The Cabinet Secretaries' Notebooks (CAB 195/8)

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Defence Preparations

Defence Preparations

P.M. 

As in brief. Time-table.
Presentn  a) reasons for acceleration  b) its economic effect.
Suggd these can be done separately - but I doubt it.
I wd. have liked a single statement before Parlt. met.

H.M. 

Public opinion - not Labour opinion only - is disturbed: some anti-American strands in it: has 2 problems on wh. guidance is needed  i) worry about threat of war:  avoiding looking it in the face: doubt as to who is to blame, some criticism of U.S. They need convincing of facts of R.'s activities:  but also tht. we wd. seek a peaceful settlement if opportunity offered by R. Must start from basis of what is best means of preventg. war. Explain sitn: make them face it:  & convince them we are not seekg. war. ii) disposn to think tht. defence need have no effect on social policy & well-being. Labour must be made to understand tht. this can't be.
I had hoped P.M. cd. spk. before Parlt. met, e.g. in his constituency.
With advance hand-out of 2.000 words. Reason: don't want it made in Parlt, because then reported together with Opposn comments.  A White Paper, prs., as alternative.  Or make it outside Parlt., even after Parlt. has met - tho' Opposn wdn't like that.

H.D. 

Cd. not P.M. do it this coming week-end.
White Paper wd. not be suitable.

A.B. 

Cd. Cab. be told, before country is told, what we are going to do.
What are the figures?  Leaks in Press.

H.G. 

These leaks are damaging.
Support L.P. Speech next week-end to prepare public mind.
No need to go into details at this stage.
Answer the criticism:  is re-arming going to do any good?
Get across our posn vis-à-vis Russia.  Need for re-arming, regardless of scale & effect.

A.B. 

Can you separate the two?  Must tell people what impact will be.
Otherwise, produce scare - w'out realisation of what we shall call on people to do.
We have never agreed on £3.6., in detail, now U.S. have declined to give the £500. P.M. has said we shall have to forego increased
y/  advantages we might have expected: no-one has said we shall have to give anything up.

H.G. 

Posn is tht. £3.6 is going ahead:  & we have since agreed to announce, at Brussels, we were considering acceleration. Def. Cttee have not considered that since.

P.M. 

I have spoken in genl. terms. Can't do so again, w'out details.
Doubt if we can yet say what econ. implicns wd. be.
I might hang a speech on Comm. decln - object to prevent war: action on F/E.:  mtg. of C.F.M.:  m'while look to our defences.
But then shd. have to say somethg. re scale - critical of U.S. & also awkward w'out decns on figures.

A.B. 

Wd. be matched with U.S. extravagant plans.
Excessive publicity for Eisenhower.
Wd. provoke more talk of Coalition.
Before we spk., we must know economic impact - & esp. wtr. it will come in 6 months or earlier.

H.M.

         x/ Begun already - prices, raw materials.
Public expect guidance & leadership.
Pity detail isn't ready:  but not too early to begin to prepare public for it.
Surely it cd. be hung on peg of Comm. decln.
         x/ diffies are not due to our re-armament, but to U.S.
Our plans & impact can't be announced this wk-end.

H.G. 

Agree:  you can't spk. on that until Cab. decns taken.
But I think there is preliminary clearing of ground  to be done.
Repeat E.Sh. disclosures re no. of  R. divns under arms.
Repeat no. of spots at wh. we are under pressure - e.g. Malaya.

E.Sh. 

….. Favour speech by P.M.  B'cast. Not in his constituency.
He cd. say  i) Adopted £3.6 p'mme.  Are now revising it in light of change in world situation - notably the fact tht. R. continues to re-arm, on a vast scale. Their posn is far stronger than any other country.  Producg. aircraft at 300 p. month. Re-organising war potential of Hungary, Rumania & Czecho.
Don't like U.S. attitude. But, in view of our defenceless posn in west, we must not antagonise them. We can't afford to. We need U.S. troops in Europe. We shd. steady opinion on that point too.
Shall have to present Suppl. Estimates soon. Genl. defence debate on that. Another on next year's Estimates in Feb. Let P.M. begin to prepare the way for those debates.

T.W. 

If such statement is to be made, it must be followed by another explaing. impact on our economy & on policies of civil Dpts.
Ch/Ex. askg. for economies wh. cut into policy as well as adminn.
Shall have to announce these publicly in reln to defence needs.

J.G. 

Betwn. now & Sunday we shall know China's answer on Korea. And that will be dominant in people's mind. Suppose it comes on eve of P.M.'s speech. Might be wrong moment for such a speech.
If it were not for that, I wd. be disposed to favour a speech.

P.M. 

Impressed by that.

H.McN. 

Unfortunate P.M. can't give details. But still desirable to say somethg. Two months ago public were expectg. us to say this more than now.  M'while, high hopes over Korea & our steadying of U.S. policy has made people more optimistic.
Even if Ch. gives fav. answer, wise to check wishful thinking.
If they reject, say this is only one point in world sitn wh. requires preparedness.
Wd. prefer a b'cast.
Share H.D.'s fears re Germany. Public are concerned at G. re-armg.

P.M. 

How diff. to deal with that - when it's a card for C.F.M. & we don't know how we shall want to play it. Yet, if I say nil. on that, it will be thght. to be significant.

C.E. 

Effect of our speeches on W. Europe. Went to C.D. course for Europeans on day after Taft's speech. W. Europ. in view of that  were discarding hope of Em. defence.
Handicapped by policy of avoidg. scare over C.D. I said:  we put active defence first & mean to fight as far east as possible; &   plan c.d. mainly to support morale of troops.
Depn from C.I. askg. for evacuation in war. Told them too we were  going to fight as far east as poss.
Necessary to state our determinn to stand fast.
But cost!  All earlier figures are unrealistic. C.D. - £137 m. in 4 years: revised estimate, on prices only, prob. 50% higher. 
M.S. - £750 m. plan for shelter. When that comes home in W. Eur., what effect will it have? If any steadying influence is to be applied, we shall have to do it.
Wd. prefer one speech - later.

P.M. 

So wd. I. I don't want to suggest war is inevitable.

Taken from C.M. 3(51) - Meeting held on 15 January 1951.