No. 418

741.5/1–451: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Secretary of State

top secret   priority

3728. For Perkins and Ohly. Embassy officer yesterday dicussed British additional defense production planning with Plowden who heads defense production planning committee and was absent from London when Robert Hall furnished information reported in Embtel 3651, December 29.1 Plowden talked very frankly. His statements were somewhat at variance with Hall’s and because of Plowden’s prominent position in defense planning, should be regarded as qualifying Hall’s comments in important respects.

Plowden’s remarks made it clear that, while volume and timing expanded production program mentioned by Hall have received ministerial consideration final plan has not yet been presented to cabinet. Plowden said his committee expects to receive Friday recommendations of military staff chiefs based on strategic considerations. Committee will translate these recommendations into economic terms and submit conclusions to cabinet in last half January. Plowden expects cabinet discussion to be more concerned with meeting requirements dictated by military estimate of strategic situation than with total cost of expanded program. He recognized probability that military staff chiefs are thinking in terms of doubling pre-Korea defense expenditures and possibility compressing pounds 3.6 [3,600] million program into period between now and end fiscal year 1952 (information obtained by Embassy from British military sources strongly suggests military chiefs are thinking in these terms). Plowden foresaw that total expanded production program may be double pre-Korea figure and possibly more. Point he stressed was that Government’s approach will place first emphasis on speeding up program. He questioned possibility of actually spending as much by end of fiscal year 1952 as military may recommend without placing economy on virtual war footing. (Deptel 3219, January 22).

Plowden’s comments confirm Embassy belief that Prime Minister and most influential ministers fully recognize that British rearmament effort must be adapted primarily to military needs and are [Page 891] thinking less in terms of economic impact although hoping to keep economic dislocations to minimum. Plowden doubts that cabinet will accept military chiefs’ recommendations “at first bite” and like Hall, referred to Prime Minister’s problem of bringing into line certain Ministers whose views and projects will be most affected by speed-up of defense production. However, he seemed reasonably confident that opposition to program which would realistically reflect defense needs could be overcome.

Plowden confirmed Hall’s statement that Government will undoubtedly use priorities vigorously to force acceptance defense contracts by industry and put civilian production in secondary place where necessary. He expressed personal opinion that goal of expanded production could not be reached without forced distribution of labor and that attempt to provide additional labor required for rearmament effort by restricting allocation materials to non-essential industries will not be adequate. He said he intended to express that opinion very frankly to cabinet when submitting his report.

Plowden’s remarks should not be regarded as diminishing importance of information furnished by Hall but rather as clearing up details of present status. Hall is not only extremely well informed but actively involved in defense planning and we believe his comments indicate trend of thinking in some influential government circles.3

  1. Document 416.
  2. Telegram 3219 requested confirmation that the British military staff chiefs had recommended completion of the 3,600 million pound program by the end of fiscal year 1952. (741.5/12–2950)
  3. On January 19, Gifford reported that Robert Hall had indicated that the British program “might be even larger” than stated in telegram 3651 (Document 416) and might necessitate a return to “almost full austerity condition in UK.” (Telegram 4010, 741.5/1–1951)