§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
I beg to move,That this House expresses its grave concern at the admitted unpreparedness to protect the civil population when the country was brought to the brink of war.In the Debate on Tuesday, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made some references to certain set-backs in British diplomacy in recent times, the Prime Minister resented that expression of opinion and said something about people broadcasting to the world about the deficiencies, or alleged deficiencies, of this country. Judging by subsequent comment, that criticism referred particularly to right hon. Gentlemen who do not belong to the Labour party. This afternoon we shall be engaging in some criticism of Government administration, and I imagine that criticism will be forthcoming from hon. Members on the other side of the House. The Prime Minister is going rather far when he suggests that Members of Parliament should not do their duty, for it is the duty of Members of the House to speak of deficiencies in the administration of the Government. We propose to discharge that duty. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister's contact with politicians who have other ways, we propose to adhere to the principles of the British Constitution and British practice.
In this matter of air-raid precautions I have always taken the view, and I think that the great bulk of other people of all political persuasions have taken the view, that this need not, and, if we can avoid it, it ought not to be, a party political question. It is a matter of public administration, public organisation and of good government nationally and locally, and, provided the job is effectively and efficiently done, we on this side of the House have no desire to make politics out of it. If this afternoon we are critical, it will be not from motives of party political considerations; it will be, so far as I am concerned, and, I think, so far as my hon. Friends are concerned, because as good citizens concerned with the safety and the security of our people we are genuinely and seriously worried about the state of affairs at the time of the recent crisis. I think that that is not exceptional to us. Hon. Members opposite have reason to be worried as well. 412 I would impress on them that they also should not make this a matter of party political considerations, and that there is no obligation on them necessarily to support the Government because in the ordinary way they are Government supporters. Every Member of the House, irrespective of his party, has an individual responsibility to his constituents to do his duty in this vital matter, and I hope that hon. Members will do it.
We shall no doubt be told, as, indeed, the Government Amendment indicates, not for the first time, "Let us not worry too much about the past; there is a new Minister and there is to be a new order of things. There are to be changes." But it is the duty of this House to examine the past. It is the duty of Members to express their views upon Government administration and Government policy. I suggest that the appointment of a new Minister is no excuse whatever for sidestepping the grave state of affairs which existed in those critical days of September. An account must be rendered of the Government's stewardship. We must know what they did, and we must know why they did not do things which admittedly ought to have been done. They must face criticism and deal with it, and either admit it and apologise for the facts, or give an adequate explanation why these things happened. Moreover, we must have a very full statement of future Government policy in relation to the important matters which we shall bring to the attention of the House this afternoon.
I do hope that Ministers will not merely say, "Well, do not worry about the past; there is a new Minister who has never been a Minister before, though he has had to do with Ministers before—Ministers of all parties," because we have had that before. There was grave discontent with the War Office and a new War Secretary was appointed. We were told, "Never mind the past, there is a new live lad on the job. He will not hide his head under a bushel. Give him a chance." There was grave criticism of the Air Ministry, and the Government did two things. They solemnly declared that the former Air Minister was a first-class Air Minister, and, at the same time, they said, "Well, even if he is not, which we do not admit, we will have a new Air Minister who is a cheerful, cherubic personality. Give him a chance." So the past was wiped out. We had 413 trouble about the co-ordination of the Defence Services, and we had a larger edition of cherubic personality appointed as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The Government said, "Things may have been wrong in the past, but here is a new man, learned in the law. What more can you want? Give him a chance." He has had it, and I do not know what he has done. There were grave criticisms about agriculture, and the Prime Minister went to Scotland and then came back to England to the Ministry of Health, and a new Minister was appointed, but the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bèere) and others see no change in Government policy on agriculture.
I say it is playing the fool with great issues of public policy and it is contemptuously evading responsibility for the Government to earn a record of incompetence and indecision, and then sail out of their troubles by appointing some new victim to administer the imperfect policy for which the Cabinet as a whole must hold responsibility. What we want is not merely a reshuffle of Ministers, and we have not even had that: we really need a revolution in the mentality and competence of the Government as a whole. The Government are there. They have their majority. Cannot the Government find within their party—I am perfectly serious about this—in the ranks of the Ministerialists, better Ministers than they have, because there are really great failures in serious positions, some of them in what is known as the Inner Cabinet itself? Is the Conservative party so short of material and ability that it cannot find the men who can bring really new vigour and new blood, a new determination of administration into the Government, because it really is a necessity in the interests of the good government of this country that it should be done? It is all very well for the Government to weed out Ministers because they cannot say "Yes" to the Prime Minister often enough, and to bring in Lord Runciman, who does not exactly give me a feeling of complete relief and confidence in the Government; and after all, the Government cannot go on absorbing ex-civil servants who possess a good reputation. It would not do; it would be politically wrong, and moreover, I am not sure that there are enough 414 civil servants of that kind to go round for the vacancies that ought to be filled. We need new vigour and new determination in the Government and the Prime Minister has a duty to provide it.
I am not sure about the machinery of administration under the new order of things. Certainly we ought to know more about it. There is the Lord Privy Seal, whom we all congratulate on his appointment. Let me say to him that although I confess it was a shock, when I knew him only as a formidable civil servant, to see him blossom forth as a Tory Member of Parliament and then as a Tory Minister. I may assure him, while congratulating him upon this appointment, that provided he does the job with vigour and determination and capacity he will have our encouragement and support, and I am sure he will have the encouragement and co-operation of the local authorities of the country. We must, if necessary, criticise and attack. We have no wish to attack for the sake of attacking in this matter of vital national importance. But I would ask, is the Lord Privy Seal to have powers which are analogous to those of the Minister for Co-Ordination of Defence in relation to the three Defence Services? We ought to know. Is that to be his position? Is he to be in a position of consultation, counsel, advice and encouragement only to the extent of the Minister for Co-Ordination of Defence? Is his position to be analogous to that of Mr. Thomas when he was Lord Privy Seal?
Is the new Minister's constitutional position to be analogous to that of the Minister for Co-Ordination of Defence, in which he will have one or two officers to assist him, but the executive responsibility and the ministerial responsibility will remain in separate Departments? Or is the right hon. Gentleman to be in the position that he can go to the Home Office, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and other Departments that the Prime Minister has mentioned, and have responsibility in the matter; can he go to those Departments and give them orders? Is he executive in that sense? If he is not I can see some difficulties. Although I admit that it may conceivably work, frankly, on the face of it, unless adequate explanations are forthcoming, to appoint a Lord Privy Seal without an executive Department 415 and an adequate staff behind him, and to require him to co-ordinate great Departments of State, and to preside also over a committee of Ministers and a committee of civil servants, does not convince me as necessarily an effective piece of governmental machinery. I would like to know more about it.
I do not believe in Cabinet Committees as an instrument of executive government. Cabinet Committees for specific purposes of consultation and elaboration of policy may be right, but I doubt whether you can point to many instances of Cabinet Committees that were successes as organs of executive government. They can talk, but they cannot do things, and it is doing things that we want in this business of air-raid precautions from now onwards. We have a Minister for Co-Ordination of Defence and we now have a Minister for Co-ordination of Air-Raid Precautions. Let me make a suggestion to the Prime Minister. We have a Lord President of the Council whose duties are negligible. Why not, in order to complete the picture, make the Lord President of the Council the Minister for the Co-Ordination of Co-Ordination? I express my gratitude to the Chief Whip who is leaving the House and so promptly carrying out my proposal. Co-ordination is a blessed word in politics, but it is very much overdone, and when you get two co-ordinating Ministers you get to the point when you need someone to co-ordinate them. But co-ordination is as often as not a mere excuse and a mere cover-up for inefficiency in the responsible executive Departments themselves.
Let us examine a little history in relation to air-raid precautions. The business did not start with the Air-Raid Precautions Act of 1937. If I remember rightly, it started in the year 1930 under the Labour Government of that time. Eight years have gone since air-raid precautions had the attention of Ministers. I remember very well with what a shock, when I was Minister of Transport, I heard that I had been appointed to a Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence to deal with this new subject, which was quite outside my experience, and I remember also that our principal Civil Service adviser was the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord Privy Seal, and he gave us quite honest and good advice about it. There it was, 416 in 1930. Governments must answer for what has happened between 1930 and 1938. Why is it that after eight years of responsibility and examination we were in September, 1938, in the position which I shall proceed to detail to the House? What happened between 1931 and the issuing of the first circular four years later—not only four vital years, but two of them exceedingly dangerous years, for 1933 indicated to everyone with eyes to see that a new Europe was evolving and that a new and dangerous situation in foreign affairs was coming. Not that the Circular of July, 1935, was any good. What happened between 1931 and 1935 and between 1933 and 1938? The answer is that under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was Home Secretary substantially nothing happened with regard to air-raid precautions. That is true; it cannot be specifically denied by the present occupant of the Home Secretaryship nor by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. A new Home Secretary was appointed and he now holds office. He moved, he made the subject a subject of big consideration in the Department, and he deserves all credit for having done so. But he did not do the trick; he did not complete the organisation, although, as I say, he was an enormous improvement on the present Chancellor of the Exchequer when Home Secretary, and that was not difficult.
In the course of my speech I must necessarily refer considerably to my experience in London. I have had that experience and know more about London than other parts of the country. I do not say this merely in order to put London into the middle of the Floor of the House, but simply because I know more about it. In passing let me say that if things were bad in London, which obviously did receive prime consideration on the whole, because it is the capital city, how much worse must they have been in other centres which also needed attention—all the towns on the East Coast, Birmingham, Manchester and other cities. If things were bad in London one can realise how much worse they must have been elsewhere. Indeed, I have read reports of air-raid precautions committees from Birmingham, the Derbyshire County Council, the Bristol Corporation and others, and the Press reports all reveal a very serious state of affairs and 417 a very strong feeling both in the Press and among local authorities of both parties that the Government did not rise and has not risen to its responsibilities in this matter.
As I have said, the Government's attention to this matter began in 1930. It was not until 9th July, 1935, that any general Government circular went out to local authorities. That is a period of five years. Yet everyone knew, I knew at that first meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, that the local authorities were inevitably and quite properly to be involved in air-raid precautions. But they were not communicated with by general circular until 9th July, 1935. There was no other general circular on the general problem, apart from specific communications upon specific points, until 23rd February, 1937, and in that circular local authorities were asked to push on with fire-precaution schemes involving very heavy expenditure without any indication of the amount of financial assistance forthcoming. Why should local authorities wait for a settlement of the financial business, it may be asked. The purchase of fire appliances involves an enormous cost. The organisation of auxiliary fire brigades would involve very considerable expenditure.
It is preposterous that the blame should be put on the local authorities when every Minister and every Member of Parliament knows that if you are going in for a new type of administration the first thing is to go to the local authorities about it and to state the financial aspect. But, apart from that, the local authorities had not powers to spend money on some of the subjects required; they could not do it. Therefore, obviously what should have happened was that the local authorities should have been consulted and a financial settlement should have been reached. I am referring now to the date 9th July, 1935. No approach was made to the local authorities until 19th July, 1937, two years after, and then the local authorities' associations were invited to confer with the Home Secretary on the finance of air-raid precautions. Discussions took place, finally an agreement was reached, and the House passed the Bill, but the Bill was not on the Statute Book until December of last year. A year has not passed since the law came into force; merely nine months had 418 elapsed between the passage of the Act and the emergence of the crisis in September, 1938. It is a scandal that that Act had not been passed previously in order that the administrative mechanism might have been elaborated and a tidy system of administration evolved. Had that been the case we should not have been in the grave situation in which we found ourselves in September as a consequence of the delays.
The local authorities had not got a statutory responsibility until the beginning of this year. Let not that be forgotten. It is no good sending out circulars which are muddled circulars and with no indication of who is to pay or in what proportions. The real responsibility of the local authorities did not commence before this year. Even so, no effective lead was given to them. They needed aid, counsel and advice, particularly the smaller local authorities. There ought to have been a competent and sufficient staff, a field staff in the country as well as a staff in Whitehall, to assist them, to counsel them, to advise them. The assistance given to them was neither effective nor adequate.
When scorn is poured upon the fact that the local authorities had not sufficient volunteers, let us not underestimate what has been done. The Under-Secretary said the other day that there were now 1,000,000 air-raid precautions volunteers in the country. Getting that number of volunteers in a matter of 10 months is one of the greatest achievements in voluntary recruiting in history. It is a great thing, and it could have been bettered, and it can be bettered. I am sure this business can be done by voluntary effort, provided the volunteers know that both the State and the local authorities are efficient in the discharge of their duties, because that always brings a better response from people asked to do a voluntary job. We find that it is so in political organisations. If there is a local political organisation which is miserably inefficient it does not get voluntary help, and does not deserve to, but where there is a first-class political organisation in a constituency it always succeeds in attracting volunteers. There is nothing like success and efficiency for attracting volunteers.
The wide knowledge that lack of preparations and inefficiency existed had a bad effect both on the numbers and on the moral of the volunteers. But do not let 419 us underestimate the importance of raising 1,000,000 air-raid volunteers; and let us not be surprised if all of them had not been trained in time. Consider how long it takes to raise a territorial army and to train it. I admit that the training is a stiffer and a more technical job, but still this work is something like it, and I say that taking the country as a whole a large and very big job was done in a very short time My complaint is that the time ought not to have been so short, that the Act ought to have been passed years before. Then there is the point that some of the volunteers could not have been used because the Home Office equipment was not available. The local authorities at any rate have the defence, which, I suggest, is a legitimate one, that the Act had not been passed before the end of last year. The State has to answer the accusation that it has had the matter under consideration for eight years. We want to know what the Government have been doing ever since 1931. It is now admitted by Conservative newspapers, by newspapers which support the Government, and it is admitted by Ministers, and is a subject of complaint by Conservative local authorities, that things were ineffective and that we were gravely unprepared.
I suggest to the Government that they have under estimated the vital consideration of air-raid precautions in relation to the conduct of diplomacy and defence. We now undertake negotiations with Governments that are a little unorthodox in their diplomatic methods. They have a practice now of, metaphorically, pointing the gun at those with whom they are negotiating. Is not our Government likely to be in an infinitely stronger position in conducting diplomatic negotiations if it knows that its civil population at home feels that the worst effects of any air-craft attack can be avoided as a result of the efficiency of the defence preparations which have been made? It is a vital consideration in the defence of the country; and, moreover, the civil population have a right to expect that the Government will have taken all steps to secure their protection against enemy bombardment and air raids.
The people ought to be able to feel that everything possible has been done for their protection and assistance, and if they do not have that feeling two factors 420 will emerge. In the first place the country will be disturbed at this inefficiency, and a country worried about inefficiency is a country that will become demoralised. In the second place the country will be weakened in diplomatic negotiations. Therefore, this matter is not one of secondary importance, but is a matter of as much strategical, diplomatic and national importance as any one of the three Defence Services and the sooner we realise this the better it will be for everybody concerned.
Looking through the Parliamentary statements made by the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary I am appalled at the promises they have made on this matter and the promises they have not kept. I am worried about their souls and their future. I read "The matter is actively under consideration," "It is soon to be published," "We are reaching the last stages," "It is commanding the most serious attention of His Majesty's Government." Take the case of "Advice to Householders," the booklet which was the work of the Under-Secretary. He started talking seriously about that handbook in July, 1936, and it was distributed, I think, round about the time of the crisis itself. It took over two years to produce a handbook which must have been under consideration before July, 1936. It is appalling that that should have been so. The same story runs through every one of the big factors in air-raid precautions.
When the crisis came the Government had been talking about gas masks for a long time; it was, in fact, their favourite subject; one would have thought that gas was the only danger; but even in the case of this pet subject of theirs there were deficiencies in the arrangements in various localities. In some localities there was a deficiency in the numbers of gas masks, some were delivered short of vital parts without which they were no use. Cartons in which the gas masks could be carefully packed were to be supplied, but they were not forthcoming. Some of the mental hospitals under the care of the London County Council have not got gas masks to this day. They were not delivered during the crisis, because the local authorities had not got them. At nine of the mental hospitals no supplies were received, because the local authorities had received an insufficiency of masks from the Home Office to 421 meet their demands. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) knows that, because he is chairman of one of them. I had a grumble from him about it, and quite properly. I am not saying that the Home Office did not help us in many ways to get the problem solved, but those particular problems were not solved. The gas masks ought to have been there.
Now I come to the auxiliary fire service. There was a great necessity for that service to be adequately organised well in advance. In the evidence they gave to the Riverdale Committee on 20th February, 1936, the London County Council urged that that should be done, that it was vital. The Home Office circular on fire brigade organisation was sent out on 23rd February, 1937, and in it there was no provision about who was to pay. There cannot be an effective organisation of auxiliary firemen unless the equipment for them is available. Ministers and Members have been going about the country hinting of compulsory service because there was an insufficiency of volunteers, but what is the good of having all the volunteers in the world if there is not the equipment for them to use? Let me give the House some facts, they are dramatic facts, applying to the fire brigade service of the London County Council. The number of appliances needed for London—this is an agreed figure between us and the Home Office—is about 3,000. By 27th September this year the London Fire Brigade had not got 3,000 appliances. The right hon. Gentleman was responsible for supplying these appliances; it was not the business of the Council to find them. How many appliances do Members think we had on 27th September? Ninety-nine, and most of those were delivered without the necessary equipment, which had to be supplied out of the stores of the London Fire Brigade.
At the time of the crisis the professional, full-time, fire brigade could have used all these appliances, leaving none for the 4,000 auxiliaries who were then in training. Those volunteers could have manned at least 300 more appliances than were available. To-day we have in training or trained, I am glad to say, not 4,000 but 13,500 fire auxiliaries, but the brigade even to-day has only 145 auxiliary appliances. With the personnel we have we could utilise 1,300 appliances, but we 422 have only 145. What is the good of Conservative Members of this House flirting with the idea of compulsory service when there is not enough material for the volunteers? It is not only that you have not enough material, but that the Auxiliary Fire Service knows that we have not enough, and that their job cannot be done properly. If that condition of things goes on for an indefinite time that fine body of men and women, of whom I am proud and who will, I hope, stick to the job, will become demoralised, and they will start fading away. It is shameful that these volunteers who have come forward to do a very dangerous job should be short of the essential appliances.
Moreover, as to steel helmets. These auxiliary firemen will have to run risks of fire and bombs, and of shrapnel from our own anti-aircraft guns, and if there are any people who need steel helmets they are the auxiliary firemen. These people want to know when they are to get their helmets in proper numbers. They say that what is happening now is not good enough. We have brought the need repeatedly to the attention of the Home Office, but no action was taken until the crisis, when, upon an urgent request, the Home Office offered us—we were glad to have them—3,000 steel helmets if the fire brigade would collect them. We collected them with pleasure, but when we went to collect the 3,000 steel helmets only 2,000 were available. I am sorry to weary the House with these details—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—but I feel that I have a duty not only to my city but to my country, and that the House of Commons has a duty to see that this state of affairs is put right.
There was similar trouble about the earmarking of vehicles. The State wanted to earmark vehicles, quite rightly, for a number of things, and we wanted to earmark vehicles for fire brigade and ambulance purposes and certain other things. Everybody wanted to earmark vehicles. What is the way to do it? If everybody wants to earmark vehicles, that is where the function of and the need for co-ordination obviously come in. If we are falling over each other in earmarking there is confusion and trouble. We made representations to the Home Office and had conferences from 3rd March this year onwards, urging that this earmarking must be tackled centrally, and that there 423 must be effective distribution of earmarked vehicles among the State and the local authorities, in the national interest. At those conferences the Home Office could offer no hope of an effective central solution, but on 20th September—it is extraordinary the number of communications that went out in September—a circular was issued asking local authorities to earmark vehicles for themselves, pending a central scheme.
In the crisis, the fire brigade had no vehicles except the cars of the volunteers themselves and 60 vans that had been bought by the council for training. You see where we were. We would go to a firm and say: "Earmark your vehicles for use by the London County Council if a crisis comes," and they would answer, "We have done something for the War Office or the Ministry of Transport." We could not say: "Never mind the War Office or the Ministry of Transport," because that would be a wrong thing to do, and we would not do it. Why could we not have had central registration of those vehicles in a proper businesslike way instead of having to compete against each other, and for my officers to be wasting their time going to see people on matters of earmarking when it was no good seeing them, as they were already committed?
I come to the hospitals. The House will agree that they are a vital element in all this business. We had to anticipate the possibility of casualties on a large scale. It was essential that the organisation of hospitals locally and centrally should trace the movements of the patient from the time that he might be damaged in the street, to the first-aid post, through the casualty hospital and to the base hospital. We needed ambulances and stretchers. None of that organisation was impossible. It was infinitely easier than the task which Mr. Thomas was given in 1929, of solving the unemployment problem. It is an administrative matter. There was no supreme difficulty about it. This hospital business was vital in every part of the country, and nowhere more vital than in this great City of London, with its complicated local government system and its numerous authorities, including the voluntary hospital authorities themselves.
How many inquiries does the House think took place, beginning in 1930? 424 There were five inquiries of some sort, some so indefinite that I cannot define them at all. I call them committees in my notes, but I think that is not the right name. I ought to call them a series of five consultations since 1930. Four of them petered out. They were not positive enough to die, but somehow they went. I do not know what became of them. The business started with the Ministry of Health and then the Home Office got it during most of the period. Then there was a joint arrangement. Joint arrangements are usually bad administration, and I do not like them. The matter finished where it began, quite properly, with the Ministry of Health, which is the expert authority on hospitals, and where it ought to have been all the time. Four of those inquiries expired without reaching conclusions, and no reasons were given. Much work was consequently wasted by the new committees, with new membership, going over the ground again. Finally, came the report of the Wilson Committee, presented to the Home Secretary and the Minister of Health on 20th July,1938—and you got the crisis in September. That was no time to finish, not the organisation of the hospitals but the plan for the organisation of the hospitals, which was quite a different thing. That was when it finished. Supreme direction was then undertaken by the Ministry of Health.
Fortunately, a good deal of preparation had been going on by the London County Council and we were reasonably advanced and prepared but, you know, we need not have been. We could have sat back with every justification and waited for those inquiries. Fortunately we did not, and we were reasonably ready with medical reserves and food reserves. We were substantially ready for our job. On structural precautions in hospitals the Council was not prepared as well as it should have been, but in that respect it was like other authorities, because technical advice on which to base hospital precautions was not supplied by the Home Office until 17th June, 1938. We had the same story with ambulances. The crisis was acute, but no additional stretchers had been received when the crisis was acute. The supply of them was a Government responsibility and when, under pressure from the Council, the Ministry of Health assumed general ambulance responsibility as well as hospital responsibility, a supply of 425 4,000 was secured by the end of the crisis week.
There was administrative confusion in this matter. During the crisis itself and after the Ministry of Health had taken ambulance responsibility from the Home Office, the Home Office issued a circular on 23rd September, 1938, instructing the Metropolitan borough councils to earmark ambulances, although they knew, or should have known, that ambulance organisation was the duty of the London County Council and not of the Metropolitan borough councils, under the Air-Raid Precautions Act and under the regulations made by the Secretary of State. The boroughs were responsible—I think they were all the time but I do not think they ought to have been, because it tied up the ambulance service of the hospital service—for first-aid posts, which ought to have been with the Ministry of Health. They were short of medical supplies and of stretchers. There is a review of a field in which Government policy should have been settled, not months but years before the crisis was upon us.
Now let me turn to two points on which there was no real decision of Government policy at all up to the days of the crisis itself. They were vital points; I would say they were the two most important points in the whole of the air-raid precautions policy. I refer to shelters and to evacuation, which are related to each other administratively and affect everything else you do. What happened on shelters? I say there was no effective work on shelters. There was no decision of any kind and no intention of any kind that every man, woman and child in our country should, as far as practicable, have effective shelter of some kind. I say that the Government ought to make that decision because of their duty to the country, to the people and to themselves in their conduct of foreign affairs, as well as in the whole problem of national defence. Substantially, you ought to have shelter accommodation for the whole of the population. I know that would cost a lot of money, but you will have to spend a lot of money on this business if you are going to do it. The Air Force costs a lot of money and so do the Army and the Navy. This service is as important as any one of those three services.
On 28th March, 1938, the Home Office asked the borough councils to survey all 426 basements from the shelter aspect, and on 31st March there was a conference of borough engineers at the Home Office, when the borough representatives stated the impossibility of completing those surveys within the three months suggested by the Home Office. Indeed, the survey of the city of Westminster, a Conservative borough, but, I freely say, certainly not the least efficient of the Metropolitan boroughs in air-raid precaution matters, has only just been completed, nine months after the commencement. But why rely upon basements? There may be some basements that are exceptionally safe, but the East End of London boroughs were asked to survey their basements. They did so as well as they could, but many of those basements, intended to be used for shelter purposes, would be useless. In the East End of London buildings would collapse into the basements if they were hit, but there would also be a good chance of buildings collapsing into the basements from shock, quite apart from direct hits. It is absurd to regard the general run of basements as adequate for the protection of the civil population.
The defence of the Home Office will be, I imagine, that a circular had gone to the local authorities telling them that they could provide shelter accommodation. It was a function of the Metropolitan borough councils and not of the county council—I fancy it may have been also a function of the non-county boroughs and of the county districts in the provinces—to provide shelters. The Home Secretary may say: "I offered them a grant," but the House must face the fact that the provision of adequate shelter accommodation is bound to be a highly expensive proposition. I am not going to run away from that expense, because it is vital that it should be incurred, but to tell a county district, a county borough or a Metropolitan borough to provide shelter accommodation—for that matter, to tell the county borough of West Ham or even the county council to do so—is to ask them to undertake a financial responsibility, and possibly an engineering responsibility, that may be quite beyond their finances, and possibly beyond their technical resources. It is obvious that they could not do it. I told the right hon. Gentleman, in the financial negotiations on the Bill, that he must not expect these local 427 authorities to be able to do it. The result was that it was not done, and so at the last minute we began to dig trenches. That is all right, but, if the Home Secretary does not make up his mind what to do with these trenches, they will solve the problem themselves by falling in.
I am not going to scorn trenches, any more than I am going to scorn the respirator. The trench is a very useful form of shelter as long as you do not get a direct hit, and, after all, most people would be in trouble if they got a direct hit. I am not going to scorn the trench provided that it is properly constructed and equipped for its job, but the matter ought never to have been left to the last minute; it could have been done before. There were not enough of them sanctioned. Most boroughs were told to construct up to 10 per cent. of their population. There might have been a further order later on to build more—I want to be quite fair—but the numbers were not adequate. Let it be remembered that numbers of the population are not near an open space, and could not have gone to an open space for trench accommodation. But what was appalling was the prospect that, with an insufficiency of trenches, there would have been vast masses of people scrambling to get into trenches and unable to get in. It would not have been death from bombs, but death by Londoner upon Londoner as a result of the scrambles and congestion that would have arisen. I think the Home Secretary ought to decide what the future of these trenches is going to be. The steel people and the concrete people ought to know what proposals are to be put to the local authorities.
Again, what is going to happen to our parks with these holes still remaining? I suggest that the best thing would be to go on digging them sufficiently deep, put the concrete or steel on, and then put the grass back, so that, if war should come, you would be able to make trenches of them again. But let us have a decision. In this vast field many poor local authorities had to spend during the crisis very substantial sums on trenches and other items as well. I am not speaking for the London County Council now; I reserve all my rights of negotiation; we settled our finances with the right hon. Gentleman as we went along, and I am 428 not going to break any bargain that I have reached; but there are poor local authorities who have spent very large sums on trenches and other things during the crisis, and I suggest that, whatever the right hon. Gentleman does in the ordinary way about A.R.P. expenditure, he ought to try and see these local authorities through their crisis expenditure, because it is very serious for them, and, after all, they did not make the crisis.
As regards shelters there is no connected policy. As to sirens, we have been trying to find out about them this afternoon. Let the right hon. Gentleman correct me if I am wrong, but my information is that the sirens were not available. They are something like the aeroplanes; the Department spent such a long time in deciding what is the right type of siren to produce the proper note—[An HON. MEMBER: "And deciding wrongly."]—I will not go into that technicality, but when the emergency came the sirens simply were not available.
The issue of evacuation was a major issue of policy, and statutorily, under the Act of 1937, evacuation was the responsibility of the State. This matter has been knocking about in the House of Commons and has been discussed across the Floor of the House, and the Under-Secretary has been answering questions about evacuation ever since July, 1935. We were told that it was actually under the consideration of the Government. They said, "We are hoping to come to a decision"; "we have plans in preparation"; "we are on the verge"—they were; they were on the verge of a great national tragedy without being ready for it. The House will remember that, when the Bill went through the House, evacuation had to be forced upon the Home Secretary. It became his responsibility. The local authorities have no executive or policy responsibility for evacuation; their only responsibility is for helpful co-operation. In due course a Committee of this House was appointed, over which the right hon. Gentleman who is now Lord Privy Seal presided. The Committee did their work well, and I am sure the House is grateful to them for their labours. Evidently, their report left some gaps which must be filled by technical and administrative arrangements made by the Department.
429 I suggest to the House, however, that that Committee ought never to have been appointed. It was an evasion of ministerial responsibility. There was a statutory responsibility upon the Minister. The Minister was afraid of public opinion, and passed the baby to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on that Committee. There is too much of this passing the baby instead of Ministers carrying the responsibility, and there is too much fear of the public when you have a job of work to do. My own experience is that, if you are right in what you are doing, if you are efficient in what you are doing, if you give the public sound reasons for what you are doing, the public are all right. This Committee was a try-out with public opinion. The object was to see, first of all, how Members of Parliament would react to it. Then the Members of Parliament—I do not blame them—sent for a lot of people to tell them what they thought about it, and so you got the reactions of public opinion, or thought so. The months were going, the crisis was coming, delay was taking place. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman received that report on the edge of the crisis itself, and he did not publish it in the days of the crisis. I think he was right, for, unless he could publish it with a declaration that the Government not only accepted the recommendations of the Committee but had concrete emergency plans ready for operation, the mere publication of the report would have been unwise, and might hace created a public panic in the circumstances of that time. They could not say they were ready; they were not ready; they had no policy of evacuation when the crisis emerged.
We gave advice to the committee about the children. Up to the last minute there was no decision about the children. There was an idea that the children could go out with the adults, or that they must go out with their mothers. It was forgotten that in many cases the mothers would not leave the fathers. There was no policy, and it might have happened that these children would have had to scramble out with the adults, which would have been a terrible thing. Without hesitation I said that it must be the children first, that if the adult population had to be kept back by the Police or the Army, let them be kept back but the children must go first in fairness 430 and in an orderly fashion. There ought to have been no doubt about that at all. I made an offer to the right hon. Gentleman in the days of the crisis, knowing the difficulties and knowing that there were no billeting arrangements at the other end for the mass of the children, let alone the adults. We had no responsibility for this; it was the responsibility of the Home Office; but I offered the right hon. Gentleman—it is something new in local government to offer the Government such extensive help—an assistant education officer, a man who had handled the organisation of 37,000 children for the Coronation and 70,000 for the Silver Jubilee, and I offered him every one of the school attendance officers of the London County Council to go to the other end and get the billeting ready. I also offered him 500 London teachers—and they are good stuff, London teachers—to go to the other end to get things ready. The right hon. Gentleman thought he had adequate arrangements of his own, but, with great respect, I am certain that he had not.
Do not let it be thought that I am pettily offended because an offer that I made was not accepted, but I took a great responsibility in making that offer. I took it knowing that my colleagues in London would back me up, and that the school attendance officers and the teachers would back me up. I do not mind the right hon. Gentleman saying that he had a better organisation than I have, but he had not, and it was a pity that what I suggest was our rather handsome offer was not accepted at that time. The fact is that, when the crisis broke, and even some days after the crisis had begun, the Government had no evacuation policy, and would not make use of the machinery for evacuating the children which the London County Council would have been proud to place at their disposal. To this day I do not know what was to happen to the adults, nor am I certain what was going to happen to the children under five, the children of less than school age. When a government has responsibility and power, and when it has known for years that we were living in a dangerous world which might blow up at any moment, it is a matter of the gravest neglect that these things were not done in earlier times.
Profiteering there was, largely locally. I want to be fair. We did not experience it at the County Hall. We have a very 431 fine supply organisation, over which my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. R. Strauss) presides, and we did not get bitten. But consider the local authorities in the country, where the Home Office had promised to supply this, that and the other. A lot of it did not come, and the local authorities were told to buy what they could locally. It was then they got stung; it was then that there were profiteers, and I hope the local authorities will publish the name and business of every one of those who took advantage of the need of the country in its hour of distress.
The administrative organisation at the centre was never conceived on right lines, and here I think the former Home Secretary must be held responsible. Obviously, the first thing to do is to make up your mind as to the magnitude of the problem. It was a big problem, and the first thing to be done, therefore, was to start your organisation on a big scale, diminishing it afterwards if necessary. But the Government started the unhappy Wing-Commander Hodsoll, who is famed throughout the land, in some small back room with a table and possibly the part-time services of a typist, and not much more. I have every sympathy with him. Ministers are responsible for their Departments and civil servants cannot answer back—at any rate not while they are civil servants. I have very great sympathy with the beginnings of that organisation and with Wing-Commander Hodsoll. The job could not be done with the staff and personnel at his disposal. Then there were sent to the local authorities some sealed orders regarding the crisis. I do not know anything about them; I have not seen them; but some of my people in the Metropolitan borough councils for which I am not responsible, tell me that the town clerk had sealed orders. As I say, I have not seen them, but the town clerk was not to open them until the crisis began. A bright idea! Really, it was a bright idea, if it were so. Correct me if it be wrong. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is true!"] All right; hon. Members know more about the sealed orders than I do. If these were orders about what the officers should do in a crisis, would it not have been a good idea for them to know what to do before the crisis came? It would be absurd for them to wait until they were blown up before opening the orders.
432 Why the need for all this secrecy? Why the need for the clumsy wording that I am told existed on the communication. There is some very bad blood now between at least one mayor and town clerk. There was a town clerk in one borough—I think he was a fool; he shall be nameless, because my relations with foreign powers are friendly. He got the impression that he was king of the borough. The mayor told me that this town clerk had decided to call a meeting of the council and that she said: "Who are you to call a meeting of the council?"—quite rightly: this was a good proletarian woman mayor—and he said, "It is not who I am: it is who I am going to be. "He had no statutory power to call the council and no standing orders' power to call the council, but he went ahead; and the mayor is offended to this day—and is quite right to be offended. It may be that the local authorities are under a misunderstanding. I do not know anything about it, except these allegations that I have had from borough councils in London.
People have told me that the borough councils were to be abolished—that they were to be superseded. I said that I did not know anything about it, and they said, "We have seen it." They have seen a circular that they ought not to have seen. Still, I do not believe it. I think the Home Secretary has told local authorities that there are some things which will have to be done with speed, and that special steps will have to be taken. I do not think that is unreasonable. I have written to the Home Secretary about it, and he will no doubt deal with the matter in his speech. But if there had not been this secrecy, if there had been consultation with local authorities, this could have been squared up without trouble. What you have done is to leave behind a suspicion that you wanted to fascise local authorities: I do not say that that is a fair suspicion; but your clumsiness has left you under a cloud of suspicion that is going to embarrass you—and, as a matter of fact, is embarrassing me. If I am not careful I shall get under suspicion that I was mixed up with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) will deal with anti-aircraft defence. It was inadequate; it was slow in coming out. I made private representations to the Prime 433 Minister that in the days in which we were living really the defences ought to be placed. I had a vision of London going through two or three days of bombardment without any defence at all. It might have happened. When they did come out they were a varied assortment of guns. They may have been produced at the maximum rate of supply; but they were a varied collection, and the smart cockney Londoners are describing them as "Hore-Belisha's War Museum." The Territorials were in the same position as the fire brigade. They volunteered and turned out at considerable sacrifice. They not only had not guns, but they had not the necessary ancillary equipment. I heard of one case where they had the ancillary equipment, but not the guns. [Laughter.] Fortunately we can see the humorous side of it now, but it was a wicked business that we should have been in that situation.
The House is entitled to know why this position existed. If there is a reasonable excuse, let us have it. I beg the Home Secretary and the Secretary for War not to evade the issue by saying, "We have a new Lord Privy Seal; let us give him a chance." They are responsible; the Government are responsible. The Prime Minister has been in every one of these Cabinets since 1931, and he carries a very great responsibility. I am sick of Prime Ministers who merely go on with restricted Prime Ministerial functions, and do not realise that they have a responsibility to secure a minimum state of efficiency in the Departments. Heaven knows the Prime Minister has interfered enough with the Foreign Office. He did not interfere enough with the Home Office and the War Office. He ought to have done more. Moreover, there is the future. We want to know what they are going to do about shelters, what they are going to do about evacuation and all these other important matters. We want to know what their policy is, and who is to be responsible for what. I say again that this is not a party business. I am worried, as a good citizen, as every Member of this House ought to be.
Moreover, all this is a test of democracy. I do not believe that democracy cannot be efficient. I have spent a large part of my life in power—in small ways, then in bigger ways. I do not believe that democracy cannot be made efficient. 434 Democracy is all right; it depends on who is running democracy. But if we get it into the heads of our people, whether it be a Conservative Government or a Labour Government or any Government, that democratic government must be slow, must be inefficient, must be undecided, must talk for years without doing anything, we are going to bring democracy down. That kind of thing is asking for a revolution of some sort, because if the people are convinced that democracy does not work, they will fall back on something else that they believe will. Some hon. Members may be tempted to believe that they will fall back on a Fascist remedy. Do not be sure; they might fall back on another one. It is to the interest of all of us, to the interest of our country, to the interest of this great Parliamentary institution, that democracy shall be effective, swift, competent in action and responsive to public opinion—watching and listening to public opinion and public criticism. This business is a disgrace, not to democracy as an institution, but to individual men who are responsible for these events and this unreadiness; and I beg the Government, in the interest of the country and in the interest of our constitutional institutions, to be serious about this. I beg the Government to make the administration efficient, so that we can put our hands on our hearts and say that here is a job that is needed to be done, that here is a job that vitally should be done, that here is a job that is being done well, capably, in a fine partnership between the State, the local governments and the individual citizens.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:while taking full note of existing deficiencies in the system of civilian defence, welcomes the decision of His Majesty's Government to entrust the responsibility for the system to a Minister appointed for that purpose, and declares its full approval of the Government's determination to complete with the utmost speed the measures necessary to provide for the country's needs.I am sure we have all watched with admiration, and some of us with some amusement, the struggle between the right hon. Gentleman's two personalities. He started by telling the House that on no account did he wish to introduce party 435 issues into the consideration of this question. Upon the whole, he maintained the line that he had set himself at the beginning of his speech, though from time to time we did see the other personality coming in, and we did see a partisan attack upon the Government of which I am a member. I propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman on the line that he took in the latter part of his speech, and to leave aside the quips and the criticisms which, at the beginning of it, he made against His Majesty's Government. He and I have worked together a good deal in this field of air-raid precautions in the last 12 months; and I say at once that, whatever may be my reply to his criticism and my retorts to him in the course of my speech, I am grateful to him for the help he has given me in dealing with many difficult tasks.
It seems to me that if we are to make a fair survey of what has happened and what is necessary still to be done, we must look at both sides of the account, and we must remember, in particular, the conditions in which we have been working. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to give the impression that all these questions were very easy of solution, that all that was necessary was the word of a great administrator like himself, and at once we should find that a panacea had been obtained. How different is the real state of affairs. I do not suppose that this House or any Government has ever been faced with so complicated and so vast a series of problems as is raised by what are now known as air-raid precautions. They cover the whole field of the national life. They do not end with gas masks, shelters and first-aid posts. They really cover almost every one of the national activities and they enter into almost every one of the ordinary activities of the men and women of the country. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman in his criticisms ignored the immense extent and complexity of the problems with which we are dealing this afternoon. He seemed further to ignore the fact that the solution of many of them runs directly counter to the general trend of developments in the national life.
Let me give the House a single instance. One of the basic principles of air-raid precautions is dispersal in its various shapes and forms. A policy of that kind cannot but run directly con 436 trary to many of the recent developments of the national life, and it may, if it is unwisely applied, dislocate the civil life of the country in many respects. The second factor that we have to keep in mind is that, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say about the past, these problems are comparatively new problems. The right hon. Gentleman once again described the delays of the years that are past since he was a Member of the last Labour Government. He dealt very fully with those charges in the Debates on the Air-Raid Precautions Bill last year, and, if I wished to retort, I would say in a single sentence that in those years we did not get a great deal of help from many Members of the right hon. Gentleman's party. Indeed, we had active opposition from some of the Labour councils in the country, and it is further worth remembering—and it is a commentary upon the interest of the right hon. Gentleman and his party in air-raid precautions in the past—that until the Bill of last year there had not been a single day's discussion upon air-raid precautions asked for by the Opposition, and the first air-raids discussion was in connection with the Bill of last year.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman and his group, but to the right hon. Gentleman and his party.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The right hon. Gentleman said that the first discussion took place on the Air-Raid Precautions Bill. That is a mistake on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. A long discussion took place on 27th July, 1937.
§ Sir S. Hoare
If I may modify what I have said, it is that there were five or six years when the two Oppositions asked for one day's discussion on this very important question.
I have stated those two conditions to the House, and hon. Members must take them into account when they come to consider the present position and the criticism that the right hon. Gentleman has just made against the system. The right hon. Gentleman was afraid that I should shift the responsibilities on to my right hon. 437 Friend the Lord Privy Seal and take refuge in the fact that a new Minister was in future going to be directly responsible for air-raid precautions in this House. Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman at once that nothing is further from my intention. I stand here to-day to take full responsibility for all the events connected with air-raid precautions for which I have been responsible during the last 12 months, and I propose in the course of my speech—and I hope that it will not be too long—to deal specifically with the right hon. Gentleman's charges and to take the opportunity of saying to hon. Members that the system, for all its defects, has much to be said in its defence, and when it is compared with the air-raid precautions in other countries it will stand comparison with any, except Germany—a very big exception I quite admit—where air-raid precautions were started—and I admit the fact—a considerable time before we embarked upon them.
Let me begin, but not in any attitude of complacency, with one or two definite achievements—what we can claim in recent months. I take, first of all, the question of recruitment. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that it was a very remarkable fact that in peace time and on a voluntary basis we had enlisted more than 1,000,000 men and women. The greater part of these recruits have been recruited during the last six months, and if that fact is taken into account, the recruitment in peace time compares favourably with the recruitment of the Kitchener Army during a period of 12 months. That is a very considerable achievement. [An HON. MEMBER: "On the part of the nation!"]
I come next to the gas masks. I am fully aware that criticisms have been made that we have insisted too much upon the gas masks, and that we have ignored certain other very necessary precautions. I propose to deal with that charge later in my speech, but let me take the example of the gas masks as an instance of very successful organisation. In the course of a few days the Home Office distributed 30,000,000 gas masks. By the time the crisis came the Home Office, which had been responsible for the provision of civilian respirators, had accumulated 40,000,000 civilian respirators in 80 weeks of production. No other country can show a comparable result. That was not the complete programme. 438 Manufacture is proceeding steadily, so that there would have been enough respirators for everyone in the country together with some reasonable reserve.
Criticism has been made by the right hon. Gentleman to-day that certain areas did not receive all the respirators they required, and that in some cases the respirators were not all in the appropriate sizes for the population. I would ask the attention of the House to the explanation of this fact. The respirators as they were received from the manufacturers were stored in depots belonging to the Home Office. For technical reasons they were stored unassembled. On 4th April, 1938—I would ask hon. Members' attention to this date—shortly after the Bill became law, the Home Office sent a circular to all local authorities explaining the full programme by which local authorities should take delivery of the respirators in local stores and explaining methods by which they should arrange for all the population inside their area to be fitted so that the appropriate sizes of respirator could be known, and indicating to them how to allot them, with the help of industrial and commercial establishments if local authorities were not able to organise a full warden service for assembling.
I am sorry to say that scarcely any local authorities took action as a result of that circular. The Home Office went on pressing them, and on 6th July a further circular was sent to local authorities urging them once again to arrange to take the delivery of their respirators into local storage by the end of August. I am sorry to say again very few of the local authorities took action. The result was that when the crisis came, through no fault of the Home Office, a very large number of these respirators had not been distributed, nor had the Home Office received the particulars that it required of the sizes that were needed in the various localities. The Home Office, therefore, had to take action on its own initiative, and I am glad to say that within a few days over 38,000,000 respirators had been distributed. I am glad to say, also, that the local authorities at this stage quickly improvised arrangements, but the fact that the local authorities had not made these previous preparations, made it necessary for improvisation and, therefore, we had not got the details of sizes, and so on, that we required if the 439 organisation was to run completely smoothly. That is the reason why, in certain cases, the sizes were not always exactly what was required. We had them, for example, in the case of Coventry. They had sent us full particulars for Which we asked, and we had a communication from Coventry saying that their requirements had been met in every detail.
I pass from the respirators to another direction in which, I claim, we can point with some confidence to not unsatisfactory results. I come to the question of trenches—a very important question in the field of air-raid precautions. Let me explain to the House what was the policy of the Home Office and what it was we actually achieved. We had very careful experiments made by the Royal Engineers at Chatham and we had plans made out of suitable trenches and had practices with the engineer personnel at Chatham. As a result of this we drew up a model scheme of trenches which we circulated to London and the principal local authorities elsewhere. In the case of London we made arrangements that each Metropolitan borough should have an efficient contractor attached to that borough for digging the trenches without delay upon the model scheme we had circulated. It may be said that the trench scheme was not based upon the right system. That was not the case. If it was so, it was because the local authorities had not followed the model scheme that we had given them. Where the model scheme was followed trenches were dug with great speed on a proper system. We now propose—this is my answer to one of the right hon. Gentleman's most important criticisms—to inform the local authorities that the trenches, where they had been properly sited, should be completed and should be retained, that they should be covered in, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, that they should be given a permanent structure, and where we find that as the result of our survey and inquiries of the local authorities the trench systems ought to be further developed, we intend to have them so developed.
I claim that any impartial investigator who looks at the trench system that was, at any rate, begun in the emergency, although it was not in every respect completed, will realise that on the whole it 440 did provide very useful shelter for a substantial number of the public. It provided accommodation for about 1,000,000 people. That was no inconsiderable achievement in the time.
§ Sir S. Hoare
No, 1,000,000 for the whole country. I have said that we think the trench system ought to be developed, and we will see that it is developed. In the space of a very few days a great trench system was built based in most cases upon a well thought out plan. Let hon. Members bear that in mind when they reckon up the items on the credit and debit sides of the system of air-raid precautions. I pass now to certain other items of work.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Had not an instruction been sent out to local authorities that they must cease making any trenches other than those they have started?
§ Sir S. Hoare
It is on the point of going out now. The reason why we did not send it out immediately was that we desired to get the opinions of the principal local authorities before we made final proposals for a permanent policy.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
As the right hon. Gentleman puts it to the credit side of his account, does his plan include any arrangement to secure that people are directed to the trenches which could receive them? Is he confident that the trenches in the state in which they were at the end of September would not have resulted in more casualties than if they had never been made?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I have confidence in the plan as far as it goes, but I do not mean to say that further organisation is not needed. So far as London is concerned I have confidence that we could have avoided catastrophies of that kind. But I certainly think that now we are embarking upon a more permanent trench programme it will be necessary to carry that 441 side of the organisation a great deal further.
Now I pass from the trenches to the question of shelters other than trenches. The right hon. Gentleman devoted a good deal of his speech, and rightly so, to the very important question of shelters. I say frankly that the experiences of the last 12 months have had considerable effect upon my attitude and the attitude of my advisers towards shelters. A year ago we had not, as we have to-day, the full experiences that have been gathered in Spain. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must have in the future a more comprehensive shelter policy than any that has been contemplated in the past, but I do not intend to-day to give more than a very general outline of what is in our minds, because I am very anxious in no way to compromise the position of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who will be dealing with this matter as one of the most important of the issues with which he is concerned. I will give the general framework to the House, but my right hon. Friend obviously must have full liberty of action. In answer to one of the questions put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite I should like to say that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will be definitely and directly responsible for air-raid precautions. The Prime Minister stated that in the House the other day. In that respect the right hon. Gentleman will see at once that the Lord Privy Seal's position will differ materially from the position of the Lord Privy Seal in the days to which he referred.
§ Mr. Dalton
His duties will differ materially from those of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence.
§ Mr. Simmonds
Will the air-raid precautions still be part of the Home Office organisation, under the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I think I had better go no further than to say that my right hon. Friend will be directly responsible for the air-raid precautions for which I have been responsible during the last 12 months. Now I come back to the shelters. It is very easy to say to this or any other Government that underground bomb- 442 proof shelters upon a gigantic scale should be built to provide bomb-proof shelter accommodation for the whole of the population. It can be done, so we are told, in a period of some years, and we are also told that it can be done at the expense of such and such a number of hundreds of millions of pounds. I do not emphasise the cost of a proposal of this kind. Assuming that the country could achieve security in that way, I do not think that the money considerations, great as they are, ought to be taken too much into account, but I would ask hon. Members to remember the difficulties in the way of such a programme other than the money difficulties.
My advisers point, quite rightly, to the dislocation of the civil life that would almost inevitably result in peace time from a gigantic programme of this kind. It would undoubtedly mean tremendous dislocation of the civil life of the country. That is the reason why since I have been responsible for air-raid precautions I have refused to accept this building of what might be called underground cities as a panacea for the troubles and dangers with which we are dealing. I have, however, always taken the view that short of a great programme of that kind there is very much that can be done without dislocating the civil life of the country in peace time. Let me say at once that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's objective. So far as I understood him I have the same objective in mind. I believe that we ought to see that blast-proof accommodation is provided for every man, woman and child in vulnerable areas of the country who cannot provide it for themselves. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will either to-day or on some future occasion develop the outlines of a programme of that kind. Such a programme must inevitably take into account wherever possible the existing accommodation. It must take into account the possibility of even greater shelter where it reasonably can be made available. I mean bomb-proof shelter as well as blast-proof shelter.
It is essential that existing accommodation and existing facilities should everywhere be used wherever possible. It was because of that fact that I attached so much importance some months ago to a survey of existing shelter accommodation, the kind of accommodation that can 443 be adapted to the purposes that we have in mind, not the kind of accommodation to which the right hon. Gentleman referred that would simply collapse upon the heads of the men, women and children who were taking refuge in it. I mean real shelter accommodation. I had hoped that the survey would have been completed much more quickly by the local authorities and that we could have made a long step forward on this very important side of our precautions. I am not making any recriminations or trying to shift any responsibility upon the shoulders of anybody else, but for one reason or another the survey took up a much longer time than I expected, and in many parts of the country the local authorities have not yet begun it.
That being so, it is essential that we should greatly expedite this necessary part of the programme. We have already decided to bring into action a body of expert surveyors who will be placed at the disposal of the local authorities, and who we hope will be able to carry through this survey in a short period of time. It has been borne in upon us that with the best will in the world many district and county surveyors have not the time for work of this kind. We hope, with this new body of expert engineers and surveyors placed at the disposal of local authorities, that we shall be able to carry through the survey much more quickly and therefore much more quickly set in hand the programme I have outlined.
I come next to the question the right hon. Gentleman raised about the training of personnel. He made several criticisms, particularly from his experience of London, of the lack of training. I have been very conscious of this lack of training. I do not think there has been a day or week that has passed without my pressing the need of it upon the various local authorities. One of the difficulties which emerged conspicuously in the crisis was the doubt in the minds of men and employers as to whether men who have received air-raid precautions training would be called away for some other war work if war started. It is quite obvious to the Government that we have to clear away these doubts. I am glad to think that one of the principal duties of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will be to deal with the very important questions of a national register 444 and national service, and I feel sure that as a result of his investigations—I do not think they should take long—we shall find that of the rair-raid precautions recruits a very large number, a number which will surprise many hon. Members, will be required as paid whole-time workers in war time. I do not wish to tie my right hon. Friend down to any particular number, he must judge of the number when he comes to look at the requirements of all the various national activities, but I should say, after such inquiries as I have been able to make, that something like 500,000 men and women will be needed as paid whole-time air-raid precautions workers if we are involved in war. It is a staggeringly large number, but it is my considered view that something in the nature of half a million whole-time men and women will be needed in an emergency of that kind. In any case we intend without further delay to let the country know which of the air-raid precautions recruits will be required in peace time and they will then have removed from their minds a doubt as to whether, having had their training, when an emergency comes they may be taken away to some other job. I must apologive to the House for going through these series of questions, but I am very anxious to avoid the right hon. Gentleman opposite charging me with trying to shift my responsibilities on to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal.
I come now to the question of evacuation. The right hon. Gentleman criticised us for delay. Let me say to him that evacuation is not so easy an affair as he seemed to suggest and let me also say to the House that as far as I know no other country in the world has worked out an effective scheme of evacuation. [An HON. MEMBER: "France."] No, I claim without fear of contradiction that our scheme, incomplete as it was, was far in advance of any scheme worked out by any other country. Paris was a good scheme on paper—but I do not wish to be drawn into comparisons with the schemes of other countries. I am certainly right in saying that we had worked out a plan of evacuation in much greater detail than anybody else. Further, I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the Home Secretary ought to have acted at once and ought not to have appointed a committee of hon. Members of this House. I do not take that view. 445 I take the view that without the help of my right hon. Friend and the committee which assisted him, the conclusions to which I had come last May or last June would not have been accepted with the same unanimity as they have been, but that they would have given rise to controversies of every kind and might, indeed, have prejudiced the operation of the scheme altogether. I took the view that it was much wiser in a case which raised difficult problems affecting every household in the country to appoint a committee. Let me give a single instance, the difficult question whether children should be evacuated with or without their parents. In the Debate on that subject there was a bitter controversy in this House as to which was the better course. It did need the investigation of an impartial body composed of hon. Members from all parties in this House to consider the question and give satisfaction.
It may be asked why we did not publish the report at once when it was received at the beginning of August. I think the right hon. Gentleman has himself given the answer. I consulted the right hon. Gentleman and the chairman of the committee, and they both said that what was important at that time, when the report could not have been published before the middle or the end of August in any case, was that the right course to take at that moment was not to publish the report but to take action upon the report. Accordingly we took action. We accepted the recommendations of the report. We had an urgent meeting of the Ministers concerned, and we at once set in hand preparations for the various schemes. I was rather surprised at the account which the right hon. Gentleman gave of these discussions. I had no idea that there were any of the grave differences between us to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded this afternoon. I was under the impression that the Home Office and the London County Council were together and I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to Sir George Gater, the clerk to the county council, and the education officers of the council for the invaluable help they gave us.
There was a point of difference, but I do not think it was a point of principle, as to whether it was better when the children were evacuated to districts outside London that the process should be in the hands of the London teachers and the 446 London authorities. Our view founded on inquiries we made of surrounding local authorities was that the scheme would work best if it was left to the officials of the Ministry of Health and in particular to the local authorities in the various areas who were going to receive the children. I claim that that is not a difference or principle at all but a difference of detailed administration, and I was certainly under the impression that we worked together to draw up the scheme and that, so far from it being a scheme in which all that was good was suggested by the London County Council and all that was bad was imposed on the London County Council by the Home Office, it was a remarkable effort at co-operation between a Government Department and a great local authority.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I did not make the proposal that our officers should go into other districts and usurp the functions of other local authorities. I was willing to lend these officers for use in Whitehall or at distance under the orders of the local authorities concerned, so that we should not usurp any functions. There was no point of difference between us there, but I am still waiting for the right hon. Gentleman's justification of the Under-Secretary's statement in this House on 1st June, when he said that plans for the reception of refugees and their dispersal over the country areas had been worked out and could be rapidly taken further.
§ Sir S. Hoare
That is not the question which the right hon. Gentleman asked in his speech, but I am ready to answer it. We had a very thorough investigation of the problem from the point of view of transport, and at that time my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary was referring to the transport out of London by the railways and other means of transport of large numbers of refugees and children. On the broad question of evacuation I claim that the plans were laid on a sound foundation, and further that if we had been compelled to bring them into operation they would have worked not unsatisfactorily. There would have been inconvenience, there would have been hardship in some cases, but none the less, not a little due to the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and his staff, I believe that these 500,000 children from London would all have had a home and a suitable place to which to go. That is not an in 447 considerable achievement. I have no sympathy with those who have written to me, as many people have, saying what an outrage it would have been—to use a phrase which has been used in some of these letters—"to have dirty little children from the London schools billeted upon our house." I have no sympathy with correspondents of that kind. I have said to them quite frankly that they seem to be under the impression that in the conditions of modern warfare things are to go on just as usual and that they seem to be quite out of date in their views about London school children. I was a member of the London Education Committee a long time ago, and even then this kind of criticism could have had no basis or foundation.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Quite a number. Now, further details have obviously to be elaborated, and it is my right hon. Friend, who was chairman of the Committee, who will have the responsibility for elaborating them. He will have to consider such questions as to whether he could work into his scheme the use of camps that undoubtedly will be required upon a much greater scale when the system of paid holidays becomes more universal. There will be many questions of that kind, and undoubtedly he will have to take them into account.
I pass from the question of evacuation to another of the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms, his criticism of the Home Office and its machinery. He took the view that the machinery had been much too small, that it had been inadequate for this gigantic job. I agree with him that it has been very difficult to keep pace with the growing extent of the problems that are being thrust upon us. None the less, it is worth mentioning that in the space of the last 12 months the staff of the Home Office dealing with air-raid precautions has been almost trebled. That is evidence of the fact that we have been trying to expand and to keep up with the growing body of work that has been increasing in scope and intensity almost every week.
§ Mr. Attlee
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the figures, since "trebled" might mean only three people.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I will give the figures, which are very remarkable. They are as follows: On 1st April, 1935, 14; on 1st April, 1936, 31; on 1st April, 1937, 173; on 1st April, 1938, 224; on 1st September, 1938, 418. I have almost finished the long list of charges on the sheet of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I must say a word or two about two more, profiteering—
§ Sir S. Hoare
That is the other matter. The hon. Member, with his prophetic mind, forestalled the sentence in which I was going to say I would deal with that. With regard to profiteering, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State gave a detailed answer at Question Time about sandbags. We are investigating these charges of profiteering that have been made, and my own very definite view is that if they are substantiated we ought certainly to take action and certainly to see to it that no contractor who has been guilty of an offence of that kind should be eligible in future for Government contracts.
§ Sir S. Hoare
We have already started the investigation. I can also tell the right hon. Gentleman that we have started discussions with the representatives of the trades concerned with a view to seeing that in future nothing of the same kind should happen again. It is fair to say that these were exceptional cases. In London, for instance, the very big work on trenches, work running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, was carried out by the representative organisation of London contractors at prime cost. I commend that fact to the other contractors of the country. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman asked me—as did the hon. Member opposite—about the secret circular sent to the officers of some of the local authorities. This is a very important question, and I ask hon. Members to give their attention to it. I think they will agree with me that in the conditions of modern warfare, in which the home front is very likely the most important front in the early period of war, it is essential that there should be a chain of command acting as quickly and as efficiently as the 449 chain of command would act in one of the Fighting Services. Particularly is that necessary when we think of the way in which the war might develop and in which air raids might spread in a few minutes of time from one area of the country to another. Accordingly, we had in being an organisation under which the central Government would have had representatives in war time in the principal areas, with a staff composed of representatives from the various Government Departments concerned with the home front, for the purpose of seeing that the executive orders of the central Government could be given and carried out with the least possible delay. I think that every hon. Member who considers the problem will agree with me that an organisation of that kind was quite essential. That was the first part of the organisation.
The second part of it was that a circular was sent to the officials of some of the local authorities giving instructions as to how the executive orders should be carried out in war time. There was no question of superseding men and women who were engaged upon very valuable public work. It would have been inevitable, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite himself said, that their work would change in certain respects in the new conditions, but we always contemplated the need of keeping the co-operation of these men as completely and fully as we could in the various areas. We did need these directions for seeing that executive orders should be quickly carried out and should be carried out over areas in some cases bigger than the areas of the particular local authorities. After all, an air raider would not restrict his activities to a single authority, and when we are dealing with a scheme of air-raid precautions in which something like 1,500 air-raid authorities of one kind or another take part, an organisation of this kind is absolutely essential. One of the duties of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will be still further to organise that plan, particularly upon the lines of making the transfer as easy as possible from peace-time conditions to conditions of war, in which things are bound to change. No doubt, in the course of his activities, he will have an opportunity of consulting with representatives of the local authorities, such as the right hon. Gentleman's, but as I say, it is the Government's intention to make the 450 transfer from peace-time conditions to war conditions as easy and as efficient as possible, and to avoid any friction that might take place at a very critical moment in the country's history. There was nothing more sinister in the proceeding than what I have just described to the House.
§ Sir S. Hoare
It was secret for this reason. We thought at the end of the summer every local authority was so fully engaged with its normal air-raid precautions activities that it was unnecessary to bring this new subject to their attention. [Interruption.] We may have been right or we may have been wrong. We have had scarcely any complaints from the local authorities. The only case, as far as I remember, in which we have had a complaint was from Leeds, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State had a meeting with the authorities from Leeds, and the position was fully explained to them, as far as I know to their general satisfaction. That is the position, a position which should give rise to none of the sinister suspicions that seem to have been in the minds of one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Before concluding, will my right hon. Friend inform the House whether it is intended to issue steel helmets to the special constables?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I think that is so, but I will certainly look into the matter, and give my hon. and gallant Friend the information. Lastly, I find that I have omitted one question upon which the right hon. Gentleman laid particular stress, that of fire appliances in London. I was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman make this criticism of the Home Office. I heard it with some regret, for it compels me to draw the attention of the House to certain facts on my side of the balance sheet. The House will be surprised to hear that, while by far the greater majority of the fire authorities in the country have sent in schemes for fire protection against air raids, we had not yet received the scheme of the London County Council. Secondly, during the crisis, the number of recruits to the auxiliary fire brigade in London, one of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibili- 451 ties, amounted to only a quarter of the number required.
The right hon. Gentleman may say to me, "We should have had more recruits if we had had the appliances. "Let me tell the House why the London County Council did not have more appliances. We had a number of very excellent appliances of a new type. Every local authority in the country was clamouring for them. The London County Council, for a certain period, would not accept the lighter of these machines, although there were many available, and it is only in quite recent times that they have agreed to accept them. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the appliances are now coming forward in very large numbers and I am convinced that in the beginning of next year, if he will fill up the number of his recruits, we shall have all the appliances ready for them. Let me also say to him that one of the ways in which he could help us very much would be to look into the conditions under which many of the auxiliary firemen in London are expected to work. Again, this is one of his responsibilities. I think he will find that in many cases the buildings are very inadequate and I think he will also find that because of the inadequacy of the buildings, some of the recruits whom he has obtained are already beginning to drift away. I do not quote these facts to recriminate against the right hon. Gentleman or the London County Council. I quote them rather to show the complexity of these problems.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I cannot altogether follow the right hon. Gentleman's point. I had no knowledge that a scheme was outstanding between the council and the Home Office for fire prevention work. We moved in step with the Home Office and our officers were consulted I know regarding the type of equipment and what the Home Office wanted, but that does not explain the fact that in the case of some of the equipment there was no connecting link between the equipment and the hydrant. I should have thought however that if these things existed it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, who sees me about this House and knows where to find me, to tell me about them and if the London County Council had not got the equipment earlier, is that any 452 reason why some of the equipment which the right hon. Gentleman now implies was available, could not have been delivered to us when we were ready to take it? Frankly, I do not follow his point.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The right hon. Gentleman will find that what I have said to the House is accurate in every respect. We have not yet had a complete scheme of fire protection work from the London County Council and I hope that what I have said to-day will expedite such a scheme. When the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me I was about to say that I quoted these facts only to show that these problems are not quite as simple as the right hon. Gentleman himself suggested. Even he, with all his great administrative efficiency, has not been able to complete this plan and he should be a little more careful about making general attacks upon other people whose schemes may not have been in all respects quite perfect.
Be that as it may, I come now to the end of my speech and to my summing up. Does the Home Secretary say to the House to-day that the scheme of air-raid precautions was complete? Certainly not. He is the man, most of all in the House, who is conscious of its many deficiencies, of its many gaps and of the many difficulties with which it is surrounded. How many local authorities could say that their own schemes have been carried out as far as they ought to have been? Some local authorities have done splendidly. It is, however, true to say that other local authorities have done very little. How many private citizens—and after all, the primary responsibility is upon the men and women of the country—can say that they have done all they ought to have done?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that by the united effort of these three, namely, the Government, the local authorities and the private citizen we can make as good a system of passive defence as any in the world and I am glad to-day to tell hon. Members on all sides of the House that we are determined to make this system of passive defence effective. We are determined to see that the system of passive defence can play its full part, with a substantial increase of the Air Force and a greatly increased system of anti-aircraft guns, and that as a result of this triple effort we can go far to regain the insular security of this country. I 453 ask for the support of hon. Members from all sides of the House in the effort which we are making. I ask them to accept the Amendment which I move, welcoming the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal—one of the most efficient administrators in the country—to undertake this responsible body of work and assuring the Government of support in this effort.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is deservedly popular as a Member and as a Minister. He is always courteous, civil and approachable. But he will forgive me for saying that he has completely failed to answer the serious indictment of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). In fact, I am alarmed at the weakness of his defence. I hoped, as I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney, that the right hon. Gentleman would have had an adequate answer, but as the right hon. Gentleman's arguments in reply to my right hon. Friend were developed, my alarm increased. My only consolation, and I say so with very great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, is that a new Minister has been appointed to co-operate with him. But I am not yet clear where the responsibility is to lie. It has not been made clear whether the Home Secretary is still to be, if I may use the expression, "top dog." We are very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal in his new position. I have recollections of very pleasant associations with him. But is he to be responsible to the Cabinet for the whole of the air-raid precautions, or is he to be in a position similar to that of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department? Are they to be subordinates or are they to have a free hand?
One great weakness, I think, in the Home Secretary's statement was his endeavour, in his opening remarks, to shift some of the responsibility from the Government on to the House of Commons. He suggested that we were to blame because we had not raised this subject in one form or another. But, as a matter of fact, inside the Rules of Order we have taken every opportunity of raising this subject. My right hon. 454 Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) as long ago as July, 1936, in a Debate on the Defence Estimates, called special attention to the vital importance of adequate anti-aircraft defence. Again, in November, 1936, we moved an Amendment to the Address on the failure of the Government to implement the report of the Royal Commission on the manufacture and production of arms and, again, my right hon. Friend pressed on the Government the importance of dealing adequately with this important matter. In July, 1937, we put down for discussion the salary of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and my right hon. Friend pointed out that this particular service was the Cinderella of our Defence organisation. I do not know whether there is any particular reason for or explanation of the fact, but it is rather significant that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is not here. I do not know whether he is to be supplanted by the Lord Privy Seal, but we always understood that his business was to co-ordinate the various Supply Services and particularly to look after the adequacy of anti-aircraft defences.
The House of Commons cannot be blamed. We have been most generous in voting supplies. Last summer it was very remarkable, and many people noted the fact, how vast sums, imposing terrific burdens on the taxpayers, were passed with practically no debate. The country and the House were so concerned with the seriousness of the problem and the urgency of the need to make adequate provision, that we did not in the ordinary discharge of our duties scrutinise in the usual way either the details of Supply expenditure or the money required to carry on these services. I think the country has a right to ask, first, that it should have value for its money, and, second, that it should have adequate defence. There is a widespread feeling not merely in this House, but throughout the country that last September we were not prepared and that there had been considerable waste. I believe it is time that we had some form of inquiry.
I understand that the Prime Minister did, soon after the critical day, initiate some internal inquiry. I do not know whether the Home Secretary was a member of that committee of inquiry, but 455 certainly his answer this afternoon does not inspire great confidence that that inquiry has been adequate to meet the circumstances of the case. Parliament has a right, not to a hole-and-corner inquiry, but to an inquiry on a scale which will satisfy the public and Parliament that the money spent has not been wasted and that there is a proper return for it. Many hon. Members will remember what was known as the Esher Commission, a Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of the South African war, the result of which was not only to bring about revelations of a good deal of waste and extravagance, but to secure a great deal of improvement in the organisation of our defence forces. I recognise that a Royal Commission works slowly, and that the procedure is cumbersome, and experience certainly confirms the belief that as a rule it is a long time before your Minister can get his report.
We on this bench consider that the matter is so urgent that we want to devise some more efficient system of inquiry, and I suggest that a Select Committee of this House would not be a bad way of satisfying the House and the country that during the last few weeks the work of the defence Departments has been done properly and that there has not been a great waste of public money. As a matter of fact, a committee of that kind was appointed during the war, when a much stronger case could have been made against such a course than in a time of appeasement, when we are assured that the danger of war, at any rate for some time, has been removed. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that such a Select Committee was appointed, under the chairmanship of the present Lord Samuel. I was a member of that committee and was on one of the sub-committees that inquired, during the very middle of the war, into the administration of the expenditure particularly of the War Office, and we were able, not only to reveal a great amount of waste, but at the same time to save large sums of money from being wasted. We worked in co-operation with the Departments; such a committee need not necessarily be hostile to the Government.
I say that it is up to the Government and that it is up to the House of Commons to satisfy the public that the suspicions 456 that undoubtedly exist are not well-founded, and they will not be so satisfied until there is some such public inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment on behalf of the Government admits that everything is not well. There is not so much difference between the Motion moved by the right hon. Member for South Hackney and the Amendment moved from the Government Front Bench. The Home Secretary admits the deficiency, and we want to know who is responsible for that deficiency, whether it is due to faults in the Departments, whether there has been exploitation by private interests, and where all these vast sums, which have been spent on a scale unprecedented in the history of this country or of any other country in peace time, have gone. We had some slight reference by my right hon. Friend to the suggestion for a Ministry of Supply, and this is very pertinent to the subject under discussion. The Prime Minister the other day dismissed it in an airy way on the ground that it would interfere with ordinary industry and with our foreign trade. I do not think that that necessarily follows. On the contrary, the right kind of Ministry of Supply would look after the interests of the traders and would see that they were not necessarily subordinated always to the various war Departments. The main job of such a Department would be to see that there were the proper priorities between the various spending Departments.
We have really four sections asking for money for national defence—the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and A.R.P. My right hon. Friend was right. Undoubtedly A.R.P. is the Cinderella, the poor relation, the newcomer in the domain of demands for the expenditure of public money, and it is not surprising that when they want, for instance, fire appliances, the A.R.P. authorities find that they cannot get supplies because the Navy, an old Department, with great authority and power, has had first call on the productive capacity of the country. I do not think the nation is satisfied with the present arrangement. I am satisfied that there is competition between the various sections, the various Departments. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence adequately fills the bill, and my right hon. Friend the newcomer will have to be a militant, a first-class fighting man, if he 457 is really to stand up for his responsibility against the old, well-established Services, like the Navy and the Army, which have great power and influence among the industries of this country.
In another place the other day a Noble Lord put the responsibility for the deficiencies on the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), that is to say, for something that he did, not last year or the year before, but 14 years ago. I only wish, incidentally, that the Air Force and the A.R.P. were as efficient as the Navy; I have yet to know that the Navy is one of the Departments that were found wanting in the crisis of last September. However, the right hon. Member for Epping is quite able to look after himself. In 1924, when Germany was disarmed, with a democratic and peaceful State, it was quite right to husband our resources and cut down expenditure on defence, but in 1938 the conditions are quite different; and it shows how weak the Government are, how poor their defence is, that they have to produce arguments of that kind to explain away deficiencies which everybody knows to exist.
Reference has been made to the Evacuation Committee, of which I was a member. That Committee was a very satisfactory Committee. We had an excellent Chairman, and we had the satisfaction of coming to a unanimous conclusion, which is a very rare thing. That Committee was not appointed a year or 18 months ago, but it was left till the last minute before the Minister came and persuaded four very busy men to give their time and to inquire into that very urgent problem. We all knew what was the critical date. Every member of the Committee accepted that the end of September was the time for which we had to make our arrangements, and that is why we sat very often six days a week and why we rushed the report through more quickly than we had desired to do. It was because we wished to have it complete by the end of July. I do not quite agree with my right hon. Friend, though this is only a matter of opinion, that it was wise to hold back the publication of the report. Democracies may have their faults, as they have their virtues. Totalitarian States can get things done by the centralisation of authority, and in my view democracies can only function properly if the people are taken into the con 458 fidence of the State and the Government My opinion is that the common people have much cooler heads than many Members of this House.
I was down in the East End of London when the crisis was on and when gas masks were being distributed and parents were being asked to send their children away to the country, and it was remarkable how cool and calm the people were and how sensible they were. Their only criticism was that they were being kept in the dark and did not understand what it was all about, and they did not realise enough what the Government plans were I believe that good would have been done if the report had been published in August, so that it might have been discussed and so that the public would have known exactly what would be required of them if a crisis actually occurred. There is in our report one paragraph which I would like to emphasise. It cannot be emphasised too much, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal will agree with me. Evacuation, important as it is—and it is particularly important in the case of London—is no substitute for adequate defence. London, after all, contains one-fifth of the whole population of the country and has areas with as many as 80,000 people to the square mile. It has one in five of the insured workers, of whom 62 per cent. are essential for war services. A concentrated attack on London on a large scale, a knock-out blow as contemplated, I understand, by General Goering—it was published in the Press and broadcast all over the world—while it could do great damage to the buildings and houses, would not end the war, but it would be a terrible blow to our prestige.
The fact that the population is concentrated in one area on great scale makes London undoubtedly an easy target and almost impossible to defend, but, on the other hand, if you have a great concentration of industry and people in one area, you can also concentrate your defences. It is the general opinion that our defences in September of this year, at the critical time, were inadequate and that there were serious shortages of up-to-date modern anti-aircraft guns. We want assurances that this was not so, and we have a right to know whether it is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said and as I have heard from 459 many people, that there were guns without equipment and equipment without guns. It is very well for the right hon. Gentleman to admit deficiencies, but I think that is one of the things into which we are entitled to inquire. The right hon. Gentleman was not an outsider but was a member of the inner Cabinet. It has been commonly said outside—I do not say with any justification—that our diplomacy was influenced, not so much by a desire for peace at any price or for appeasement, but because of the weakness of our national defences and particularly our anti-aircraft defences. That may not be so. The right hon. Gentleman may say that to give the facts to Parliament is to give information to the enemy, but if he is able to say that this country is strong and adequately protected, that will strengthen our position and not weaken it, and I think that anyhow, for the morale of the country, we ought to know exactly what the position is.
I want to make one or two constructive suggestions. Reference has been made by my right hon. Friend to the manpower problem, and the Home Secretary referred to the shortage for volunteers for the fire brigade. There was a shortage, I understand, in almost every section, except, I believe, in the antiaircraft defence organisation. I understand my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal is going to reply, and as an old colleague who worked with him harmoniously and happily, I want to make a constructive suggestion. I suggest there are far too many authorities in London. It does not apply so much to the provinces, where there is a unified system of government, but in London there are far too many authorities sharing out the available man-power. First, there is the Territorial Association which looks after the recruiting for the Territorial Army; second, Scotland Yard, which makes an appeal for special constables; third, the London County Council which calls for men for the fire brigade; fourth, the borough councils which ask for air wardens; and then there is to be a fifth authority working as a central bureau for the organisation of evacuation.
I recognise that London is in a difficult position, but if we are to utilise the magnificent voluntary spirit that exists 460 and the willingness of the people to do their share in the defence of their own city, we want some better organisation than that. There should be some central bureau. If London were a problem by itself I would be content to trust the organisation to the London County Council. We have there one or two magnificent officers. Sir George Gater would not make a bad London governor under the careful supervision of the committee. He is an ex-general in the Army, and, of course, he is a splendid administrator. If we are to get a satisfactory solution of the London question we must take a larger view and look beyond London. Some of the complaints I got during the crisis were from the outer authorities. There are many authorities outside the county boundary like East and West Ham, Croydon and Richmond, which are in the danger zone, and they too have to find the necessary man-power. It might be advisable to make use of the machinery of the Employment Exchanges for the proper organisation and distribution of the voluntary effort which is available. This is one of the problems which the new Minister will have to face.
We are faced now with two alternative proposals. One is the Amendment of the Government, which, incidentally, is rather uncommon. I suppose there are precedents, but it is unusual for a Minister to move a vote of confidence in his own delinquencies, admitting his faults, and asking to be covered with a white sheet. The other alternative is the moderately framed Motion of the Opposition, which I and my friends will feel bound to support. We are glad to see the new Ministers and we hope they will be a success, but, after all, the real responsibility for the safety and defence of this country is not on this or that Minister. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the Government as a whole, and particularly, as my right hon. Friend said in an interruption, on the Committee of Imperial Defence of which the Prime Minister is chairman.
I will make one other constructive suggestion. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is prevented from being in his place this afternoon because of indisposition. I am not surprised. The strain and stress of the last few weeks must have been terrific, but I suggest, and I hope my right hon. 461 Friend will convey the suggestion to him, that he should get a Foreign Secretary who sits in this House. In suggesting that I am not speaking in disparagement of the Noble Lord in the other House who is the Foreign Secretary. In view of the terrific problem of national defence which we now have to face, the Prime Minister should concentrate his time on his first and primary duty as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is the real way to co-ordinate our efforts and the real way to see that our efforts and energy are not frittered away in competition between the Departments.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Mabane
I believe that the feeling in the House and in the country is that there must be blunt speaking on this matter of air-raid precautions. As we look back on the past it is impossible to avoid recognising that until fairly recently there has been a good deal of indifference to this matter and, as has been said before, more than a little opposition from the Labour party.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
As long ago as 1935 the Labour Party Conference declared that Labour councils should co-operate in air-raid precautions, and at the time of the public declaration in 1935 I encouraged Labour authorities to co-operate. It is ungrateful that such statements should be made, and they are untrue.
§ Mr. Mabane
I am dealing with facts, and the fact is that in local Labour parties there has been opposition until quite recently. In my constituency the Labour party early this year had not decided whether it was going to co-operate at all. I say that not to make any accusations, but to remind the House of the fact that until recently there has been this considerable indifference and opposition. I have been a critic on this question of air-raid precautions and I shall be a critic to-day, but I have never observed that either the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary have endeavoured to discourage those who criticise in this House. Rather it seems to me they have gone about the House endeavouring to persuade hon. Members to interest themselves in this matter, fully recognising the fact that they might thereby provoke considerable criticism of themselves. There was good reason for them to do that. This is a new service. The Home Office 462 has been necessarily working in the dark and Members of Parliament were the only means whereby the feeling in the country could be communicated to the Home Office. I have always regretted that this additional burden should have been placed on the Home Office. I have felt that with the work normally devolving upon the Home Secretary it was impossible for him to undertake this new task.
If I have a major criticism to make of the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary, it is that they have not earlier than this declared that the work demanded a new and special department. Now we have a new Minister, and, while we wish him well, I hope that he will take the House fully into his confidence and that the House will not in future be given incomplete information. I say that because of the experience some of us have had in the past and also on account of a speech that was recently made by Mr. Eady, the civil servant in charge of the Air-Raid Precautions Department. I know that it is the tradition of this House not to attack a civil servant, and therefore I do not intend to do so, but I feel that as the speech has been made we are entitled to reply to it and to reveal certain facts. I think that some of us could some time ago have made criticisms as severe as those made by Mr. Eady in his speech, and, moreover, we could have apportioned the blame with a good deal more accuracy, but we refrained from doing so because we wanted to help rather than to hinder.
There has been working in this House for some time a body of private Members who have constituted themselves an air-raid precautions committee. I have never been privileged to sit on a committee that has so concentrated on work rather than on talk. We have had a sub-committee dealing with personnel, and we have endeavoured to secure information from all over the country. We were able to secure the co-operation of local authorities in compiling our information. We were engaged in that work throughout the summer, and towards the end of the summer we had compiled our evidence and completed our report and recommendations. In July we submitted those recommendations in a deputation to the Home Office and asked for a considered reply to them We have not yet received a reply to this day. Instead, we read 463 the speech of the 26th made by Mr. Eady. That speech has been quoted in the House and I think I am entitled to quote it again. He said:The Home Office had no illusions about the state of preparedness of the country to receive an air raid.I cannot believe that that is true. I think the Home Office was suffering from illusions in many respects. I remember well the speech made by the Home Secretary on 1st June this year in the Debate on air-raid precautions. That speech gave the impression not merely that recruiting was proceeding admirably, but that in many other directions the preparations were going along as well as could be expected. I want to give a specific example of one figure quoted in the speech. The Home Secretary repeated a figure he had used a week or so before on the wireless to the effect that 400,000 had already volunteered for this service. I challenged that figure then, and I am prepared to challenge it now. It was not a true statement of the position then. It was based on no authority, it was little more than a guess, it was misleading in the sense that it did not split up the figure into the various categories of volunteers, and it did not reveal the fact, which was known to some of us in the House, that far from the total requirements of air wardens being filled to the extent of 40 per cent., if they were filled to the extent of 20 per cent. over the whole country it was putting the figure very high. Was the impression created by that speech of 1st June due to ignorance in the Home Office? I am sorry to say that the conclusion some of us have been bound to reach is that it was.
The experience of many of us who have been closely interested in air-raid precautions has been that in connection with many essential facts we have been better supplied with information than the Home Office itself. I have often asked why information could not be secured from the local authorities as to the number of volunteers enrolled and other matters. I have been told that the local authorities have been too busy to bother with questionnaires of this kind. That is nonsense. Eight of us, working as private Members, were able to secure a great deal of essential information from local authorities representing a population of about 5,000,000 in the space of a fortnight. 464 Again, Mr. Eady said that for nine months the Home Office was haunted by the problem of recruiting and in getting the type of man it wanted. Some of us are inclined to ask why, if that was so, no appropriate and obvious steps were taken to secure that recruits should be attracted. Recommendations have been made to the Home Office that seem quite obvious. We recommended, for example, that the hours of enrolment should be hours convenient to the general body of people who wished to enrol, that there should be uniform enrolment forms to be used by the various local authorities.
I have here a collection of enrolment forms that are used by various local authorities and they are as different as can be. They ask different questions, varying from "What size boots do you take?" to "Have you ever been in prison?" We suggested that there should be immediate notification to volunteers who enrolled as to when they were likely to be required for training. We made a specific recommendation that there should be an officer appointed to the Home Office whose duty it would be to control and direct the publicity of enrolment. We suggested that the Home Office might collect the experience of local authorities on this matter and issue a recommendation. We have pressed continuously for the payment of out-of-pocket expenses to the volunteers, and many who took part in the Debates on the Air-Raid Precautions Bill believe that the Government are under a pledge to pay those expenses. For months past in this part of the country men with small incomes who have volunteered have been walking three or four miles after their work to the training centre and back and not getting payment of out-of-pocket expenses. One authority not long ago decided to pay 7s. 6d. as a lump sum on completion of the training. They began paying it but were stopped by the Home Office. They were told everything must be vouched for, and that tram tickets must be presented in order that the expenses might be paid. Even more important, it is essential that, when recruits present themselves, they should be given something to do and someone to train. None of our recommendations have been accepted.
Mr. Eady says further that the people who are known as the governing class of the country have done very little to help 465 the local authorities. I have some knowledge of one fairly large city where there were divisional wardens drawn from the class intended to be covered by that phrase who deliberately said, "We will not ask for men like ourselves to come in. We will close down all recruiting for the time being until we have something for them to do" and until there is something for them to do there is little chance of getting the men to be enthusiastic in their work. The Home Office have had suggestions put before them as to how to attract volunteers and, so far as I can judge, they have not been accepted. Mr. Eady also said that local authorities had not been always successful or very intelligent in their appeals regarding air-raid precautions, and that had to be straightened out as one of the lessons of the crisis. What directions had they? They had virtually none in this matter of attracting volunteers. We recommended that an officer should be appointed whose duty it would be to control publicity of enrolment. That has not been done. Why blame local authorities for failing to do something on which they had no directions? If they are to be blamed, let us examine what they have done. We find that with very limited resources they have done a great deal in attracting volunteers.
Let us also examine the kind of experience that they have had in dealing with the Home Office. I will give two examples because they are within my own personal experience. In Leeds in the early part of this year a great new bus station was being built. The local authorities said that for an expenditure of £1,500 they could make a shelter under the bus station which would accommodate very many hundreds of people, and they asked for authority. I am informed that authority was not given, and the bus station is now completed, with no air-raid shelter underneath it. Again, the Home Secretary referred to delay on the part of some local authorities in making preparations to receive masks from the Government stores. In Huddersfield there is a great mill, not occupied, which would be suitable for headquarters for the storage of masks and for training for fire precautions. The local authority wrote on 2nd August asking for authority to take over the mill but received no reply. About 7th October they wrote again that their air-raid precautions officer and his 466 chairman were going up to London on the 17th and desired to have an interview to see if the mill could then be taken over. All that happened was that they received next week a postcard acknowledging the letter. On the 15th I was telephoned in despair by the Huddersfield A.R.P. officer and asked to help them. So I had to interrupt my business in the middle of the morning to ring up the Home Office. Within half an hour there was a return message that the appointment would be granted. Why was it necessary for me to intervene? If local authorities are to be criticised, these and other aspects of the situation ought to be put.
Without wanting to criticise anyone in particular my experience, and that of many others who have interested themselves in the matter, is that the Air-Raid Precautions Department has tended to act, as it were, in a water-tight compartment and has been reluctant to receive and even impatient of the assistance that Members of Parliament wish to give them. On this matter more than on any other Members of Parliament can be of great use, because they are the means whereby the trend of feeling in the country can be communicated to the Department in this matter. If we in this House have failed to take a sufficient interest, or have failed to apply sufficient pressure, the responsibility is ours. If there are deficiencies, we shall not escape that responsibility, but we are entitled to put our case.
It is no use talking about the past save to use it as a guide to the future. I feel that the country is now demanding that there should be virtually a revolution in the manner in which we tackle this matter of air-raid precautions and that the revolution must occur at once. I say "at once" because I would remind hon. Members that six weeks have now passed since the week of crisis and, as far as I can gather, during those six weeks none of what some of us consider to be the major difficulties that were revealed have as yet been remedied. As far as I know, the volunteers are still not receiving payment of out-of-pocket expenses. There is no attempt to put them on a contractual basis.
In my view it is difficult to overestimate the importance of air-raid precautions because, if the country feels 467 that it is safeguarded in the matter, that fear which may very seriously influence its attitude vis-a-vis the rest of the world in foreign affairs will be removed. I believe that the preparation for civilian defence should no longer be regarded in the same way as we regard our domestic services, that is to say, that a uniform system should be applied over the whole country just as we do in the matter of drains. The country desires that it should be tackled in the way we tackle the problems of defence, and that considerations of strategy and the relative vulnerability of different areas must condition the whole plan. What is appropriate for London is clearly inappropriate for a large provincial city; what is appropriate for a large provincial city is inappropriate for a country town; and what is appropriate for a country town is inappropriate for a village. Yet we know that in the last few months villages in the West of England have been enthusiastically digging air-raid shelters in the middle of village greens.
The problem must be tackled on a strategic basis. It must be looked at as a whole instead of concentrating our efforts, as we have done, in one particular direction—defence against gas. We must consider all methods of defence—bomb-proof shelters, fire-fighting arrangements, evacuation, gas masks, preservation of essential services, provision of first aid and maintenance of communications. Those things must be considered together, in relation to one another, and at the same time. I believe, too, that while local authorities must necessarily remain in many respects the instruments for the execution of the plans, they should no longer be independent authorities, and, as a corollary, should not be called upon to shoulder any financial responsibility. What has happened in the past is that the Home Office has been precluded in most directions from giving instructions to local authorities because a local authority has been able to say, "We will not do that. We shall have to pay for it and we will not undertake the burden of payment." I believe there should be a central authority with complete power to issue instructions as to what is to be done in the matter.
Next, the whole matter of volunteer personnel must be regularised. I believe the volunteers want it. They desire that 468 there should be some form of contractural obligation for a good and sufficient reason. Suppose there is an air raid post with a head-warden and his six wardens. Not one of those men knows whether the others will turn up, because they have no obligation to do so. I am certain that the volunteers are ready to accept a form of contractual obligation similar to that undertaken by special constables, and I believe the country would support such a proposal. I believe, too, that there must be regularisation of the method of appointment of divisional wardens, head wardens and so on. How are people who act as divisional and head wardens in the great cities appointed? Perhaps the chairman of the committee or the chief constable knows someone and says "Will you act as divisional warden?" and the man says, "Yes, I will." He may be good, but he has no sort of guarantee that he will remain in that position for any length of time. It is merely the dictum of one man and a dictum which he has no authority to give. There must be proper organisation and devolution of command, otherwise there can be no likelihood that this matter will be effective in time of war. There must also be proper provision for the training of wardens. In the matter of recruiting, we have to recognise that many who have volunteered have put in a great deal of work with much discouragement. In one large city of half a million people there were until the early months of this year no more than 40 gas masks for training purposes, notwithstanding that at the same time there were millions in the Government stores and the wardens were clamouring for them. I believe, too, that the volunteers must be at once reimbursed their out-of-pocket expenses.
I am satisfied that the country and this House would be behind any measures of the character I have suggested. Apart from the considerations I have mentioned, if there has been any reluctance on the part of citizens to volunteer, in my opinion that has been due to the fact that the manner in which air-raid precautions have been handled has tended to affront their common sense. I think that not merely do they want to help, but they want to be told what to do, and that they will do what they are told willingly, providing the schemes which they are asked to assist are both rational and efficient. 469 If one wants evidence of that we need look only at the improvisations of the week from 22nd September to 29th September. During that week everybody connected with A.R.P. seemed to acquire a new vigour and a new life. The transformation in that week was nothing short of wonderful, and it was a voluntary, spontaneous and enthusiastic effort. I do not want to blame anybody in particular. We have all got to take our share of the blame and all be responsible, if only for not exercising sufficient pressure upon Ministers. I believe the spirit of that week is still alive, and I am sure that whatever efforts the Government and the new Minister now make to capture that spirit before it dies will have the full approval of the country, just as I am sure that any failure to do so will provoke a degree of criticism such as has not been heard in this House for a long time.
§ 7.17 P.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) beyond making one comment upon what he said. If I interpreted it aright, one of his constructive proposals was that there should be a supersession in some measure of the local authorities, and I hope the Government will take very little notice of that proposal.
§ Mr. Mabane
All that I was suggesting was that local authorities should be absolved from the responsibility of undertaking any payment.
§ Mr. Morrison
With regard to the view of the hon. Member, which I have heard him express on previous occasions, that the payment of tram fares and bus fares to air-raid wardens is an important matter, I should like to say, as chairman of a large borough in a very poor district responsible for between 2,500 and 3,000 air-raid wardens and air-raid workers, that I have never heard anyone ask for tram or bus fares.
§ Mr. Mabane
Does the hon. Member not recollect that I and others moved an Amendment during the passage of the Bill, and that hon. Members on his side enthusiastically supported it, providing that payment of out-of-pocket expenses should be a matter of right?
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Member. I rather want to 470 say, straight away, that I was a little disappointed with the speech of the Home Secretary this afternoon. Seeing that the crisis has been over for nearly six weeks I was hopeful of hearing that decisions of some kind would be announced, but the only decisions which I could trace in the very excellent speech of the right hon. Gentleman were that local authorities are to be enabled to convert the trenches already dug into permanent trenches, and to cover them over and grow flowers and bulbs on them, and that, as we knew before, the Lord Privy Seai is to take over this air-raid precautions work and that further explorations are going on. I wish to make one or two suggestions and to indicate to the Lord Privy Seal some of the difficulties and handicaps of local authorities during the crisis.
The Home Secretary might have paid a higher tribute than he did to the work of the local authorities in that critical time, because the amount of work they got through under exceptionally difficult circumstances was really marvellous. Anybody who was in a similar position to that in which I was in and knew the chaos and confusion existing in the first day or two, and then saw how local authorities overcame their difficulties and their handicaps, knows that it was an astonishing performance. On the Saturday morning when the crisis developed we got instructions from the Home Office to assemble and distribute gas masks to the 140,000 people living in my district. We had no assembling tables. We got into touch with a firm who, we had been told by the Home Office, supplied assembling tables, but they informed us that it would be three weeks before we could get delivery of them. We knew that it was almost impossible to assemble those 140,000 gas masks unless we could get certain necessary "jigs." Again we got into touch with a firm which had been recommended by the Home Office, but only to learn that it would be a month before they could deliver any jigs to us.
We got over that difficulty in ways which I will not delay the House by detailing. We got over all our difficulties. For one thing we had not got any containers for our gas masks and as a matter of fact in my district we have not yet got them. Further, it has taken the Home Office nearly a month to make up its mind whether the gas masks were to 471 be returned, or to be retained by the people who have them. Every time we made an inquiry about respirators for babies and children under four we were told by the Home Office that they were on the way. As the crisis grew more acute we had more and more mothers with babies coming to us to ask, "What about the babies?" and we told the air-raid wardens to tell them what the Home Office had told us, that they were on the way. After the crisis was over we found that they had not even started to manufacture them.
On the Wednesday morning of the crisis, what some newspaper has said will always be known as "Black Wednesday" when the situation was getting worse and people were getting into a panic, I came to the conclusion, as chairman of my local committee, and in consultation with the town clerk, that matters were so serious that we ought to take steps to see about preparing our air-raid precautions headquarters, which were to be underneath the Polytechnic. We gave an official full instructions to have those rooms made ready for our occupation. They were to be the headquarters of the organisation for a population of 140,000. We sent him to get chairs and tables and desks and a thousand and one other things which were needed, and he returned in the afternoon having fulfilled every one of the commissions we gave him. He had the offices ready with one exception—I am sorry the Postmaster-General is not here—and that is that we wanted a telephone with 15 lines installed and the Post Office authorities refused to take any steps to put in the telephone unless we signed a five years' contract to pay £250 a year. From that day to this no steps have been taken. It was not our building, it belonged to the Middlesex County Council, and neither the town clerk nor I was in a position to sign a five years' contract with the Post Office.
While I am on this point I wish to point out that there was no alternative provision, and there is not yet, in the case of the breakdown of telephonic communication, which is almost certain to happen if any number of bombs are dropped. At the time of the crisis it took from half-an-hour to 40 minutes to get a telephone call through in the part of London in which I lived. The congestion was 472 very serious. For months and months past a number of Government Departments have been trifling with the question of alternative means of communication. As long ago as last April the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. Gardner) asked the Home Secretary:Whether in view of the fact that in the event of air-bombing attacks on towns telephone wires above and below ground would be vulnerable to fracture along their whole length he has considered requiring the provision of means of communication from call points to life defence units and fire brigade stations by the use of short range wireless telegraphy worked from storage batteries.The answer he received was:The possibility of using wireless during air raids as a stand-by for normal means of communication is receiving full consideration.''-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1938; col. 18, Vol. 335.]That was last April. It is still receiving full consideration. I understand that the difficulty is that a number of Departments are concerned—the Post Office, the B.B.C., the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and others, including the Services Departments, and that there is the question of the wave-lengths to be used. I know that it is a highly technical question and that difficulties may arise about different authorities using different wavelengths, but I ask the Lord Privy Seal to look into this matter. He might get some advice from the United States, where short-wave radio is used by the police and fire brigades almost as freely as the telephone. I hope that he will take the initiative and get the different Government Departments concerned to come to a decision. Local authorities should be allowed to instal short-wave radio as a means of communication, and there should be one authority with power to regulate the wave-lengths used.
Here is an extraordinary matter concerning the Ministry of Health. During this crisis the Ministry of Health was not paritcularly helpful. The local hospitals had no advice or information at all. The voluntary hospital in my constituency was unable to inform the local authority whether it was to be regarded as a base hospital in connection with air-raid precautions; and to condense this, because I am trying to shorten my remarks as much as possible, I want to draw attention to this point. The Home Office said repeatedly that gas-proof rooms were essen 473 tial In the middle of the crisis they informed the local authorities that a booklet would be distributed to every house in the United Kingdom, and the principal part of that booklet was occupied with informing householders how to gas-proof rooms. On the very day that booklet was distributed a conference was held at the Ministry of Health and instructions were given to representatives of voluntary hospitals who had been called to the Ministry, and here is one of the instructions:As regards gas proofing, gas is no longer considered to be a major risk and it is not thought that any special precautions should be taken.When the right hon. Gentleman gets down to his tremendous task, would it not be possible for him to get the Metropolitan Police to take a more active part than they have been doing up to now? On several occasions I have received information from the local police officer, but always he has impressed it upon me that he was not supposed to pass on the information, that he was doing it unofficially and out of good heartedness, that he had no responsibility or part in the matter. I suggest to the Lord Privy Seal that immediate steps might be taken to have a responsible police officer co-opted on to each air-raid precautions committee in the Metropolitan area. A multitude of questions come up for discussion before these committees, and if there were a local police officer sitting with us at the table he would be in a position to give us a great deal of information that we have no other means of obtaining and he could be of great assistance. I hope that will only be the beginning of bringing the police into the scheme in a much bigger way. Outside the actual London boundary and when you get into the extra Metropolitan area, you will have a difficulty because local authorities are their own masters. If too bombs were dropped in Wood Green and no bombs were dropped in Tottenham, who is to decide whether the Tottenham, Edmonton and Walthamstow fire brigades and police ought to go to the rescue of the local authority who has had the bombs? I should like the hon. Gentleman to give attention to that question.
I would now say a word about the firemen. We have a large and growing number of auxiliary firemen, I am glad to say. When the first batch of 75 had 474 received their training they were ready for their uniforms. I understand that the firemen's uniform will be the same all over the country. We required 75 uniforms and we received instructions from the Home Office that we were to advertise for tenders for them. The Home Office also said that if we did not wish to advertise publicly we could send round to any of the following firms-and they gave us a list of 12 or 14 firms. I said to the town clerk that it surely was not necessary for a local authority wanting only 75 uniforms to send out for tenders, and I suggested that he should ask the Home Office whether there was not some method of obtaining uniforms such as existed in relation to the uniforms of airmen, soldiers and other services. We wrote to the Home Office and asked whether there was not some such scheme of supplying uniforms, but we got a letter back to say that we had to ask for tenders for the 75 uniforms. In a problem of this sort I say that that is ridiculous.
I have a further suggestion to make. We all agree that the young men who are joining the auxiliary fire service are excellent, but their position was not so bad when the summer nights were here and they could get their training done in daylight. Now that it is dark at about four or five o'clock the young men come to the fire station after they have done their day's work and it is not so easy for them to potter about in cold water, drag hoses about and run up and down ladders. They are sticking it very well and I like their spirit, but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might consider a suggestion. My district is typical. Could I not go down to the Exployment Exchange and get 400 or 50o young fellows, perhaps builders' labourers, who would be prepared to act as auxiliary firemen, and could not the right hon. Gentleman agree to pay them full wages for a few weeks' work? Why not? We are paying these men for doing nothing. We send some of them away to labour camps for a long period of training. Would it not be just as useful to take some of these young men from the employment Exchange, pay them for full-time work and give them three or four months' training so that they could become really good firemen? They might be better firemen than people who can put in only a couple of evenings a week for two or three hours each. I 475 think the suggestion is worth considering. It would have a good effect in restoring some of the self-respect of people who have been out of work for a long time, because they would feel that somebody had a use for them and that they were doing some good in the community.
I have only one or two other points to make. Who defined which were the danger zones? Who was the genius that decided that Tottenham, in the North of London, that I have the honour to represent, was in the danger area and that Enfield, which is the next district and has a small arms factory and a gunpowder works, was not in the danger area? Who was the genius who selected the places to which children should be evacuated? Who was it that suggested, for example, that the Tottenham education authority should send our crippled children to a place only a mile and a half or two miles from the Portsmouth dockyard? I hope we shall have information on this matter.
The evacuation scheme for the children was good, but I should have liked to see a further scheme covering the old-age pensioners. Old-age pensioners were much more affected by the crisis than were the children, and thousands of very old people in London did not sleep a wink during the crisis. It would be good if local authorities were able to hand out travelling vouchers to those old-age pensioners who have friends in the country. That is a fine piece of work that air-raid wardens could be getting on with now. They could take a census of old-age pensioners and get particulars of where they would like to go. If the people responsible for air-raid precautions could be getting rid of the children at one end and the old-age pensioners at the other, we should feel much freer to get on with our other work.
I have listened to the points made about profiteering, and I will tell the House what we have done in a poor Labour borough. To be perfectly candid, we have no direct evidence of profiteering up till now, but we have instructed the borough treasurer that when the accounts come in for what we did during that crisis and if he finds that the materials supplied to the borough council were charged at anything more than the market rates prevailing in the week before the crisis, he has to pay only up to 476 those market rates and to hold the rest over. By that simple means we shall be able to keep control over profiteering.
I should be glad if the Home Secretary or the Lord Privy Seal would give us further enlightenment in regard to the mystery of the position of town clerks. I do not want to raise this matter merely for the sake of having an inquest, but there is a mystery about each town clerk in some way superseding everybody and becoming the chief man in the whole district. No doubt there were reasons for the suggestion, but I hope the Home Secretary will say, in regard to the future, that if such a thing happens again local air-raid precautions committees should be allowed to carry on. That would be very reassuring. It is a great discouragement to people who have given much of their time, and even to air-raid precautions officers, to be told that they are to be displaced by the town clerk. Moreover any town clerk will admit that he knows nothing about the matter, and has had no opportunity of special training to fit him to be placed in complete charge of everything without anybody being able to say "Yea" or "Nay" to him. I know one town clerk who was very concerned about this suggestion that the air-raid precautions officer was to be superseded by the town clerk upon the outbreak of hostilities, and he said, "I do not know anything about it." We want to know exactly what is in the mind of the Home Secretary on this matter.
I am sorry to have taken so much time, but I have tried to speak from the angle of one who is in a district and trying to get on with the job. I conclude on the note upon which I started, namely, that what astonished me was the response which we got, the splendid behaviour of the people of London during the whole of this time, the small number of complaints, the way in which officials of the local authorities adjusted themselves rapidly and the amount of good work that was done. I hope that co-operation will continue and will even be increased.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Sir John Anderson)
I realise quite well that my position at this Box to-night is somewhat anomalous. I believe that when I come to look back I shall also feel that it was somewhat enviable. I have been listening all the evening to criticisms of the 477 Government, of which I am a member, in relation to matters with which I am now very closely concerned, being myself immune. I am afraid that this is the last occasion upon which I shall be able to claim such immunity. So far as this Debate has been concerned with a review of the past, there is obviously nothing that I can contribute; but, as might have been expected, most, if not all, of the speeches that have been delivered from this side or that side have been very largely concerned not with the past but with the future. It seems to me to be not inappropriate, in these circumstances, that I should say something. I hope I shall not be expected by anyone to say very much. After two days' experience of office it would be neither seemly nor prudent if I were to develop at length my views upon what ought to be done in the future to render this country of ours safe, so far as civil defence is concerned. I hope, therefore, that my remarks will be taken as in the nature of preliminary observations only, and it will be understood, when I have said that, that I shall not attempt to answer in detail a number of the points which have been put by previous speakers. There may be one or two to which I shall have occasion to refer as I go on.
At this moment, my mind naturally takes me back to an occasion, which I have no doubt all hon. Members except myself have completely forgotten, when a few months ago I addressed this House for the first time from a somewhat less favourable position. I then expressed my firm belief in the potential strength of our democratic system. That was the whole theme of my speech. I little thought that my faith would be put to the test in this personal way so soon. I do not wish to take back one single word of what I said then. I do not by any means underestimate the difficulties of the task that I have undertaken-difficulties of various kinds. There are organisational difficulties-those, for example, which arise from the fact that many Departments, each under a responsible Cabinet Minister, are concerned in the subject-matter of air-raid precautions or civil defence, call it what you will, Departments that it is to be my duty to co-ordinate. There are organisational difficulties, to which some reference has been made in previous speeches this evening, that arise from the 478 system of collaboration between local authorities and the central Government on which we have been relying, and, in my opinion, must continue to rely.
There are also difficulties connected with the subject-matter itself. This is not one of those subjects which a body of experts can take away, wrap up in technical language, and get on with the job, knowing that all will be well if they are left to do it in their own way. It is the sort of thing that is everybody's business. That makes it the more easy for everybody to criticise. It is also a matter on which it is uncommonly easy for the people responsible to make mistakes. There are some matters in regard to which it is possible to determine with almost mathematical precision what is the right course to take. With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and his remarkable experience of administration, I say that this is not one of those matters. Besides the right course, you may take one of a number of wrong courses. There are many wrong ways of doing the right thing; and, even if you do the right thing in the right way, you may fail, through mistiming or some other miscarriage, to command the support of public opinion, which is an essential ingredient in any solution.
That is exactly where criticism can be of great value, pointing the way of public support. I do not deprecate, and I hope I never shall deprecate, any criticism as long as it is sober and constructive. I have no doubt that as we go on we shall have much criticism, and I hope and believe that in the main it will he of that kind. If I may say so, the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon have been very good examples of that sort of criticism. That has been so uniform a characteristic of the speeches that I can hardly discriminate between one and another; I would only assure the House that, so far as I am concerned, the criticisms to which we have listened this afternoon will be taken seriously into account. I give that personal assurance. Against that kind of criticism, vexatious and mischievous criticism of which, I hope, we may find little either in this House or outside, can be—and I think it is worth while making this point—more than merely annoying or irritating to some individuals; it can obstruct the vital process of building upon a foundation of public confidence. If we succeed in the 479 task to which we are putting our hands—and I profoundly agree that it is not a task for Government alone, or for Government and public authorities alone, but a task for the whole people of this country, for everyone who values our institutions and the freedom which is our heritage—if we succeed in that task, I have no doubt that we shall create within the democratic framework a structure more solid, more sure, and more flexible than it would be possible to create under any other system. Let us, however, make no mistake; the inertia which has to be overcome is enormous. But, if my judgment is right, it is the inertia of a flywheel, not of a pile of bricks; it is inertia that can be converted into momentum.
As I have already said I am sure that hon. Members will not expect me to say in any detail what I intend to do. I have no doubt that it will be necessary to make changes in the existing organisation at the centre. That is not a criticism of what has been done in the past, for obviously, after the experiences of the crisis a month ago, we realise far better than we could have done before the magnitude and the urgency of the problems with which we have to deal. But, in making such changes in organisation, I think we have to be very careful to avoid the danger—and in these matters it is always a real danger—of slowing up processes that are already in operation. Perhaps I may give, with all due reservations, just a few examples of the sort of problems to which, as I view the matter, we have to address ourselves at once.
There is evacuation policy, a matter in regard to which I have information that goes beyond what I have derived in my tenure of this office up to date. The evacuation policy which has been recommended in the Report of a Committee over which I had the honour to preside has, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary told the House, been accepted by His Majesty's Government. It was not the policy that was put into operation during the crisis. That policy was an improvisation—necessarily an improvisation—based upon the principles advocated by my Committee. So far as I can judge, the experience gained in the preparation of that improvised scheme, and in the preliminary steps that were taken with a view to carrying out an evacuation of school children and of a 480 section of the general population of London, has been sufficient to demonstrate beyond any doubt the practicability of a scheme on those lines. But, of course, to produce any satisfactory scheme a long period of detailed preparation on the spot is obviously necessary, My Committee called special attention in their Report to that necessity. I think that, in the task that we must immediately undertake of carrying out the detailed preparation of a scheme of evacuation, we can, as I have said, profit very greatly by the experiences we have just had. It is always wise to turn, if one can, misfortunes to good account, and the crisis of last month may well prove, in this as in other matters, a blessing in disguise.
May I just, in this connection, mention, by way of a modest set-off to what has been said about the attitude of people in the reception areas, in regard to which I think the expression "class prejudice" was used, one incident that came quite accidentally to my own notice? A billeting officer had occasion to go to a lady who was the owner of a large house and the possessor of a reputation for truculence. He went there in fear and trembling, to see if he could secure billets for six children from the East End of London, and this is what this very truculent lady said: "I would rather have six slum children in my house than six deaths on my conscience." Believe me, there are a lot of people like that.
Evacuation policy obviously has to be worked out in detail without delay, and, as the Home Secretary said, we have to develop a shelter policy much more comprehensive than anything that we have yet had. In view of my right hon. Friend's remarks, I will not take up time in developing that subject. Then there is the question—to my mind the vitally important question—of a regional organisation. Obviously we need a regional organisation to take over, if plans that have been prepared in peace ever have to be put into operation in war, under conditions which will make communication with headquarters very difficult, perhaps quite impossible. We need that organisation, and, in my view, we ought to start creating it now. We ought to start creating now something that will form the backbone of the war-time regional organisation, and at the same time will assist in peace-time planning, will serve 481 to aid and guide in the preparation and carrying out of the constructional phase of making plans, and will, I hope, perhaps obviate to some degree the delays that are inevitable in the day-to-day relationships between local authorities and Government if they involve reference always to a central organisation in London. That is a problem of organisation that will have to be taken up vigorously without delay. Then there is the general problem of the local authorities. One previous speaker—I think it was the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison)—said we had too many local authorities.
§ Sir J. Anderson
No, I think the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green said that in regard to London, but I thought another speaker made the same remark about the Provinces. Anyway, the question of how best to fit the local authorities into the picture will have to be looked at afresh in the light of recent experience. But I need hardly say that, however relations between local authorities and the Government in this matter may have to be adjusted, whatever form that adjustment takes, the Government and the country cannot possibly do without the interest, the good will and the resources, in personnel and material, that the local authorities command.
Then there is the question to which my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green referred—the problem of Greater London. That is obviously a very important problem. I recall now what the hon. Member for North Tottenham said. He referred to the position of the Metropolitan Police in regard to that general Greater London problem, and I was very glad indeed to note what he said about the possibility of using the police, because I have had official-strictly official—relations with the police—both the Metropolitan and the provincial police—for a very long time and I have always regarded the police of this country as a wonderfully useful and flexible instrument for the work that has to be done. I have seen the police in this country and in other countries and I think the police of this country are hard to beat. In regard to the problem of Greater London I hope 482 that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), whose experience of Greater London is universally recognised as being unique, will give me the opportunity at an early date of conferring with him. May I take the occasion here to express my very sincere appreciation of the kindly way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to me in the course of his speech. I am afraid I gave him the impression at one stage that I was a little ruffled by something he had said. If he will allow me to say so, he was quite wrong. I was not ruffled at all. I thought he spoke in a kindly way and I quite recognise that what he was saying had a tinge of humour. The right hon. Gentleman has led me to regard him as a person who pays considerable regard to facts, and what led me to make some of the preliminary motions of a would-be interrupter was just that I thought he was straying unwittingly from facts. He referred to me as a Tory. He said it had shocked him to find that a civil servant whom he had known in the past had blossomed out—this is not the expression he used, but that is I have no doubt what he meant—as a Tory. I stood for Parliament as a supporter of the National Government and of the principles of the National Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "The same thing."] "The same thing," you say. In my election address I expressly disclaimed any party affiliation. I made it clear that, having for more than 3o years studiously avoided any suspicion of party bias, it would have been quite impossible for me to stand as a party supporter. I venture to say that all my constituents—certainly all those who voted for me, because they must have read my election address—knew perfectly well where I stood. I stand in exactly the same position to-day. I am not, and never have been, a party politician—but I make no complaint at all, because I can think of far greater, far more damaging, aspersions than the matter of party affiliation that might have been cast at me by hon. Members opposite.
I am taking more time than I had intended, but I was giving a brief account of a few of the important tasks to which it seems to me I have to address myself and I must not pass on without a specific reference to a task to which little reference has been made in the Debate hither- 483 to—my responsibilities in connection with what has been called national voluntary service. I realise that those responsibilities are far wider than the problem of civilian defence. They involve, in my opinion, the solution of the problem—I have written this down in order to be quite certain I say what I intend to say—of the most effective utilisation of the man-power of the country for the purpose of national defence.
That concludes what I want to say at this stage about the task that lies before me as I see it. I am not trying to give an exhaustive catalogue of the important problems that have to be attacked. I recognise that there are many of great importance to which I have made, and can make in the time at my disposal, no reference. We have already made a beginning in the attack on those problems under the new distribution of responsibilities that has been established, and we shall get on with the task as rapidly as possible. We do not intend to work to any rigid time-table. It will not be a question, as I view the matter, of a six-months' policy or a one-year policy or a two-years' policy. We shall go on as rapidly as we think possible consistent with sound workmanship. The necessary expansion of organisation will involve expense; and, if I may make this point, which I think is of some importance, in determining what expansion in the organisation is necessary we have to take account of the purpose for which that organisation is being called into being. Its ultimate purpose is to meet a state of emergency, and we shall plan badly indeed if our arrangements are such that, if and when the emergency comes—which Heaven forbid—we find ourselves in the position of having to face it with a staff which is already almost exhausted with the labours of preparation. That would be folly indeed, and I will be no party to that.
I realise, of course, that I shall have to carry the Chancellor of the Exchequer with me in this matter. I have not consulted him before saying what I have said. My task is not one which I should be prepared to carry on if I did not feel that adequate facilities would be provided for me by my old friends in the Treasury. I can give the Treasury this assurance here and now, that I shall not support at any time any organisation which is not 484 directed to a strictly practical end. It will not be, in my view, any part of my business to put forward schemes formulated in deference, for example, to some theory about national organization—some such theory as that it is good for the people of this country to be organised. I confess that when I contemplate the magnitude of the task that I have undertaken a wave of misgiving sometimes comes over me. It sometimes surges up in the night. I dare say there are other hon. Members in this House who have had from time to time the same kind of feeling. When it comes to me—and it is not, so far as I am concerned, an entirely novel experience—I always have to pull myself up and tell myself, what I know perfectly well, that merely because a task is vitally urgent and necessary, it is not necessarily on that account alone the more difficult. There are many drab, unimportant tasks in life which can be extremely tantalising. Importance and urgency can indeed be turned to good account for, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite and other hon. Members have said, it can be made the basis of a stirring call to the whole nation for co-operation. I realise that a tremendous effort is required from all. In the discharge of my responsibility it will be my endeavour, with the support which I trust I shall have, which I know is quite indispensable, to call that effort forth.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House had the wisdom to refrain from attempting to defend the record of the Government. He makes no claim, as yet at any rate, to be a skilful Parliamentarian; but he showed himself to possess a knowledge of tactics as great as if he had been sitting in the House during the whole long period of his administrative career. The right hon. Gentleman has a great record as an administrator, and if I as one of the back-benchers of this House may assure him of one thing it is this: I would say that his record in his present task will be judged in his capacity as an administrator rather than in his capacity as a debater. I was rather sorry, however, to see him attempt to make that point about not being a Tory. I do not know his innermost feelings on that subject, but he cannot, surely, I believe, 485 with the world-wide reputation for clear thinking which he possesses, that a Government which represents only about 20 per cent. more of the electorate than is represented on this side, and which is not represented by any representative of organised labour at all, is a national Government in any true sense of the term. He must further be aware that this National Government could not possibly enter upon, let alone successfully conduct, any sort of campaign without at any rate the tacit support of the party which he leaves out of account when he describes himself as a Member of the National Government.
I believe it is the first time that we have had a member of the Cabinet, who presumably takes the whip from the Tory Prime Minister, declining to accept Tory principles. In his election campaign he had two Conservative Cabinet Ministers to assist him, and no one else. [Interruption.] I believe that that was the case. I believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland at that time, the present Minister of Health, at any rate, made public pronouncements in his favour, and the only symptom of weakness of party affiliation which I was able to detect in watching his campaign was that he expressed himself as being in favour of the moderate forms of Socialism, which I consider to be a very safe promise to make in the year 1938.
One of the dangers of Parliamentary Debate, as I see it, is that it tends to operate rather as a soothing syrup than a tonic and a stimulant to action, and that is especially the case when the Government are able to put up a new Minister to answer a long series of criticisms of their past administration. The House ought to understand how this technique of bringing in a new Minister has operated to shield the Government from criticism. First, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) was brought in. Then we had the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) brought in, after a long period of the most intense criticism of the Government. Before he had been in office more than a few weeks, we found that all our criticisms of the Air Minister bore fruit and that the Air Minister was compelled to resign, and at the very height of the campaign against the maladministration of the Government we 486 were suddenly confronted with another Air Minister. Between these new major Ministers we have had two or three minor Ministers. Therefore, it is not surprising that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal, if I may use a colloquial expression, tumbled very quickly to this technique and that he repeated the appeal of the Prime Minister, who hold us that the question now before the country is not what blame should be attributed for errors that are past, but what action should be taken in order to prevent cause for blame in the future. That would be an irresistible appeal if we had any confidence in the Ministers who were to apply themselves to these remedies.
I would like, as far as I am concerned at any rate, to assure the House that I have no desire at all to make any party capital out of this; I assure the House that that is so. Closely in contact as I am with the immense military and air menace which affects this country, I have no desire to make any party capital out of that at all. I am deeply concerned, as I believe are a great number of hon. and right hon. Members opposite, with the lack of co-ordination, grip and drive which has been displayed by Ministers in charge of the Defence Departments. I have had the fortune, or the misfortune, to listen for a fair number of years in this House to the speeches of the present Home Secretary. He is, I believe, a friend of the present Lord Privy Seal. The Lord Privy Seal has helped him out of many an awkward corner in the past, but the Lord Privy Seal has never been a greater friend in need to the Home Secretary than he was to-day.
I would like to bring the House back really to the subject of our complaints against the Government, because, if we are not prepared to face up to those complaints and act upon them, no amount of soothing speeches and new assurances in substitution for broken assurances is going to get us anywhere in our Defence organisation. Although perhaps it is not necessary to assess the comparative importance of different measures of National Defence, I regard evacuation as one at least of equal importance to that of protecting the civilian population from direct hits or from the effect of blast or gas in the great cities. I have taken the trouble to look at the record of the Government on that question. Unless we are prepared to follow the successive 487 assurances which have been given and the way in which they have been broken, we shall never be able to measure the extent of the incompetence which has been shown by the present Home Secretary. He still remains in a powerful position in the Inner Cabinet to handle these affairs. It was in July, 1935, that my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) asked the Home Secretary what steps he was taking to prepare for the evacuation of our great cities in the event of war. Prior to that I had myself put a question on the subject and was told that evacuation was not considered to be a practicable policy. But in July, 1935, the Home Secretary said:All aspects of air-raid precautions, of which this is one, are being considered by the Government."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1935; col. 1850, Vol. 304.]I hope that the House will be patient with me while I give these dates. I am not seeking to do anything but to establish the fact that the present men responsible for this system of Defence are not competent to carry it out. On 9th December, 1935—six months later—replying to the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Day), the Home Secretary stated that evacuation was being considered by the Air-Raid Precautions Department in consultation with other Departments concerned, and that no decisions had been arrived at. The next occasion which I have been able to find, in a cursory search in the Library, was 20th July, 1937, when, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), the present Under-Secretary for the Home Department said:The possibility that it might be necessary to evacuate persons from densely populated areas is under examination along with other measures of air-raid precautions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1937; col. 1985, Vol. 326.]On the 3rd January this year the Board of Education issued a Circular about the children. On the 14th April, 1938, we received this statement from the present Under-Secretary:The whole question of evacuation is now being considered by my right hon. Friend.He was referring to the Home Secretary:My right hon. Friend is right in thinking that no definite steps can be taken until my right hon. Friend has considered the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1938; col. 1300, Vol. 334.]488 Here we had a fundamental necessity for a decision to be arrived at, and for three years, with all the information before him, with all the Civil Service available to make the necessary researches and to present the problem in a summarised form, the present Home Secretary was not able to come to a decision on that vital matter. If we are to have at the head of affairs Ministers who are incapable of coming to a decision on a question of that kind, no amount of willingness on the part of the civil population, no amount of skill in administration on the part of subordinate Ministers is going to save us from the continuous chaos from which we have suffered.
I should be sorry to make a personal attack upon the Home Secretary, for I have never made a personal attack upon anybody in this House. I have heard the Home Secretary for many years making speeches about our air preparedness, and I say that the same qualities which are failing us now in his present office have failed us in the past in his former offices. I say nothing about his record as Foreign Secretary, because on that there are two opinions; but I remember more than 10 years ago the Home Secretary assuring us in this House that we had a Royal Air Force which, though not large, was organised on a plan which rendered it susceptible of rapid extension, if the need arose. I remember him telling us later that the Air Force did not regret the slowing down in the output of aircraft because it enabled training to keep up with output. On a later occasion, when we were having a certain amount of difficulties in the manufacture of wooden aircraft, he said that the tendency was for aircraft to be manufactured out of metal and that when that tendency was fully developed it would be of enormous advantage to this country, with all our resources of metal and engineering. Then we found that it was that very changeover which enabled a nation which we regard as a danger to us to outstrip us immeasurably in that sphere. So we find again and again in looking back over his speeches year after year that the present Home Secretary is incapable of grip or decision in the administration of his responsible office.
I do not consider that the successive White Papers which have been issued, ostensibly to explain the defence policy of the Government, have been quite straight- 489 forward.If hon. Members will take the trouble to assemble a collection of these many White Papers and read them in the light of the facts which are available to-day, and which must have been available to those who prepared those White Papers at the time they were written, they will agree with me that the Government have not been honest in stating the facts to this House. I would ask the new Minister, at any rate, to avoid that error, which is one which the House does not readily forgive if brought home to any particular Minister.
I want to say a few words about another aspect of passive defence, which has not been touched upon but which will be touched upon increasingly as the Debate proceeds. I refer to the question of anti-aircraft guns. I hope that we are not going to accept any equivocal assurances on that subject from the Secretary of State for War. He told us the other day that the Bren guns were now being manufactured to maximum capacity. That is typical of the assurances which we receive. It means absolutely nothing. It is not intended to mean anything. It is intended to conceal the fact that not sufficient of these guns are being produced for our needs. If hon. Members would go through the White Papers that have been issued they would find on every page assurances with two or three different meanings, which convey the impression to the superficial and casual reader that the problems are being tackled, but which are mere eyewash and prove in fact that nothing has been done. I will read one which was issued last week about air-raid precautions:The Government"—says the Home Secretary—has accepted the principles of the recommendations made by this Committee, and occasion has already been taken, both in the light of the recommendations in this Report and of the experience gained during the recent emergency, to examine and prepare in detail evacuation schemes.There we are told that "action has already been taken to examine and prepare in detail evacuation schemes."
That gives us no indication whatever about anything that has been done. It is the same old story. First we are told that plans are being considered, then we are told that plans are being prepared, and then we are told that production has begun, when perhaps only one machine 490 has been turned out. For instance, we have been told by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that output had begun in a very important type of aircraft, when one machine only had been produced, with great difficulty, in one factory. At a time when we wanted 20 or 30 a week one machine had been produced. There was an interval of months before another machine was produced, and yet we were told that output had already begun. I do plead that we should have no more of these equivocal statements. They do not deceive our enemies and they do not deceive this House. The public do not want that kind of consolation.
In regard to anti-aircraft guns, we have no conception of the scale of production required for that important weapon. I have been looking up the calculations made the other day on such experience as we have with anti-aircraft guns. It was calculated by the Staff during the last War that if a machine was flying at 8,000 feet and 100 miles an hour it would take 160,000 shells to be sure of making a direct hit upon that machine. Every hon. Member knows that it takes a certain length of time for a machine to reach a certain altitude, and it takes half a minute for a shell to reach 20,000 feet. Therefore, that machine has an illimitable number of manoeuvres which it can carry out, and a very large range in three dimensions has to he covered in order to ensure a direct hit. If it takes that vast number of shells to ensure a direct hit on a machine travelling at 100 miles an hour and at a height of 8,000 feet, what weight of barrage would be required to ensure a direct hit against a machine at 20,000 feet, which is the minimum height of bombers, and travelling at 250 miles per hour. We ought to be discussing an output of anti-aircraft guns not in dozens but in thousands.
§ Major Dower
Is the hon. Member suggesting that he has made a correct statement about anti-aircraft hits? At camp this year there were three direct hits by one unit alone in one week.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I am not suggesting that it takes 160,000 shells to make a direct hit and bring down one aeroplane. There are questions of luck and other considerations which enter into the matter, but no matter how accurate modern instruments may be for sighting 491 and finding the range, no scientific instrument has yet been invented which can forecast the direction which a machine will take from the moment the shell leaves the barrel of the gun until it reaches an altitude of 20,000 feet. Therefore, our anti-aircraft guns, if they are to be regarded as an important part of our antiaircraft defences, must be produced in numbers far beyond the numbers which have been considered so far by the War Office. I should hesitate to trust my own computation in this matter were it not for the fact that a similar lack of perspective has been shown by other Government Departments in the production of other weapons. In 1919 this country had planned to produce 40,00o aircraft and 60,000 air engines. To-day Germany on the best information I can obtain can produce 24,000 front-line machines per annum, and we have not yet even begun to contemplate such figures, let alone take the steps to produce them.
The question arises as to what remedies we propose. Of course, we all hope that the Prime Minister's hope of appeasement will prove to be well founded, but that at present is nothing more than a hope upon hope. We have not yet seen any definite evidence that it is going to eventuate as the right hon. Gentelman desires. Nor can we see that we shall be in any better position in a year or two than we are to-day, because at the present rate of progress there is not a Minister on the Front Bench who can say that in relation to our prospective enemy our rearmament in the things that matter is proceeding any more rapidly than theirs. I say that we have to make certain that the cause of this chaos and maladministration, this lack of co-ordination and decision, does not reside in the characteristics and temperament of the Ministers who are handling these matters. I am very much concerned about that and have been for two or three years. I have heard the Prime Minister on several occasions get up and defend the case against the overwhelming criticism which has been brought against the former Air Minister; the Prime Minister has leapt to his feet in anger in his defence, whereas if he had allowed his intellect to judge of the criticisms he would have seen that it was indeed time to make a change. One thing is sure, and that is that our situation is 492 not going to be alleviated by new assurances by the right hon. Gentleman in substitution for a long succession of similar assurances which have not been fulfilled.
Unless the Government disabuses its mind of prejudice against State control and organisation and ownership where necessary we shall not have the progress which we desire. Both in Germany and in Italy the tremendous passive resistance of private enterprises against actions which they believe will affect their profit-making capacity have been swept away. I am very much afraid that in the consideration of the establishment of a Ministry of Supply the Government are thinking too much about our export trade, too much about the money market, too much about the fear of the export of capital, too much about the representations which are being made to them by firms which fear that their export trade will suffer if these restrictions are put upon them. We have reached a situation when we cannot allow considerations of that kind to weigh at all.
When I consider possible successors to the present Prime Minister I am not at all sure that I would not be prepared to choose the Lord Privy Seal. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in so far as his influence is concerned, will extend his willingness and accept a moderate form of Socialism at any rate in the armaments supply industry. I hope that this House will exert its authority on the Government. We have had these Debates for two years and incompetence and indecision has been brought home beyond all cavil to the Government, and yet no action has been taken. I believe that it is not the Government which is under test. The failure of the Government to handle this particular problem has been proved to the hilt. The House of Commons itself is under test, and unless hon. Members on all sides are prepared to join us in telling the Government that they want in office men who are capable of handling these matters, I fear that we may one day have to pay a heavy price for our failure.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Grigg
I am very glad to be one of the first of his immediate supporters—I understand the right hon. Gentleman does not encourage the use of the words "of his party"—to con 493 gratulate the Lord Privy Seal on his successful speech as a debutant on that august bench, although I am afraid he will find it somewhat uncomfortable. I welcome the tone and temper of his speech. I welcome it because it is of the greatest importance from the patriotic point of view that he should be a success, and I can assure him that he carries with him the good wishes of every patriotic Member of this House. I am sure I am speaking without regard to party. I also welcome his success because he and I are members of a rather despised trade union, the trade union of ex-Governors, and I am glad to see a member of that particular profession demonstrating to this House that even an ex-Governor can speak with tact and humility, and also with some acceptance. I came down to the House this afternoon, I must confess, with a good deal of apprehension and disquiet. As a nation we have just emerged from a crisis—an experience which has shaken us to our depths.
The whole country, I think, realises that it is facing a challenge, and facing also an opportunity greater than has presented itself for many decades past. I was afraid that, recent as is that great experience, we were going to lapse into one of our well-known party wrangles in this House, one of those Debates of the pot and kettle type, in which all that the Government does is considered wrong on the other side and all that the Opposition says is considered stupid on the Government side. I confess that I have been greatly reassured and comforted on that point, and I should like to pay a sincere and whole-hearted tribute to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). I do not think he could have dealt with a great national subject at a time of emergency in a better tone and temper than he did. I detected no sign of party bias in what he said. I thought he put his case with moderation, with an extraordinary solid grasp of the facts, and in a tone and temper which we hope will govern all the discussions on this subject in the House. I am glad to recognise that that was the tone and temper in which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal spoke also. I hope and believe this augurs well for future discussions of this sort in the House; for I am certain that we shall not emerge from the difficult situation with which we are faced unless 494 there is full co-operation between men of all parties in the House. Of that, I am absolutely convinced.
There was only one observation made by the Home Secretary on which I would like to say a few words. I refer to it because I think it is very important in this country at the present time to be absolutely fair to the Government and people of France. My right hon. Friend said that our evacuation schemes are better than any in existence, except those in Germany; he said that only in Germany are the air-raid precautions superior to ours; and when an hon. Member mentioned to him the evacuation schemes in Paris, he said, if I remember rightly—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—that he thought they were paper schemes and that they had no reality except in that way. During the War I had a good deal of experience of French schemes, French staff plans, French appreciations of situations at the front, and so on. I admit there was always in them an element of hope. There was always the likelihood that one would find that, whereas on the paper plan which was presented to one, there were 300 yards of barbed wire at the front of the line, when one went to look that barbed wire was not there. That sort of weakness, I agree, tends to present itself in plans produced by our allies the French—
§ Mr. Fleming
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that during the War we had to pick a Frenchman to be Commander-in-Chief—Marshal Foch.
§ Sir E. Grigg
If the hon. Member had not interrupted me, that was what I was about to say. But I learned, after experience of the French, that, while their plans on paper always seemed to be a bit too optimistic, in an emergency, when their hearts went into it, they were always even better than their plans. It is true that French plans always seem to us to be chaos. When one arrives at a French railway station, it looks like chaos. The road to Verdun, when the French were defending it, looked like chaos to any of our staff, but Verdun was saved, the Germans did not pass. Having, in Paris, looked at the French plans for evacuation, and their plans for billeting, which are more advanced than ours, I really do not think it is just to say that the plans of that Government are merely paper plans. 495 I think they have carried their plans a good deal further than we have.
So much for the past. I do not think any party in the House has any moral right to cast stones at any other party about the defects in our system of Defence. We all live in glass houses, and there is a great deal to be said against all our records in the House. I prefer to draw a veil over the past and rather to see how we can get together to make this country absolutely secure in the future, and to give its diplomacy an influence and a strength in Europe which are essential if all that we believe in is to survive. There are two vital necessities on which I wish to say a few words to-night. One of them affects my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, and refers to the organisation of our voluntary services. The other affects the Minister for the Co-Ordination of Defence; at least, I presume it affects him, since it refers to the production of equipment which is absolutely essential if we are to remedy the defects without undue delay. I will deal first with the second of those necessities, the position in regard to industry. I find it very difficult to believe that we shall get the requisite acceleration in the production of articles or munitions which are vital to our defence unless the Government take greater powers than they possess at present. I do not intend to say anything about a Ministry of Munitions or a Ministry of Supply, for I do not feel that I know enough about the working of the present Supply Departments or about what might happen if those Supply Departments were combined under one head. I do not know sufficient on that matter to say whether that is the necessary step, but I am convinced that, whoever exercises the powers, some greater powers than the Government at present possess should be taken to accelerate the production of essential munitions.
The powers which I have in mind were mentioned by Lord Swinton yesterday in another place. He seemed to think that the vital powers which the Government should possess are, first, the power to call upon any particular manufacturer to produce an article if the Government feel that article must be produced and that that is the firm which ought to produce it—the power to requisition a firm to produce what the Government needs; 496 secondly, the power to require priority for Government orders; and thirdly, the power to fix prices by arbitration if agreement cannot be reached otherwise. I believe those powers will prove to be essential. As the Secretary of State for War is to reply to the Debate, I hope that one of his colleagues on the Front Bench will mention that this subject has been raised, and that we expect a more definite statement on the subject than we have yet had in the House. It has been dealt with much more fully in another place, and I consider that we are entitled to a very much fuller statement of the Government's case against a Ministry of Supply if there is to be no question of taking powers of that sort. For my part, I feel that these powers are essential, whether we have a Ministry of Supply or not, and I believe that if they are not taken, two things will happen inevitably. First, there will be a quite avoidable delay in production. We have been told time after time that delays are not taking place, and time after time those assurances have proved to be delusive and false; and it is not sufficient to give those assurances any longer. It is not sufficient to say that a five years' programme is being carried out, and that we are now only in the third year of that programme. We must have the definite certainly that a great acceleration will take place.
The second thing that will happen if these powers are not taken is that there will be a great feeling in the country about undue profits, and it will be felt, as the speech of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) indicated, I think quite justly, that the Government are allowing themselves to be held up to ransom and that the necessity of the country is being exploited for private gain. There is nothing that could do more harm than that. Surely, the Government realise that of all the dangers they have to meet, that is perhaps the greatest. Therefore, I hope these powers will be taken, and that we shall have some indication of that in the Gracious Speech next week. I think I can understand why the Government hesitate. They are afraid of the effect on trade and revenue. They are afraid that by putting too much of a strain on industry the revenue of the country may be reduced and the revenue, therefore, of the Government may be 497 reduced, and that we may find ourselves hard put to it to maintain not only our defences but our social services. Everybody in this House will have sympathy with fears of that kind, but I am convinced, and I believe many Members of this House are convinced, that those fears are utterly unfounded and that a real drive for home defence will not hinder business recovery, but help it.
I give two reasons for that view. In the first place, if we are to go on with this unlimited competition in armaments, then all nations are facing ruin and ultimately facing war. We, obviously, must do our utmost for material as well as for moral and spiritual reasons, to try to put an end to this competition in armaments. That must be the first object of our foreign policy. It is an essential and a most essential part of the policy of appeasement to which the Prime Minister is, I believe, giving his heart. For my part, I do not despair of a limitation of armaments. I have no grounds whatever for making a prediction of this sort, but I am prepared to state here and now, that I should not be in the least surprised if in the next few weeks the German Government declared once again that they were prepared to drop altogether the bombing aeroplane.
Of course, if such a proposal were made, it would certainly be greeted with great enthusiasm in this country, but we should have to consider why that proposal was made. I am all for accepting it, but let us be clear about the conditions upon which any proposal of that kind is going to be accepted. Why is it going to be made? It is not going to be made because it is in our interest. If it is made at all, it will be made because it is, in the first place, in the German interest, and I do not blame the German Government for that. After all, the German Chancellor has already once proposed it, and he usually means what he says. Not only that, but it is perfectly obvious that Germany, as a Central European Power, has a great interest in securing the abolition of the only weapon which can be used to attack her on her own soil and in her own cities. When you talk of collective security it is well to remember that this is one implement which collective security may still be held to possess. These things are probably present as considerations to the German 498 Government. But I go further. The German Chancellor is, in his way, an idealist, and he is a builder. He is putting up buildings in memory of his regime in many parts of Germany, and I believe that no man with that kind of psychology wants to see what he is setting up destroyed.
Therefore, there are many reasons—and these are purely my own premonitions—for believing that we may have such an offer presented to us in the next few weeks. As I say, I would not be in the least surprised if it came. I am sure that we ought to accept it, but on conditions which must be very clear. If there is such limitation and such abolition, it must be on terms which are fair to us and fair to the smaller nations of Europe who will have a great deal to say on this point. If our Government is to be able to use discussion on this theme for the purpose of appeasement, then it must be absolutely clear that we are proof against intimidation by the threat of war. There is no possibility of strong, firm and provident negotiation unless we have an assurance that we are not to be intimidated into accepting what we would not otherwise accept. I also believe that there will be no expansion of business in this country—and this is the other argument for the powers which I suggest—without confidence, and there will be no confidence in this country unless it is made as proof as we can make it against air attack. I believe that is the strongest argument at the present moment why the Government should take powers to deal with industry in regard to the production of essential munitions, and I hope that we shall have evidence in the King's Speech next week that that has been considered.
There is only one other subject on which I wish to say a few words. It is a subject which, I think, will be dealt with more particularly by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I am bound to say that I regard with great anxiety the announcement which has been made twice in another place but not in this House, that the national register which is contemplated is not to be compulsory, and therefore cannot be complete. The right hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate said in the only passage of his speech which I personally regretted, that some of us on this side were "flirting with 499 compulsion." I regretted that observation. It seemed to me one of those observations which are thrown out, and which hardly do justice to the ideas held by many of us on this side. I have never, for one moment, suggested that we need compulsory military service in this country, nor have I ever suggested that we should have compulsory service of any kind whatever. Once you get compulsory service for adults, it seems to me you are getting very near the totalitarian system, and I have never recommended any such force—unless we were involved in war, and anything might happen then.
The only forms of compulsion which I have advocated are two forms. One is compulsion to register, and the other is a form of compulsory training for all our youth at the end of the period of education, and before the attainment of the vote. That is, however, an entirely separate subject which does not enter into our discussion this evening. It is only the register point which I wish to discuss. I feel that if we are to have a national register worth anything it must be compulsory. I regard the preparation of a compulsory national register in time of peace as an absolutely indispensable side of readiness for war. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal probably knows more than I do about the history of the register made during the War. I had no direct experience of what happened then, but I have gone into the matter, and these are the facts. An Act enforcing registration was passed in July, 1915, about 10 months after the outbreak of the War. The obligation to register was universal on all people between 15 and 65, and there was a penalty for not registering, I think, of £5 and a further penalty for delay in registering.
What I would point out is that that register was introduced before there was any idea of compulsion. It was introduced in order to make it possible to use the voluntary system with reasonable providence and without risk. That was why that register was introduced. The compulsion to register did not come till a year after the War started, sometime in the summer of 1915. The register was introduced in order to facilitate the selection of people for voluntary service, and if it was necessary in June or July, 1915, surely it must be clear that it would have been far better to have had it ready in 500 the summer of 1914. There might not then have been, as we all know there was, the most appalling confusion and waste of valuable life. That is what came from not having a register of that kind. I believe that case is accepted by the Government, because they have said again and again that there is going to be a register if we find ourselves engaged in war.
If there is to be a register, why not learn by the previous war and have that register ready beforehand? What is the objection? I believe the only objection to it is the fear that compulsion to register may be resented by the population, but I do not believe it. I believe the people of this country are prepared to do anything which they are called upon by the Government and by their representatives to do, provided the reason is clearly explained. And, after all, this matter of compulsion in regard to registration is already a well-accepted principle. It is nothing new. There is talk about the conscription of wealth. So far as the compulsory registration of wealth goes, it has been in existence in this country for many years. The whole of a man's property has to be revealed compulsorily to the State. He cannot conceal a thing about it, and it is under very severe penalties. That principle already exists, but there is also in existence in this country an absolute compulsion to give information for the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise. That exists. People do not seem to be aware of it, but here are the words of the Act:The registration officer may require any householder or any person earning or occupying any land or premises within his area, or the agent or factor of such person, to give in the prescribed form any information in his possession that the registration officer may require for the performance of his duties as a registration officer, and if any person fails to give the required information or gives false information he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeling £20.If we accept without murmur the necessity of registering everything that we possess for the information of the State, if we accept without murmur the fact that we have to make returns in order that we may exercise the vote, surely we cannot object on principle to being registered in order that we may defend all that goes with the vote. As a matter of fact, millions in this country are already registered. It is chiefly the wealthier classes which are not registered in some way or 501 another, and I believe that to make this registration compulsory and universal is the truly democratic course. I plead for that, because I am convinced that if Parliament does not come to the country with some proposal of this kind, it will not be truly representing the spirit of our people, after the emergency through which they have just passed. We are a very puritan people, and I do not think there is any doubt that at the present moment there is throughout the country a spiritual feeling of dissatisfaction at what has passed in recent times. Under all the gratitude to the Prime Minister which is felt—and that gratitude is almost universal and very deep—under the almost universal sense also of relief, there is a strong feeling in the heart of this country, in the mind of this country, if I may quote the words of the "General Confession," that "we have left undone" certain things "which we ought to have done," and that in that respect "there is no health in us." That is, I believe, the feeling of the great majority in this country at the present time. The country really wants to be called upon for a great effort, for an expression of its spirit. It wants to liberate its soul. It wants to perform, I believe, some act of expiation, because it is not entirely happy about what has happened. It wants to take some strong and new resolve, and it wants, above all, to prove that it is once again what it has always been and what it ought always to be, a fearless champion of freedom and right in the world. That, I believe, is what the country at this moment wants, without distinction of party, and I hope that that spirit will be represented next week in the spirit of the King's Speech.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Colonel Nathan
The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) has given in his concluding words, I do not doubt, expression to what is the temper of the nation at this juncture, though whether the manner in which he would give practical effect to the public temper at this moment is the wisest policy for the urgent necessities of the time is a matter upon which there may be controversy on the one side or on the other.
The Lord Privy Seal is in a fortunate position. In the world of industry, when a new process is being considered and brought into operation, there is often the laboratory stage and after that the commercial stage, when the point of exploita 502 tion is reached. The Home Secretary and his Under-Secretary have been experiencing all the difficulties of the laboratory stage. I hope the Lord Privy Seal, in his high and responsible office, may be able to reap the rewards of the exploitation stage, and I am sure that none of us, and least of all the Home Secretary, will grudge him any success in that direction. In the course of his remarks, the Lord Privy Seal referred to what he called the inertia of the population. I do not want in any way to be recriminatory, but I am bound to say that I think that to some extent that inertia among the people, in so far as it existed, was a reflection of inertia in Government circles.
I want to limit myself in these observations to one particular subject-matter, both as an illustration of what I shall say and also because it seems to me that it is a matter which ought to, and will, receive the attention of the Lord Privy Seal. It happens that I took, and take, a particular interest in the active work of voluntary hospitals. In the early part of this year I wrote a letter to the "Times," in which I asked what was expected of the voluntary hospitals, and I asked question after question in this House upon that subject, but no information was forthcoming. I went down to the Mansion House to speak under the chairmanship of the Lord Mayor, and I made a speech which had a certain amount of publicity, in the hope that it would direct the mind of the Government to the urgent necessity of dealing with the position of voluntary hospitals, but in the end nothing was done.
This is a matter of interest to hon. Members. I am concerned with two of the voluntary hospitals. One is a special hospital with which my hon. Friend the Member for Drake, Plymouth (Lieut.-Colonel Guest) is also associated. The other is one of the great teaching hospitals. They are both within the danger area. The special hospital of which I am chairman is the Infants' Hospital in Vincent Square. The great teaching hospital is Westminster Hospital, the House of Commons hospital, of which I am chairman of the committee charged with dealing with air-raid precautions. Hon. Members may be interested to remember that Westminster Hospital is the hospital to which they would be taken in the event of their suffering injury from air raids within the precincts of the Palace of West 503 minster.I can almost say, therefore, that I am speaking of a domestic matter. I would like to tell the House what happened with regard to the hospitals. I have pointed out that for a period of months efforts were made to obtain some directions as to what the hospitals were expected to do with regard to their patients, their staffs and their buildings, what would be their functions in the case of air raids and of casualties being incurred, and where the expense would fall. To none of these inquiries was any answer of any kind forthcoming.
It was only on the day on which the Prime Minister's journey to Berchtesgaden was actually announced, it was only, that is to say, at the very climax of the crisis, that the first steps were taken. A meeting of representatives of the great teaching hospitals was suddenly called at the Ministry of Health. The meeting took place in the basement of the Ministry and the Director-General stated that the hospitals' emergency service had just been created. I wish to say at once that Colonel Hebb, the Director-General of this emergency system, assisted in the London area by Dr. Dobbie of the London County Council, from the moment they began to function gave unstinted and most devoted service and were of the utmost help and encouragemnt. The statement that was made at the meeting was this: "Gentlemen, this emergency hospital service has just been created. You must expect bombs to fall on London at any moment. Do the best you can." It has been said by a distinguished civil servant that the instructions of the Home Office were the sloppiest a Government Department had ever issued. That cannot be said of the Ministry of Health, because from beginning to end the Ministry of Health never issued any instructions at all. There is not one scrap of writing as far as my knowledge goes—and I speak from intimate daily and hourly knowledge of what is taking place, because mine was a great responsibility—and no written instruction was ever issued from beginning to end. Therefore, there was nothing sloppy about the instructions.
On the contrary, we were left entirely to our own devices. We were told we must evacuate our hospitals, and when we asked how, we were told that ambulances would be provided, but that arrangements had only that day been made for the conversion of rolling stock 504 and road transport to take stretcher cases, and the services would not be available for three weeks. That was the information given to us on the day before the Prime Minister flew to Berchtesgaden. We were told we were required to increase the amount of accommodation by 30 or 50 per cent. We asked what arrangements had been made for additional bedding and things of that kind, but not a blanket, not a mattress, not a bedstead, nothing had been ordered. When the Department was asked, "What are you going to do about it?" they said, "We are going to commandeer blankets and bedsteads from Harrod's, Selfridge's and others." That was the position at the very height of the crisis.
Strong language could be used about the devastating situation with which the hospitals were confronted. I am not going to use it because I am referring to these matters as a guide to the future and not as a criticism of the past. I know that there were difficulties, although I think it is almost unforgivable that no steps of any kind should have been taken, because every casualty resulting from air raids would have had to be treated in some hospital. I could tell the House, but I will not, what the estimate of casualties was. I could tell the House, but I will not, how many hundreds of casualties we were told we should be required to take per hour. Yet no arrangements of any kind had been made by the central authorities. These are not notes of my speech which I hold in my hand; they are notes of the conference that was held on that evening of 14th September at the Ministry of Health. We were told we were to provide emergency stores. At the same time—and here is a bitter irony—when we were asked as voluntary organisations to do all these things, we were told, "If there is no war the Government will not pay anything to them." We were to make these arrangements at the expense of charitable funds, and we were to be wholly responsible unless there was a war. If there was a war some unspecified contribution would be made from Government sources.
The two hospitals of which I speak went ahead. We went ahead in such a way that we were able within a week of the first instructions from the Ministry of Health to inform the Ministry that we were ready to take emergency cases to an extent greater by 50 per cent. than our 505 ordinary accommodation. If we had had the same sort of instructions that were issued by other Departments, I doubt whether we could have done anything of the kind. We acted upon our own initiative and we sought no Treasury consents. We got the job done, but I am bound to say that we had a good many difficulties. The Home Office, for instance, was unable to provide us with a sufficiency of gas masks, not merely masks for patients, but duty masks for the staffs.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C. Morrison) made the suggestion that the Government took the view that gas protection in hospitals was unnecessary. I think that was a misunderstanding. My own interpretation of what we were told is that it was recognised that in a hospital, with the constant traffic of patients in and out, it is impracticable to have proper and complete gas protection. Certainly we were advised that special accommodation and gas proof rooms should be made for cardiac and other chest cases and for the protection of food and so on. We were told we should not be required to look after the dead—our duty was ended when death took place—but that there would be officers from the local mortuary whose task it would be to deal with that aspect of the matter. When we asked the local authorities what arrangements they had made with regard to the dead we were told, "We have heard nothing from the Home Office or the Ministry of Health about this at all. We have had no instructions and no information and we have no intention, unless instructed, of dealing with the situation." I mention that as an instance of complete lack of co-ordination and co-operation between Government Departments and between the central and local government in many important respects.
What I have said applies to Westminster Hospital, the House of Commons Hospital, but I must say a word about the special hospital in Vincent Square. Originally, we were told that it was to be a grade A hospital for infants. It is well suited for that. It is the first hospital of the kind in Europe. I do not complain of the alteration in the decision—it was wise and proper—but later, after we were ready and fully equipped to deal with children who might be injured, we were suddenly told that this infants' hospital was to be transformed at once into an adult casualty clearing station. 506 Imagine the situation with which we were confronted, with no equipment and no sanitary arrangements suitable for anything except children, with perhaps the most skilled staff in the country for dealing with children but not equally skilled in dealing with adults. We were told to make this change and we set about doing it and, save in one particular, the change was made and in a week the hospital was made ready to receive, instead of 100 infants, 175 adults as a casualty clearing station. The one particular in respect of which we were not ready was this: I informed the Ministry of Health that we had operating instruments only for infants and that we had no surgical instruments for adults. I asked where we could get them, and how the expense would be borne, for I did not feel justified in buying adult instruments for an infants' hospital. They said they had no instruments and they could not help us to get them and, if we bought them, we should not get any grant from the State, that is if there were no war. So we were asked to take the whole of the risk, and we took it.
The whole arrangement with regard to hospitals opens up a tremendous number of other questions. There is the question whether men and women should be treated in the same hospital. It may be said that they go to the same ordinary hospitals now, but it is not so simple as that when you are dealing with casualties resulting from air raids. The casualties will be either gas or surgical cases. The number of medical cases will be very small. In the ordinary way, of course, men go to the men's wards and women to the women's wards, but in the case of a casualty clearing station, when you have a constant flow of casualties in and out going to the base hospitals, you cannot do that kind of thing at all and both have to remain for a time in the outpatients' department. The Home Office said it was a condition that men and women should be separated, but I very much doubt whether that is practicable in the same hospital.
The next question is this: How are the casualties to be directed to the various hospitals? There are to be first-aid stations. I believe it is essential that the first-aid stations and the hospitals should be under the same general and central direction and administration and, whereas it has so far been arranged on the whole 507 that there shall be no medical officer attached to first-aid stations, it is imperative that there should be a medical man in charge of each first-aid station, otherwise it would be quite impracticable for the hospitals to cope with the inrush of casualties unless they had first been sorted by some responsible person into the more and the less serious cases. This is a subject upon which I cannot elaborate, but I have hinted at some of the difficulties with which hospitals are confronted and perhaps I may have an opportunity of discussing them with the Minister.
The question of the protection of the population against casualties resulting from air-raids is not a matter upon which political opinion need be divided. On the contrary, it is a matter in which we all have an identical interest. As far as I am concerned, I have spoken to-day, not with a view to making any Party capital out of criticism, but in the hope that lessons for the future may be derived from the experience of the past. With what I say on this point I doubt not that every one of my friends of these Benches will find himself in sincere agreement.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Major Dower
As an officer in the anti-aircraft defence of London, I wish to draw attention to one or two points and to deny certain criticisms that I have heard from time to time about the antiaircraft defence of the country. First of all, with regard to recruiting, a good many people say we are short of recruits and cannot get them. That was the condition that existed 12 months ago, and it was a very serious one, but to-day it does not. Whereas a year ago I held several recruiting meetings in a week and at the end of the week had a band of only about three or four, if you have recruiting meetings now, at the end of a week you get away with about 50 or 60. I think the reasons for the improvement are, first, the status to which my right hon. Friend has raised the Territorial Army; secondly, the fact that the country is now defence conscious; and, thirdly, that the people are determined to put the country's defences into such a condition that we can stand by our principles.
The greatest credit is due to my right hon. Friend for the way the Territorials were treated during the crisis. It was a 508 sudden crisis, and undoubtedly we were not ready for it-everyone will admit that. The men in the Territorials were treated well—generously. Their rate of pay was good, and their ration allowance of 4s. a day was more than a reasonable one: it was a generous one. In addition to that, they were set at liberty immediately the crisis was past in order to ensure that they did not lose their civilian jobs, and in many cases when they returned to them they received pay for the time when they had been on leave. With that spirit of generosity we shall undoubtedly have got the good will of the Territorial Army. One difficulty is the enormous number of men now in the Territorial Army who know nothing at all about soldiering. Whereas last year we might have had only 100 men, we now have 1,000, and it is a tremendous task to train them, especially when it is remembered that in a battalion there are 1,500 men and 50 officers.
With regard to equipment, for many reasons one does not desire to make specific estimates of the shortage, but observations such as "There is hardly a gun anywhere," or "We had not got enough lights to send up beams for exposing enemy aircraft" do not represent the truth. Twelve months ago they might very well have been truthful observations, and admittedly we have not yet got our full complement, but the equipment is coming through, and not in a trickle but in a steady flow. If there are any hon. Members who would like to assure themselves on that account I shall be delighted to take them to the battalion in which I am an officer and show them the equipment we have got there. But I should like the Government to recognise the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of us. We have these enormous numbers of men, the best fellows in the world, but they do not know their job and will have to be taught, and we are short of technical instructors. A battalion of 1,500 men and 50 officers is a very big unit to administer, especially in view of certain small economies which I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to dispense with in the near future. It is not worth my saying more than a few words about them, but there is the clerical work, which is very difficult to deal with. We have an allowance for the company office of about 7s. 6d. a week, although the amount of work to be got through is 509 worth about £2 or £3 on a commercial basis.
My last observation is about the Territorial Army in general. The Territorial Army is ideal for the purpose of antiaircraft defence in this country, not on the ground of its economy, but from the point of view of efficiency, and I speak both as a Regular and a Territorial officer. The reason is that the men are more suited to the job. The old type of soldier we required was a man who had more brawn than brains. The men we want now are preferably men with brains; they need not have so much brawn. Technical instruction has to be given in working the predictors, the locators, the telephone concentrators and we want recruits who have the technical knowledge and the brains to master them, and we get such men in the Territorial Army, whereas we do not get them in the Regulars. To give one small illustration, I had great difficulty in getting the right kind of men to repair electrical breakdowns that might occur in the apparatus, and that difficulty continued for some time. Eventually there came into my company office a man who wanted to join. I asked him what his job was and he told me "I am an electrician. I am employed by a chain of cinemas and am responsible for the maintenance of all the electrical equipment in those cinemas." I said, "Come along, you are just the fellow I want." He is now the electrical-mechanist staff-sergeant, and all repairs are done in about two minutes. In his civilian job he is probably getting £500 or £600 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: He is lucky."] I think he is probably getting that amount—and in the Territorial Army we have his services for next to nothing; although he is a man who would never go into the Regulars. One very generous organisation said, "We will supplement the military pay of our men to bring it up to their civilian pay," but it was found to involve such an enormous outlay that it was impossible for them to carry out that promise, because a great number of my men are regularly getting four or five times more than they would get in the Army.
I will close by saying that, from what I have seen of it, I think the Territorial Army is a magnificent service. The men who join are very keen and are determined to make a success of their job. Their heart is in the job from the point 510 of view of the service and not from the point of view of what they can get out of it. I think my right hon. Friend has paid them a very great compliment. He has said that they are taking on a most responsible task with a determination to make a success of it, and if we in this House back them up thoroughly and wholeheartedly, then in a reasonable time we can in a time of crisis regard the state of the defences of this country with confidence and with hope.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. and gallant Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Major Dower) was saying, I am sure, what we all feel when he was praising the Territorial Army. Before I sit down I shall have something to say on one aspect of the Territorial Army's work, namely, antiaircraft defence, but first I should like to say a word or two on the subject of air-raid precautions which has been debated throughout a large part of to-day. My right hon. Friend who opened this Debate was confronted with certain points—as he thought somewhat of the nature of debating points—by the Home Secretary, and I have been in consultation with my right hon. Friend on some of those points. I wish at this stage to remind the House that the Home Secretary paid a well-deserved tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when a few days ago he described him as having been a tower of strength during the crisis period so far as the London County Council's part in the work was concerned. We on these benches, although we are not as yet in power nationally, are proud of what was done by those of our representatives who are in power locally, both in London and elsewhere, and we believe that a great deal of their work consisted in pressing forward sleepy, indecisive and lethargic persons at the Home Office. That is so on the evidence that we have.
§ Mr. Dalton
We shall have the opportunity of going further into that point on another occasion next Session. As regards the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman about the part played by the London County Council, I have been placed in possession of the following statement. First of all, the Secretary of State said that the London County Council had no fire scheme that 511 had been submitted to and approved by the Home Office. I understand that that is true in a formal sense, but I am informed also that that position is well-known to the Home Office officials and accepted by and agreed to by them, and that they are not at the moment demanding a formal scheme from the London County Council; and that there is an effective practical scheme in operation by consent between the two bodies of officials who have been managing this matter. That is what I am told. There is, in fact, a scheme which has been agreed upon by the two sides, and it is working.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The hon. Member will allow that I should know the facts, and I say that that is not the case. From other places we have had schemes, but from London we have not had a scheme, and we are still waiting for it.
§ Mr. Dalton
Yes, but meanwhile it is not true to say that there has not been constant and harmonious consultation between two bodies of officials and, even though there is not a formal scheme, there is a scheme which is, in fact, operating, and which is judged by both sides to be effective.
§ Mr. Dalton
No doubt my right hon. Friend will have something more to say about this later on. If that scheme is considered incomplete, it is not the only thing which is incomplete. A great many schemes entirely within the responsibility of the Home Office are notoriously incomplete. I must not spend too much time in talking of the London County Council, but none the less it was only right that I should make this reply on the points furnished to me by my right hon. Friend. In regard to fire-service recruits, there was a shortage before the crisis, in London as everywhere else, but my right hon. Friend thinks that the Home Secretary will not deny that he has been exceedingly active. He has broadcast an appeal and taken many other active steps to secure recruits and the numbers are now 13,200, which is by no means a negligible total, having regard to what has been done elsewhere by other authorities. My right hon. Friend thinks that it is a little ungrateful of the Home Secretary not to recognise the efforts that have been made by the London County Council in this matter.
512 In regard to fire-fighting equipment, my right hon. Friend informs me that there was, as has indeed been stated, a disagreement between the Home Office and the Council regarding certain specifications for equipment. My right hon. Friend is not prepared to admit that his officials who deal with fire-fighting appliances are less competent than their opposite numbers at the Home Office. There was definite disagreement as to the utility of various appliances, but I am told that that is now a matter of history. There is no doubt still a great shortage of equipment in relation to the volunteers whom my right hon. Friend has secured by his broadcast and other activities. I will leave the matter there, but a reply was certainly called for.
§ Mr. Dalton
No doubt. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had done well in air-raid precautions, comparatively speaking, so far as other countries, except Germany, were concerned, but I submit that this country, being immensely more vulnerable than those other countries, requires very much more effective precautions than they to enable us to say that, with the exception of Germany, we are ahead of other people. We are infinitely more vulnerable by reason of this grotesque concentration of population in London, and very much more is required from us, particularly in regard to evacuation schemes. Personally I have always been in favour of the maximum evacuation, and I am very glad that the Government are moving in that direction, but even now many of my hon. Friends hold the view that they are not yet as keen evacuationists in the event of war as some of us are. We admit that the Lord Privy Seal has made a step in the right direction but it is not a sufficiently long step. Apart from the fact of publishing it—and it may have been wise not to publish it—we regret that more speedy action was not taken by the Government upon the report which was received. I think it is true to say that during August it was sat upon and no action was taken upon it. Local authorities were not made aware that any action was to be taken in regard to it and if any action was decided upon in the Home Office no information got out. I am also informed that there was complete lack by the Departments concerned 513 of any preparations for feeding the evacuated persons in their new domiciles.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am told by people who have been in touch with these matters that the Food Defence Plans Department were not communicated with by the Home Office on evacuation until an exceedingly late date, and that until the crisis came there were no effective schemes for mobilising food supplies for these people. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head There will be a further opportunity for debating this matter, The fact which I have been citing, from statements made to me, show that on every part of the front of air-raid precautions there was lethargy, indecision and lack of plan.
I will now pass to another aspect of air-raid precautions, the provision of antiaircraft guns. We felt it would not be useful in to-day's Debate to do more than to arraign two Departments, the Home Office and the War Office, and that it would be going too wide to introduce matters relating to the Air Ministry. They will no doubt have their day later. But it seemed to us that there was some utility in this Debate in linking together these two closely related Departments of ground defence, and I want to put a few questions to the Secretary of State for War on which we shall be glad to have elucidation. There has been much conflicting evidence about the numbers and types and general efficiency of our anti-aircraft artillery. Every man who knows the facts must be a judge of how much it is within the public interest to reveal, but the more facts that can be revealed, the better, both in order that we shall be able to learn how there came to be such a grave shortage and how great a problem remains to be solved before we may be reasonably secure in this line of defence. The Prime Minister has promised us peace in our time, so there is plenty of time in which to make good the admitted defects which existed in the month before last, and even if as the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) has suggested, the Prime Minister has secured us peace for only six months, that, at any rate, is a period in which much can be done.
Much has been said about the antiaircraft defence of London, and I shall cite some facts in regard to it. Much 514 less has been said about the anti-aircraft defence of other great centres of population. I hope that the Secretary of State will tell us something about the antiaircraft defence not only of London, but of Midland towns like Birmingham and Coventry, and of the great industrial centres of the North and of Scotland. I am informed—and I ask the Secretary of State whether he will confirm or deny it—that, terribly inadequate as the antiaircraft defences were, even such guns and apparatus as we had for the defence of London were got together only by stripping almost naked the anti-aircraft defences in every other part of the country. I wish to know what the right hon. Gentleman has to say in reply to that statement, which is being freely made, not by political partisans, but by persons with knowledge and information in the Midlands and in the North. Our information is that the lack of antiaircraft defence, serious enough in London, was almost complete so far as the other principal crowded industrial key areas are concerned.
I will come in a moment to the number of guns, but, with regard to the types of guns, in spite of a certain amount of writing up in the Press, which I will not go into now, though I have here several very optimistic statements made by air correspondents of papers within the sphere of influence of the Government—in spite of that, it is generally admitted that in numbers our anti-aircraft artillery is grossly and fantastically inadequate; but, given this lack of numbers, how does it come about that so little has been done to draw upon the experience and productive resources that can be made available for the Navy? The Navy for some time has had, according to good judges, excellent anti-aircraft guns both against high-flying and against low-flying aeroplanes. Indeed, in these controversies, in which most sections of our Defence Departments have come in for deservedly rough usage, the Admiralty, on the whole, has came through unscathed up to date, and it would appear that the other Defence Departments would do well to learn from naval experience and endeavour to apply it on land. The naval 4-inch gun is highly spoken of by persons with knowledge, and also the naval 2-pounder for defence against low-flying attack, and, in view of the shocking shortage of anti-aircraft 515 guns on land, I would ask the Secretary of State whether he has any explanation of the fact that these naval guns have not been called into use, and whether the position can be defended that, at a time when the Navy is, I will not say over-equipped, because that would not be true, but when the Navy has been getting the lion's share both of the money and of the stuff for defence generally, there is a lack of any complete system of priority and a complete failure of the so-called Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and, while the Navy has been supplied with large quantities of anti-aircraft guns for use against both high-flying and low-flying attack, the Army has been left almost without any. No new arguments are needed in favour of establishing a proper and rational priority in relation to our defence requirements as a whole, and not merely allowing Ministers to scramble against one another, subject to the benevolent but rather ineffective neutrality of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The time has now come when it should be generally realised that to hold command of the sea and yet allow London to be smashed up in the early stages of a war would be a reductio ad absurdum of any system of national defence.
The 3.7-inch gun, according to evidence at the disposal of a large number of people, is a very great improvement on the old 3-inch gun. How does it come about that the production of these 3.7-inch guns is still as inadequate as it was shown to be when the defences had to be mobilised recently? I have a further report to the effect that there are very few 3.7-inch guns available for the defence of London and other cities, and I think some explanation of the delay in getting really speedy production should be forthcoming. Turning to low-flying attack, which is sometimes left out of account, will the Secretary of State tell us when we are going to get the first consignment of the modern type of gun which has been approved, I understand, by the War Office—the Swedish 2-pounder—and whether we are to get it from Sweden or from Vickers? I am informed, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman either to confirm or deny it, that not one single specimen of that 2-pounder gun for defence against low-flying attack by aircraft has yet come to 516 hand in a form suitable for use. Is that true, and, if so, why?
The line of division between the Air Ministry and the War Office is in a sense arbitrary; arrangements have been made that the one should be on one side and the other on the other; but I have had some disturbing information. I have not got it by any more elaborate method than by going about the country listening to what people tell me. [Interruption.] It is not from a General at all, or even from the Attorney-General. We should welcome any repetition of the tactics pursued towards the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). But perhaps that is a side issue in to-night's Debate. I have this information, not from experts, but from straightforward observers who go about and see what is happening under their noses. I am not sure that it is really the right hon. Gentleman's business so much as that of the Air Ministry to answer on this point, but I mention it as it ought to be within his knowledge at any rate. I am informed that at a certain aerodrome in Yorkshire—and I gather that a similar situation prevails at other aerodromes—there were some anti-aircraft guns available for defence, but no ammunition. I am informed that at Dishforth Aerodrome there are one or two antiaircraft guns, but no ammunition for those guns. I desire to know whether the right hon. Gentleman takes responsibility for that, or whether he wishes the matter to be postponed until we get some statement from the Air Ministry. If it is true, it is most shameful, and if it is as widespread as I have reason to believe, it should be probed.
Other matters relating to the Air Ministry I postpone, and come to the question of the manning of these antiaircraft guns. In spite of what has been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken about the competence and admirable spirit of the Territorials, which we all recognise, there are high authorities who hold that there should be at least a Regular nucleus, some skeleton provision for defence, and that it should not be all left to the Territorials, most of whom are engaged in full-time civil occupations. Admitting all that can be said in favour of the Territorials, of their spirit, their ability to pick up new technique in the use of new instruments and so on, there should be a skeleton force of Regulars. That 517 was very admirably put by the military correspondent of the "Times" in an article in that newspaper and in a letter which he wrote, in reply to comments oil the article, on 26th October. Captain Liddell Hart who, I believe, is the military correspondent of the "Times," states:Our present system provides no intermediate precautionary measures between complete defencelessness and complete mobilisation of the Territorial Anti-Aircraft Force.He goes on to suggest that we should follow the example of other countries which have frontiers liable to be crossed at high speed without notice by enemy aircraft, for we are in that sense reduced to the level of a mere Continental State now. He suggests that we should arrange a skeleton system of gun and searchlight positions manned by a nucleus of Regulars quartered on the spot. He argues that the addition to the Regular Army required by such a skeleton provision would not be large. I will not give the details of the calculation, but he comes down to a final total of an additional 2,000 Regular soldiers, which he thinks would be enough to provide what he regards, and I must say I agree with him, as a very necessary additional safeguard to our ground defences. I would like the Secretary of State to give his view on that matter.
I come now to the question of what guns there were, and what happened to the guns during the crisis, when all the speeches of the Secretary of State in drill halls and other vantage places were brought to the acid test of reality. The Territorials were not called out, and no effort was made to get the guns out, until 26th September. I say bluntly that I consider the Secretary of State was most gravely to blame in delaying so long in taking this most necessary precaution for the protection of London and other cities against air attack which many thought was most necessary. From 12th September to 26th September constant pressure was being brought on the War Office to call out the Territorials and get out the guns. It took a fortnight for this pressure to have its effect. If we had been attacked during this time, there would have been literally no ground defences at all. Meanwhile, in Berlin and other peaceful centres of civilian life you had guns and their crews visible on the sky line, on the roofs of high buildings, to maintain the morale 518 of the people, and perhaps for more necessary practical purposes.
Many Territorial officers were gravely concerned at the lethargy of the War Office. Territorial officers spoke to me—if the Attorney-General asks me for their names I shall deny him the information. They said, "Cannot you of the Labour party do something to stir these people up?" We did our best, and indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney has already told the House this afternoon, he, being responsible in a democratic sense, as leader of the ruling party in London, for the safety of this City, found it necessary at one stage to address a communication to the Prime Minister himself, to which I believe he did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. This was followed, however, on 26th September by the calling out of the Territorials and an attempt to get the guns in position, after a fortnight of grave danger for this country.
I have consulted, as any free citizen can still consult without penalties, the Army List, and I observe that the first anti-aircraft division consists of two groups, according to the last Army List available. These groups are the London group and the Thames and Medway Approaches group. The London group, according to the Army List, consists of five anti-aircraft brigades, comprising 15 batteries, with a total of 120 guns. In fact, I am told that this establishment was not reached. There were not 120 guns. I am told that, even if you add the Thames and Medway group, you do not get 200 guns available for the defence of London. Of the guns got into position, I am told that, for a variety of reasons, half would not have been able to engage enemy aircraft if these had appeared. Some lacked predictors, others lacked dials; some had defective predictors or dials that were not working properly. I am told that there were the gravest deficiencies of stores, both of equipment and other things.
I am told that at Woolwich Arsenal—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into this, as he is responsible for these facts if they cannot be denied—there was a state of sheer chaos. Some anti-aircraft units which sent transport to draw stores were kept waiting for long hours. In some cases transport was sent away and told to report the next day. In one case the non-commissioned officer in 519 charge of the transport was told that he should have prepared indents in quadruplicate, and that until this formality was complied with nothing could be issued. If this is true, or if anything approaching this is true, some one should be severely dealt with. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he is not in a position to confirm or deny this, to have the most vigorous inquiry made.
I am told that in some cases ammunition was delivered to gun positions fitted with fuses quite different from those for which the units were prepared. If that is so, it shows gross incompetence which should be investigated. I have already referred to the Swedish two-pounder gun, and I am told that not even one gun of this type was available for the defence of London against low flying aircraft. I am told that all there was was a few old naval guns, firing over open sights, and some Lewis guns, which would have done more damage to civilian life and property than to attacking aircraft. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say what steps have been taken to remedy this grave deficiency.
There was a grave shortage of searchlights, even on the meagre establishment provided by the War Office. As for balloons—but that is not the right hon. Gentleman's business—there were only 100, some of which have involuntarily crossed the North Sea. The Midlands and the North were stripped almost bare of anti-aircraft defence in order that some kind of show might be put up in London, and in London it was observed that only about one-fifth to one-sixth of the guns were of the modern 3.7-inch type, and no modern two-pounder guns at all and no 4.5-inch guns. The right hon. Gentleman has been demanding from the London County Council pieces of the children's and young men's playing fields for fixed emplacements for 4.5-inch guns, and many playing fields have been disfigured in order to oblige him; but no guns were available for these fixed emplacements of the modern 3.7-inch guns, at least half were unable to fire. In face of this undisguisable incompetence, what conclusions can we draw? How can we have any confidence in Ministers who have been responsible, through periods of months and years, for the state of affairs which I have been describing? It is not 520 yet too late. The effort required is not superhuman in order to repair these grave defects in our anti-aircraft defences, but what confidence can we have that those responsible for this state of affairs have the power or the capacity to retrieve the position?
My hon. and right hon. Friends have put down this Motion on the Paper. It is indeed a Vote of Censure on the Government, and a Vote of Censure in particular upon the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for War, upon the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence for not having co-ordinated their activities to better purpose, and, above all, upon the Prime Minister for having let the whole thing slide owing to his pre-occupation with meeting foreign potentates rather than spending more of his time on the Defences of this country. [Interruption.] The price of Munich will be revealed in due course. I do not stand here to-night in order to pay compliments to a disastrous Prime Minister, or even to speak smooth and pleasant words to his mechanical supporters. Never before in the long history of our Parliament has a Government so ducked its head before a Vote of Censure. In general, Governments have stood up to votes of censure and sought to repel them. This Government has created a new precedent. It has moved an Amendment to a Vote of Censure, which is, by its own terms, a Vote of Censure, condemning the gross incompetence of Ministers who yet have not the grace to cede their positions to those less incapable. I have noticed that the Secretary of State for the Home Department, although he is associated on the Order Paper with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has not said one word to-day in defence of the gross neglect of the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the years when he held the office which the right hon. Gentleman now holds and was responsible for air-raid precautions. That silence is more eloquent than even the most ingenious defence could have been. Therefore, we shall go into the Lobby with great satisfaction, with the assurance that we hold in this Debate the larger truth, in support of our own Vote of Censure, but if that is rejected, we shall not think it necessary to challenge the amended Vote of Censure which the Government are willing to pass upon themselves.
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
The subject which we are discussing must be treated fearlessly, candidly, without exaggeration, and, above all, without complacency. No one must be allowed to minimize—and no one, I think, desires to minimize—the real sense of apprehension of this people and their legitimate concern with our air defences. That feeling of apprehension is attributable, I think, to the sudden and overwhelming realisation that our island security was open to be violated. Henceforth, we must pay the same attention as a nation to our anti-aircraft defences as we have always paid to the maintenance of the Fleet.
We have dealt this afternoon with those measures within the control of civil Departments, now to be co-ordinated by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, which are concerned with passive defence: measures intended to mitigate the effects of air raids. We have now passed, as the House will have realised from the speech to which we have just listened, to the measures concerning active defence which are in the charge of the fighting Services. Active defence is concerned with preventing air raids or defeating them if they should occur. The central instrument of our air defence is the fighter aircraft, and the guns and searchlights are intended to assist it.
All the various forms of active defence are inter-related, and before we can say, for instance, how many guns are required in a particular area we must know how many fighter aircraft are allotted to cover it. I make this point because some people if they do not see a gun feel that they are unprotected. That is not necessarily the case. They may in fact be protected by a form of defence which they do not see. Neither is it of any value to compare the number of guns which we may have at any given moment, particularly without reference to the calibre, with the number of guns existing in some other country. The geography and climatic conditions, the number of exposed frontiers, the number of vulnerable points, the concentrations of population—these and other factors influence the proportions and numbers of any particular weapons or of any particular kinds of defence.
There is one fortunate feature in this gloom in the matter of anti-aircraft de 522 fence, and that is that there can be no race of armaments, and one nation cannot provocatively outbid another. It is not a question of ship for ship, machine for machine, or gun for gun. We can meet our own defence requirements without relating them to the requirements of any other country, and we are determined to meet these in the completest possible sense that science, design, ingenuity and production can furnish. I ask the question, and many persons ask the question, why the problem was not conceived earlier as it is now conceived. I find the explanation, in reference to the recent history of the past, in the belief which was concurrently held not so very long ago that the gun had no effectiveness against the modern aeroplane. I found this belief in one leading article, I think it is representative, in a popular newspaper in August, 1934:Anti-aircraft guns are practically a useless form of defence against air attack … and the experience of this country demonstrates the futility of relying upon ground defence. During the War there were 19 aeroplane raids over London in which 280 machines took part, and of these not more than nine were shot down by gunfire and none fell over London. …If expert opinion which at one time was more or less in tune with that view has recently changed it is, I imagine, because of the perfection of the new precision instruments enabling us to place greater reliance upon the efficacy of this form of defence. It must be realised that in 1935 we had virtually no organisation at all for anti-aircraft defence on the ground. In the latter part of that year we entrusted the task of forming such an organisation to the Territorial Army. On 1st January, 1936, the first anti-aircraft division was formed and its strength at this time was about 5,200 all ranks. Recruiting was bad, and by the end of the year its strength was still only 7,700 men. In June, 1936, we formed a second anti-aircraft division. Recruiting was still bad and the actual strength of this division was just under 7,000. It may be said that the popular imagination had not then become fired with the necessity for providing ground defence against air raids. In 1937 for the first time the tendency of recruiting changed for the better and by the end of that year the strength of the two divisions was 27,000. By June of this year the numbers had risen to 45,000, and profiting by this hopeful increase the Government decided 523 to create five Territorial divisions numbering 100,000 men and covering the whole country.
Obviously so vast and rapid an expansion, all of it recent, all of it sudden, called for accommodation and equipment on a great scale. We are apt to forget the rate of expansion and what has been done in so many respects to make it possible, and to forget also what has been done and is being done in the matter of equipment. Clearly, if we had left our organisation on the lower level the amount of equipment in relation to the number of men would have been greater. We did, however, decide to take the risk of getting the men in advance of the equipment. It was a risk with a definite time limit, for in 1937 the final design of the new 3.7 anti-aircraft gun had been approved and new plant had been planned for its production. I, therefore, knew that as surely as day would follow night this gun would come into issue, and I felt very strongly that it was better to have the men who could be trained in advance of the full equipment than to have the full equipment at a later stage, but not to have the men who could handle it. It would have been easier and more comfortable to have taken the reverse course. The same considerations apply to our defence against low-flying attack, including the defence of aerodromes for which the Army has now accepted the major responsibility.
During the months after the tide of recruiting had turned, my anxiety was not lest full equipment should not come, for I knew it would, but lest those who kept stressing the lack of full equipment, which was about to be produced, should effectively impede the tide of recruiting and repel it. Part of the duty of government is to keep alive the vital processes of confidence, and here there was good ground to do so. However, fortunately nothing has succeeded in stemming the enthusiasm of the Territorial Army. If, during this time, I was anxious to emphasise, as I always have emphasised, that training equipment was available, it was with the motive of making it possible for this country to have an adequate force of defenders when the new weapons of defence were ready. Of course, there are those who feel that there ought to have been more training equipment; that will always be so; but it is noteworthy that 524 despite the great expansion in numbers a quota was available for every unit of at least two guns per battery, with instruments and training stores for the artillery and searchlights, and sound locators for the battalions. I had never said that more than training equipment existed. That this training equipment has achieved its purpose is shown by the results of the training camps and exercises which are on an extremely high standard.
Now I come to the question of production, and I do not think that I need authority to say that a programme is a developing and not an instantaneous phenomenon. As has been stated in this House, in vivid language which may perhaps be recalled, "in these sombre fields, in the first year you have to sow and in the second year you have to harrow; the third year is your harvest." We have shortened the period. I have pointed out that the design of the 3.7-inch gun was finally approved in the middle of 1937. On our existing enlarged organisation, our requirements of this gun for the whole five divisions should, if the present accelerated production is maintained, be substantially provided by the middle of the coming year—practically the whole of our requirements. If that forecast be fulfilled, it will be a record of production favourably comparable with anything that has previously been done in this or any other country, even in war. I hope the House will remember that some of the factories where this production is in progress were, less than two years ago, empty shells for which all the plant and tools had to be made and assembled. There has further been recruitment and training of labour, of which there is still a shortage on this work. It must be borne in mind that practically the whole of the armament industry in this country was closed down after the War.
In the case of the 3.7-inch gun, it is not only a question of the production of components of the gun itself, but also of the provision of complicated instruments and their ancillary equipment, which should keep pace with the production of the gun and will also be forthcoming with the guns to the extent of our full requirements in substance by the middle of next year. There has been a grave shortage of labour on the instruments, because there are not many men in this country who had been trained in that work, and it takes three years in 525 which to make them efficient. It may interest the House to know that we could have doubled the number of 3.7-inch guns in action in the crisis, if a firm making one small part of the computing mechanism had not failed to meet their contract. Such disappointments occur even under the best systems of production.
One of the disadvantages of producing a new gun is that it creates the impression that all existing equipment is inadequate. For instance, many people, among them the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, assert that the 3-inch gun is now ineffective. That is not the case. It has, in fact, been modernised and has the same system of fire control as the 3.7-inch gun. It is quicker firing and more mobile than the 3.7-inch gun and within the limits of range, which are considerable in relation to the normal climatic conditions in this country, it is an accurate weapon. It should be noted that the anti-aircraft organisation in foreign countries includes, almost invariably, a weapon of a similar nature, and that the bulk of the air activity in Spain has taken place at heights well within the compass of the 3-inch gun. Even when guns of heavier calibre are used, we shall continue to use the 3-inch gun as an essential part of cur artillery. I hope that the putting into production of the new heavy gun which was approved later than the 3.7-inch gun, will not cause those who have 3.7-inch guns allotted to them to consider it, in turn, obsolete. Here again, the 3.7-inch gun is complementary to the heavier gun, just as the 3-inch gun is complementary to the 3.7-inch gun. Each has its role.
I am asked by the hon. Gentleman whether the naval 4-inch gun would not have been as suitable as the 4.5-inch gun which we have selected and whether it could not have come into production earlier. Even if it could have come into production earlier, and it is possible that it might have done, but very slightly, its design as a twin would not have been suitable or, at any rate, not as suitable as the gun which we had, in fact, selected. This gun, the 4.5-inch gun, is already beginning slowly to appear, although the design details were only approved for manufacture in 1937. It was, indeed, in 1937, and in some cases in 1938, that most of our modern equipment was approved in design.
526 I have seen representative employers of industry and I have asked them whether there is any means of accelerating our production. I did this not after the crisis, but well before the crisis. I asked them to criticise anything which it might occur to them to criticise in our organisation and to be quite relentless in doing so, sparing neither persons nor the organisation itself. They expressed the highest opinion of the organisation existing at the War Office, and said that virtually nothing could be done to improve it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and if any hon. Members can suggest to me any defect in that organisation I shall be very glad to know of it, because I would ask them to bear in mind that my one desire, as it is the desire of the Government, is to effect every possible improvement.
§ Mr. Churchill
Do I gather that the right hon. Gentleman says that the design of the most improved modern equipment was effected only towards the end of 1937?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I did say so, and I have no doubt that some other instruments of defence will be designed in the next year. Defence is not a static, but a dynamic thing, and there is no means by which you can order a particular designer to produce a gun on a particular date. No Government can force the design of a gun before it is ready.
§ Mr. Churchill
I understood the right hon. Gentleman was speaking about the 4.5-inch gun. I understand that the decisions on that were not taken till late in 1937.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
That is so. I desire to be accurate and candid with the House. I pass to the other matters raised by the hon. Gentleman, which I shall deal with, I hope, quite fairly. On Monday, 26th September, 50,000 men of the anti-aircraft and coast defence units of the Territorial Army were called out for emergency service. This was the first time that Territorials had been embodied in advance of the Regular Army, and also the first time that Territorials had been called upon to fulfil the new role so recently entrusted to them. The House will wish, I am sure, to join in a tribute of praise to those 50,000 officers and men who laid aside their normal avocations and presented themselves at once at their 527 appointed places, and also to those who made the transport so quickly available. Mostly in good condition and often at great inconvenience, buses and lorries were promptly diverted from their normal role. Employers too played their part by releasing their men without question and restoring them to their jobs when they returned.
These parts of our arrangements worked on the whole smoothly and efficiently, but in judging the development as a whole it must be remembered that we were prematurely bringing into operation a mechanism which had never previously been tested. There was no power of rehearsal, and much had to be improvised. It must also be remembered that the complementary mechanism of the Regular Army which could have supplemented our arrangements was not mobilised. Nothing, of course, could atone or will atone, until our programme is complete, for the shortage of war equipment. It is the purpose of our rearmament programme to remedy this and the programme proceeds as I have described. All the defects in our deployment—and the hon. Gentleman has catalogued them—relate in one way or another to the shortage of equipment and the incomplete state of our organisation.
It is necessary to consider the deployment in two separate parts—firstly, the normal deployment of personnel and equipment in unit charge. This was carried out smoothly and expeditiously, and the unit itself was in a position to ensure that its equipment was fully serviceable. The second head under which it is necessary to consider the deployment relates to emergency equipment which it would normally not be necessary to use, and which was either in practice camps or in process of assembly for issue in arsenals. Every effort was made in a great hurry to give the country the advantage of all that we could muster. Until production has provided the equipment required it will always be necessary to make urgent arrangements to use all available equipment, and these arrangements must necessarily be ad hoc. When I speak of bringing up emergency guns, I would like categorically to reassure the hon. Gentleman who suggested that we stripped the industrial areas in order to send guns to London that not one gun was removed from the industrial centres to London.
528 Some confusion is bound to arise, and some weapons are bound to be imperfect, when you are making emergency arrangements. I propose myself to mention some of the defects and deficiencies disclosed. Guns sent from practice camps in some cases were separated from their instruments and delay was caused. Further, some were sent into action without overhaul. This was due to the desire to make them available as early as possible. Such overhaul is essential and will in future take place. Some of the guns were issued without dials. I have explained the reason for this—the failure of the firm that was making them to deliver them. This defect has been remedied. Some predictors were out of order. They are delicate instruments and we have suffered from lack of experienced personnel for their maintenance. It takes time to train such personnel, and we are taking such steps as we can to do so. Electric storage batteries were in some cases run down. [Laughter.] I wish to tell the House the facts. At the same time, units hold spare batteries and charging plant, and such faults are very apt to occur unless units take the precaution of charging their batteries.
Certain units did not draw their full complement of stores and particularly fuze keys. Most units improvised satisfactory expedients. Some stores were found to be deficient and steps are being taken to send to section commanders a simple aide memoire of what they should have ready for an emergency. Two types of ammunition are in use, and it is essential that each gun station has the equipment appropriate to its ammunition. In some cases this was not done. [Laughter.] I am candidly stating the position. I am showing these omissions because if I did not candidly confess them the House might feel that I am not applying the necessary remedies for the future. It is, of course, my intention to do that. Over 90 per cent. of the searchlights were deployed expeditiously. In some cases there were defects in transport, and units in future will themselves be charged with the duty of keeping their eye on the transport that will be allotted to them in case of emergency.
Every unit has been asked to state exactly what were the shortcomings that they found and these are the principal shortcomings that have been stated. Every step possible will be taken to 529 remedy them. It is, however, quite another story when these defects are exaggerated. I read in one newspaper, and I heard the statement here again to-night, an authoritative statement that we had only 100 guns in action in London. In another newspaper it was stated equally authoritatively that we had only 50 guns in action in London. In both cases it was stated that we might as well reveal these facts because a potential enemy knew just as much about them as we did. Which fact does the enemy know—that we had 100 guns, or that we had 50 guns? Neither figure happens to be correct. The varying character of these estimates of the number of guns at our disposal is in itself a justification for not stating the figures. No country publishes figures of this kind and no statement that I have seen of the number of guns in our possession fit for action happens to be accurate. If the calamity had occurred we should have rendered quite a good account of ourselves despite the deficiencies from which we suffered.
I have been asked whether our organisation could be strengthened, whether we could not have a stiffening from the Regular Army so that the time of deployment could be curtailed. The fact is that the organisation as a whole was deployed within 24 hours, and a large percentage of it within very much less—some units within a very few hours. To reinforce or stiffen the Territorial organisation with Regulars on an adequate scale over the whole country would require an enormous increase in the Regular Army and would deprive the Territorials of the most responsible part of their trust. It is extremely difficult to mix Regulars and Territorials and to select which duties each is to perform, and, if possible, one would like to leave the credit of running this organisation and discharging this most serious of our responsibilities with the Territorial Army. Therefore, we must find some means of making the deployment even more expeditious. It should be possible by having more guns on fixed sites with equipment more ready to hand and more regular personnel with the units
§ ready to assist in the despatch of the equipment. In these ways I think we can obtain an even greater acceleration, but we shall not hesitate to take any measures which may be practical and effective, keeping in mind our desire not to relieve the Territorials of the major part of this responsibility which they so well discharged.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I thought I had mentioned the subject. We have acquired the manufacturing rights of a gun suitable for this purpose. We have obtained some of this particular type of gun from abroad, and they are now in our possession and further deliveries are to come, and one of the principal manufacturers in the country is now engaged in completing a plant to make this gun and deliveries are expected to commence in June of next year. With regard to the question of a gun for defence against low-flying attack at an aerodrome being without ammunition, I am unable to verify the fact, but I will endeavour to do so if the hon. Gentleman will give me the name of the aerodrome again.
I have dealt frankly with the present state of our deficiencies and it is not a state which will endure. Every month will find the nation stronger. Within two years public opinion upon this matter has been changed, a vast organisation has been built up, a great industry has been created and production has begun. It was at a stage in the process that the emergency arose and the deployment was ordered. The country has a right to know that His Majesty's Government are resolved to see that the legitimate fears at present entertained shall, so far as is humanly possible, be averted, and in the shortest possible time.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 130; Noes, 355.533
|Division No. 334.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Banfield, J. W.||Broad, F. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Batey, J.||Brown, C. (Mansfield)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Bellenger, F. J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Burke, W. A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Benson, G.||Cassells, T.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bevan, A.||Chater, D.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Ritson, J.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Collindridge, F.||Kelly, W. T.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kirby, B. V.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Dalton, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lee, F.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leonard, W.||Silkin, L.|
|Day, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lunn, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Ede, J. C.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Maclean, N.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Foot, D. M.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Frankel, D.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stephen, C.|
|Gallacher, W.||Marshall, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Maxton, J.||Stokes, R. R.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Milner, Major J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Montague, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Thorne, W.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Thurtle, E.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Muff, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Naylor, T. E.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Groves, T. E.||Oliver, G. H.||Westwood, J|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Parkinson, J. A.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Hayday, A.||Pearson, A.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Poole, C. C.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Price, M. P.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hollins, A.||Pritt, D. N.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hopkin, D.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Jagger, J.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Charleton and Mr. John.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Bull, B. B.||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Burghley, Lord||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Burton, Col. H. W.||De Chair, S. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Butcher, H. W.||De la Bère, R.|
|Apsley, Lord||Butler, R. A.||Donman, Hon. R. D.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Denville, Alfred|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Cartland, J. R. H.||Doland, G. F.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Carver, Major W. H.||Donner, P. W.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Cary, R. A.||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Dower, Major A, V. G.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Drewe, C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Channon, H.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Duggan, H. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Dunglass, Lord|
|Beechman, N. A.||Christie, J. A.||Eastwood, J. F.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Colman, N. C. D.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Emery, J. F.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Cooper, Rt.Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cox, Trevor||Errington, E.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cranborne, Viscount||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Critchley, A.||Everard, W. L.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Fleming, E. L.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Cross, R. H.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lloyd, G. W.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Furness, S. N.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwin)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Loftus, P. C.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lyons, A. M.||Salt, E. W.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Gledhill, G.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Gluckstein, L H.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Scott, Lord William|
|Goldie, N. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Selley, H. R.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Granville, E. L.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Macquisten, F. A.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Magnay, T.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Maitland, A.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Markham, S. F.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Marsden, Commander A.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Meller, R. J. (Mitcham)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hambro, A. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Spens, W. P.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Harbord, A.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Storey, S.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Moreing, A. C.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morgan, R. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hepworth, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Munro, P.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Nall, Sir J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Holdsworth, H.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Holmes, J. S.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Touche, G. C.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Patrick, C. M.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peake, O.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Petherick, M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Pilkington, R.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hunter, T.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Procter, Major H. A.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Purbrick, R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Joel, D. J. B.||Radford, E. A.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ramsbotham, H.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rankin, Sir R.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Kimball, L.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Wilson. Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Wise, A. R.|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Remer, J. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Leigh, Sir J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wragg, H.|
|Levy, T.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lewis, O.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Rowlands, G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
|Lipson, D. L.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Colonel Kerr.|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.535
That this House, while taking full note of existing deficiences in the system of civilian defence, welcomes the decision of His Majesty's Government to entrust the responsibility for the system to a Minister appointed for that purpose, and declares its full approval of the Government's determination to complete with the utmost speed the measures necessary to provide for the country's needs.
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.
§ Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."-[Captain Margesson.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes after Eleven o'clock.