§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
Events have occurred in the last week of such far-reaching importance that there has not yet been time to estimate their effect on the fortunes of the war and on the attitude of other countries.
In my statement on 13th September I referred to the relentless German pressure on the Polish army which had so far been frustrated by the indomitable spirit of the Poles. This pressure and this resistance continued during the week, and is still continuing in many parts of Poland. The tide of German invasion eastwards has reached an approximate north-south line through Brest-Litovsk and Lemberg, though there still remain islands of polish resistance, such as Warsaw, which refuse to be submerged. On 17th September an event occurred which has inevitably had a decisive effect upon the war on the Eastern Front. On the morning of 17th September Russian troops crossed the Polish frontier at points along its whole length and advanced into Poland.
I cannot say that the action of the Soviet Government was unexpected. For some time past Soviet troops have been mobilised and concentrated on the western frontiers of the Soviet Union, and statements have appeared in the Soviet Press and wireless referring to the position of White Russians and Ukrainians in Poland, which bore the interpretation that the Soviet Government were preparing for intervention.
On 17th September a note was handed to the Polish Ambassador in Moscow to the effect that Warsaw as the capital of Poland no longer existed, that the Polish Government had disintegrated, and that the Polish State and its Government had ceased to exist. In the same way the agreements concluded between the Soviet Union and Poland had come to an end. Poland had become a suitable field for all manner of hazards and surprises which might constitute a threat to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union could, therefore, no longer preserve a neutral attitude, and the Soviet Government had ordered their troops to cross the frontier and take under their protection the life 976 and property of the population of the Western Ukraine and Western White Russia. The Polish Ambassador in Moscow refused to accept this note, and has since been instructed to ask for his passports.
A copy of this communication was sent to His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow with a note stating that the Soviet Government would pursue a policy of neutrality in the relations between the U.S.S.R. and Great Britain. A similar communication was made to the diplomatic representatives of foreign Powers in Moscow.
In this situation. His Majesty's Government authorised the issue of a statement on 18th September that this attack by the Soviet Government upon Poland (a country with whom she had a non-aggression pact) at a moment when Poland was prostrate in the face of overwhelming forces brought against her by Germany could not be justified by the arguments put forward and, that while the full implication of these events was not yet apparent, nothing which had occurred would make any difference to the determination of His Majesty's Government to fulfil their obligations to Poland and to prosecute the war with all energy until these obligations had been achieved.
The effects of the Russian invasion upon the hard-pressed Poles have naturally been very serious. Caught between two vast armies, and with their communications to the South cut off, the Polish forces are still continuing their courageous resistance. According to a communiqué issued on 18th September the Polish Government have requested the Rumanian Government to accord hospitality to the Head of the Polish State and to his Ministers who have taken refuge on Rumanian territory.
His Majesty's Ambassador to Poland, who was established in the Polish town of Kuty, near the Rumanian frontier, was advised by the Polish Government to leave Poland as soon as Russian troops crossed the frontier, and he is now in Rumania with his staff. I would like to say a word of sympathy with Sir Howard Kennard and the members of his staff, as well as His Majesty's Consular Officers in Poland. They have had to suffer such an ordeal of anxiety, fatigue and danger as seldom falls to the lot of members of their Services, but I need hardly say 977 that they have carried out their duties with the courage, efficiency and disregard of personal considerations which we should expect of them.
It is still too early to pronounce any final verdict on the motives or consequences of the Russian action. For the unhappy victim of this cynical attack the result has been a tragedy of the grimmest character. The world which has watched the vain struggle of the Polish nation against overwhelming odds with profound pity and sympathy admires their valour which even now refuses to admit defeat. If Britain and France have been unable to avert the defeat of the armies of Poland they have assured her that they have not forgotten their obligations to her nor weakened in their determination to carry on the struggle.
Against the background of these events, Herr Hitler chose yesterday to address another speech to the world. It is not our way in this country to speak with boasts and threats. Perhaps for that very reason the German leaders have difficulty in understanding us, but in such comments as I have to make on the Chancellor's speech, I shall not depart from our custom of speaking soberly and quietly.
The speech which Herr Hitler made yesterday at Danzig does not change the situation with which we are confronted. It gave an account of recent events which we cannot accept as accurate and, as the commentary broadcast by the B.B.C. last right clearly showed, it contained certain assurances of the kind which in recent years Herr Hitler has repudiated whenever it suited his purpose.
Among the many misstatements of fact I wish to refer in particular to the statement that the French Government agreed to Italian mediation while His Majesty's Government refused it. The reply to this statement is contained in the communiqué issued by the official Italian news agency on 4th September, which was reproduced in the recent White Paper and which clearly brought out the common attitude adopted by the British and French Governments. I have since noted a strong communiqué, issued today by the French Government, which emphatically supports our attitude. I hope that a supplementary White Paper which will be issued to-morrow will make 978 plain the true course of recent events so that public opinion may have no difficulty in forming its final judgement.
Herr Hitler says much in his speech about the humane methods by which he has waged war. I can only say that methods are not made humane by calling them so and that the accounts of German bombing of open towns and machine gunning of refugees have shocked the whole world. What I have searched for in vain in this speech is one single word that Herr Hitler remembers the brave men who have already lost their lives in this quarrel of his making, or their wives and children who have been bereft for ever of the head of the family because their leader's lust for power had to be satisfied.
I have only one general comment to make. Our general purpose in this struggle is well known. It is to redeem Europe from the perpetual and recurring fear of German aggression and enable the peoples of Europe to preserve their independence and their liberties. No threats will deter us or our French allies from this purpose. His Majesty's Government did not seek this war. They did, as the published documents show, repeatedly state their readiness for a peaceful settlement by negotiation. They persevered in their attempts to secure this up to and even after the striking of the first blow, but their efforts were set at nought, and their hopes shattered, by the unprovoked and brutal aggression of Germany upon our Polish allies.
On the western frontier the French have continued to make methodical and successful progress. The laconic but admirably clear announcements of the French Higher Command, indicate that valuable strategic and tactical objectives have been secured, and that the ground gained has been held in face of increasingly severe German resistance.
Since my last statement to the House on the war at sea, the situation has been one of intense and continuous naval activity, mainly in the form of attacks on U-Boats carried out by destroyers, small craft and the Fleet Air Arm, acting under cover of the Main Fleets and Squadrons. These attacks have been made both by day and by night and the achievements of the anti-submarine campaign after a 979 little over a fortnight of war have exceeded anything which the British Navy accomplished even over much longer periods in the last War. The great difference between the last War and this one is that whereas in the last War we were on the defensive against the U-Boat campaign, we are now carrying out an offensive against the U-Boats and they are continually and relentlessly attacked whenever they disclose themselves. It is frequently impossible to be certain after depth charges have been dropped that the submarine attacked has been destroyed. But there are occasionally quite unmistakable signs that the vessel has been holed and sunk, and I am confident that I am understating the case when I say that already six or seven German submarines have paid the full penalty for their attacks on British shipping. In some cases their crews have been captured.
I am quite confident that with the full operation of the convoy system, and the rapid increase in the numbers, power and efficiency of our hunting craft this submarine menace will dwindle with corresponding speed. We must expect to receive occasional blows, sometimes heavy ones, such as the loss of His Majesty's Ship "Courageous," to which my right hon. Friend has already referred, with its grievous tale of valuable lives cut short. But this is the inevitable toll of a fleet in being and in active control of the sea in time of war. It is, however, already clear that the Navy and the Merchant Service by their unceasing efforts will be able to maintain essential supplies of raw materials and food for our population and our industries.
In April, 1917—the peak month of action by enemy U-Boats and mines in the last War—the average weekly sinkings of British tonnage amounted to 127,000 or 39 ships. During the week ended 12th September it was 95,000 tons represented by 17 ships and for the week ended 19th September 45,848 tons represented by 13 ships. Undoubtedly this decrease has been partly due to the working of the convoy system, now increasingly in operation. So far as our information goes, 139 lives, both British and neutral, have up to now been lost from submarine attack excluding the losses incurred by the sinking of His Majesty's Ship "Courageous"; there 980 are, in addition, 44 persons reported missing.
The primary aim of British policy at sea is to destroy or render ineffective the warships of the enemy, and as a result to prevent the enemy augmenting their warlike resources from overseas, whilst at the same time protecting our own and neutral commerce. The interests of neutrals are, indeed, the same as our own. In war, as in peace, we depend for our life upon the uninterrupted flow of trade, and it is our fundamental policy to preserve, as far as possible, the conditions of normal trading.
The suppression of traffic in contraband of war must, of necessity, cause some inconvenience to neutrals. It is our intention to reduce this to a minimum. Our control is only exercised in accordance with the well-established principles of international law. It is used only in cases where there is good reason to suspect the presence of contraband cargo destined for the enemy. A neutral's normal requirement of goods for self-consumption is not interfered with. And, of course, the exercise of control over contraband destined for the enemy is subject to the lawful arbitrament of the Prize Court.
The strict adherence of His Majesty's Government to the rules of law is in striking contrast to the policy pursued by Germany. No loss of life has been caused by the exercise of British sea-power and no neutral property has been unlawfully detained. Germany's method of submarine warfare and the laying of mines on the High Seas has already resulted in the death of many innocent victims, regardless of nationality, and in the unwarranted destruction of neutral property.
In the building up of our land and air Forces immense preparations are being made both in this country and in France. It must, however, be remembered that in all military preparations a great initial advantage rests with the aggressor. No country without aggressive intentions can be as quick off the mark as one that has kept only one set purpose continually in view and that a purpose of aggression. Nevertheless, our resources are being steadily and surely marshalled. We must not be impatient because results do not become immediately apparent. We have 981 been at war for less than three weeks. Already, as is natural, there are many people who have offered their services to the country and are disappointed because they have not yet been accepted. I would remind them that to enrol recruits wholesale and without previous preparation would completely dislocate our plans and would lead to inevitable waste of effort. Our advance must be orderly, but the pace of the advance will steadily quicken. I can assure the House that the effort of this country will be the utmost of which it is capable and, therefore, of course, in no whit inferior to that made even in the most strenuous days of the Great War, though the developments in modern warfare must necessarily affect the distribution and employment of our various resources.
Similar considerations apply to the Civil Defence Services. Our civil forces have not, as yet, been called into action, and so, not unnaturally, suggestions continue to be made that in the absence of actual aerial attack we are unnecessarily keeping mobilised, whole-time, a number of men and women who might be employed to greater advantage on other and more productive work, and that still larger numbers of part-time volunteers are freely giving long hours of service at considerable sacrifice. For the purpose of dealing with an immediate and intense emergency which, it was anticipated, might have to be faced on the outbreak of hostilities our mobilisation of volunteers on a considerable scale was clearly necessary. But it does not follow that the organisation as it now stands will prove best adapted to new conditions or to the uncertainties we may now have to face.
I am not suggesting that we can afford for one moment to relax our vigilance, but the problem with which we have to deal is to determine what adjustments are necessary to enable us, with the minimum of dislocation to our civil life and to our industrial war effort, and with the least burden upon the finances of the country, to provide over a long period for the needs of Home Defence. The necessary readjustments which, of course, must take into account the widely varying circumstances of different localities, are being carried out as rapidly as possible. In the meantime, the fact that during these first weeks of war we have 982 not yet experienced the ordeal of aerial bombardment, affords no reason whatever for any over-hasty or wholesale dispersal of our Home Defence Forces.
That difficulties, and sometimes serious difficulties, have been experienced in carrying out the evacuation scheme is well known. The whole problem was fully debated in the House last week, and I do not think it is necessary for me to discuss it in detail this afternoon. But it is right that I should remind the House that the scheme as a whole has been operated with remarkable smoothness and that the proportion of cases in which real difficulties have been encountered is certainly less than 10 per cent. Prompt action is being taken to cope with the difficulties which do occur, and the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, through their Regional staffs, are in regular contact with the work of the local authorities, who are continuing to give devoted service to this most difficult problem.
Finally, let me say on this point, whatever troubles there may be, however much good will may be necessary to overcome them, it is, in the Government's view, of the greatest importance that the mothers and children who have been evacuated should not now return home: it would be foolish indeed to cast aside the safety which dispersal brings through reluctance to endure some temporary inconvenience or inability to conquer a sense of strangeness in new surroundings.
In the Dominions overseas His Majesty's Governments continue to press on with the preparations which will enable them to take their full share in the great struggle that lies before us. Hon. Members will, I am sure, have read with great gratification the accounts of the part which has been played by individual Dominion members of our Services in the operations which have already taken place. The courage and resource which have been displayed on these occasions are a happy augury for the future. The whole of the British Commonwealth of Nations and Empire is indeed at this moment intensively engaged in mobilising strength under the cover of our Naval, Military and Air Forces—forces which in the aggregate are stronger and more powerful than at the outset of any past war.
Thus the extent of our effort is rapidly increasing in every direction, but I want 983 my final word to-day to be a word of warning. We, as a Government, will not be rushed into courses which our military advisers, with whom we work in the closest possible contact and mutual confidence, do not approve. There is no sacrifice from which we will shrink, there is no operation we will not undertake provided our responsible advisers, our Allies and we ourselves are convinced that it will make an appropriate contribution to victory. But what we will not do is to rush into adventures that offer little prospect of success and are calculated to impair our resources and to postpone ultimate victory. One lesson which military history teaches is that that road leads to disaster. Strategy is the art of concentrating decisive force at the decisive point at the decisive moment.
I will not hazard a guess at this stage of the war as to when or where the decisive force will be assembled or when the decisive moment will arrive. That must depend upon events which no one can foresee. But the scale of our preparations, and the fact already announced that we are basing them on the assumption that the duration of the war may be at least three years, ensures that our strength will increase progressively to meet whatever may come.
Let me conclude by quoting the words of a famous Polish General who, in bidding good-bye to a recent allied military mission, said:We shall fight. A large part of our country will be over-run and we shall suffer terribly. But if you come in, we know that we shall rise again.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I think that, as the days go by, the Prime Minister's statements become of increasing importance to Members of this House, and I think I can say that, on all sides of the House, we welcome them. We welcome their increasing frankness, and long may that frankness continue. Since the right hon. Gentleman spoke last week there has been a change in the international scene. The right hon. Gentleman spoke to-day with some firmness, but with some reticence as to what may be the outcome of the events of Sunday and the days since. Another Power has committed an act of aggression. There can be no doubt as to that fact. There 984 can be no doubt that the justification of it was a justification which reasonable people, who had seen as we have seen previous acts of aggression, could not accept for one moment. But it is difficult to weigh the reactions and the repercussions of the events of Sunday and the days since then.
A new factor has entered into an already complicated situation. Speculation is useless, but it will be necessary for us all to watch closely the unfolding of events before we can see where the balance of advantage lies. I would not, therefore, at this stage pursue this subject any further, but one thing I must say. It is a matter of very deep regret that, once an understanding was reached with Poland, she was not provided far more generously with sorely-needed assistance. I would like, if I may, to support the tribute paid by the Prime Minister to a magnificently heroic nation fighting against heavy odds, ill-equipped, but with an unconquerable spirit, a nation whose spirit, in the words of the Polish General, will rise again. I would pay my tribute to Sir Howard Kennard and his staff for their bravery in very difficult circumstances.
It may be that what help we could have given to Poland would not have enabled her, successfully, to resist the terrific onslaught of both the Germans and the Russians. That may be, but it lies on my conscience and on that of other Members of the House, that we did not do rather more for her before this terrible trial came upon her. However that may be, the lesson to be drawn from it is an important one. It is that in future such help as we give to our friends should be quick, certain and generous. Unless in the immediate future help is given without delays and without petty haggling, those who might become active allies may be driven, very unwillingly, to become passive friends. I believe that it is profoundly important now, and as the days go by it becomes increasingly important, that this nation should mobilise behind it all possible resources that it can, whether it be in the spirit of benevolent neutrality or more actively, and the Government now, without delay, and with a courage and boldness that I do not think they have shown in the past, should go out into the world, unashamedly, to make friends because, 985 though we can win without them, we would rather have them with us.
The Prime Minister's statement and the statement published in the Press yesterday morning on this new situation was, I think, welcomed by everyone. It made clear to the world, to friend and foe alike, that the temporary eclipse of Poland as an independent State in no way modifies our determination to put a final end to aggression. For that emphatic statement, repeated by the Prime Minister in the House this afternoon in rather more colourful language, we are thankful. I am quite satisfied that in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the British people is the firm and unalterable intention not to be diverted from our main task by spurious offers of so-called peace, but steadily to pursue the struggle, until the spirit of tyranny is broken not merely by force of arms, but by the more terrible weapons of intellectual and moral opinion.
Herr Hitler in his speech last night to which the right hon. Gentleman, as I anticipated, referred was, as usual, contemptuous in his attitude towards Britain. I am not surprised. It is part of a long-developed technique. But I would say that his outpourings last night will have no effect on the people of this country. It is obvious that he completely misapprehends the mind of Britain and fails to realise the fact that Poland, being temporarily dismembered and disabled, does not weaken but strengthens our resolve to render similar future acts of aggression for ever impossible. His profession that he harbours no ill-will towards Britain and France falls on deaf ears. He is attempting, wherever he raises the swastika, to crush and destroy the spirit which is the very life of the British and French peoples. I have said before in this House, and I say it again, that an attack on the liberty of one is an attack on the liberty of all. Liberty, like peace, is one and indivisible, and until he realises that, I fear that Herr Hitler does not understand where Britain is to-day. His promises, such as they were, are equally unheeded. He has made promises before, and he has repeatedly broken them. Europe is strewn with the litter of all his broken pledges. There can, therefore, be no trusting one whose philosophy permits the breaking of the pledged word and who is the archangel of a system of society whose power rests on the suppression and the subjugation of 986 the human mind and the human spirit by methods of uncontrolled tyranny. I have said that because I believe it to be true and because I believe that it reflects the minds of the vast majority of my hon. Friends.
Now I turn to another aspect of the problems before us, problems which we have to face, problems which will give rise to some amount of controversy in this House. The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force are completely mobilised, and this is not the time to talk about their achievements, but I am bound to raise this question, as I have raised it before: Can we say that the home front is as well mobilised to meet the stupendous tasks which lie ahead? There is a grace before meat, "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful," and for what has been done we are thankful. What I am about to say can bring no comfort to the enemy. It is a plea for greater initiative —no complaint up to now has been seriously delivered in this House, whatever some of us may think—so that we shall exercise our maximum power in defence and in offence, so as to bring to bear the whole of the strength of our nation at the earliest opportunity to end this war successfully.
I would throw out a number of haphazard questions. I do not put them in order of importance, and they are not all of equal significance, but they are questions which I believe, if I am correctly informed, are beginning to raise doubts in the minds of people inside this House and outside. Innumerable appointments have been made in recent weeks in all parts of the country. I hope they are good ones, but I have reason to doubt that. I hope that if there be persons appointed for reasons which are not appropriate, those persons will be relieved by others who are or who can be more efficient in service. I get enormous numbers of letters, and I have representations made to me, about the matter of petrol—in a sense a small point, but behind it may lie a larger question of public policy. I am not at this moment raising the very large issue of the proper co-ordination of road, rail, and coastwise transport, which is a matter to which we shall have to give our consideration perhaps in the very near future, but I am thinking now that there are forms of road transport essential to the ordinary normal 987 life of the people of this country. There are owners of lorries conveying food and other necessaries of life who, as the thing looks now, appear to be on the point of having to run their cars or lorries into their garages.
That is a single point, and here is another, an idea that came to me this morning, about the enormous number of tractors in the countryside with no ploughs to pull. I am mentioning these just as an indication that it may be that we are not yet organising to the full the national efficiency. One hears of hotels being commandeered when other premises are equally available. I even hear of one large hotel having been commandeered by a Department that ought to know better and which is being used for administrative purposes. It is a small thing, but it looks to me as though we are creating the maximum of inconvenience without any sort of national advantage. We have now the same thing on the railway system. The railway system is far more inefficient for the general public at the beginning of this war than it was at the end of the last War. Why, I do not know. Those companies that have been asking for a square deal seem to be desiring to inflict again the maximum inconvenience on the public for no national advantage that I myself can see.
Then there is a greater question. I am mentioning this, not in any carping spirit, but because these things ought to be brought before the House, and if I did not mention them, I have no doubt that other hon. Members would. Everybody in this House is aware of the sort of wholesale, senseless discharge of employ és by firms of all kinds all over the country, and, so far as one can see, there is no national organisation for their absorption in more essential national work. The machine seems clogged. Everybody's mail bag to-day is full of letters from people who have been discharged from their work, not because of inefficiency, but because of timidity on the part of employers—men and women whose services, before we are finished with this struggle, we shall sorely need, but who are now eating out their hearts in bitterness. There is a rumour, perhaps because of the scale of this problem, that very shortly unemployment figures 988 may not be published. The Government dare not take that step. I hear of all kinds of threats and intentions to prohibit the normal statistics on which this House so largely feeds. I can realise the need for minimising the output of statistical information, but I say this, that to cut down that information will strike at the root of public confidence, and if this idea, that the unemployment figures may not be published, is being seriously considered, then I say on that matter that we must have no black-out of information. If there be substantial unemployment, let us face it. It only proves that there is available mobile labour at the service of the nation, and it is no disgrace to the Government that that should happen. It is only a reflection on the courage of those private employers who have dispensed with the services of their employés.
On the Second Reading of the Military Training Bill I had to perform a very difficult task, to eat words which I had previously uttered. I had spoken from this Box against compulsory service. I came to the House, with the approval of my party, to support general compulsory service, not an easy task, but I said then, If we are going to these lengths in these early days, what about all the other problems which are likely to arise, problems of industrial control, problems of labour conditions, problems of profiteering and problems of prices? I repeated that statement last week and no steps have yet been announced. I believe that this view is not confined to this side of the House. It is shared by people in all quarters of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer quietly gets a £500,000,000 war credit. Do we know when we are to have an emergency Budget? Not up till now. But he is not going to be allowed to skulk behind his £500,000,000 war credit, for this reason. The House and the country are entitled to know before this war drags on much longer what are the proposals of the Government for dealing with taxation and with profiteering. No legislative Measures have been taken yet to deal with profiteering. There is no Member of the House who has not in his possession examples of profiteering on a large and a small scale. Whether large or small, the crime is just as bad, except that large-scale profiteering is profiteering 989 at the expense of the State. We are entitled to know when the Government propose to bring forward proposals for dealing with this problem.
It is idle for Department after Department to say that their system of costing is so good that it is not happening. Everyone knows that is not true, and the people who are working the system know that it is not true. We are beginning to waste our resources in colossal streams and it is time now to do what we can to husband and reserve those resources for the future. Piecemeal steps have been taken for the control of prices. Even those, as far as I have been able to understand them, in consultation with the people concerned in these problems, are not to be regarded as satisfactory but, even if they were, this piecemeal method of dealing with the problem of the cost of living is completely inadequate in the present situation, and there appears, as far as one can see—there has certainly been no disclosure in the House—no general policy, no body of guiding principles by which the Government are prepared to act. I know that individual Ministries have made a response to my appeal, but we have no proposals yet regarding the effective control of the major industries of the country and the part that labour is to play.
The House and the Government must face this problem before weeks are over. There must be complete control of the vital industries of the country. Unless that happens now there will be delay in production, there will be inefficiency in production and there will be an enormous waste of the national resources, and we are entitled to have this question dealt with quickly. I know that many Members have other duties to perform, and I know the difficulties of getting about after black-out, but I am sure the House would very readily respond to any suggestion by the Government that we should sit three, or if you like four, days next week to get out of the way now some of these major problems which ought to be solved without any further delay. I do not raise the general question of supplies because, as the Prime Minister has said, these are matters which will come under discussion. My feeling—I say this without trying to create unnecessary dissension—is that there are a large number of paper schemes in existence, but my faith in them is not 990 sufficiently strong to lead me to believe that they are likely to be effective.
Our national motto in action can be expressed in one word—" efficiency." Our success depends upon our human and our material efficiency. It depends upon making the best use of our men and women and upon utalising to the full, in ways calculated to give the maximum service, the whole of our national resources. Steps along these lines should be taken without delay. This war, though there may be heroic sacrifices made by the fighting services, will be won in the last resort on the home front, and anxiety is increasing regarding the home front. I ask every Member to look into his own heart and ask himself whether he is perfectly happy about the home front and the conduct of the war on the home front. I know the answer. It has been put to me within the past few days by Members of every party. They have become increasingly anxious with regard to the home front. Our request, our demand, as a House of Commons is that this anxiety should be allayed and confidence restored by bold action, regardless of interest and prejudice wherever they may be, and designed to pool the whole of our resources—when I say the whole of our resources, I speak for my friends on this side of the House—to pool the whole of our resources, spiritual, intellectual, human and material, for a speedy and a righteous termination of the war, and I hope before long we shall have specific, definite, constructive, legislative proposals to deal with these problems which, so far, the Government have not faced with frankness and courage.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I agree with the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition that there is a good deal of uneasiness about the position on the home front, and that there is need for the Government vigorously to grapple with the situation. When last week the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition spoke and referred to the problems of profiteering, prices, the cost of living and industrial organisation and control, I supported him; and my hon. Friends and I support him still in what he said on these subjects to-day. I hops that we may have an opportunity tomorrow when we are discussing the Ministry of Supply to deal with some of the problems of industrial organisation and control, and that we shall have other 991 opportunities of dealing with that very wide range of subjects. I was glad to hear the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition take up the point which I raised last week about the inadequacy of the railway services. I am sure that the British public is perfectly willing to put up with a great deal of inconvenience for the next three or four weeks. We know that there are reasons for it, but the Government ought to know that the conditions are gravely inconvenient for the people at the present time and that they hope that within the next few weeks it will be possible to improve them, even if we have to bring back to the railways men who may be serving in other employments. There was only one small point where I differed from the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. He seemed to put all the blame on the railway companies. I am not here to defend the railway companies, and I never have, but at the moment they are very much under the control of the Ministry of Transport and I rather think that a good deal of our criticism ought to be directed to the Ministry at some early and convenient moment.
I would like to associate myself with the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition in thanking the Prime Minister for the clear and firm statement which he made to us this afternoon. He made it abundantly clear that neither the events of last Sunday—the Russian invasion of Poland— nor the Reich Chancellor's speech yesterday have deflected us by one hair's breadth from the course upon which His Majesty's Government and the British people have set their feet. I am sure that we in this House, and I believe the public outside, are grateful for every indication of increasing vigour in the conduct of the war. Let me say, in reference to something which fell from the Prime Minister in his statement to-day, that I do not believe anybody in the House, certainly none of my hon. Friends or myself, wants His Majesty's Government to be rushed into courses which their military advisers do not approve. This House cannot, and it must not try to, in the course of these Debates, choose the time and place for the decisive effort which this country has to make.
We are entitled to ask, however, for vigour in the preparations for that day when it comes, and I must continue to 992 raise a note of criticism of that phrase which we are getting—we got it once in one of the Prime Minister's previous statements and again at Question Time to-day from the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty—about the number of men whom the Departments can conveniently handle. The Departments must get themselves into a position to handle more men. In the last war 500,000 men were recruited in the first five weeks. These men were handled. My hon. Friends and I have for more than a year past been arguing that the constitution of a Ministry of Supply and the preparation of equipment ought to have taken precedence of compulsory service. We have been arguing that very strongly, but in the present crisis, now that we have the Ministry of Supply, the machinery of which we hope is beginning to turn, we ought to get the men and give them such training as we can in advance of being able to supply them with full equipment. A great deal of training was given in the early weeks of the last War to the 500,000 volunteers who then came forward. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the people who have lost their jobs, and he suggested that it was the fault of the employers. I know many people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their employers. One of my hon. Friends was telling me just now of three or four young men of 25 and 26 who were artists. Of course the school of art shut. They are men willing and anxious to serve, and they are typical of thousands of men who are clamouring to get into some job, but the Government Departments do not seem prepared to employ them. We shall get a little restive if we are constantly given this phrase about the number of people Government Departments can conveniently handle, and if we do not get some assurance that Government Departments are putting themselves into a position to handle the great number of men who want to help in the vigorous conduct of the war.
The Prime Minister referred to the rather terrible event which took place on Sunday when the Russian armies crossed the Polish frontier. I do not think that the mood of moral indignation is of the slightest use in contemplating the events and disappointments which we are undoubtedly likely to encounter during the course of this war. Peace can only be preserved upon the basis of the moral 993 law, because it is only on that basis that you can reconcile the conflicting claims and interest's of different nations. Therefore, indignation at breaches of the moral law in times of peace is natural, logical and just. Now that we are at war and that national self-interest, short-sighted or enlightened, will rule the policies of all nations, moral indignation is out of place. Moreover, we must remember this. On 17th September the Poles were very hard pressed. Poland was not finally and completely defeated and her armies were still fighting gallantly, but she was, in the words of the Prime Minister, prostrate. All was lost save honour. Poland has preserved her honour and has won the passionate sympathy of this country and, indeed, of mankind. There lies her guarantee for her future as a nation. The fact that Russia is advancing in the south and taking up positions which cover the whole frontier between Rumania and Poland, the fact that she is using for the purpose upwards of 100 divisions—rather a large quantity of troops if all they were to be employed upon was to clean up the remnants of the Polish forces—all these facts must be rather ominous from the standpoint of the general staff of the German Army.
We need cool calculation and vigorous action in every field. The country will support the most vigorous action which His Majesty's Government may decide upon. The only things the country will not stand will be inaction, limping after events and waiting for others to take the initiative, which we must seize if we are to win the war.
That leads me to the point of suggesting whether the time has not now come when we ought to consider the advisability of holding a secret Session. I do not for a moment suggest, and I am glad to see that the view has some support in different parts of the House, that any of us ought to think that the Government will be able to give us any greater quantity of information on subjects affecting our diplomatic and military activities than they could in an open Session. That is not the main case for a secret Session. Surely the main case for a secret Session is that private Members of Parliament can speak more frankly to the Government. They can give the Government information which comes to them from different sources, which it is inexpedient for them 994 to speak of in a public Session. It does seem to me that the time is coming when we ought to have a discussion with that element of freedom in it which only a secret Session could give us.
In 1918 there were, roughly, 5,000,000 men serving in the various armed forces of the Crown, there were 5,000,000 men and women in the factories, 5,000,000 in mining, agriculture and the export trades. We have all the experience gained during those years to look back upon, we have the fruits of all the study which has been given to that experience by the Committee of Imperial Defence and all its sub-committees. We ought to get this machinery for a vigorous prosecution of the war working more quickly than we are doing at the present time. The declaration of the Government the other day that we are planning on the basis of a three years war was a splendid declaration, and it was a timely one, but it would be disastrous if the impression spread that we should now settle down to a three years war and that no plans need fructify until 1942.
So far in this war it must seem to the casual or superficial observer as though Herr Hitler has had it nearly all his own way, but I agree with the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition that we must await the unfolding of events before we attempt to strike a balance sheet. It was encouraging to hear from the Prime Minister that at sea, at any rate, we are tackling so vigorously the submarine menace, and that instead of being, as we were in the last war, on the defensive, we are acting with success against the submarines which are attacking our commerce. We lament the loss of the "Courageous" and of the brave men who went down with her, but we ought not to forget that it is a remarkable fact that within two or three days of the outbreak of war all the German shipping was swept from the seas, and that our ships are now beginning to go about on their lawful occasions with increasing safety.
Hitler's armies have swept through Poland and his air force has destroyed the Polish towns and cities, yet the voice of destiny is not in the thunder of Hen-Hitler's guns, nor in the roar of the flames which rise from the Polish cities of destruction. If you would hear the voice of destiny listen for it in those 995 land-locked waters where ride a number of ships, which a man might count on the fingers of his hand, silently exercising their influence on history through myriads of smaller ships which are sweeping the German commerce from the seas and maintaining the flow of our necessary supplies of foodstuffs and raw materials. History may well relate that the silent pressure of those ships was more powerful than the triumph of Hitler's armies in Poland, but for that to be proved true His Majesty's Government must show vigour, imagination, boldness and enterprise in the preparation and employment of our armies and air forces and in every department of the conduct of the war.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us more explicitly why he desires so earnestly a secret Session? He touched upon it, but he never made his point clear.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby
With all respect to the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) I rise to intervene in this Debate because I think it would be a pity if these weekly debates upon the statement of the Prime Minister were to be confined to speeches by those two right hon. Gentlemen, and nobody else were to take any part. If nobody else is going to speak we might just as well pack up and go home. I think Members of the House have a right to be heard from time to time on these matters: in the last resort that is what we are fighting for. This is, obviously, not an occasion upon which one can go in any detail into the various aspects of policy and strategy, but I want to make two points. The first, and I think by far the most important, was raised by the right hon. Member for Caithness. I am thankful that two days at least have been allowed to elapse between the invasion of Poland by Soviet Russia and any acrimonious debate in this House; and I think that on the whole the Press of this country, with one or two exceptions, have treated that event extremely well, and with the reticence which, in my opinion, it called for. I think that any hasty judgment on that particular action would be most ill advised from the point of view of our national interests.
996 Obviously, there are many implications underlying this action of the Soviet Government; but one thing must be perfectly clear, and that is that the German success in Poland, which was spectacular and in some measure unexpected, due entirely, I think, to the overwhelming preponderance of their mechanised forces, came to the Russians with as great a shock and as great a surprise as it did to us. But the impact of that shock upon Russia was much more immediate and forceful than it was upon us; and it is understandable. I think it is legitimate to suppose that this action on the part of the Soviet Government was taken in sheer self-interest, and from the point of view of self-preservation and self-defence. After all, what effect has the action taken by the Russian troops during the last three days had? It has pushed the German frontier with Russia considerably westward of where it would have been had the Russians taken no action at all.
Therefore, I think we, at any rate, ought not to take too tragic a view of this action, and above all not to take too moral a view of it. There is nothing this country likes better than to take a high moral attitude, prematurely, before it realises the full implications of a situation; and I must say that I was rather disappointed when I heard the Prime Minister refer to the "cynical" invasion of Poland by Russia, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition go into some panegyrics about the immorality of the Russian action. In my view the Russians are now face to face with one of the most formidable military machines that the world has ever seen; and for my part, although I do not condone the Russo-German pact itself, I am thankful that Russian troops are now along the Polish-Rumanian frontier. I would rather have Russian troops there than German troops.
There is another fact which ought to be mentioned in the House of Commons this afternoon. I have not seen it referred to in the Press of this country or heard it referred to by the B.B.C. I listened in, not for the first time, to the Italian broadcast of news last night. That Italian broadcast has always struck me as having been extraordinarily good since the war broke out. The Italians have no bias against Germany; but the commentator last night said that, in every case, the Russian troops had advanced into Poland 997 under a flag of truce, and had been warmly welcomed, on the whole, by the civilian population inhabiting the villages and towns in Poland that the Russians had occupied. He added that fighting as between the Poles and the Russians had been negligible, whereas, he said, the Poles were still putting up a strenuous and gallant although sporadic resistance against the German invasion. I do not know whether that is entirely true, but it struck me as very interesting. It certainly was not referred to by the B.B.C. or by our Press. I therefore hope that hon. Members on all sides of the House will be very guarded in their references to these events.
§ Mr. Boothby
It is not quite as simple a matter as that. I would say to the hon. Minister that this is not simply a question of supporting or opposing the Poles. The Russians have long thought that a large part of Eastern Poland belonged to them.
§ Mr. Boothby
I dare say that that is what they may be after, but I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the alternative may have appeared to the Russians to be the occupation of the whole of Eastern Poland by German troops; and that, on the whole, they may have thought they would rather have Eastern Poland themselves.
§ Mr. Boothby
There is a great difference from our point of view. We do not want to go about the whole world to-day finding enemies and declaring war on them. We want all the support we can get; and I hope and believe that one day we shall get the support of Soviet Russia. I believe it is very necessary to the interests of this country and, in the long run, to the interests of civilisation. I am sorry to have digressed, but the hon. Gentleman goaded me so much that I have gone somewhat beyond what I meant to say. I will conclude my observations on 998 this subject by saying that I do not hold the view that we ought to take the action of the Soviet Government too tragically in the circumstances, from the point of view of our national interests; and that, at any rate for the time being, and until the situation clarifies itself, we should resist our national temptation to indulge in flights of morality. Let us be a little guarded in what we say, until we see how these events turn out.
Another point raised by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition struck me as of immense importance. It was really on the same theme that we should not go about the world to-day collecting enemies, but should try to collect friends wherever we can. He rightly criticised the policy of the Board of Trade during the few months prior to the War. With regard to all the things he said I could not agree with him, but I would point out that we were haggling with Poland about a credit of £7,000,000 right up to-the day the War was declared. The money was wanted to equip her with machinery and arms, but up to the very eve of the declaration of war the Treasury refused to grant it.
Take also the case of Turkey. We have been arguing about £3,000,000 worth of tobacco for the last two years, and have not yet reached a decision. That is about 5 per cent. of our total annual import of tobacco, and Turkey has been asking the Government of this country to take it. Scheme after scheme has been submitted, and every one has been turned down. It is incredible that we should still be arguing with Turkey at this moment about that £3,000,000 worth of tobacco.
These are things which can be discussed in public at the moment, in the hope of getting a settlement; but there are certain strategical matters of high importance about which the country is now very troubled, anxious and bewildered. There is the question why we were unable to bring more effective assistance to Poland in time. There may be formidable strategical reasons. But the ordinary man-in-the-street is asking himself that question all the time. There are also other matters connected with A.R.P., economics, or evacuation, which it is inadvisable to discuss in public because it all would get telegraphed over to the enemy. I, therefore, support the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the 999 Member for Caithness that we should have a secret Session. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) will confirm that, on one or two critical occasions in the last War, secret Sessions were of value, and that information given then did not reach the enemy. The present First Lord of the Admiralty, before he held his present office, also advocated secret Sessions. There are strategic problems which are exercising the minds of hon. Members, and of the country, which we cannot possibly discuss openly at this moment; and for that reason I hope that His Majesty's Government will give very serious consideration to the plea that has been made by the right hon. Gentleman for a secret Session of this House at the earliest possible moment.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to say one or two words in connection with this matter from a different point of view from any that has yet been put, but one which, I hope, will be helpful to the people of this country. I want to express the opinion that the events of the past few weeks, and especially the events of Sunday, have completely and finally demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of the policy of this Government. Austria, Spain and Czechoslovakia were sacrificed in the hope of turning Hitler from the west and against the Soviet Union. That policy has been consistently pursued by the Prime Minister and the Government; it has now recoiled upon them, and the people of this country will have to pay for that in blood and tears. For six months of this year negotiations were dragged on with the Soviet Union, which was prepared all the time to place its mighty forces along with those of France and Britain for the building up of a peace front.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In the middle of August, when Hitler had 1,500,000 men marshalled on the Polish frontier and when Danzig was under the control of Hitler, a military mission was sent from 1000 this country to Moscow. That mission had no power to decide on any question except one, that Russian aid could not be accepted for Poland.
§ Mr. Gallacher
From the beginning it was made clear that Russian aid would not be accepted for Poland. Even at that time, when all those forces were gathered on the frontier and when the Fascist campaign of lies was at full swing against Poland, Russian aid was rejected. That was an invitation to Hitler to attack Poland. Hon. Members must understand that there was no possibility of defending Poland without the Russian army. When the aid of the Russian army was refused, the only conclusion that could be drawn was that there was no intention of defending Poland, that preparations were being made for another sell-out. Right up to Saturday, 2nd September, there was the possibility of another sell-out. Not only did this country do nothing to defend Poland, but Poland itself was not organised for defence. No one can but pay tribute to the splendid heriosm of the Polish people in resisting the overwhelming forces of Fascist aggression, but where are the Polish Government and the Polish High Command? It was not on Sunday that they departed. Let anyone read an article in the "Times" of Monday, from a special correspondent. It is a very long article, and I do not want to read it to the House. There was no reference in it to what happened on Sunday: obviously it was written before Sunday, and it describes in the most striking fashion the complete demoralisation in Poland and the complete breakdown of every form of organisation. On Tuesday there was another article, which said:Moreover the state of popular feeling has changed out of all recognition during the past week. Travellers who have crossed the country during last week report that again and again they have passed motor cars and taxi-cabs carrying officers evacuating their families and transporting their luggage. That is indication enough of the deplorable lengths to which demoralisation of the army has gone.That is the condition that existed. There was complete disorganisation and demoralisation, with the Government of Poland jumping into Rumania, with the German armies travelling rapidly north, 1001 east and south-east. What is expected of the great Socialist State? Are they just to stand behind their borders and see all these millions of Russians and these masses of Jewish people coming under the domination of the Nazis, and to see the Nazis coming right up to the Russian frontier? We heard in this House from a previous Prime Minister that our frontier was the Rhine. What would any statesman or military expert suggest when a well-organised, powerful military machine was coming through a country in which there was no organisation or Government?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the hon. Member not remember that the one thing for which this Government, together with the French Government and the Polish Government, were responsible was the prevention of that very thing. Their action in preventing the only possible hope for Poland was the invitation for Hitler to march. When these great Fascist armies are coming down upon them, is the Socialist country—I do not speak of the Russian Empire, for there is no Russian Empire—to do nothing on behalf of these millions of Russians and these Jews? The Soviet troops have come in and have drawn a line across Poland beyond which the German troops dare not, must not, pass. They have drawn a line across the Rumanian frontier, beyond which the Germans may not go.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) referred to an Italian broadcast and what was said about the Soviet armies. The Soviet armies have brought peace and security to the Polish people in the territories that they have occupied. Those people are the only section of the Polish people who have peace and security. Others have none. They have no support from this country. Let those who promised support to Poland but completely failed to give any, answer to this country for the fate of Poland. Listen to what was 1002 said by William Forrest in this morning's "News Chronicle." Dealing with the occupation of the Eastern frontier, he says:Not a shot has been fired, not a bomb dropped, and villagers and townspeople freed from the terror of the air are hailing the Red Army as deliverers. Russian troops themselves are contributing to this feeling of relief by telling the people that they have come as friends and comrades. Many inhabitants in this part of Poland are Jews, whose number has been swelled by thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing before the German advance. Their joy at finding themselves saved from the fate that awaited them at Nazi hands can well be imagined.Forrest goes on to say that thousands who were fleeing into Rumania as refugees are now seeking to get back to that part of Poland, where they know they will be secure. A year ago in this House, when the Prime Minister was going to Munich, I declared that that represented the betrayal of Czecho-Slovakia, and that the day would come when the Government would have to answer for their policy. That day has come. This Government, who have contributed so much to the rise of Hitler and Fascism, are utterly incapable of extricating us from the situation which confronts us. We do not want a Government that will sell us out, but do not want a Government that will sacrifice millions of the youth of this country for any imperialist aims. We want a Government that is for a lasting peace in Europe through co-operation with the German people and the people of the Soviet Union. Such a Government must come from this side of the House, with all that is best from other parts of the House around it. We who have lived the best part of our lives will be committing a terrible crime if we sacrifice the young manhood of this country in a needless and senseless war.
A Government which has been responsible for so much ghastly blundering in the past is not capable of dealing with the situation which now confronts us. We cannot allow ourselves to commit that crime against the youth of the country. Therefore, we have to set ourselves to the task of getting a Government that can make the widest possible appeal to the people of Germany and the people of Europe as a whole. It must be a Government that has the trust and confidence of the people of this country and can secure the trust and the confidence of 1003 the people of Europe. It must be a Government which can state in plain and simple terms that for which we are fighting; a Government which will make it clear that its one desire is peace of a lasting and satisfactory character. We must get a Government of that kind; this Government will never serve that purpose. I say in this House that there is not a more discredited man in this country than the Prime Minister. The Government that he represents has got to go, and a new Government, representing the best and most progressive desires of the people of this country, must take its place. Only then can we see the possibility of an end to the dread and horror that threaten the people of Britain and of Europe.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett
I am fully conscious that Members of this House do not want to listen to long rhetorical speeches from back benchers, but there is one line of policy that I would venture to urge upon the Government very sincerely indeed. A friendly diplomat said to me before the war broke out that for the first six months of it Great Britain would pass through degradation and disaster, and would only then turn the corner towards the ultimate, and, I believe, the inevitable victory. I am convinced myself that the Government can, if it will, drastically cut down that period of disaster. We cannot deny, listening to the Prime Minister this afternoon, that the events of the last few days in Eastern Europe constitute a very serious success indeed for Germany. There is a good deal of wistful thinking in this House about the attitude of Russia. I only hope that it is true, and that these two great countries will not stand together and try to do their best to carve up Rumania and achieve further successes. For my own part, I am fairly certain that the Germans must have been very distressed indeed to discover the Russians marching into Poland, but I also find it extremely difficult to accept the moral excuses put forward by the Soviet Government.
We have, I think, to accept the possibility that, as a result of the last few days, Germany may achieve further striking succeses in Eastern Europe, and the watching world must inevitably reflect that those States which turn to the British be 1004 Empire for help are horribly apt to disappear from the map. It is not at all certain what Germany is going to do, and we cannot afford to wait to see whether this wistful thinking is accurate. There is already far too widespread a feeling in this country that the British Government should not have given a guarantee to Poland in the first place unless it was able to give more help than it has done. We all know that expressions of sympathy are not enough to restore families to their homes or to restore life to dead men.
It becomes increasingly clear that we shall not win this war unless we have the support of a great number of States which are now neutral. We all heard how the machinery for supplying information to the neutrals broke down in the first few days of the war. I think that was probably inevitable, because any country which has planned for peace is bound to be caught in difficulties when war breaks out. Personally, I am very glad that a man of the experience of Lord Camrose is now associated with the Ministry of Information, and that we have, in the person of the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), a well-trained journalist to act as a link between this House and the Ministry of Information. But I am still convinced that there are far too many people in that building —far too many important officials who have never seen a newspaper go through the press, and few of them know anything about journalists. A great number of them know nothing about foreign affairs at all. Still there is too much tendency to suppress things in Great Britain which have appeared in newspapers overseas. I was told to-day—I do not know whether it is true—of a censor suppressing an article based entirely on something taken out of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
I suggest that there is still far too great a reluctance to realise that this war is the peoples' war and that the peoples' courage can best be kept up to the mark by allowing men who are fighting for them to talk to them through the microphone or the columns of the Press. The Germans have got far ahead of us in this way. People who have achieved things in their country have been allowed to talk to the people of the country and explain what has happened. We claim to fighting for other people against 1005 tyranny. It is generally the tyrant and not the democrat who uses secrecy as a weapon. I am convinced that we shall win this war only if we tell the truth, and by seeing that the truth reaches the maximum number of people. There must be nothing about our cause of which we are ashamed or which we need to hide. That is the reason why I venture to urge upon the Government the clearest statement of that for which we are fighting at the earliest possible moment, otherwise we shall have the Ministry of Information trying to make bricks without straw.
I am told that we cannot be very specific about our war aims, but we can be specific about general aims. If we have to buy allies by incompatible promises given in secret treaties, we shall lose the peace if we win the war. Only a. few weeks ago in this House we sat through a very important Debate on the situation in Palestine, in which we found how incompatible promises given in some secret treaties during the last War have led to great misery and great trouble for this Empire. I hope that whatever happens we are not going to repeat that mistake. A few nights ago a very able American broadcaster said that England and France are like old men who are attacked by active young men determined to strip them of their property. Self-defence is a good motive for fighting, but there are many of us who would not support the war if we believed we were only fighting to maintain the great wealth of the British Empire. We are not fighting for that. We are not fighting for any motive of hatred. We are not fighting to crush Germany, and we are not fighting for the preservation of any class or even any social system. We are fighting because we can see no other way of preventing the utter destruction of those freedoms which our ancestors have gained and treasured for us, but those freedoms will be destroyed unless we can convince the mass of people in every country that we really are fighting their battle. The Prime Minister has said that we must destroy Hitlerism. May I remind the House that the only possible alternative to Hitlerism is international law? It is a terrible indictment of every one of us that those who fought in the last War must now see their sons going out to fight in another war, and it would be the worst possible indictment if those sons were being asked 1006 merely to fight only in selfish defence of the Empire's wealth.
We should make this war a crusade, and the more we make it a crusade the quicker we shall win it. After the last war we made an attempt to build up a new world order, and we certainly went nearer to it than mankind had ever gone before. Let us not be ashamed of that, but let us be rather proud of what we did. The utter futility of war as an instrument of policy is much more widely recognised than in 1914. There are to-day far more people in the world determined to build up a method of replacing war. We who want to destroy Hitlerism, want to destroy the doctrine that might is right. The last war gave us the first primitive machinery to that end, in League of Nations government. We shall have lost this war unless we improve that machinery, and we shall lose it unless we can persuade countries that are now neutral that we want justice done in future even when it is done at our expense. We must convince the neutrals by setting our own house in order. Otherwise they will listen for too much and far too readily to the claims of Germany that she is fighting the battle for poor nations and poor people against selfish reaction.
This war must be a crusade, and not just a scramble for material wealth. To make it a crusade the Government should not despise the offers of help from so-called enemy aliens, whose devotion to the freedom which we claim to be protecting is such that they have given up their homes and their nationality in order to take refuge here. The Government should take an opportunity of hurrying on self-government in India, where the Congress leaders are showing admirable readiness to subordinate their own natural desire for self-determination in India to the more important desire that the right of self-determination shall not be abolished from the world. Let no opportunity be lost of carrying out reforms in the Colonies, so that no man can honestly accuse us of hypocrisy when we say that in contrast to the Germans we govern our Colonies far more than Germany governed her Colonies in 1914, in the interests of the backward and helpless peoples. The Government should lose no opportunity of getting rid of the excessive gaps between rich and poor in this country, which give 1007 some justification to Nazi claims that our democracy is, in effect, anti-democratic.
Despite all the excitements of this break in normal and even mundane routine, there hang over the world to-day clouds which are black and heavy with tragedy. So many millions of people even far from the fighting zones are being called upon to make sacrifices almost beyond their strength. So many pathetic but careful attempts to achieve security and to escape from drudgery and poverty, have been destroyed by the outbreak of war. The punishment that will come to the men who started the war is not for us to discuss now, but it is for us to discuss now how we can make the sacrifices worth while. Finally, I appeal to the Government to adopt a policy which, by its justice, its vision, its decency and its generosity will not only bring the overwhelming support of world opinion to our side, but will enable our own people to face whatever sacrifices the war may demand of them, comforted by the firm conviction that if ever a war can be justified by results, this war will be.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
This Debate gives an opportunity to back-benchers to give expression to the currents of opinion that exist in their constituencies in different parts of the country. I desire to make a few remarks on one or two subjects in that spirit. There has been a certain amount said about the offers made by men who have not been called up, but who being of military age have come forward and voluntarily offered their services before their calling-up time arrives. It has been stressed that the Government ought to be more active in making provision for giving training to these men. Complaints have been made to me that when volunteers go to recruiting offices and offer their services before their time, instead of being treated with courtesy and consideration there have been cases where they have been told: "We will fetch you when we want you, under conscription." I hope that it will be made perfectly clear that nothing of that kind is to be tolerated for a moment and that those who come forward in this voluntary spirit should be treated with every possible respect.
There is another point which is passing through the minds of people in different 1008 parts of the country with regard to the war. They are asking themselves this question to which they have not been able to find an answer—no doubt there is a perfectly satisfactory answer—'' when is the war going to begin? Is this an appeasement war? "They approve very heartily of the dropping of leaflets in large numbers over Germany, which is a dramatic move, and we hope it will have very good results, but they would like to know to what extent bombs have been dropped on military objectives. I do not mean bombs on open towns, because that would be abhorrent to us, but many people are finding it difficult to understand, perhaps in their ignorance, why more has not been done to help Poland by action of that kind against Germany.
I am glad to see the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs present, because I want to put a point in this connection and make a practical suggestion. The matter is, no doubt, familiar to him, and it has been referred to in the Press. It arises in connection with the obvious danger that if you are bombing a military objective you may by accident hit and kill some civilians. Could not representations be made to neutral States to appoint a Commission to make inquiries, just as was done by us in the case of the Spanish war, to go into areas where a raid has taken place and present a report to both belligerents as to whether in their opinion the casualties to civilians were accidental or deliberate, both sides undertaking that no retaliation should take place until the report had been received, and that there should be no retaliation at all if the report was to the effect that the casualties were purely accidental? It seems to me that in this respect there is something worth trying. We might avoid some of the horrors inevitably associated with war by asking for the help of neutral States. I hope the Government will give the matter careful consideration and see how far anything of that kind could be done.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Can the hon. Member say whether a railway station is a military objective. Would Victoria Station be a military objective?
§ Mr. Mander
I should think that it would depend on circumstances. If you had a railway station wholly occupied in the conveyance of troops to the front, 1009 and no civilians were allowed, I should think that would be a military objective, but where the station is used by people going backwards and forwards for evacuation purposes, I should say that that would not be a military objective. There are many mixed conditions.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I read the other day of a big station in Berlin being bombed. I am told that where I live I am surrounded by military objectives, and I want somebody to give me a definition of military objectives.
§ Mr. McGovern
Would the hon. Member be in favour of both Governments entering into an agreement that during night time they should put up red lights on places which are not to be bombed and green lights on places which might be bombed?
§ Mr. Mander
1 have no doubt that the Government will give consideration to the point I have put, although I agree that it is full of difficulties. The only other point I want to put is what the Ministry of Information proposes to do inside this country. They are starting their organisation, but the whole thing at the moment is in a nebulous state. I want to utter a word of warning because I can see that if the thing is run on wrong lines very serious inroads may be made on the liberties of the people of the country. You may get a position where there was an attempt by a Government Department to control public opinion by means of lectures and propaganda, by putting forward the Government point of view and giving it prominence to the exclusion of other points of view. It may be that a situation will arise in the course of the war, when the present non-aggression pact between the Government and the Opposition will wear a little thin, and it may be necessary in the national interest to criticise the Government in their conduct of the war. It is important that public opinion should be allowed to function freely in this country. There is no necessity to build up the moral of the British people; they are perfectly capable of looking after themselves without any assistance from any Government Department. I utter these words of warning because I can see something of the possibilities which might develop in connection with this scheme, and I hope 1010 we shall see that the organisation is run on lines which will maintain the liberties and traditions of the people of this country.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
I want to say a word or two based on my experience in Canada last month. The whole world is looking at this country. Some countries see it close, others at great distances, and it seems to me that one of the most essential things we have to do is to give an impression of vitality, even if it requires using a minister of psychology. I have often thought that a minister of psychology could be used very well in these times. I was in Canada when this storm was gathering, and I knew no more than anybody else what was happening in this country. At that moment it was crucial in Canada that the Government should declare its policy towards the war, but it did not do so. There was a great uprising of sentiment, but no one spoke to Canada from here. No one spoke to Australia. I do ask hon. Members to put themselves in the position of the citizens of these countries, with their sense of detachment yet with the knowledge that they are going to be drawn in. The Ministry of Information has had a very rough time since the war started. I think they have had a difficult job to do and they have done it superbly badly. The Government will say that the Ministry must learn how to function. To my mind that is a most inadequate explanation. If you are going to produce a newspaper for next Monday's consumption you do not engage your staff on the Sunday night.
The Ministry of Information should have been in action long ago. The moment the bell went, the moment war started, we should have had a Yugo Slav-policy, and a Rumanian policy, those policies should have been worked out three months ahead. The Canadian Department should have been in charge of a man who knows Canada. To my mind there is no excuse for lunching a Ministry of Information as a war-time measure without preparation. We had an example in the last War. We had at the head of the Department a man with whom I was closely associated for many years—Lord Beaverbrook. He did the job extremely well. His first job was to publicise the Canadians, and he persuaded the world in 1011 no time that the Canadians were doing the entire fighting on the Western Front. By his efforts he advanced Press photography by five years. He mobolised the artists and the writers, and we had men like Augustus John painting for Canada, with the Government at home looking on. What effect that had on the Canadians! What pride they felt. There was Will Bishop, the most daring and successful airman. Lord Beaverbrook yanked him out and sent him to America where he inflamed the imagination of the young men. Lord Beaverbrook should have been consulted, and if possible employed. There is another young man with whose writings I do not always agree—Commander King-Hall. He has not been touched in any way by the Ministry of Information. I do not see why not. I am delighted that Lord Camrose has come in; it is a magnificent appointment, and we shall get action, but I would urge on the Government and on Lord Camrose and on the Minister of Information, not to rule out a man completely because of suitability for the task; do not make suitability for the task a complete bar to consultation and employment. I say with all humility that I might be worth consulting on Canada, but I share the distinction with these other gentlemen of not having been consulted about anything. I am not looking for a job because I have lots to do.
I want to say one more word about the British Broadcasting Corporation. There are many wars going on. There is the war of the armies, the war for headlines, the war for the neutrals, and the war for the air, as represented by the radio. We are using it badly. We should compete with Germany and Italy for the interest of the public. When Australia announced that she was going to raise a big force why did we not put Mr. Menzies on the air so that we could hear him from the Dominion? To refer again to Canada, the announcement has been made that Canada is going to raise an expeditionary force. Why not get the man responsible for that to tell us about the enormous strength that Canada will bring to us? Why do we not vitalise ourselves, why do we not appear to be alive? I urge upon the House and the Government the great necessity of a policy of appearing to be something, even if we have to wait 1012 for the actual results. There is one last thing I want to say to the House. It is that we should visualise now Europe in peace-time. We should paint a picture for ourselves. Suppose that peace came to-morrow, what would happen in Europe? Do not let us write dull things about it. Let us make it vivid, let us make it understandable by the common people of Germany and. every other country.
§ Mr. Baxter
And true. Let us make it so vivid and so realistic that it will carry conviction, and if necessary, carry policy with it. It can be done, but it must be done in bold colours, with great imagination and great sincerity. I think the one thing which the German people dread is defeat and what would happen after defeat. If we can say to them, by some method, that if this war stops, if their Government is overthrown, this is what will happen to them; if by their efforts it is overthrown, they can have at once a council of nations, they will not have to wait, they will come into the new league of nations at once on terms of equality, and that the great British Empire will really share opportunity, because we have got to share opportunity —
§ Mr. Baxter
We have got to tell it this time, and carry it through. I simply leave the matter in this way, that vitality must permeate the Government and the nation in everything they do until at last vitality develops into initiative, and no longer do we always wait to answer Germany's moves, but they say, "What is Britain going to do next? "for a change.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I do not altogether agree with the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), who seems to think that we shall win the war by showmanship. I believe that we shall win it by grim determination and by doing what we think is the right thing. I am sure that to-day every hon. Member is disturbed by what has happened with regard to Russia. That has created a position which it is very difficult to comprehend, and it makes it harder than ever for us to win the war; but in spite of all this, I hope we shall not be deterred in our 1013 determination to see it through. I speak as a back-bencher who wishes it to be known how the back-benchers feel on this matter. I consider that it is not altogether right to leave it to a few leaders to declare the position of this country. It is well that many of us should express ourselves in the House.
I agree with the policy that has been adopted. The time had come to take up the challenge thrown out by the German Chancellor; some stand had to be taken against his aggressive methods. I agree. I am more than ever determined in thinking now that we have to see it through, whatever may be the result, after reading the accounts of what has happened in Poland. We pledged ourselves that if Poland were attacked we would come to her aid. Poland has been attacked. Had the Polish people not resisted, had they been overrun easily, it might somewhat have altered our outlook with regard to them, but when we see a brave race of people risking everything—lives, homes and property—in an effort to beat down the aggressor, we should be cowardly if at any stage now we said that we could not go on with it. I hope we shall always have in our minds a memory of the valiant and heroic stand made by Poland.
Whatever the risks may be—and one can see the grave risks we have entered into, for we have to realise that there is a possibility we may not win—whatever the risks may be, if we have any honour at all, we must stand by our pledged word and must see this out to the bitter end, whatever may be the cost. The country must realise that. It must be made known to the other peoples of the world, it must be made known to Hitler particularly, that it is not only the leaders of different political parties who are calling out, but the rank and file in Parliament, backed up by the people of the country. Wherever I go, among the lowly people or the middle classes, there is the same feeling that now we have entered into the war there can be no turning back. It is as well that those to whom we are opposed, Germany, Hitler and his people, if they have any idea in 'heir minds that we shall climb down now short of being absolutely beaten, should get rid of that idea immediately.
This country is determined to see the war through. That is the feeling of all men and women in this country. I have 1014 never before known such unity of feeling in the country. I hope that when the German Chancellor speaks again he will not merely name Chamberlain, Churchill, Eden, Greenwood and Duff Cooper as being people who are leading us where we do not want to be led, but that he will mention that the whole of the British nation is determined to see this through. Much as we deplore the horrors of war, there is something against which we must fight—the loss of freedom and the suppression of nations. Rather than allow that to happen, we must see the war through, whatever may be the cost. That is the spirit prevailing in this country at the present time. It is very pleasing to see coming behind us the whole of the British Empire. They recognise what it would mean if Hitler won the struggle. It would not only be a question of Poland. One country after another would come under his sway. If we have to look forward to that, there is no sacrifice too big to be made.
I want to say now a few words about the home front. I want the Government to recognise that many people are being thrown out of work, through no fault of their own, and this is causing much ill-feeling. Employers are discharging men at the first opportunity, and at the same time those in Government and municipal jobs, however much there may be over-staffing, are not feeling any suffering as a result of the war. This is a common sacrifice that has to be made. There ought to be some protection given to those who are losing their employment. The war has come upon us through no fault of any one in this country. Therefore, regard should be had for the people who are thrown out of work. The Government ought to try to grasp the situation. They should get in touch with the employers and point out that it is intended that employers and workers should make the same sacrifices at this time, and that employers ought not lightly to discharge workpeople. What we want is the feeling on the part of the whole of the people, that they are getting fair treatment in this struggle. I am glad that Parliament is to meet every week so that we may examine here the views which we gather in our daily work in our constituencies.
The determination to see this war through to a successful issue is in the minds of everybody in this country.
1015 With that feeling in my own mind, I want to say now that, for the time being, we should not have any recriminations about the past. There will be time enough for that afterwards. There will be time enough to discuss what has brought us to this impasse when we have won our victory and established a just peace. Then we can examine the causes of this great miscarriage of justice throughout the world and deal with those who have been responsible for it. At the moment, we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle the end of which we cannot foresee, and it behoves every one of us to do all that we can, in the interests of liberty and the freedom of the world.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
The Prime Minister's statement was restrained in circumstances which would, in a sense, have justified more forcible speaking. This applies particularly to one point on which I am glad the right hon. Gentleman spoke in measured terms. I think we all feel bitter about the action taken by Russia at the week-end. That enigma of the East has returned to its old policy of neutrality, coupled with a desire to profit by dissentions and wars in other parts of Europe. That was the policy of the leaders of the Russian revolution in its early stages and all that has happened now is that Russia has gone back to that policy. We must all regret with great bitterness that Litvin off's struggle —when he was powerful and had influence in Geneva and elsewhere—for an indivisible peace, is now a thing of the past. That was one period of Russia's foreign policy—from her entry into the League of Nations up to the tragic event of the signature of the Russo-German Treaty a month ago. Russia now goes back to her old policy. We are, perhaps, paying for our past neglect of Russia and for failing to recognise her as a great Power, because no matter who may be her leaders, she is and always must be a great Power.
However this is no time for recrimination among ourselves, or, for that matter, towards Russia. Let us bury the past. This is a time for action. Whatever we may feel about what has happened in Eastern Europe in the last few days, I 1016 maintain that the real motive behind Russia's action has not yet been fully disclosed. We may surmise with some justification that Russia is anxious to prevent new Powers from appearing on the Black Sea. That has been her historic policy since the time of Peter the Great. Russia has no interest in seeing the German. Drang nach Osten going down the shores of the Black Sea. We still have a community of interest with her in that matter. We must also remember that Russo-German treaties, of which there have been a good many in the past, have not been long-lived but have generally been short-lived. That is a reflection which may afford us some comfort. Nor should we forget that the Russian word for a German means "a person whom I do not understand," which shows in the roots of Russian history there is a certain latent hostility between the two races. It is not altogether wishful thinking to say now that all may not be plain sailing for the Fuehrer in Eastern Europe.
In this conflict one of our aims must be to prevent German expansion in the East. When Czecho-Slovakia fell a year ago I thought that by maintaining good relations with Russia and by upholding Poland we might still prevent the Drang nach Osten from extending beyond the line from the Vistula to the Lower Danube but, alas, that line has now gone. Still it is not impossible that a line may be drawn from the Dvina and the Bug down to the Black Sea and the Dardanelles. If it be true that Russia is holding the Northern section of that line, Turkey is holding the Southern section and this brings me to the point of our relations with Turkey. It is in this connection that our relations with Turkey become of great importance. We must ask ourselves, what can we do to maintain and strengthen our relations with the Turkish Republic, and to prevent that country from falling, economically, under the influence and control of Germany.
There are various matters, into which I need not go in detail, which must be considered by the Government. What can we do, for instance, to extend Turkey's trade with us? What can we do, by means of credits, to uphold her currency, which, I understand is in by no means a strong position? These are methods of fighting the war which must be considered. The war is not only being fought in the West.
1017 There is the Eastern front as well. During the last war I was for a time on the Eastern Front in the Caucasus and in Galicia. Russia's action then was very important. Her military successes in Armenia combined with ours in Mesopotamia, stopped the German pressure on the East and our position then was much more serious than it is now, because then Turkey was our enemy, whereas, to-day she is our potential friend. Then we had to try to close the gap on a line from Armenia to the Persian Gulf. Now we can check the German advance much further to the West, because of our friendship with Turkey. 1 am glad that the Prime Minister's statement shows a recognition of the need to take all those factors into consideration. At least he implied so, by not indulging in any great criticism of Russia. From a moral point of view, we must all reject and detest what Russia has done, but we must not allow that to overcome our better judgment, or warp our consideration of these great military, strategic, economic and diplomatic weapons with which this war must be fought. We must remember that it is not only the guns firing on the Western front that may decide this great struggle. I am certain that one of the methods by which we shall win will be by wise diplomatic, economic, and other measures in Eastern as well as in Western Europe.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. McEntee
I want to raise a matter "concerned not so much with the war abroad as with the effects of the war at home, but I would like to say before that that I listened with some interest, if not in sympathy, to the speech that was made by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)—and, I think, Moscow. I was one of those, like many others in the House, who believed that if it were possible to make an alliance with Russia, such an alliance would have the effect of strengthening democracy in the world, and all the speakers at that time who took that point of view and all the literature issued by the Communist party at that time led us to believe that Russia, at any rate, could always be relied on to be on the side of democracy. I had some doubt about the democracy of Russia then; I have no doubt about it now. Whatever may be said about Russia at that time, whatever may have happened 1018 in Russia or with Russia at that time, it is perfectly clear now that Russia has joined with Hitler in an attempt to smash democracy. That is crystal clear. I think it is equally clear—at any rate, it appears so to me—that had it not been for the pact between Russia and Germany, had Russia stood aloof from that pact, it is very doubtful whether Germany would ever have taken the step that she did take of sending troops into Poland.
The point, however, that I want to raise is in connection not so much with the effects of the war in foreign countries, as with one of its effects here, which I consider to be of very great importance. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education come in, and I am sorry if a few words that I said to him have kept him from doing other things, but I think that everybody in the country will be concerned, as I am, with what is going to happen to that very large number of school children who, for various reasons, have not been evacuated, most of them because their parents would not permit them to go, and who are at a loose end running about in the industrial towns, particularly around London, with nothing to do and with practically no supervision of any kind and no opportunity for education. This problem must be faced. The position in the town that I represent, Walthamstow, is probably typical of London generally and of areas surrounding London, and probably of the large industrial towns as well. Roughly speaking, we have from 3,000 to 3,500 children out of a school population of perhaps 15,000, as far as it is possible to estimate them. The remainder of them have either been evacuated officially or have gone away with their parents, and it would be interesting to know what is happening to those latter children, of whom there is a very considerable number.
But I am concerned principally with the fact that every day I see in the town in which I live large numbers of school children who have not gone away, and who, as far as I can find out, will not go away unless they are compelled to go away. They are in the town with nobody to look after them, and they are getting no form of education. That may be all right for a month or two, but, as far as I know, no policy is being announced in regard to either a month or 1019 two or a year or two. I heard from an official that, as far as he knows, the schools in the areas from which children have been evacuated will not be operated until the end of the war. That was stated as the policy of the Board as far as the Board up to now had announced any policy, and if that is so, it is a very serious and tragic thing indeed. I would like the Board to make some public announcement. I do not say that they should announce a definite policy now, but I do ask them seriously to consider the position of these children and what will happen to them in the near and perhaps in the distant future. No one knows how long the war will last. It may be all over in a few months, and I should like to believe that it will be. If it is, no very great harm will come to these children, but if it lasts two, three, four, or more years, very serious harm indeed can come to these children, whose future may be irreparably damaged. For that reason I would like to hear from the Board what is in their mind in regard to these children, and I can say without hesitation that there are tens of thousands of people in this country who would like to hear that too. It is one of the problems for local education authorities to know what is going to happen.
There is also the question of the teachers. Most of the teachers went with the children, and I have had the opportunity of being in some of the areas where the children and the teachers are. I saw the provision made for many of them in regard to schooling, and very excellent provision it was, considering the circumstances in which they went away and the places to which some of them had to go. But I am concerned about those who remained at home. The schools are being emptied of the equipment necessary for the teaching staff. Much of that equipment has been and is being sent to the areas to which some of the children have gone. Personally, I have no objection to that; I think it is a very good thing. Many of the teachers have not gone, however, but are still about, some of them for very good reasons, some of them for not such good reasons, it may be, but they are still in the areas from which their children have been evacuated, and what is to be done in regard to them? Are we to continue to pay them, until the war is over, for doing nothing? Are we 1020 just to use them, as we are in Waltham-stow, to try and keep or get the schools into some kind of order? That is a job for only a very short time, and I want to know whether in a month from now, in six or 12 months from now, we are to continue to pay those teachers at home. If not, what directions have the Board to give to the local education authorities in regard to them? Have they to be transferred to other jobs, and, if so, to what jobs? What qualifications have they that can fit them for any other job? Is there, as I think there is in some areas, really a surplus of teachers? I went into areas last week where there were almost as many teachers as children, and I went into other areas where there was a shortage of teachers. That has to be righted, and doubtless it will be righted in time, but I would like to know what the Board are going to do in regard to that problem of bringing them again into contact with the children. as they would be in normal times, in reasonable numbers. I should like some answer with regard to these problems, not because I am personally very anxious about them but because the authority that I represent and, no doubt, many other authorities in towns all over England, particularly around London, are very anxious to know what the Board is going to do in regard to the teachers and children left behind and in regard to the future of the teachers who have not gone away.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Cassells
I do not rise in any spirit of criticism, because I am satisfied that the House will more or less unanimously endorse the opinion, as far as policy is concerned, expressed by the Prime Minister and the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. But there was one statement by the Prime Minister which struck me particularly, with regard to the advice which may ultimately be given by military experts. I cannot, of course, at present forecast what was in his mind but I trust that, at any rate, from this House to-night there will go the message to all peoples that this war is being waged at the instance of democracies against the negation of every liberty that the human mind can possibly conceive, and that we in this country will never be satisfied unless and until the spectre of Hitlerism and all that it stands for is obliterated from the map of Europe for all time.
1021 I have risen to supplement, as best I can, what I consider the very proper point put by the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) when he rather suggested that it would not be a bad plan to have a ministry of psychology. The reaction of the human mind, not only in this but in all countries, and particularly in Germany at present, to information which we are capable of conveying to them is of paramount importance. The hon. Member referred particularly to his experiences in Canada. During July and August I was in the United States, and the impression that I formed was precisely the same as the hon. Member formed on his visit to Canada. Generally speaking, the people of America are behind us, but what they are demanding is necessary information from this country. They have been looking from a lead from us but, unfortunately, up to the present that lead has been sadly lacking. The two particular comments with which I was repeatedly faced were these. What really is happening in Europe? What is the background of all this chaos that is going on? I endeavoured to convey what little information I had, and it was accepted I believe both by Republicans and Democrats in an honest, decent spirit.
The other thing that struck me was that in the minds of many even well-advised American people there was the belief that the policy of isolationism would be a successful one as far as they were concerned. On more than one occasion I was told by well-advised people that the United States were capable of taking on the rest of the world. Can we in this House do anything at all to dissipate that view point? We may laugh at it, but that opinion definitely exists, and it is the duty of all of us to make clear to them that the destiny of the United States is the destiny of Europe. How can it be done'' The hon. Member very properly suggested that we were not making as much use of the radio as we could. It is galling to know that every night at 12.20 Berlin goes on to the wireless speaking to America and conveying to them German psychology. What are we doing to dissipate that information? One hopes, of course, that that information is falling upon barren ground, but sometimes one rather doubts that. My suggestion—I consider it a very proper one—is that we should retaliate in the same way, though 1022 not in the same spirit, by conveying to the people in the United States what the true background is as far as European politics are concerned. I am satisfied that, if we do that, the American people will become alive and alert to the serious situation which faces us and which, I am satisfied, unless they are alive and alert to it, will face them within a short period of time.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan
It is particularly sad to listen to speaker after speaker saying the only thing that matters is that the war should be fought until we destroy Germany. I want to know if all we are now expected to do is to fight on until we are all exhausted, until millions of our youth are slaughtered and civilisation as we now know it is dissolved. I have vivid recollections of the last war and I remember the slogan of the "knock-out blow." It is common knowledge that peace could have been negotiated in 1916, and we should have saved millions of lives and thousands of millions of wealth. We are now faced with the position that Poland, which we went to war to support, is out of existence and that we are still expected to carry on and destroy Germany. Having endured the past week, I think we can have very little confidence in the military authorities in this country. How they could stand aside, how they could encourage Poland to put up a resistance to Germany when it was common knowledge that we could not render her any assistance is a rather disquieting feature in regard to the prolongation of the war.
The aim of the people of this country and of the Government should be towards finding out how we are to get out of the war as easily as possible, with the loss of as few lives as possible, and able to maintain the fabric of our civilisation. The people of this country have no responsibility at all for this war. They know nothing about the diplomacy which led up to it. They are merely tools, merely factors, and when people rise one after another in this House and say that the common people of this country are determined to fight this war to a bitter end, they are merely talking for themselves. They are unable to understand the minds of the ordinary workers. War brings in its train many other things, and we have had a beginning. We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the 1023 home front, and the Government will be wise if they pay some attention to it.
It is common knowledge that important essentials of life are rising in price and that the poorest of the people are already being exploited. As a miners' leader I have had more work this week than in the last ten attempting to keep miners at work in view of the fact that the commodities they require are rising in price while their wages, instead of increasing, are tending to be reduced. If the Government are determined to wage this war they should pay some attention to the question of the miners. We have had an intimation pretty quickly that transport is to be controlled. There has been no intimation yet that mining is to be controlled. We are told that the country will require 30,000,000 more tons of coal than were produced in peace time. How is it to be got? I do not know. In mining we are rationalised to the limit and there is no body of unemployment in the mines. I do not know where people can be put into the mines just now. I have no doubt that before long, the same thing will take place as in the last war, when representatives of the mining industry were brought to London to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
It is the height of stupidity that we should be rushed into this matter. I was very anxious in the days before the war to know how assistance was to be rendered to Poland. I went about this House and asked military people how it was to be done, but not one of them could offer an opinion. As far as I can understand, the only opportunity for assisting Poland was to send bombing planes, but that was refused. This meant that we stood callously aside, as we did in 1914 when we saw Belgium destroyed. Poland in this instance was the victim and it is now destroyed. In this plethora of madness, in the pursuit of this war, I want to see some sense and reason prevail, and if any opportunity should present itself of getting us out of it, with honour if you like, it should be done at the earliest possible moment.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not rise to continue the Debate, but we are working here 1024 under abnormal and unusual conditions and this discussion has taken place on the Motion for the Adjournment. Various points of considerable importance have been raised by the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal party and a number of back-benchers, and it would seem to me reasonable and fair, when a discussion of this kind takes place, that there should be some reply from the Government at the end of the Debate. I hope that those who are on the Front Bench will convey that to the Prime Minister and the Chief Patronage Secretary.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)
I understand that an arrangement was made through the usual channels that careful note should be taken of the matters that were raised in the Debate, but that, as to answer in detail the various points that are properly raised on the Motion for the Adjournment would involve a Minister from each of the Departments being here, the course was considered to be acceptable of taking careful note of the points raised and in due course of making statements about them.
§ Mr. Maxton
The information through the usual channels did not reach me. I do not think that the taking of notes by an Under-Secretary is a proper substitute for having a responsible Minister present —not a Minister from every Department, but one responsible Minister—who could answer criticisms on behalf of the Government. I hope that the Solicitor-General will convey that to his right hon. Friend.
§ Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.