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Yes, and that should serve as a warning to us not to enter lightly into agreements that we have no intention of defending—I mean defending in the military sense.
It is just over 100 years since the outbreak of the first world war. I remember looking back in the archives of the inter-war period when a great debate was raging over whether or not it was safe to continue with the
10-year rule. I have mentioned it in the House before. It is highly relevant, so I will mention it again. The idea of the 10-year rule was that the Government would look ahead for a decade and see whether they thought there was any danger of a major war breaking out. If they did not see any such danger, they would cut the defence budget. That was rolled forward from 1919 right through to the early 1930s when it was eventually scrapped when Hitler came to power. It had a very damaging effect on our level of preparedness.
Lord Hankey, as he later became, was the Military Secretary of the Cabinet. In 1931, as an argument for scrapping the 10-year rule, he looked back to that summer of 1914 and said that far from having 10 years’ warning of the outbreak of the first world war, we had barely 10 days because of the rapidity with which the various alliances triggered each other into action. Suddenly, from nowhere, we have found ourselves drawn into a conflict with practically no notice whatever.