they have not adequate arms with which to go into battle, or if there is not behind them an adequate industrial production to enable them to be sustained in the field. The numbers of men of which we have been told in this debate do not mean very much, for 800,000 men does not mean anything very much in terms of a military machine, because, as we found to our cost in 1939, the degree of their fire power, the measure of their equipment, and the degree of industrial output in the nation behind them are the things which count the most.
I should like to look for a moment at what happened from 1935 to 1939. In March, 1936, we had what we have now—a White Paper on defence. In the White Paper on defence in March, 1936, was this passage:
For the present, owing to demands upon the capacity of industrial output, much must necessarily depend in the first instance upon the Regular Army. It is not possible to recondition the Territorial Army.
That is an amazing statement. There were in the House some who were members of the Territorial Army in those days, for whom I have ever had the highest respect, and there was one young Member in this House for whom I had the very highest respect, Ronald Cartland, who gave his life at Dunkirk. I remember the impassioned speech he made in the old Chamber, speaking from immediately behind the Prime Minister of those days. But in March, 1936, the combined Regular Army and Territorial Army totalled only 225,000 men, and we were told that the Territorial Army could not have the weapons with which to arm itself. Yet at that time in this country there were 1,980,000 unemployed men and another 500,000 men who were normally in work but were then on poor law relief.
The total strength of the Territorial Army was only 225,000 men, not 800,000. They could have been equipped and they could have gone into battle fully equipped had we been prepared to use the industrial strength of our manhood instead of allowing them to walk the streets. Let me quote:
It seemed such a monstrous thing that we should appeal to the youth of our country to come forward and join the Territorial Army … take on this extreme obligation of serving anywhere at any time … and undertake that devoted sacrifice the like of which has been hardly seen in any other sphere of life; and then, when they did that, not even to give them the ordinary weapons which are necessary, and which would put them on equal
terms with the contemporary forces they might have to meet.
That was a condemnation, coming not from the Opposition in those days, but from the present right hon. Member for Woodford. That was his estimation of the way in which the Conservative Government of that day were failing to equip the Armed Forces. The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out:
The forces behind the Administration were perfectly ready to deny the Territorial Army the weapons which it needed at that time and to stand by while there was that neglect. When I used these arguments—in vain—a few members said 'Hear, hear,' but the great bulk of the supporters of the Government merely gaped, and went away."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 14th March, 1939; Vol. 345, c. 252 and 253.]
The "great bulk of the forces behind the Administration" were, of course, the swollen ranks of the party opposite. It was they who "merely gaped and went away," so I hope that we shall have no more of this twitting and this cheapness across the Floor of the House.
Exactly. I am replying to assertions which have been made and charges which have been levelled against my party and I am doing so for this purpose. I am going to ask the Government to see that no man is called upon to take any form of military service unless he is given the tools with which to do the job. I say: Equip our men in a very much more satisfactory way than the party opposite did those men whom they had under their control. The condemnation which fell upon the party opposite is such condemnation that if only hon. Members like the hon. Member for Flint, West, who claims that his hobby is reading history, would read the history of those years between 1935 and 1939, neither he nor the noble Lord the Member for Horsham would be proud to be called "men of Munich." We might then be spared a repetition of all that happened to us on Monday.
I think it better if we leave it where it is, but I should like to feel that honour is satisfied and that this cheap business of charging the Labour Party with voting against re-armament, and charging individual Ministers, without any foundation of proof, of having associations with the Communist Party, as was done in that debate, would end. Unless it ends, there is no hope of national unity. If blame lies on the shoulders of any political party in this country, it lies upon the shoulders of the Conservative Party, because they were the predominant party and in power at the time of the war. The condemnation of them is great. The right hon. Member for Woodford said that the Government of that day would escape the censure of the House because of their swollen majority, but that history would condemn them. History has condemned them from 1939 up to the present day.
I want to add just a word on the Z Reservists. I cannot but feel that the country has not been too well served in the conspiracy of silence which seems to have descended upon Ministers in relation to the Class Z men. It is particularly unfortunate that they should have allowed the wildest rumours to appear in the Press for weeks about the call-up of Class Z Reservists and that not a member of the Government could get up and say that the call-up was a limited one. All the Class Z Reservists, who have wives and children and other great responsibilities, were under the shadow of the fear of being called up again. They were worried and anxious, as every hon. Member knows from his post-bag. All the Government really wanted was 225,000 men for 15 days, yet it seemed beyond their capacity to remove those fears and alarms by telling the men so. I appeal to the Government to take the public more fully into their confidence in these matters. When it knows what is required of it, the nation will always face its obligations, but we cannot expect it to accept obligations and responsibilities if the people do not know the extent of the obligations and responsibilities and why they are thrust upon them. The Government should look at its public relations work.
I have a suggestion to make which I hope will be conveyed to the Minister of Defence. As it is obvious that we shall not want the over-45's—I regret it very much—would it not be better if we told them that they can now be released from the. Class Z Reserve? We should, at any rate, remove the fear of call-up from the minds of men who will apparently not be wanted in any case. If we found ourselves in a situation when we had again to go to that age limit, it would be a simple thing to introduce the necessary legislation to bring them in.
I am about to finish, and I apologise for having been so long—
I am not sitting down for a moment. I wish to raise a very small point about the type of man being called up in the Class Z Reserve for specialist services. I never claim to have been a soldier. I merely claim to have been a civilian who was fortunate enough for 6½ years to wear battledress. The arm of the Service in which I was particularly interested was the movement and transportation section, and I was very surprised to learn that it is not in the specialist services group being called up for 15 days. It seems of little use to have whatever men we require and also all the equipment if we have not the machinery to move them to wherever they are wanted. I should have thought that we should at least have wanted the port organisation and port movement control people called up for 15 days' technical training. During the last war we found that one of the most important factors in the field was the lines of communication. Without adequate lines of communication we should have been in great difficulties. I hope the Minister will look at this point.
I confess that I do not believe in fighting a war on behalf of a way of life in such a way as so to impoverish ourselves that at the end of it we have destroyed any hope of maintaining that way of life. I hope that our American friends will realise that we cannot undertake the vast programme to which we have set our hand if they deny to us the raw materials which are essential for the completion of the programme. I cannot help feeling that at the moment we are not getting fair play. Having said that, I want also to say that I am not willing to ask our people to work as they have done since 1945 to re-establish their economic independence and raise their standard of living and then have our nation so weak that we are unable to defend the things for which we have worked so hard.
I shall, therefore, support the Government in this effort. I have my reserva-
tions regarding the re-armament of Germany and, as part of the plan of defence, the release or reduction of the sentences of the Nazi war criminals. The Government can "count me out" on that quite definitely, but I support the general scheme. Voigt, in "The Nineteenth Century and after," put the problem which faces us today a great deal better than I can. The question is, he said:
Shall Europe exist, the Europe we have known and hope to know again, the Europe for which the war is being fought"—
that was the 1914–18 war—
the Europe which alone gives the war any meaning, the Europe that is neither anarchy nor servitude, the Europe that is a balanced and integrated whole, the Europe which is so much more than a geographical expression, Europe the stronghold of the … Christian Heritage.
That was the question facing the nation in 1914. It was the question which faced the nation in 1939. I believe it is the question which faces us now. I ask that we shall all be prepared, with a full measure of courage but with cool heads, to see to it that this Europe does not cease, but that we shall not renounce the hope of settling the disputes, troubles and anxieties of the world without recourse to another bloody conflict.
It has often been my privilege to follow the hon. Member for Perry Barr (Mr. Poole) in our debates on transport. If I may say so without disrespect, I think he speaks rather more cogently on transport matters than he does upon foreign affairs, though I say it rather doubtfully because somebody may say the same about me when I sit down.
The hon. Member started by arguing the value that it is to a great democratic party to have wide differences of opinion within the party. In such circumstances the party opposite ought to be a singularly happy one at the present time.
I can well believe that. But it is an extraordinary situation in which we have a Government carrying on, and its supporters coming into the Lobby, not because they believe in the Government but because they want to stay there themselves.
I think I am right in saying that the majority of the speakers on foreign policy from most benches opposite were against the Government. The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) said today that he compared the naked, unprovoked aggression of Germany with what had happened in the case of the Chinese. He said that what the Chinese were doing was quite understandable, that it was something for which many excuses could be properly offered, and expressed astonishment that China should have been branded an aggressor. Who branded her an aggressor? His Majesty's Government. And yet I have no doubt that the hon. Member, when the occasion arises, will be in the Lobby. Indeed, I am quite sure of that.
It seems to me astonishing that at this moment in the history of the world anybody could have much doubt about branding China as an aggressor. Quite apart from Korea, think what is happening in Tibet and in Indo-China; and what about the Chinese terrorists in Malaya? I should have thought that most of the party opposite would have awakened to the true facts of the situation by now.
I do not want to follow in detail the rather discursive comments of the hon. Member for Perry Barr, but to recall the debate to what I think it is about, which is how best we can build up the security and safety of the nation. There are three things which I want to mention. First, the peril which confronts us. Unless one understands the peril, it is rather difficult to find the answer. Then I want to say something, very shortly, about the sacrifices which I think we are all to be called upon to make, and thirdly, a few words upon the nature of our military defences. I will say those things as quickly and as briefly as I can.
First, with regard to the perils. It seems to me that the Minister of Defence did not understand the kind of thing which we were up against. He thought that something sudden, new and unexpected had happened in Korea last March and that that had altered in a flash the whole picture of the world, and that as a result we had to have an entirely different policy. I do not believe that that is the truth at all. I think that what happened in Korea is a symptom of causes which are far deeper and wider than the forces which face each other in uncertain conflict across the 38th Parallel. I do not really believe that this is something which has suddenly happened or that it is something which will suddenly stop.
There are quite a lot of hon. Members opposite who seem to think that at almost any moment some happy eventuality will take place, that our present dangers will fade away into the mist and that we shall all be all right and will not really have any need to do very much about rearmament. Speaker after speaker has got up and said that something of that kind may happen.
What I have said is not nonsense. It is, of course, possible—I will not deny it—that the great armies at present arrayed against us may go back and retreat into their territories and that the steady flood of Communist propaganda will dry up. That is not impossible, but it is highly unlikely.
The basis of my argument—and it seems to me that it ought to be the basis of our discussions—is that not for a short time, but for a very long time indeed, we are to be faced with the same sort of perils as those which confront us today. My argument would not be in the slightest degree altered if we happened to get a temporary truce in Korea or a temporary arrangement in some quarter of the world. What I say is that the basic perils which confront us would remain exactly and precisely the same. Therefore it seems to me that anyone who is charged with considering the defences of this country ought to proceed upon the basis that they are not likely to have in the immediate, or even in the rather distant future, any great lifting of the perils which confront us or of the need for re-armament. We should, in my view, proceed on much grimmer assumptions.
The first of these is that we cannot buy the Russians off by any act of appease- ment. It is important to state that and to have it very clearly understood. There may be arguments for or against German re-armament, but the argument that the Russians do not like it is the worst argument of all. We cannot conduct our defensive or our foreign policy by seeking to do things which will please the Russians at this stage in our development.
The second assumption which has to be made and which is not, I gather from some of the speeches offered to the House, generally accepted, is that the Chinese will go on working with the Russians and working in very close concert with them. It may be that some day, somewhere, they will quarrel, but to base our policy on the hope that they will fall out at an early date would be a terrible gamble with the fortunes of the British people.
The third assumption I make is that the Communists, who, today, are the effective masters of the whole of Asia and also the masters of a considerable part of Europe, whatever else they do, are unlikely to stand still. I hope they do, but I think it unlikely that they will, and we should be prepared to see advances in other directions. I do not know, any more than anyone else, in what directions they are likely to go, but it could be in Persia, or it might be in Yugoslavia.
I would say this about Yugoslavia: it seems to me that in the immediate situation—and I am talking of the period of danger, during the next six months—what will be far more important than any decision about a 15-day call-up, is whether the United Nations Forces declare, in advance, how they would regard an unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia. After all, the armies of Russia's satellite Powers are today massing on her frontiers—Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania, with forces far above their treaty limits. I ask the Government to consider carefully whether it would not be wise to declare in advance that any unprovoked action by these forces might lead to very dire consequences indeed.
Those seem to me to be the three assumptions: that we cannot buy the Russians off, that the Chinese will work with them and that the Communist armies are not likely to stand still. I would only add one fourth peril and that is that the men who are planning our defeat in the military sense—who are planning the main strategy of the Communist aggression with weapons—are, of course, at exactly the same time, planning the fifth column activities, or the war of ideas. They are active today in our Colonial Empire, they are active in the steel works of Lorraine, in the coal mines of the Ruhr and in the dockyards of this country. They use different languages to suit different organs, but their purpose remains implacably the same. It is the utter destruction of our way of civilisation and the industrial economy we have in the free Western world. They want to reduce us to a point of weakness at which we shall be an easy victim either for revolution from within, or aggression from without.
My first criticism of His Majesty's Government is that, so far, they have singularly failed to describe to the country the perils which confront us. Unless they are stated—not by people like myself, a back bench Member—unless His Majesty's Ministers, with all the authority of office, are prepared to describe the kind of perils I have described in those sort of terms, I do not think we shall ever rouse this country to a sense of the real dangers which confront us.
I take one extreme case. I do not think it is typical of the Socialist Party. Mr. G. D. H. Cole expressed an extreme view and is more or less openly on the other side. I imagine that the vast majority of hon. Members among the party opposite would disagree with him when he said he wanted the North Koreans to win. But there are others who approach the matter in a very tortuous and subtle manner. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), wrote an article in the "Sunday Pictorial." He said that we underestimated the magnificent fight the Prime Minister had put up in Washington. I read on, because I was anxious to do full justice to the Prime Minister, but, when I got to the end of the column, I found that the fight was supposed to be against the Americans and not the Chinese. That seemed to me an extraordinary view of the situation at the present time.
There is the Lord President of the Council. He attended a Press conference in Glasgow the other day, and elaborated on the length of time this strange uncertain situation of half war half peace might go on. He said, according to reports, that it might last five, 10 or 15 years. I thought, "Here at least is a Minister with a real sense of responsibility." I read on to see what deduction he would draw from all that. I expected him to say that at this moment of our history our duty was to sink all our differences and try to concentrate on the real issues of re-armament. What he said was that in such circumstances it would be unwise to postpone the Festival of Britain. It seems to me that His Majesty's Ministers can do a little better than that.
I have no knowledge of any Motion of Censure. I am not arguing either for national unity or disunity. I am saying what the perils are which confront this country, and I am criticising the Government because, up to the present, they have signally failed 'to present those perils to the country in any understandable form. It seems to me that our job as a nation is to use to the very best advantage such time as remains available. We may not have very long, but such time as we have we should use to build up the greatest possible power in the West.
The Government propose to spend, in the next three years, £4,700 million. That figure is almost meaningless, as I think many hon. Members opposite will agree.
It is meaningless because the value of the pound is changing so rapidly that half-way through the three-year programme it will be found, according to present indications, that the figure will have to be a great deal larger. Moreover, between 1946 and 1950 the Government spent £4,000 million—of a more valuable pound—at a time when, according to the Prime Minister, the Army was living mainly upon its stocks. Having spent all that, at the time of the Defence debate last July the available reserves in the country were something like a brigade corps. What matters is not so much some broad figure of £4,700 million, as what we are likely to get out of it in terms of armoured divisions, artillery, tanks, and so forth.
I do not intend to ask the Government to anticipate their Budget because I know that they would, quite properly, refuse to do so. I have, however, learned at least one rule of economics, which applies just as much between Budgets as at the time of the Budget, namely, "You cannot have your cake and eat it." It is much easier to say that we will spend £4,700 million than to say what we will not spend during that period. So far, the Government have been very reticent about the kind of measures they will take in order to cut down certain forms of capital expenditure.
I will give two illustrations, to which I should like an answer. They show that I have in mind. Last December, Sir William Haley announced at a Press conference that he was proposing, to carry out a capital investment programme in television of £4,500,000 during the next three years. That was nine months after the sudden new change of events to which the Minister of Defence referred in March. Six months after we had been recalled to be told that the Government were really going to put re-armament in hand. That £4½ million will be directed at a very narrow, specialised market. It will be the very people who are concerned in the manufacture and extension of our radar defences and certain specialised things of that nature. Do the Government really intend to allow the B.B.C. to have a capital investment of that scale, described as "vast" by Sir William Haley himself? Are they really going to do that; and pretend, at the same time, that they are seriously concerned in placing large numbers of orders for new radar equipment and the like? I think we are entitled to an answer on that.
I will give only one other example, and that is local government expenditure. I have here an advertisement from a county council. I do not want to give the name; it is not my own. It is only typical of many others and I will give the right hon. Gentleman a copy of it if he likes. Therein is described the great reconstruction and development programme which the highways department of that county council have in hand for the next three years. It is dated 10th January last and it sets out a list of equipment they want to get and are going to purchase: 57 Diesel driver road rollers of various weights; 40 tipping lorries; eight mechanical gully emptiers; 45 trailer water carts; two pressure tank sprayers; 27 concrete mixers of various capacities; 23 motor tractors with all ancillary attachments; 11 Hi-Lift chaseside shovels; 30 mechanical loaders; 15 low-load trailers; three motor-graders with accessories; two self-propelled road heaters; one mobile concrete weigh batching plant; nine mobile cranes; five Moto-Carts for scavenging; and 68 10-cwt. vans for highway superintendents.
It seems a formidable sort of list. I am not saying that that is an energetic county council. I am not saying that it is an isolated county council. But I do ask the Government to say what steps they are taking to get economies in this sort of direction. The truth is that anybody can say, "I will spend £4,700 million," but what is wanted—and wanted now, not next April—is for the Government to start insisting upon drastic economies. What the Conservative Party have been more right about than any one thing—and they have been right about most—is that cuts in expenditure of that kind should have been made long ago—
With reference to the point about the Conservative Party being right about the need for cuts of that kind, will the hon. Gentleman look back into recent records and note how many Adjournment debates have come from that side of the House demanding increased expenditure on television?
I have no idea what Adjournment debates took place, but this I do say that to try to spend £4½ million in this limited, specialised market is inconsistent with the serious effort we are being asked to make. I would like an answer from the Government on that matter.
There is one other matter with reference to equipment to which I would like a reply. General Eisenhower, of whom there is probably no greater friend of this country, has, since he returned to America, in speech after speech and broadcast after broadcast, emphasised that the one great contribution which the United States can make to the building up of our strength is the supply of military equipment of all kinds—the right hon. Gentleman laughs, I do not know why he should laugh at that.
The right hon. Gentleman is probably laughing at a secret joke of his own. I should have thought that a statement of that kind, which is of a helpful nature, by such a distinguished gentleman was not a laughing matter, but something which would make a great deal of difference.
I ask the Government to say what conversations are proceeding with the United States in order to get this question of the parcelling out of the production side of this programme settled before the thing really starts; because it is vital that we should not change it in the middle. There is no doubt that one of the great assets of the West is the immense productive capacity of the United States of America. We ought to make the fullest possible use of it. I do not want to exaggerate the case. We have a highly geared, highly productive armament industry over here: but there is a great deal we can get from the United States. Let us get that matter sorted out early on, so that we can get the flow of that equipment over here started at the earliest possible opportunity.
The last matter upon which I should like to speak is the question of the type of our military defences. I do not intend to talk about the 15-day call-up. There are plenty of hon. Members who have gone into that matter in full detail and they can speak with much more knowledge than I can about those details. All I want to say about that is that it seems clear that it is more of a mobilisation exercise than a training matter. Obviously, I think—and I believe that I would carry the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence with me—if conditions worsen any further, we would not just have a 15-day call-up: we would have a much more serious sort of mobilisation, and the mobilisation or the calling up of Reserves would take place not only in this country but in Germany as well. That is all right—at least, I do not say that it is all right, but it is some contribution to the position this year. But what happens next year?
That is a different matter. Of course, if trouble occurred there would be serious difficulty, obviously. What I meant was as regards the number of trained reserves. The hon. Member may not be aware that we shall have coming along at the end of this year and in the early part of next year much more than 100,000 National Service men to undertake their Territorial liability. That is why the position will not be quite as difficult next year as it is this year, provided there is no trouble.
I appreciate the point. In other words, what happens next year in the event of any Russian difficulty appearing, or of any threat of emergency, is that we will start calling up some more men. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, we shall not call up the same men. He has given a clear undertaking tonight, which surprised me rather, that in no circumstances whatever will the people called up on this year's call-up be recalled in this sort of way either next year or in succeeding years. Therefore, another lot of Class Z reservists are to be called up.
That might be unnecessary. I tried to make it plain several times that inasmuch as there is this accretion of National Service men who, after serving two years with the active Forces, have to undertake their Territorial liability, we shall have a very large number of these men who are attached, (1) to the Territorial Army; and (2) to the Royal Air Force auxiliary Forces.
I appreciate that. I am talking about Regular divisions. In particular, what I have in mind are the Regular divisions not in this country but in Germany. The right hon. Gentleman has made a perfectly fair point. I appreciate that there will be an increase in the number of National Service men. If any emergency occurs, obviously in 1952 the only way in which the right hon. Gentleman will be able to meet it is by recalling some kinds of Reservists. That is the only possible way. I go further and say that it will not be enough merely to recall them in this country. He will have to recall them to where the danger is, and that is Germany. The same will apply in 1953 and 1954.
I would emphasise that this will not apply only if a war happens. In fact, the international situation has only to deteriorate to a certain pitch for the Chiefs of Staff, very properly, to come along and to say, "Look here. We cannot guarantee this position unless we have some of these Reservists called up and unless we have our Regular divisions brought up to the proper establishment with the technical men brought in, and all the rest of it." I should have thought that that was a fairly obvious matter. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot understand it, I will explain it to him afterwards.
I want to put what I hope is a non-controversial point, and it is to suggest whether, before we commit ourselves for a prolonged period to a situation of that kind, we should not think once again about the type of Army which we really need. Would it not in the long run be much better, bearing in mind that the present tension will continue for many years, to declare now our intentions of raising, recruiting, paying and training a substantially sized Regular volunteer force in this country?
The right hon. Gentleman says he has done it, or something like it. Quite obviously, he has not; he may have done much, but he has not done that. His speech may have meant a lot of things, but it could not possibly have meant that. He has said that he will depend during this period upon the National Service system. He ought to consider very carefully whether that will provide us with a real Army. It seems to me that, in the conditions of modern war, we shall not, and the right hon. Gentleman will not, be given time in which to call up the reservists. No doubt, there will be a situation in which he will have a very large number of reservists, and I will give him that, but our main Forces are not fully developed to meet the very perilous situation which is likely to confront us.
I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will have time to call up these reserves, and we really cannot be in a position in which, year after year, to meet any emergency that might arise—if Mr. Molotov merely frowns at an international conference, or if somebody else merely looks as if he was going to move an Army—we have to start calling up all the reserves again.
It does seem, therefore, that we should give very serious consideration to the building up of that Regular Force. I believe it could be recruited. If, at this moment, the men of this country were given the opportunity of joining Regular units, not for the purposes of training a never-ending influx of National Service men, but for actually serving in those units as fighting formations, and if they were properly paid and were placed in a privileged position with regard to married quarters and the like, and, above all, if they were given good pay—
I would not hesitate to increase it. We shall not get a Regular Army unless we do pay them properly and place them on a level with their industrial colleagues in the country.
If we do that, then, in the long run, we are likely to have larger, and certainly much more effective, fighting units than any that are to be raised in present circumstances. We should announce our intentions now with a special recruiting campaign. I would cut down the number of National Service men now coming in, get the equipment as quickly as may be, either from our own factories or from the United States, and, instead of sending observers to conferences to consider whether we should play some part in a European Army, I would start landing some divisions on the Continent, with fighter cover and close bomber support, and let the people of those countries see them.
I think it would be better if the Government, instead of just sending observers to international conferences, would raise forces of this kind and get them properly equipped, and let the people of Europe see, not observers at conferences, but fighting formations of that nature on their own Continent. I believe that in such circumstances they would be satisfied that, if trouble did arise, they would have well-equipped companions on their side, and that it would make a contribution to preserving peace throughout the world.
It had been my intention to deal tonight with the offensive and scurrilous personal attack which was made upon me in my absence and without any notice on Monday night by the hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). I have given him notice of my intention to reply, and I see that he is now in his place. However, I feel that we have honoured his abuse excessively tonight by referring to him too frequently already in this debate. Happily, the effectiveness of his scurrility bears no relation to its volume, and I will say no more about it, save this. His method of attacking me was by tactics which, in some other cases also I regret to say, are sometimes used against hon. Members on this side of the House by hon. Members opposite.
In his speech, the hon. Member for Flint, West, did not seek to deal with my opinions or try to criticise them, which, of course, he is thoroughly entitled to do. I do not agree with him; he does not agree with me. All he did was to try to smear me with the label "fellow traveller." I regard this smear campaign, which apparently is also pursued by one of the lunatic fringe on the other side of the House, as a threat to the very basis of this Parliamentary democracy of ours. If we are to be abused by this smear, it may well be that some of us may be intimidated by it, although I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall not be, and that some who may sincerely wish to say what they think may be deterred.
In the United States of America, this smear campaign has already gone some way to corrode American democracy. Those who have been subjected to it in America, like Mr. Dean Acheson himself, call it "ordeal by slander." Heaven forbid that we should have it here. It is not long since Senator McCarthy denounced my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as a fellow traveller, so that apparently I am in good company. But we in this House must assert our right to say honestly and as competently as we can, that which we believe. I think that
this outlook and approach of the hon. Member for Flint, West, who I do not really think has any faith in the institutions of Parliament—he certainly has no regard for the courtesies of Parliament or for the niceties of Parliamentary procedure—will do great harm to this nation and to our Parliamentary democracy. Before I leave this matter, I think it worth while to echo the noble words of John Milton which need to be stated in these times. They run:
Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience above all liberties. Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth he in the field, we do injuriously … to misdoubt her strength.
Unless we approach the contemporary problems of this troubled world in that way, then we had better give up being Members of Parliament. I hope we shall have no repetition of this kind of dangerous nonsense from the other side of this House.
The fact is that the people of this country are not very interested in personal slanging matches that may take place on the Floor of this House. The mood of anxiety which is prevalent throughout our country today reflects a very disturbed and very troubled state of mind. There is a feeling that whoever may win in any armed conflict that may take place between the great forces of America and Soviet Russia, whatever may emerge from that conflict, the survival of this country at least will be in doubt. In such a war, our tightly packed and heavily populated little island is apparently to perform, among other rôles, the rôole of an unsinkable aircraft carrier, and there is a deep anxiety in the minds of the people of this country about any development which may result in that hideous war taking place.
It is reflected particularly in the constituency of West Ham, South, which I have the honour to represent. It was one of the most blitzed areas in the country, where even today we are only slowly removing the scars of war. It is because of this feeling among my constituents—and all of us are getting letters on such lines from our constituents all over the country—that I take comfort from the opening paragraph of the White Paper, "Defence Programme," which we are debating. Those words set out clearly two propositions that,
The Government do not believe that war is inevitable …
the purpose of the re-armament programme is to prevent war.
I shall support the re-armament programme on the assumption that this purpose of preventing war will be energetically pursued by His Majesty's Government in all its diplomatic activity. And one of the reasons why I shall vote for the Government tomorrow night is that one of the consequences of not doing so may be to let into power gentlemen to some of whom I would not feel happy in entrusting this great military machine that we are creating, in the days that lie ahead. We have had one or two illustrations of the divorcement of re-armament from peaceful intentions in the minds of one or two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken tonight. I think the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) engaged in some sabre rattling. That is not helpful in these days when our situation in the world is apparently so critical that we are facing overwhelming military strength and are practically naked and disarmed to meet it.
If that is the truth, is it helpful, in the face of what is said to be our dire peril, to engage in provocations and wild assertions, in imagining invasions which may never take place and pointing out places of danger where danger may never arise? I do not follow it; I do not see it. For instance, the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), in so far as I followed his speech with regard to China, was in favour, as I understood him—though I may be doing him an injustice—of sanctions being applied against China. That is my understanding of what he said. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite to go on record that they now desire sanctions to be applied against China?
Let the people of Britain know where hon. Members opposite stand on this matter. I see that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham is now back in his place. I do not want to do the right hon. Gentleman an injustice and if I have misquoted him I shall give way. Therefore, I shall repeat what I said in his absence. I was venturing to say that it seemed to me from the words of the noble Lord, that he was advocating the imposition of sanctions on China.
The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. My argument was that the Americans had every reason to take exception to the attitude adopted in certain quarters in this country who objected to their advocating sanctions against China, in view of the fact that they had been attacked by Chinese troops and had suffered far greater casualties from them than any other member of the United Nations.
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, he is far too honest a debater to ride away from this issue like that. I ask him a direct question: does he or does he not now advocate the imposition of sanctions against China.
That is a very simple question to answer. The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished member of the legal profession, and I am surprised that he should put such a question to me. The matter is entirely one for the. United Nations, and if the Security Council decides that there should be sanctions against China, I hope this House will support it.
The burden of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, as I understood it, was praise of the application of the balance of power principle, and I thought he was adopting a wholly derisory attitude towards the institution and organisation of the United Nations.
I am sorry to interrupt again, but if the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech, which was possibly delivered in language which was not clear to him, I said that we had to act within the ambit of the United Nations; and if he will look in HANSARD, he will see those actual words.
Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman this question. What would he have done if—I must not be offensive—the course of events had made him the British representative at the United Nations? What would he have done with this proposition to apply sanctions against China?
What we are concerned with in this debate is the attitude of His Majesty's Government, which causes not only us on this side of the House but almost the whole allied world complete dissatisfaction.
This country is entitled to a responsible Opposition. We are not getting any demonstration of responsibility from the right hon. Gentleman. The truth is that if there had been another Government in power in this country tonight, it may well be that the fatal error of launching sanctions against China would already have begun. Mercifully Sir Gladwyn Jebb has put our position upon that matter quite clearly, and I shall repeat it so that the right hon. Gentleman may know where Britain's representative stands on this matter. He has said:
The British Government has the gravest doubts whether any punitive measures can be discovered which are not dangerous, double-edged, or merely useless, or any which will materially assist our brave troops now fighting in Korea.
That is a statement made with a sense of responsibility and is a statement worthy of the great demands that are made upon this country now.
In my view, the case for building up our armed strength as a deterrent against possible aggression—and I readily concede that there is such a case—only makes sense if it is accompanied by an active policy to prevent war. If it is not so accompanied by an active policy to prevent war, then the very process of rearmament will itself be a war-making factor. In the past, as we all know from our experience and our reading of history, arms races pure and simple have ended, with inexorable inevitability, in war. It will happen again if re-armament becomes a substitute for policy and not an instrument of policy. Indeed, the bellicosity of some hon. Members opposite—I will not for a moment brand them all, for if I did I would be committing the offence of which I earlier complained—puts in peril the whole re-armament programme.
As I understand the position, according to the phasing of the re-armament programme, we require at least two or three years to get anywhere near what is deemed to be a position of security, so that for the interim period, at any rate, the most military-minded of strategists has to hold his tongue, to watch his step and to watch what he is doing. For that interim period, in particular, to conceive of rearmament as the end and aim of policy and not merely as an instrument of a peace-making policy, is indeed very perilous. Even thereafter it will be a menace.
The clearest illustration of the proposition that in some circumstances rearmament can cause war and not prevent it, is as I see it, in the proposal to re-arm Western Germany. Not only do I think that that proposal is the one political change most calculated to rally all the peoples of Eastern Europe pretty solidly against the West, but I think it is the one political measure most calculated to divide the West if a show-down is to come. I think it would throw a vast interrogative over the whole purpose of our re-armament and it would throw into what is already, unfortunately, an overcharged political atmosphere new political issues of a grave and dangerous character which, at the moment, unfortunately, are soluble only by war.
In particular, there is the demand of the nationalist elements in Western Germany for the recovery of East Prussia and parts of Silesia. Upon this theme I think I can do no better than quote Mr. Walter Lippman who, Heaven knows, is not a wild radical. Writing recently in the "New York Herald-Tribune," he said:
Substantial German re-armament can be had if at all only by an all-out American strategic commitment not only to defend Western Europe but to liberate Eastern Europe.ֵ French fears stem from an accurate and contemporary realisation that a German army would wish to march and would drag along with it all the rest of us against Koenigsberg and Warsaw.
If I may say so, those fears are not confined to the French. If we created tomorrow the 30 German divisions of which Chancellor Adenauer is now speaking—
How an hon. Gentleman with his distinguished military record can conceive of our having a defence debate without also discussing one of the greatest issues connected with it—the re-armament of Germany—I cannot understand. I do not wish to dwell upon the matter, however; I have expressed my views upon it before, I hope not at too great a length. I say that in present circumstances the rearmament of Germany would provide the maximum political provocation and danger and the minimum military and strategic return. It is vitally necessary that the four-Power conference which is to be held shortly should take place without any decisions having been made in advance, without any irrevocable commitments having been entered into which would tie our hands at the conference. I believe the people of this country expect and assume the whole-hearted determination of His Majesty's Government that that four-Power conference should succeed. In the last resort, it is by negotiation that we can achieve peace and not by the creation of 10 German divisions.
I want to make only a very short speech, so I must resist the temptation to follow the hon. Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Frederick Elwyn Jones) in some of his arguments. All that I will say about them is that he appears to be yet another example of hon. Members on the other side of the House who are not prepared to support their Front Bench on rearmament. What is positively frightening to us is to realise that on Monday night only one hon. Gentleman opposite supported the Foreign Secretary, and that tonight only two hon. Gentlemen have supported their Front Bench.
How much longer can that go on? How much longer it is possible for a Government, unsupported in this way, to have any say whatsoever in the councils of the world? The Prime Minister now is no longer the leader of a party. He is, in fact, the leader of a coalition. In his coalition he has hon. Members whose statements differ little from those of known Communists; he has got America-haters—those who hate America because it is a capitalist country, and a successful capitalist country at that; he has got pacifists; and he has got those who are prepared to re-arm provided that that does not entail any sacrifices on behalf of their supporters.
That is a coalition. It is not a political party. It is a coalition held together by one thing, and that is the common funk of a General Election, which they know they will lose. I suggest to the Prime Minister that the time may have come when he owes greater loyalty to his country than he owes to his party, and that, for the sake of his country, and of the free world, he should now lay down the burden which he has very gallantly tried to hold, but which he can hold no longer without the support of the Members behind him.
I want to make two points. First, I want to help, if I can, the Secretary of State for War. We heard today that it is proposed to raise 10 Regular divisions. That is not very many in comparison with the forces that may be ranged against us. I want to help the right hon. Gentleman to find three more. This is the question I want to ask him. Why is it that the Government steadily refuse to consider raising a colonial army? They are calling up for two years young men in this country—a thing we have never done before in peace-time—and even when we have done it we are unable to provide the Forces which we regard as adequate to our needs; and yet we reject, almost without any consideration, the great reservoir of loyal, capable fighting men in the Colonial Empire. What is behind this attitude? Why is it that after five years of being pressed continuously from this side of the House the Government will do nothing about it?
I can see two functions a colonial Army could fulfill. It could provide garrison troops. How many British troops are there scattered all over the world in places like Jamaica, Gibraltar, Cyprus, Aden, doing jobs which equally well could be done by long-service colonial troops, and which before the war, in many cases, were done by the men of the Indian Army? I believe that it would be possible to scrape up one additional division of British troops if we were to withdraw those men from those far distant garrisons, and replace them by garrison troops from a colonial Army.
A colonial Army could raise a field force as well as set free a garrison division. I do not mean for service in Europe, but for service in the Far East and service in the Near East. Look at the magnificent war record of the West African and the East African troops in Burma during the war. Would not men of that sort be equally useful to fight the war in Malaya?
I do hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate he will not trot out the two usual alibis which we always hear when we mention this matter. One is that the matter is "under active consideration." We have had that for five solid years. The other is that it is no good to recruit men unless you have the arms ready for them. If we were to raise long-service troops from the Colonial Empire we could get them into formations, trained and disciplined, and supply them with the arms afterwards. The Indian Army is no longer available and under our command, but there is a great reservoir of officers from the Indian Army who would willingly take service in a colonial Army.
That is two divisions. I will now provide the right hon. Gentleman with the chance of getting a third one. What is the real objection to recruiting a foreign legion? We have recruited one before in our history, and France does so now with great success. There are perhaps tens of thousands of men from the occupied countries of Eastern Europe who would be only too glad to play their part in the defence of the things for which we are fighting. After all, we have got to the stage of re-arming Germany. Could we not also give arms to the Poles, who fought with us during the war, and to the men of the Baltic States? In that way the right hon. Gentleman, with the least possible cost and in the quickest time, could get three additional divisions who would be able to relieve men for service in Germany.
This is the last point, What is our policy on strategic materials? I do not mean the question of our own stockpiling. That will be dealt with later in this debate, I hope. I mean the other way round. What is our policy about denying stockpiling to our potential enemies? Unless we take that into consideration, a debate on defence has no reality. We had an answer to a Question this afternoon in the House that I thought was startling and frightening. It was that apparently we are going on stockpiling not only Russia and the satellite countries of Europe with rubber, but China as well. In the last six months of last year we sent to China more than 70,000 tons of rubber from British territories in the Far East, nearly five times as much as we sent for the same period in the previous year. Is that to go on? Are we right to ask British planters in Malaya to risk and perhaps to lay down their lives, being murdered by Chinese bandits, in order to send rubber to the Government that is financing those bandits, to be used on Chinese motor lorries against British troops in Korea? What is the use of our talking about defence policy unless the Government are prepared to give us some information on these points?
Last week the Prime Minister chided me because I suggested that there were differences between ourselves and the United States. Surely we could not have a greater difference than this, that the United States have a virtual embargo on the export of goods to China and, on the other hand, our increase of an essential raw material like rubber by five times. So long as that disparity goes on, can we wonder that we are losing our influence in the United States? I suggest that when we consider re-armament from the military point of view we cannot afford to ignore the loyal service of a Colonial Army and that when re-arming, we should, from a strategic point of view, decide whether it is right and proper that we should continue to supply our potential enemies with raw materials that might be used against us.
It was, presumably, because he found that a certain variety of views is permitted to be held on this side of the House. I can imagine him being envious of that situation, having regard to the dull uniformity he finds on his own side. It is comparable with that incredible uniformity which we found just before the war in a Government which was quite incompetent to take any of the steps which were necessary either to rearm or to prevent that war. He was also a little upset because his own private enterprise capitalist friends had been sending rubber to places where he thought it ought not to go. I do not quite follow why that is the fault of His Majesty's Government.
I want to deal with certain aspects of re-armament—not necessarily the military aspects, important though they are. I know that we must have guns, ships, planes, men and war potential in order to be properly secure. Just how many guns, planes, ships and men we must have to be secure I am not able to say. This House must give wide directives, and we must trust our executive, who have shown such an admirable outlook on these matters hitherto, with their advisers, to fill in the gaps. It is not right that a debate upon defence should descend to a mere wrangle about figures. There are other very important considerations in defence, and it is upon one aspect of the diplomatic side of the defence programme that I want to lay some stress.
The Atlantic Pact is now a fact and we must try to appreciate what went before it if we are satisfactorily to formulate a policy to help it through to success, which is, of course, security. When we were an island on the North-West coast of Europe we had, at any rate from Tudor times, a definite policy in Europe. I shall deal with the policy in regard to defence which we ought to follow as applied to the continent of Europe and the continent of Asia at the present time. From the times of the Tudors onwards, rather than have a foothold in Europe, a foothold which might only too easily become an Achilles' heel, we have always striven to have in Europe friends upon whom we could rely in times of emergency. Thus we were able to steer clear of merely continental squabbles and quarrels, but when first Spain, then France and later Germany tried to ruin our independence by means of their hegemony in Europe we were able successfully to intervene on the Continent.
Now we are no longer an island, and I submit that we do not want to have, as was stated in a speech in Copenhagen by a "naval person" not so long ago, more channels to separate one people from another; rather we want to bring people together if it is at all possible. Are we not—this is my main point—with regard to Asia in just the same position as we were once with regard to Europe? Have we not as dire a need now of friends on that continent as ever we had in Europe?
What more likely candidate to become our trusted friend in Asia could we possibly find than our great sister nation of the Commonwealth, India? Her greatest interest is peace. Nobody suspects her motives. The more we act in concert with India surely the less will people suspect our motives.
What would have happened if the twofold suggestion of the Prime Minister of India with regard to the fighting in Korea had been accepted and properly appreciated by the nations of the world? If the first one with regard to not crossing the 38th Parallel had been accepted we might have well ended the fighting in Korea by now. Even if the first one had failed, we should at least have had a situation wherein the Prime Minister of India would have been able to lead his people into the United Nations confident that they were doing the best thing possible for peace. Now there is, as we all know, some hesitation there. If ever there was a case of "heads we won and tails Russia lost," surely it was that case where we might have followed the advice he tendered.
The second part of his advice was to seat China upon the United Nations Security Council. If it is true at the present time that China persists in being an interventionist Power, if it is true that she is not serving the cause of peace in Tibet, in Malaya, in Indo-China and Korea, and if it is true that she is now a tool of Russia, may it not be because of the rebuff which she had to suffer when she was refused that seat upon the Security Council which was her right by the Charter? I hope the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) is not still of the opinion that it would be appeasement to grant that seat on the Council to China at the present moment.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not think it was appeasement, though I gather that many of his hon. Friends thought it was, in the same debate. If they did, all I can say is that it is not appeasement to do the right thing; it is only appeasement if one tries to buy off an aggressor, if one tries to do the wrong thing. We had a little of that from the Father of the House, whose interventions give me the greatest pain from time to time. So often the right hon. Gentleman forgets that he is the Father of the House and behaves as though he was the strait-laced governess of the House—a tragedy for one whose years in the House should have given him so much greater experience.
I feel that a great opportunity was lost in not following the lead of India in this matter. But the cause of peace does not lack great opportunities and another will arise or, indeed, it can be made by statesmanship. Here is where I hope the admirable efforts of His Majesty's Government will be continued. We must do all in our power, in co-operation with India, to see that another occasion arises. Could we not follow the Atlantic Pact by an Indo-Pacific Pact, in which the defence of the whole of South-East Asia would be covered in a similar way to that now obtaining for the Atlantic countries? Further attempts must be made with India to settle outstanding problems by argument and not by arms, not by force but by fair play, not just in sullen resentment against what we feel to be the wrong done by the present Government of China, but in sound reasonableness as to what we feel will achieve peace.
In the last few moments at my disposal I feel that perhaps this is an occasion when one can pay fitting tribute to the statesmanship of the Labour Government in having accorded that complete independence to India which was denied by the party opposite. History may yet recall that the first fruits of that wisdom and statesmanship on the part of the Labour Government have been the decisive intervention by India and its Prime Minister, in co-operation with ourselves, to save the world from atomic destruction.
I hope that the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) will forgive if I do not follow him in his speech. It has shown that this question of defence and foreign affairs are inextricably intertwined, and that has been the case with many speeches today. There have been many notable contributions, and I hope to comment on some of them in the course of my remarks, but I think that the whole House would be with me in congratulating the noble Lord the Member for Bournemouth, West (Viscount Cranborne) on safely negotiating his first fence in the House of Commons, a task which he performed with great skill. Perhaps he owes me a little fellow-feeling in my present position tonight.
The debate has shown that there is considerable difficulty, when considering the White Paper, in assessing the exact effect of the Government's proposals on our defences. So far as the call-up of the reservists is concerned, that is a straightforward matter, but where the expenditure of this immense sum of money is concerned we have not very much guidance from either the White Paper or the Minister of Defence. It seems to me that unless a great deal of administrative skill, drive, energy and organisation is brought to bear by the Government, this vast sum of money can never be translated into weapons and equipment. Furthermore, unless there is great skill in doing it, it cannot be translated into weapons and equipment without dislocating, or even crippling, our economy.
In assessing the likelihood of that being done by the Government, all that we really have to judge by is the Government's performance up to date. The position of the Government today is somewhat analogous to that of a body of men who, in a past era, might have been instructed to build a fort against the possibility of hostile neighbours becoming tiresome. If those men had gone away for three or four years and spent a great deal of money, men and material, and had then come back and said, "We are worried about the fort which we have built. We want a lot more money and men," those who were consulted would want to have a look at the fort. If, peering through the mist—which is what we always do in defence debates—what they saw was not a snug, strong-looking fort, but a kind of unfinished damaged replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, they would feel a bit worried.
It would be only fair on the part of people who were confronted with some such strange edifice to ask what were the proposals for making it strong and effective in the future. They would surely say, "By all means have the money and the men to prop up this strange-looking edifice as a matter of urgency, but how do we know you are going to build it straight in the future? It looks to us, by what you have done so far, that you have done it without any plan, without any great skill, and without much foresight and knowledge of the subject." Our position today is rather similar to that.
We can assess the effectiveness of the White Paper only on the Government's past performances. It is my conviction that during the last few years the conduct of our defences has been mismanaged. During these years, instead of looking after our defences, most of the courage, drive and vigour as far as it exists in the Government has been concentrated on a fruitless and expensive pursuit of an entirely illusory Socialist Utopia.
Those of us who have worried about defence, and I think hon. Members opposite will agree that there have been many of us, have had the dismal spectacle of watching hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite competing with one another in trying to track down their elusive Utopia. They have been competing in what one might term the grand nationalisation paper chase. What assurance have we that this particular paper chase is to end? Have the Government realised that they have now come up with the quarry? It is not, I suggest, Utopia; it is the harassed, coalless, meatless and largely defenceless British taxpayer. That is the quarry they have found at the end of this particular run.
While all this was going on, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, the then Minister of Defence, supported by enormous quantities of money and men, supported by three of the most ineffective Service Ministers this country has ever had, was coming to the House and showing himself to be in an almost constant state either of indecision or inaction. Annually he came before us at the time of the Service Estimates debates dressed suitably for the occasion in the seven veils of security and invited our admiration. Those of us who were interested in defence, soon discovered, despite the fact that he never took off a single veil, that behind those veils he was concealing the misshapen, flabby and pendulous state to which he reduced our once strong defences. We were not silent when we discovered this and I must say in justice that certain hon. Members opposite were not silent either.
We pointed out year after year that the Regular volunteer element in the Services was running down, that wastage was increasing. We implored him to put up Service pay; but nothing was done. We pointed out that technicians were drifting out of the Services into civil life; but nothing was done. We pointed out that in the present plan the Territorial Army would be empty at a very critical period; but no action was taken. We begged him to have a register of the Z Reservists; but nothing was done. We pointed out that to live on our fat as far as equipment was concerned and make no preparation for new equipment was highly dangerous; but nothing was done. We asked him to remember that this island was concentrated and vulnerable to air attacks and that all the time our early warning radar system was undermanned and under-equipped, as were our aircraft defences.
We are told that all these things are to be attended to now, but it is so late. If—and I say this without conceit, but with conviction—the advice we had given had been taken and if what is now being done had been done progressively over the last two or three years, not only would it have had much more effect on the strength of our Forces, not only would our country now be exposed to far less danger, not only would it have had a better effect on our Allies, but it would, I believe, have been far less burdensome on our people than this sudden expedient. It seems to me, in considering the proposals contained in the White Paper, that we must regard them not as a sudden expedient because of some unforeseen crisis, but as a long- term plan which may have to last over a period of years. This is not the moment for expedients; it seems likely that the present threat of danger, provided we succeed and avoid war, is likely to last for some time.
I would like to examine these proposals with that particular point in view. The first and most straightforward proposal contained in the White Paper is that for the call-up of reservists. Many hon. Members have already dealt with or mentioned this subject, but I would like to add a few remarks partly concerning the men who are being called up for the active Army and partly those who are being called up for the Territorial Army. As far as the active Army is concerned, these men, we are told, are largely to provide the corps and Army troops for the active Army. They, I understand, will be largely restricted to those divisions now either in this country or perhaps going to Germany or already in Germany.
The active Army is at present in a novel position so far as our Forces are concerned. The novelty lies in the period of mobilisation. The present position on the Continent of Europe, where we are very near the frontier of a possible hostile Power means that their mobilisation would have to be exceptionally rapid. Bearing that in mind, and the importance of those corps and Army troops, which comprise such troops as corps and Army signals, repair units, etc., which are vital to the efficiency of any Force, and bearing in mind the speed of mobilisation, I would ask the Government this question: Do they consider that the Class Z reservists for the active Army, after only 15 days' training, can be sent away and then mobilised in a matter of days, sent to Germany and be expected to go straight into battle?
Everything I have learned in my military experience suggests to me that it is not long enough. Whether the Government agree or disagree with that, they will at least agree with me, I feel confident, on one point. The calling up of 115,000 men for the active Army will have no long-term effect in increasing its operational strength. Perhaps one of the most important problems before us is to think out a method of increasing our contribution to the ground strength of Western Europe. There is the crying shortage today. The Minister of Defence told us— he dropped a ruby so far as we were concerned—that we had 10 divisions. That is a novel piece of information, for which we are most grateful. [HON. MEMBERS: "The equivalent."] Not quite so good as I thought.
We are told that in the active Army, by April this year, which is very soon, there will be 442,000 men, about half Regulars and half National Service men. That Force produces 10 divisions. The full strength of a division, and I take it that all these divisions are not at full strength, is 20,000 men. Hon. Members will realise, therefore, that 200,000 men are in divisions. That leaves more than half this Force, more than 200,000 men, unaccounted for.
The Minister of Defence told us that he had tried to economise. It is true that some of these men are National Service men under training, some are in headquarters and other units, but why is it that only half of this very considerable number are in formations that can fight? I am absolutely convinced that the reason for that—a reason which the Minister of Defence did not mention to the House—lies in one thing only—dispersion. We have a few divisions in Germany and in this country, but the rest are spread throughout the garrisons in the Middle East and of the Far East—all over the globe. The wastage from that is immense, not only because there have to be base installations but because vast numbers of men are constantly travelling through the pipeline to get to and from their stations. That is immensely wasteful.
I have been thinking very hard about a solution of this problem. In it lies the key to our difficulty. I do not agree with my hon. Friend who thought that we could now rapidly recruit. A great deal has been done, and more could undoubtedly be done, but our purpose is rapid addition to our strength in Western Europe. Can we cut our foreign commitments? I do not think so. What has struck me so strongly is that we are an Empire faced with what is possibly the most dangerous position we have ever had, yet this small island is bearing almost the whole burden for the entire defence of the Middle and Far East.
What use is there in our bases or elsewhere of colonial manpower? Practically none. What is the contribution for area responsibility from the Dominions? Judging by the response of the Dominions when we have been in trouble before, I cannot believe that under these circumstances a far greater response cannot be made available. My fears were reinforced when the Minister of Defence said that at this recent and vital Imperial Conference "defence was not one of the subjects discussed, but we had a few friendly talks." I cannot conceive why, in our difficulties, defence was not the first subject for discussion. The House must realise that if we could save just two divisions from the Middle and Far East by getting them back to this country, or Europe, we would save not two, but four, because of the avoidance of the vast overheads of maintaining them and transporting them to that distant area.
I agree with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, but he will appreciate that there is a difficulty with regard to the old Commonwealth countries, with regard to Australia, where the Government has not been able to put their National Service Bill into operation and have only recruited a small number of units. They tried to recruit some soldiers in this country.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but, nevertheless, even a comparatively modest contribution to area responsibility would help. I see now that Canada is sending forces to Europe.
Supposing this 10,000 could have gone to the Far East, which is as near or nearer Canada, the saving to this country in overheads would have been vast. And how about a South African contribution in the Middle East? Both in Colonial manpower and the contributions of the Dominions, I believe, lies our best hope of any rapid solution of the building up of stronger forces in Western Europe.
I wish to turn for a moment to the 120,000 men called up for the Territorial Army. I would remind the House that the rôle of the Territorial Army today is extremely extensive. They have the task of providing 12 divisions, practically all the anti-aircraft defences of this country, and a good many specialist units as well.
As I calculate it, the strength of the Territorial Army, including the volunteer element and the part-time National Service men and specialist units, will be somewhere about 600,000. The strength today is about 94,000 volunteers and 20,000 National Service men, that is to say, about one-sixth of the total; and we are confronted with a situation of great danger.
I am sure that the Government will agree with me that the call-up of 120,000 Z men for 15 days provides no long-term solution for the Territorial Army. That, it would seem to me, is not all, because as the Minister of Defence pointed out, the Territorial Army does not even start to fill until April of this year, and it will not have completed until the autumn of 1954. The Minister made a very revealing statement today when he said that none of the Z men now called up will be called up again. My deduction from that is that the Government have realised that inevitably to fill this void in the Territorial Army, they will have to call up different Z men in succeeding years.
I am extremely sorry to interrupt again, but I tried to explain this several times. We shall have a very large aggregation of National Service men who will have served two years in the active Army and will go, for three-and-a-half years to the Territorial Army. They will be attached to the volunteer Territorial Army.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I was fully aware of that fact, but I would point out to him that by next April he will have only an extra 120,000 National Service men. That is not enough, and, therefore, I repeat that he will be forced to call up more men, it seems to me. I do not know, but I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I think he will. Nevertheless, be that as it may—perhaps he does not think he will be in office.
Whatever the case may be, what strikes me is that, instead of this expedient which the Government have introduced, was there not a case for saying to the Minister of Labour, "The War Office estimate is that they will want x men." Having got that number an age limit could have been fixed for the Z Reserve men required. He could then have said to all those Z men that over a period of two, three or more years they would be called up, some this year, some next year, and so on. From the same age group he could have taken all the men who were once in reserved occupations but were no longer in them. That would have meant that everyone in that group would have done something with the Services.
I agree that the men from reserved occupations who have never had any military training would not be much good. Some of them could have been formed into small units where their civil occupation fitted them for employment. The remainder could have been told that they have a liability for Civil Defence. If that had been done, not only would we have had a plan on which the War Office could make its plans, not only would everybody have known where they were, but there would have been something to appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite—"Fair shares for all." I have great regret that the Government have taken this one small nibble at a cherry which is still very much in existence.
I turn to a question which causes the most difficulty in this White Paper, and that is the method in which this very large sum of money, about half of £4,700 million, is to be spent on weapons and re-armament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) foresaw the gravest difficulty in our economy being able to absorb that immense amount of money. I realise that a great deal of this most intricate and difficult matter is to be discussed tomorrow, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open the debate. We on this side of the House who are particularly interested in defence have realised that the most critical aspect over the next year or two will probably be not so much manpower as equipment. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman agrees with us.
We have been doing our best to study this problem of providing up-to-date and efficient equipment within the near future. I am sure that the Minister of Defence will agree that to equip well-trained, keen troops who are with the Colours with obsolete and Obsolescent or insufficient equipment is likely to cause the greatest discouragement and the greatest disaster. When we look at the position we find that there is a great shortage of raw materials. We find that our stockpiles are very low. The Government have stated that there is a serious shortage of machine tools. We know that there is now very little factory space. Hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes abuse us for neglect before the last war, but here we are with a re-armament programme and no shadow factories. There is a shortage of skilled labour; a shortage of power, and it may be that there will be a shortage of steel.
The fears I have as to whether this vast sum can really be absorbed by our economy are reinforced by the White Paper itself. In it, the Prime Minister, having drawn attention to this matter once before, says:
I should once more call attention to the limitations on production which I mentioned earlier, and to the fact that these limitations may make it impossible to spend this sum within that period.
The position we have got to over this sum of money is that the extent to which it is spent, the speed with which it is spent and the effectiveness with which it is spent are entirely dependent on the initiative, drive and vigour of His Majesty's Government. If they make a job of it, maybe that sum can be absorbed, but, if they do not, if they fail in any way, then only a small part of that money can be spent, and part of it may be ineffective.
It is against that background that we should examine carefully the organisation for spending it. As I understand it, the responsibility for this immensely complicated, delicate and sensitive task devolves fairly and squarely on the Minister of Supply. It is a fact that the Minister of Supply has also to nationalise steel, and he has, at the same time, got a full time job apart from that; at any rate, he has been drawing full time pay for some time without having this extra job. Seldom have so many depended for so much on one who was so new to the task. If he can bear this burden it will be very remarkable, but, in the last war, it took four men with expert knowledge of all their particular subjects to undertake that task, with the added advantage of the ability to turn over to a war-time economy. I must confess that, in considering this matter of production, neither the Government's past performance nor the overloading of the Ministry of Supply fills me with very much confidence.
Before I leave the question of equipment, I should like to ask the Secretary of State one or two straightforward questions, which, I hope, he will answer. My first is this: Is he satisfied as far as tank production for the Army is concerned? We have heard—indeed, I think it was said in the House—that a new factory has been built for the manufacture of tanks.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. From what I can find out about the building of such factories it takes about 18 months before tanks come out at the other end of the production line. These two factories, laudable though they are, cannot possibly solve the problem, because we have quite a few armoured divisions to equip urgently. My fear is that, perhaps, through lack of tank production, these armoured divisions may remain under-equipped. Have we not got to have some help from America, or is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied?
My second question is this: Is the Minister really satisfied about the new tank? It is an immensely complicated tank, and very typical of the British—beautifully made and of great complexity. It needs the most skilled mechanics because it is so complex, and the more complex it is the greater the chance that it would break down, and the tank that breaks down in battle is not a very agreeable companion. The point is that we have heard on quite good authority that a great deal of trouble was experienced with these tanks in Korea, that the maintenance question became acutely difficult, and that large numbers were constantly off the road during that campaign. I am aware that these were peculiarly difficult conditions, but this is, above all, the time when we should find out if we are making these tanks too complicated. If so, we may be laying in store for ourselves a great deal of trouble if we should blunder into war.
The third question concerns a less glamorous but none the less necessary part of military equipment—soft vehicles. I do not know whether hon. Members know what soft vehicles are, but they are lorries, and so on. We have been living on our fat in soft vehicles for the last three or four years. Who is to make the vast quantities which the Army requires, and have any orders been placed? It seems to me to be an immense and vital need, and we all realise that it might make a dent in the motor industry. We would like an assurance from the Government that everything is being done in this respect.
I appreciate that the Government face immense difficulties in attempting to fulfil the proposals contained in the White Paper. I think there is one difficulty which the vast majority of hon. Members of this House wish that they were without. It is enough to be confronted with the threat of 175 Russian divisions without also having to look in this House of Commons behind one and to one's flank because of the threat of about a platoon of what we might call the "Westminster guerillas." It is an anxiety to some of us on this side of the House that this particular underground formation, like its transport equivalent, has both its outer and its inner circle.
I must confess that some remarks made recently by some right hon. Gentlemen now on the Government Front Bench have cast grave doubts on their resolution to push through this defence programme. But, as far as back bench hon. Members opposite are concerned, what is it that they really want? They tell us that what they want is a settlement, and, therefore, I can only assume that that is a settlement negotiated from weakness. If they do not want to re-arm, but want a settlement, my logic says that it is a settlement based on weakness.
What I say to hon. Members opposite is this. We all want a settlement, but, surely, a settlement of that kind, with the background of present day Russia and her policy, is not worth the paper it is written on. Hon. Members have seen the fate of the Russo-German Pact and they have seen the fate of the weak during the last few years. Then they say to us, "Another ground for your folly and why we disagree with you is that Russia does not want war." I agree with hon. Members. I do not think she does, but, unfortunately, Russia wants Europe. That is the trouble. If Russia wanted war, she would be crazy. Look what she has got without it. If we do not re-arm she has every chance of getting the whole world without a shot being fired. But supposing we did exactly what hon. Members opposite are suggesting, supposing we negotiated an agreement based on weakness, we should then not re-arm. All these vast resources and effort would go to their proper aim in improving the economy of the country.
The whole House would be delighted, but what would happen then? The voice of Mr. Hoover would prevail and America would pull out of Europe. There would be no question of re-arming Germany; that would be out. The Benelux countries and France would only produce token Forces, for despair would be in their hearts. Europe, once again, would be a power vacuum. There would be two or three months, or perhaps two or three years, in which hon. Member who negotiated the agreement could wave it round their constituencies and say. "What clever boys are we."
Then the pressure on Europe would start. It might be Yugoslavia, it might be Vienna, or it might be Berlin. Nobody knows. But it would start, and when that pressure came, Europe would inevitably crumble, and hon. Members would find that Soviet Russia would be on their doorstep. It may be that some hon. Members want that. If so, it would be more decorous if they stood up and said so instead of disguising their views. But I think that a great many hon. Members opposite are engaged in the pastime of wishful thinking. It would be better if they had another think.
I have never seen any way out of our present dangers and troubles without our getting strong. It is my belief that only a strong Britain, closely united with a strong America, can possibly save Europe from a gradual retreat into defeatism. That, it seems to me, is the immense task which, confronts this Government. What is more, it is a task which has to be sustained, perhaps, over a period of years. What the House has to decide is whether or not they consider this Government capable of performing this task. I would say to them that their past performance in this respect has given us on this side cause for the gravest doubt. I believe their past performance is now giving the country cause for the gravest doubt. I would remind hon. Members that the country has not forgotten that on this side of the House there sits a right hon. Gentleman whose past performance in this respect gives no one any cause for doubt whatever.
The debate has ranged pretty widely, from the precise details of the proposed call-up to the whole purpose and justification of the re-armament programme. I am going to spend a good deal of my time on the more precise and detailed questions of the call-up, but I will first say a word on the wider issues.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), and a good many other hon. Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), raised the theme of whether this re-armament programme, which might be all right in itself, was not vitiated by being far too late. That is an issue which we on this side ought to meet squarely. Was it right, or was it not right, to restore the economy of this country and thus provide a solid basis for a re-armament or any other programme? I would call attention to a remark of the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke somewhat disparagingly of the Government having at last realised that they had to undertake this programme without any thought of seeking large subventions from the United States.
Why is it that this country can undertake these programmes without seeking subventions from the United States? It is because, through the work of the Government, and of the people of Britain of course, above all, during the last few years the balance of payments has been righted. Otherwise no pious exhortations could prevent it from being necessary, in order to sustain a programme such as this or even a much smaller programme, to have subventions from the United States. Therefore, I feel confident in repudiating the suggestion that this programme is too late. It is not a programme brought out to meet short-term emergency. I would call attention to the leading article in "The Times" today, which seems to me to put the matter very well:
The nation has to be marshalled not for early all-out war but for effective defence for an indefinite time. The defence programme has two distinct aims. The first is to increase the immediate strength and supplies of the forces; the second is to put the country and its economy into a state of readiness, perhaps for many years.
To face such a task as this, the economic substructure on which the programme is built is just as important, and just as worthy of the efforts and the work of the people, as the actual armament programme which has to be, and is being, placed on that substructure. That, I think, is the real answer to the suggestions which have been made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite that, for example, the programme is too late, too little, and in particular that the call-up period is much too short. But if you go much beyond that in the way of calling up Reserves you are not calling them up for a refresher course in training; you are calling them up for service.
If you do that, you are a long way towards the state of permanent mobilisation; and we cannot face a situation—a challenge, if you will—which, as "The Times" put it this morning, is likely to be of indefinite duration, in a state of permanent mobilisation—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Navy?"] The right hon. Gentleman says, "What about the Navy?" The call-up of the Navy Reservists who are the equivalent of the Z Reservists does not arise. The Navy has called up a certain number of their regular Reservists, but that is entirely different from the Z Reserve. The Army called up certain of their Regular Reservists last summer, but we are now talking about the calling up of the Z Reserve, or their equivalent in the other two Services, who are simply members of the civilian population who happen to be trained because they served in the last war in certain categories.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) spoke—and he was following other hon. Members opposite—on the economic side of the programme. He uttered a series of somewhat loud challenges to the Government on the basis that the programme was only a paper one, however large the sum of money mentioned, because we had not expressed in financial and physical terms the things which we should have to do without in order to implement this programme. I can assure the hon. Gentleman right away that we realise perfectly well that there has to be a physical diversion, for example—and this was an example he gave—of television sets. This example is likely to be true, because television competes with electronics for all three Services. I do not think anyone can complain about his point there, but it was scarcely a new one.
However, the hon. Gentleman went on very forcibly to deal with the fact that the Conservative Party had been pressing hard for this negative side of rearmament, if I may so phrase it, for the necessary economies. Of course, in the abstract they have spoken of it very often, but more concretely the record is somewhat different. I have to go back only a year to the Election Manifesto of the Conservative Party, which spoke of the great weight of £780 million a year for defence expenditure, and to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who cast serious doubts on the necessity for an 18 months' National Service call-up. Much more recently than that, only last autumn, we had a full-scale debate in this House, in which we were most severely censured—
My right hon. Friend has never regarded the 18 months as too little. His line has always been—[Interruption.] If I am incorrect, the right hon. Gentleman may correct my statement; please do not interrupt me. My right hon. Friend's line has always been fewer and longer.
I think we can look up the words of that speech, but I think the sense of it was—if these were not the actual words—that the period might be sensible of reduction. But in any case a more striking example occurred this autumn, when we were most severely censured by the whole party opposite because we stuck to the view that the country could not afford to build more than 200,000 houses a year. We were criticised and pushed very hard indeed, and we were told that this figure should be pushed up to 300,000 houses a year. There was no question there of economies, of what we should go without; no pushing aside of television sets and other civilian goods in order to make room for armaments. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Festival of Britain?"] That scheme was not absorbing any large amount of labour in the autumn of last year.
I can quite understand how profoundly tempting it was for the Conservative Party to move those Motions of Censure telling us to increase very substantially the amount of resources given to civilian production—300,000 houses, for example. In this matter the Conservative Party remind me very much of the man who said he could resist anything except temptation. They have certainly found it difficult to resist this one. As a consequence, we cannot take this particular criticism of the hon. Member for Monmouth very seriously.
I return to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bromley, and to speeches of other hon. Members, who asked about the actual disposition of the Regular Army—the 10 divisions of the Regular Army which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence mentioned. For obvious reasons I cannot give him the order of battle, but I can give him the outline. As my right hon. Friend said, there will be four divisions, or a little more—four and one-third to be precise—in Germany; there will be another four and one-third divisions overseas elsewhere; and there will be one and one-third at home. That is roughly the disposition. I could not agree more with the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton than when he said that the great difficulty facing our Army today is the very wide degree of dispersion. It has a most serious effect, and if we could in any way mitigate it, it would undoubtedly very much help us to have a concentrated striking power in Western Europe.
One and one-third divisions. The figures I have given add up to 10 divisions—and these are, of course, Regular divisions. We are talking entirely in terms of Regulars.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) thought that a solution might be found in Colonial Forces. That subject has been discussed very often in the House. I think it is a question of degree. There are, of course, what are in effect non-British forces—Gurkha forces, the Malay Regiment, the African forces; and they are very valuable; but I think it would be a mistake to think that any quick solution could be found by a rapid increase in those forces, for the obvious reason—of which the hon. Gentleman was impatient but which is none the less true—that equipment is very largely a limiting factor.
Next, the right hon. Member for Bromley came to the arms programme itself and asked whether this was an isolated programme, a British programme, undertaken without regard to others. No; certainly it is not that, but it is not what he suggested were the alternatives—a Commonwealth programme or a programme integrated with the Commonwealth and the United States of America. It is essentially a British contribution to a N.A.T.O. programme. It is formed within the framework of the North Atlantic Pact.
That brings me to the point where he wanted political machinery in control of the programme itself and of its economic requisites. Is not the North Atlantic Organisation precisely such political machinery? After all, it is not a military organisation; it is essentially a political organisation presided over by Foreign Secretaries. I cannot see that there is anything lacking in the machinery there. I could not help feeling that what the right hon. Gentleman really wanted was, quite naturally from his point of view, a change of personnel by which he did some of the political direction instead of the people who are doing it today. I do not think that a complaint of any lack of political machinery can hold.
On the question of the physical programme—the actual arms part of the programme—the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton asked me three questions which I shall endeavour to answer. He asked if I was satisfied with the tank output. That is a question with the form of which my right hon. Friend is familiar, and he always answers that he is never satisfied. That is the correct answer. But it is true that the tank output has been, and is being, increased substantially long before the new factories come into production, which must be many months hence, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says. Therefore, it is not proposed, and I do not think it would be necessary, in order to equip the new armoured formations, to seek aid in that respect from the United States.
Then he asked if we were fully satisfied with the Centurion tank. There, again, nobody can think that the Centurion or any other tank is perfect, and, of course, most ardent and urgent design and development work is always going on; but I think that my military advisers are satisfied that this is a very fine tank. It may have its defects—it must, of course, have its defects; no weapon is perfect—and it is fairly complex; but, on the other hand, its complexities give it, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, very great advantages. Obviously, when we get a full report on its work in Korea, we shall know more about it. It is an advantage that it has seen action there, but it has only seen any substantial amount of action very recently, and it would be quite premature to come to any conclusions on it. Indeed, the conditions in Korea are very special and one would not want to draw very hasty conclusions from them in that respect.
Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman passed to the "soft" or B vehicles, and asked about capacity for their production. He is quite right in saying that a substantial amount of production of those vehicles will be needed, and it is included in the re-armament programme. He asked whether this would not make something of a dent in the other productive capacity of the motorcar industry. Let me tell him quite frankly that it will. There is a good example of where we cannot carry through this programme without displacing a certain amount of useful and desirable civil production. That is bound to happen, but luckily the industry is a very big one and I do not think we ought to have any special difficulty in seeing that those very substantial orders of "soft" or B vehicles are met.
I should now like to turn to the question of the call-up, mentioned by almost all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Viscount the Member for Bournemouth, West (Viscount Cranborne), to whose maiden speech we all listened with such pleasure, voiced what was voiced by a good many others when he expressed great doubts on the adequacy of the 15-day period. Let me say that within certain limits, and unless we did a completely different scheme for a different purpose, the exact period of 15 days is really fixed by the duration of the Territorial camps. We cannot take a month, for example, as he suggested, because there would not be the Territorial camps, in both active divisions and A.A. Command, to which to send the men. Really, the 15 days is more or less fixed by that.
Natural anxiety was expressed by many hon. Members that the men's time—it is a short time, of course—should be adequately used. I can assure them that we shall do the very utmost to see to that. For example, we have been able to arrange with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour that the medical examination shall be done beforehand, right outside the 15 days, so that that will be cleared out of the way. We shall try to clear out of the way all those absolutely indispensable preliminaries to the very maximum possible extent that we can. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, asked how, even so, we could possibly make an infantryman in 15 days. Of course, we could not begin to do so, but these are, after all, by no means untrained, raw recruits. On the contrary, many of them will be very highly trained indeed.
When the true purpose of this whole call-up is realised, it will be seen that 15 days can be a period of very great value. The simplest way I know of expressing what I think is the most important purpose of all is to say that it is to bring these units into being, because their admirable voluntary side—with the greatest respect to it—is really too small to have the units in being at all unless flesh and blood is given to those voluntary bones, as it were, by bringing in the Reservists. Surely the purpose of that, and having 15 days in which those units are in actual existence and are exercising, is very great. The teams come into existence and have a little practice together. That is what really makes them into a team, and for the first time those teams will exist.
Then there is the other side, which has been mentioned—the mobilisation exercise itself. The mere fact of the calling up of these men and bringing them into the organisation will, of course, be very useful on the administrative side. Finally, there is the refresher training side for the individual, and that is by no means negligible. The public, however, have been a little apt to think that individual refresher training was the main, or even the sole, purpose. I would put it, as I have done, probably fourth of the purposes, important as it is.
Taking those purposes together, therefore, I do not think the House need have any doubts whatever that those 15 days will be of enormous value, and that the Territorial formations—the four divisions and A.A. Command—and the formations of the Regular Army to which the other sections of the men are going, will be enormously benefited, and in the event of an emergency and mobilisation the period in which they become active fighting or working units would be materially shortened.
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton and others expressed a good deal of doubt about the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that it is not proposed to call up these men again. The essential fact is, of course, that the real gap is this year. From 1st April onwards, that gap begins to fill. There is an output, if I may use such a phrase, of National Service men from the Army of some 10,000 a month, beginning next April. Therefore, by the summer of 1952, there will be as many or more, counting the men who will have already gone there this summer, National Service men available for these Territorial organisations, formations or units, as we are calling up for them of Z Reservists this summer; so that the need, although I do not say that it will have disappeared by next summer, will be by no means as acute then as it is this summer.
Think of the alternatives. The hon. and gallant Member rightly said that we had put first and foremost the needs of the Army, but we must think of the needs of the men to some extent. The alternative would be to say to a quarter of a million men, year after year for a series of years, "You, and no one else, will be called up." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My right hon. Friend gave the assurance that we were not going to do that, and that these particular men would not be called up again for this training purpose. That is precisely the assurance which he gave.
In that connection, I was asked that we should settle the minds of the maximum number of Z Reservists. That is a reasonable request. Our warning notices, which give the dates on which the men will be wanted, begin to go out from the War Office tonight. The process should be completed by the first week of March, and some time in the first week of March it should be possible for us to state that anyone who has not received one of those warning notices will not be called up this year. Therefore, that should settle the minds of the Z Reservist who is wondering whether he is going to be called up or not.
I must mention one other speech—I did not hear it myself but my hon. Friend kept a note of it—which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport), who attacked a great many people—the Government, back benchers, myself, and many others. He is privileged and there is no reason why he should not; but as I understand it, he told us that because of the derelictions of the Government the men in Korea were untrained and could not give a proper account of themselves.
I was not present in the House, but that was most faithfully reported to me by the Parliamentary Secretary, who took very careful note of what the hon. and gallant Member said; but if the hon. and gallant Member tells us he did not say that, that is, of course, fully satisfactory. But if anyone had said that, it would obviously have been my duty to deny it.
We are all agreed, then, with the hon. and gallant Member that our troops in Korea have given a most admirable account of themselves. All the responsible general officers, notably the American general officers, have paid tribute to their work.
In conclusion, I should like to say a word about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). I do not always agree with everything he says, but he did say one thing with which I agree very strongly—that perhaps in this House we do not always emphasise sufficiently what the horrors would be of a third world war. We, and I am sure he and other hon. Members on all sides, do regard this re-armament programme essentially and above all as an attempt to avert a third world war. But I did not agree with the latter part of his speech when he went on to throw out certain taunts—though good-humoured ones—against my hon. Friends on the back benches because they emphasised so strongly, with re-armament, the need for negotiation with China and with Russia whenever it is possible.
I did not think that was the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I think he was taunting them with supporting appeasement, because, for example, they were against the use of sanctions on China. If he thinks that wrong, then he thinks not only the attitude of the back benches but the Front Bench on this side wrong, because we do place quite equal emphasis on negotiation as on re-armament with strength. On these two sides of our programme, we do not think that the policy which has been adopted in the United Nations on China—the policy which was announced by the Prime Minister on Monday—is appeasement. But we do think this is the counterpart—the absolutely indispensable counterpart—of our re-armament programme. It is only on these two policies, equally emphasised, that peace may be preserved.
It being Eleven o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.