§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
The Debate which is now entering its second day takes place in circumstances very different from those which prevailed when the date was originally fixed. There have been changes in the Government. Two members of the War Cabinet have left the Ministry altogether. It will always be remembered, I hope, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) at the outbreak of war spoke the mind of his party and of the nation with great decision and eloquence. Lord Beaverbrook has partisans and detractors of equal warmth. He rendered two great services to the country. At the time of the Battle of Britain his genius manifested itself in an infinite capacity for making planes. Later, at a time when some doubt prevailed, by a swift and satisfactory agreement, he gave practical evidence of our solidarity with Russia. In the place of these two Ministers we have my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), whose inclusion has given such widespread satisfaction. He will maintain that close and intimate connection between Parliament and the Executive without which the public business cannot be smoothly conducted, and in the absence of which we are apt to drift periodically into political crises. It is not, however, only as a piece of political machinery that he must be regarded. He has a point of view of his own, and we shall watch with expectancy the effects of the leavening of new ideas. The changes have been made, and they carry good will from every quarter of the House. The changes have been made, but the war goes on. They arise from a 231 series of reverses which are felt to be due not to the preponderance of the enemy alone, but to weaknesses in our own organisation which it should be possible to eradicate.
We have lost part of our Colonial Empire and with it a very important source of supply. It is strange to reflect that we who had almost a monopoly of rubber production should now have to, rely on a substitute to be fabricated in the United States. The Japanese have forced an entry into the Indian Ocean. They will be able to send their ships, to interfere with our communications to the Middle East, to India and to Australasia. This imposes upon us a reconsideration of our shipbuilding programme. In a speech of great candour in another place yesterday the Colonial Secretary admitted that it was difficult to explain the loss of Singapore. We did not anticipate it. We have lost an Army which, for a non-Continental Power, is of considerable dimensions.
How have these misfortunes occurred? Are the reasons military? Partly, of course, they are, but not entirely. Eyewitnesses' accounts show a remarkable concurrence. Our Colonial administration left much to be desired. It had not enlisted the co-operation of the people, nor had it assigned to them the duties which they should perform in the event of emergency. There was a lack of imagination and foresight. It would be unjust, however, too exclusively to blame those on the spot. May it not be that our Colonial administration is too centralised, that its machinery has become too cumbrous, with the result that those on the spot have been shorn of initiative and thus, when the need arises, are reluctant to rely on their own judgment?
This is an opportunity for us to adopt a new outlook in our Colonial policy, and I hope that the advent of this reconstructed administration will signalise it. It is also noteworthy that the Malays, unlike the Filipinos, do not appear seriously to have resisted the invasion of their homeland. It is distressing to us that they were spectators of an occurrence which normally arouses a deep and natural resentment. To some extent the same phenomena are noticeable in Burma. There also the military operations are 232 hampered by a lack of enthusiastic co-operation on the part of the Burmese. Would it not be possible to make them feel that we are fighting not our battles, but their own? If a more zealous sentiment could be made to prevail, the Japanese would never secure a hold on the country and would be challenged at every stage, as is the case in Russia, by guerilla operations.
Burma occupies a strategic position of the utmost importance. It was thought that from there we could attack the Japanese lines of communication in Malaya. What a pity it would be if we suffered further reverses and were unable to join the native population with us in order to hold a position of such potentially offensive value. It may, however, be too late to take action of the kind which I suggest in that country. In India, however, there is still time. Chiang Kai-shek has made a long and arduous journey to India. He has been in touch with the population and with all the leaders. Arising out of his experience, he has made recommendations to us to which, I trust, the Government will promptly respond. He has thought it possible to carry India with us by bolder and more comprehensive proposals than have yet been made. I trust that some pronouncement upon that subject may conveniently be made.
Such imponderable considerations have a decisive effect upon the military conduct of the war. They may determine success or failure. What are the factors in that sphere which are constant in all our reverses? In the first place, there is at the outset of every military campaign an under-estimate of the enemy and an over-estimate of ourselves. If the campaigns of this war be taken in sequence, that, almost without exception, will be found to prevail. If you do not accurately estimate the enemy, then your whole judgment on the war must inevitably be wrong and your preparations must be inadequate. This was certainly the case in Crete, in Malaya, in Singapore, in Burma, but more particularly in Libya. I think it is necessary that we should make a much more sober estimate of the task which confronts us.
Another factor which is constant is the inadequacy of the air support for the other Fighting Services. That inadequacy is, in principle at any rate, no longer due to shortage of machines. We have 233 reached parity with Germany, and we were recently given, in another place, the most astonishing information that over 9,000 aeroplanes had been sent out of this country in the year 1941, at a time, be it remarked, when 200 aeroplanes would have made all the difference to our fortunes in Malaya and Singapore. It is not a shortage of aeroplanes; it is a failure to provide the types which are required. Neither the Navy nor the Army has the types which are required. In the Navy there is a lack of shore-based torpedo bombers. In the Army there is a lack of many kinds of machines. I am sure that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Rugby (Captain Margesson)—whose absence from the War Office I, personally, deplore, for he loved the Army and served it with a genuine faith—would confirm the statement that there is a lack of the requisite types of machines.
There is no dive-bomber. The Air Ministry has repeatedly told us that the dive-bomber is a very vulnerable aeroplane. Well, all weapons are vulnerable if you have on the spot the right kind of counter-weapons with which to meet them. But the Germans and the Japanese have blasted their way to victory with the dive-bomber, and every day we may read of its successes. There is no aeroplane armed with cannon sufficiently powerful to explode tanks. There is an inadequacy of machines of the right kind to carry parachute troops, and there are not enough transport-carrying aeroplanes such as the Germans employ to bring quick succour to their armies, nor are there gliders enough. This is the age of air-borne armies, yet our Army is constantly being put in a false position by this persistent omission to provide it with the instruments without which it cannot achieve success. Consequently, the Army tends to become unpopular and, as a further consequence, tends, to some extent, to be demoralised.
The principle should now be accepted, and I would like the Government to avow it, that no Army should be sent anywhere without its adequate quota of aeroplanes. For the lack of that you throw away many irreplaceable divisions—73,000 men in Singapore, 10,000 to 12,000 in Hong Kong, to say nothing of our other losses. For the sake of a few machines you lose the production of your factories in artillery, in rifles and in all the other equipment of war. Can the principle not be 234 accepted by the Government that the Army should have its own aeroplanes? [An Hon. Member: "Under its own command."] I do not wish to make a quarrel about the command, but it seems to me advisable that the Army should have complete control, for, if it has not complete control, it will never obtain the types required and the machines will never be there on the day when it is desirable that they should be present.
I call the attention of the House to this matter. The Royal Air Force, of course, has rendered imperishable service, but on the Air Council there is no representative of the Army or of the Navy, and consequently the balance of argument in favour of an Air Force which can perform long-distance functions is overwhelming and almost unchallenged. Is it not time for us to reconsider our long-distance bombing policy? We have had evidence at Brest that you may, for 10 months on end, raid an important harbour, day after day, and frequently at night, drop an incalculable tonnage of bombs upon it and yet find, at the end, that the ships you have sought to destroy can make their escape under their own power at 30 knots. It does suggest that we are putting too much of our energy and too much of our man-power into the long-distance bombing plane. For every one of these planes, which, incidentally, cannot operate throughout the whole year, you might build, I am told, six fighters. Unless the Army is given its own machines, under its own control, I do not think we can expect military successes.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworth)
Was the right hon. Gentleman in favour of these things when he was Secretary of State for War?
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
What has that to do with it? There have been two years of experiment and discovery since. There is no sense in such a question as that.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I think that since I left the War Office I have made no reference whatever to any matter which interested me while I was there. My own personal views should not be made a subject of controversy. But I can answer that question with an unqualified affirmative. I advocated this with all the fervour at my command, but it must be remembered that then we had had no actual ex- 235 perience of war. It is in the light of that experience that I am advocating it now, and I am sure that everybody who has served at the War Office would concur, without reservation.
The same considerations apply to the Navy. It seems to me, in that case, that to divide control and to put reconnaissance for the Navy into one department, and the active operations into another, is bound to give rise to misfortune and to misunderstanding. We are having an inquiry into the passage of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" through the Channel. That inquiry would not be necessary to determine responsibility at a particular moment as between the Navy and the Air Force, if both Services were under a single command. The inquiry would not be necessary at all, because you could affix the responsibility. Why are these questions never settled? They have been agitated in my time, and they have been under consideration ever since. I will tell the House why they are never settled. We are building up a system of government under which individual responsibility is being reduced to a minimum. No one knows in any given set of circumstances where it is to be placed, whether on the Admiralty or on the Air Force, on this Minister or on that Minister. There is a complete interlocking of committees, and these grow with the passage of time. Thus you never have improvisation in our war system. The Japanese seize sampans and rafts, and they move formations with great rapidity, but if we wish to move divisions of the Army, very careful consideration has to be made of shipping and all other matters, and delay is caused which results very frequently in the missing of an opportunity. I think we should restore spontaneity to our Government and give to Ministers the responsibility which traditionally they should have.
Of course, there is no man more ready to assume responsibility than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He described to the House yesterday the system by which defence is conducted in this country. Every Prime Minister will naturally establish the system which suits him best, and I would be the last to wish to make a point of criticism. I do, however, say that two principles should prevail, and if they are broken danger may well result. The Chief of Staff is the 236 adviser of his own particular Minister, who takes the responsibility to Crown and Parliament for all that transpires in his Department. In their corporate capacity the Chiefs of Staff advise the War Cabinet. When they are called upon to give an opinion upon a military subject, it seems to me desirable, wherever the practice can be followed, that they should meet alone without the presence of any Minister. I only assert those two principles. There may be exceptions to them, but, generally speaking, a lack of observance of them and the introduction of a political element into military considerations may have unfortunate results.
Finally, there is our economic policy. The objectives must be the maximum production and the minimum consumption, in order to release labour and shipping and provide the maximum of weapon power for our Fighting Services. Events will impose many cruel necessities upon us, but we have not yet of our own volition accepted the implications of total war. Those commodities which are not rationed should be licensed. Half of the expenditure of every person, on the average, is laid out upon unrationed or unlicensed goods. If you do not license goods which are not rationed you do not compel the possessors of those goods to use up their own reserves, and consequently you make demands upon labour for the replacement of those goods, in the shops. Industry is as much, or should be as much, a fighting arm as the military services. Each individual industry should be integrated. The firms should be mobilised in the service of the State, and no private consideration whatsoever should prevail. There must, however, be—and there is not—a fair and adequate scheme of compensation for all those on whom the rigours of war impose loss. Such a system does prevail in Germany and should prevail here. The hardships of individual shopkeepers and others who are displaced should be recognised. But industry must be brought into the service of the State without any qualification, and there must be no using up of articles which have to be replaced by the use of labour.
If the reconstructed Government can make announcements upon these lines of policy, I am sure that a new zeal will communicate itself throughout the whole nation and the whole Empire. The spirit 237 of the people and of the soldiers wants to be lifted up by some clear announcement of policy under these heads. This is the opportunity. We welcome this Government, but it has to stand or fall by the manner in which it meets the needs of war.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The House has listened to a speech of great interest and importance, and it follows a Debate in which right hon. and hon. Members have had an opportunity of voicing the anxieties that are felt throughout the country at recent events. It is fortunate that in this House we are able to give expression to those views. The country is perfectly reasonable. It realises the tremendous difficulties with which the Government have to deal. It does not ask for the impossible. It is quite aware that this country has responsibilities all over the world. But what people are concerned about is this: There is a suspicion that not enough use has been made of opportunities and of such resources as are available. One lesson of recent events in the Far East is that this country must realise how vital are sea power and air power to the preservation of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I hope that is a lesson which the country will remember, not only for to-day but for the future. The country wants, as far as it is possible, to be given accurate information; it does not want to have failures glossed over, or too little weight to be placed on what has taken place. For this reason, it is not satisfied with the sort of explanation that has been given about the effects of the escape of the three ships from Brest. That rather looks like that under-estimation of the enemy about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has complained. I think that before the country was told that we were better off as a result of the ships being wherever they are rather than at Brest, we ought to have waited to see what use the enemy makes of the new position of the ships.
The country is no longer moved by the argument that we are better Off to-day than we were after Dunkirk. It was true that we were then alone, whereas now we have powerful Allies, but the country did not at that time realise its danger, as I think most people do at the present time for this reason: After Dunkirk and the fall of France we felt that the blame was 238 not ours and that we had been let down by France, whereas to-day, unfortunately, the fear which is weakening our confidence is that a great deal of what has happened is due to inefficiency on our part. The country accepts the high strategic policy of the Government as a whole, agrees that the maximum possible help should be given to the Russians, and also approves of the Libyan campaign, but it asks that in the execution of that policy there should be efficiency. What the country wants is better organisation and more planning. It is this dissatisfaction which is, no doubt, responsible for the changes which have recently taken place in the Government. Like other Members, I welcome them, and particularly the relief which the new set-up makes possible for the Prime Minister, whose pre-eminence we all recognise. But we are under no illusion as to what may happen as a result of the changes in the Government. A change of Government in itself can perform no miracles. We shall judge this Government by its fruits; what we ask of it is a more efficient prosecution of the war and a greater drive, and, in particular, we want to see that drive and that organisation in matters of production.
I have had an opportunity in recent weeks of going through a number of factories. I have met the representatives of the managements and of the men, and I have found on both sides the greatest desire to produce all they can. But I have also found a sense of frustration. They feel that they are not doing all they would like, and they find something inconsistent between the demands made upon the workers to work harder and the fact that in factory after factory, for one reason or another, machines at times are standing idle and men are unable to go all out. I would suggest that the new Minister of Production gives his attention to certain matters which may have some effect in meeting the present production situation. At present there is too much control over production from Whitehall. We need greater decentralisation, and for that reason I hope that the Committee whose appointment was announced last week will quickly get to work. The Regional Boards require much more authority. They know the industrial capacity of their areas, and it should be left to them to decide where contracts 239 should be allocated, so that some factories are not overloaded while others are not working at full pressure. At the same time men and materials should be allocated by way of priority to those factories with the best output. In some factories, owing to better machinery and better organisation of one kind or another, one gets better results, and it should be the object of the Ministries concerned with production to see that these factories, so far as is possible, are kept working on day and night shifts. In that way we shall be able to obtain the maximum and most economical use of men and plant.
Another factor which I hope will be taken into consideration is the present impossible position of Ministries having direct contact with thousands of firms. It would be very much better if regional organisations were established to bring many of these firms together for the purposes of production, thereby reducing the numbers with which Ministers would have to deal. It is also important, in order to get the best possible spirit in the factories, that every possible encouragement should be given to the establishment of either works councils or production inquiry committees. Workers would then feel there was a spirit of co-operation and partnership, which would have a very considerable effect in improving production.
§ Mr. Lipson
I have had an opportunity in going around factories to meet representative members of these committees, and on one of these occasions the representative of the management has been present at the request of the workers themselves. It has been quite obvious, from the experience I have had, that the workers have some very valuable and helpful ideas on production, that they appreciate the mere fact that they are consulted, and that they can bring the difficulties which are holding up production before the management and, at least, satisfy themselves whether the management is to blame or not. In many cases it turns out that the factors which are holding up production are beyond the responsibility of the management. In any case it creates a much better feeling in the factories. These councils have purely advisory 240 powers, and I consider that everything is to be gained by putting these men in a position where they can feel they count, and that the old idea of the management saying "We are here to do the thinking, and you are here simply to work" is out of date. They could feel, too, that this new spirit in the factories will survive the war and will perhaps be one of the best hopes upon which we can build our ideas of a better world and a better understanding between all classes in future. We want to increase the quantity of production, of course. We want more ships, aeroplanes, tanks and guns, but I hope that in production the need of the user will be taken into account and that we shall not think that quantity is the only thing that matters. We have seen in Libya and in other campaigns that it is important not only to have sufficient equipment, but equipment of the right kind. Therefore, the concentration should be not purely on quantity but also on quality.
People generally feel that we have reached a critical stage of the war. They have no desire to be unfair to the Government, but what they ask is that the strong urge which they all feel to make the best contribution to victory should be given by the Government the right kind of leadership, so that the sense of frustration can disappear. The Government have been asked a great many questions and have been given a good deal of advice. With much of that advice I find myself in agreement. I particularly agree with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Professor Hill) yesterday about the need for new ideas with regard to our weapons of war. The important thing is that there should be a lead from the Government, that the people should have the feeling that there is organisation and planning, that we are not just blundering from one situation into another, and that we do look ahead and try to make the most of our resources. It is not sufficient to say that we have all these resources; we must be determined to make the best possible use of them and to show that in practice.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Some hon. Members in the Debate have suggested that in their view there is no very great change in the Government. I beg to differ. It must have been very difficult for the Prime Minister to make 241 up his mind to produce such drastic changes. Personally, I much regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not in the new War Cabinet. Each of us has certain ideas as to what changes might have been made, but I think that the Government has been reformed in such a way that those who have been critical of it in the past should be prepared to give it an entirely clean bill and say, "Here at last we have a chance; we have not only new personnel, but also we may have new methods and new principles behind the Government." The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies), the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) and others have emphasised the need for equality of sacrifice. That has now become an accepted national slogan. I am sure that we shall never get the full national effort until we have every man and woman in the country conscripted and given a basic minimum wage, with a system of bonuses according to the responsibilities borne. It is not good enough to go on expecting people to make sacrifices when they see that their next-door neighbours have certain advantages they have riot, and so on. I believe that the new Government have a great chance of providing that spirit of enthusiasm to the disappearance of which almost every Member who has spoken in the Debate has drawn attention.
I do not pretend to have special knowledge of industrial questions, but I would venture to put forward for the consideration of the House one or two suggestions about the internal situation. If the muddles to which hon. Members have referred continue and we can no longer blame the personnel of the Government, the next victims of criticism will be the Civil Servants. I suggest that the Government should as far as possible meet that criticism in advance by reviewing the extent to which the dead hand of the Treasury impedes the war effort. I am told that in all sorts of inter-departmental committees you will generally find a person, probably a not very important looking member, but the member to whom everybody else defers, the man who is treated with the utmost awe and respect; and he is always the representative of the Treasury. In peace-time it is essential that there should be the strictest control of public money, but I suggest that in war- 242 time officials of the Treasury are not the best people to decide whether the national effort can be improved by an economy here or an economy there. The Select Committee on National Expenditure should be treated with greater respect than it is. That sort of committee, which can judge expenditure by keeping political considerations in mind, is the sort of body to which we should pay much more attention than we do. Then I want to repeat a suggestion which I have made before, because suggestions have to be put forward a great number of times, even if they are good, before they are accepted. I still think it would be worth while for the Government to have a small department to which any member of the community could send suggestions for furthering the war effort. All Members get suggestions sent in by constituents and people they have never heard of. A great number of those suggestions are bad, but some are good, and it is difficult to know in every case to what Department to send them. If there were a small Government office entirely to deal with proposals sent in by members of the community, it would do away with a lot of the feeling of frustation among the people.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) spoke of the development of works committees. I am not competent to judge of them, but I hear many complaints of factories where there is no suggestion box or any method whereby a worker in the factory can be sure that his ideas for furthering the efficiency of the factory can be properly considered. It is an extraordinary conception- of total warfare if there is not, perhaps with a system of bonuses, proper machinery whereby anybody working in a factory can put forward his ideas for the improvement of the factory without any fear that he will be penalised by the people on top for doing so. I would also suggest that the Ministry of Supply or the Ministry of Aircraft Production should have flying squads consisting of people chosen not necessarily for technical efficiency, but because they are ordinary human beings with common sense, who could go round wherever there was a report of a disturbance or of discontent in a factory and work is being hung up for some reason. There was that lamentable story about the Betteshanger Colliery. Long before it came to a head a flying squad should have 243 gone down and found out what the trouble was and tried to settle it. It is particularly important, because suddenly machines in factories have to stand idle. Time after time the workers in those factories are not told why one week they are asked to double their production and then the results of their extra work are left to rust on the scrap heap because there has been some change higher up. If flying squads had gone down to explain why a factory suddenly had to stand idle, time after time you would have got rid of a great deal of this discontent.
We still under-estimate the miracle that this country came through after Dunkirk. We all have examples whereby efficiency could be increased, but I think we still punish the Government sometimes unduly because they cannot send all the armaments that we want to every field of battle. When I listen to Debates I think that amateur strategists, like myself, sometimes talk with too little knowledge of military affairs. I think we are right on matters of production and so on to go on and harass the Government as much as we can if they are not doing their job, but in all these military matters we must still keep in mind the miracle that we were still on our feet after the defeat of Dunkirk. The Minister of Information would be doing a useful job if he got together a collection of newspaper articles published in foreign countries after Dunkirk, in which the people in all those countries took it absolutely for granted that this country was defeated. It would be a stimulating publication to us at present, when we are all depressed by the series of very great military disasters.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Does not the hon. Member think the country is tremendously stimulated by the changes in the Government?
§ Mr. Bartlett
It is a very great change on the surface, and I hope it will justify the stimulus that it has given to the people.
May I make one or two suggestions about the foreign side of things? In view of the shortage of military weapons from which we are still suffering it is vitally important that we should do what we can in political warfare. We still do not do anything like as much as we could. I do not believe that the country, I am not 244 sure that the Government, have yet woke up to the effect of the changes produced by the intervention of Japan, Russia and the United States, inasmuch as now in two of the great theatres of war, in the Far East and in Europe, we have a vastly preponderating man-power at our disposal, and I am not sure that we are making the full use that we could of it. The Government have never been given sufficient credit, to my mind, for the risks that they ran in sending tanks and aeroplanes to Russia. We do not know to what extent they have been responsible for the disasters at Singapore and elsewhere, but it was a very courageous decision.
But I wonder whether the Prime Minister is right when he talks about taking the offensive in 1943 or 1944, because it seems to me very probable that this year either Russia will defeat Germany or Germany will defeat Russia, and if Russia defeats Germany, I think it would be a very disastrous thing for this country that we should not have played a part which justified our raising our voice in the peace settlement; and if the appalling thing should happen that Germany defeats Russia, it is vitally important that no one on the Continent should be able to say that the defeat had come about in part because we had not done everything we possibly could to help the Soviet Army. When I came back from Russia four months ago I thought it was absurd to talk about opening up a Western front, but now I am not so sure. I hope the Government, despite the shortage of armaments, will realise that in some cases rashness is the best defence and that we dare not allow the war between Germany and Russia to come to a conclusion this year and more or less stand aside from it. If we were to do that, we would lose the confidence not only of the Soviet Union but of all the occupied and defeated countries in Europe.
As to the Far East, again there is this question of man-power. I do not believe that we are yet doing anything like as much as we could to get the active help of people in India and China. We still under-estimate the effective way in which the Japanese are able to carry on propaganda among these peoples in Asia by claiming that they are turning the white man out of Asia. I believe we have to realise, whether we like it or not, that the war is 245 going to be won by people whom our ruling classes in the past have treated with indifference, dislike, or sometimes fear, the citizens of the Soviet Union and the people of China and India.
§ Viscountess Astor
When the hon. Member thinks of those marvellous people who have been in India for 200 or 300 years, is it really right to talk like that?
§ Mr. Bartlett
It remains a fact that the national effort of India in the war is nothing like as great as it should be. It remains a fact that we have not been able to inspire them with the determination that Japan shall be defeated at all costs, and I hope very much that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to give us some hope about It seems to me that Chiang Kai-shek gave us a new chance. When he expressed regret that India was not playing a greater part, I do not think he was reproaching only the British Government but elements in India as well. It is vitally important that on our side we should seize this last opportunity. I do not see why we should not enlarge the Governor's Executive Council at once by bringing in representatives of the predominating parties. We have to be careful, because the Army is to a great extent a Moslem Army, and we must not do anything to make the Moslems feel that they are getting a raw deal. But unless we really make up our minds that the war will be won by people whom we have not treated as equals in the past, and entirely alter our attitude in the future, I do not think we shall come out of the war victorious.
I believe that this new Government does represent new trends in this country, does understand how throughout the whole of the country the vast mass of people are tired of all the little details of difficulties in India and so on, and are prepared to accept these people as our friends. Unless we do that, we shall lose. Therefore we must not do that.
§ Major Vyvyan Adams (Leeds, West)
I very much hope that the Government will heed much of what has fallen from the lips of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett). Like many speeches which have been already delivered in this Debate it was original, and this Debate has been remarkable so far both for its range and its scope. I heard many of yesterday's speeches, but it is only upon three or four of them that I 246 wish to say anything to-day. There was one in particular which was uttered by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) which was, no doubt, sincere in conception but possibly might be pernicious in effect. The hon. Member persistently, though I doubt not unwittingly, perverted the Christian message. I am sorry that the hon. Member is not in his place, but his speech is very typical of a certain condition of mind, and I think it is legitimate for me to answer it. That speech, so passionately delivered, might have been appropriate three and a half years ago as an attempt to defend Munich. The hon. Member argued that hatred of the Germans was an artificial emotion engendered by the Press. I would remind him if he were here that for a very long time, far too long as it has proved for the safety of civilisation, many powerful politicians did all they could to trust our present enemies and to avoid hating them. But none of the free gifts of the security and property of others, culminating in Munich, destroyed Nazism nor, to quote his own language, did the sermons preached against it by the hon. Member for Westhoughton.
If Nazism had not been resisted in 1939, undoubtedly by now it would have covered the face of the earth. War, said the hon. Member, is wicked, and with that all of us agree, but it would be infinitely more wicked to shirk the responsibility of resisting that Nazism which the hon. Member and others who agree with him so cordially detest. I wish somebody in really high authority would utter these sentiments, which I have tried to deliver—and utter them often. Never before have Christian communities been summoned to a finer crusade than this war in which we are now engaged. One hon. Member said yesterday that we did not hear enough from responsible persons of full-blooded patriotism. With that I respectfully agree, and I think we ought not to be silent upon the spiritual values that are engaged and involved in our struggle.
I pass to something a little more tactical. It refers to the speech delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), which he is no doubt reading at this moment. He urged the Government to make safe against air attack the base from which our fleet operates. Sir, there is no secret about 247 Scapa Flow. About two years ago it was stated by the present Prime Minister to be one of the most powerfully-defended places in the world against air attack. Soon after that statement was made my own military fortunes took me to serve for a considerable period on the land surrounding that anchorage, described by a distinguished admiral as "a ghastly and monotonous landscape." With that description I agree, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that I did not notice any reduction in the strength of the anti-aircraft defences when I was there. Indeed, I well remember the umbrella of anti-aircraft fire which would descend and close upon the German raiders and prevent their escape after their attempt at bombing units of the Royal Navy. There is no need for the hon. and gallant Member to invent shortcomings and deficiencies where they do not exist.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
I was not suggesting that there were shortcomings and deficiencies in the defences at Scapa Flow but asking that they should be augmented up to the scale which Germany showed to be possible at Brest.
§ Major Adams
I assure the hon. and gallant Member that two years ago there were no shortcomings there, and they were quite adequate to deal with any air attack, and I have no doubt that they have progressively improved since that date, because equipment has become more plentiful.
We heard yesterday from the Prime Minister that the ordeal before us will be tormenting and protracted, and I wish to say with great respect that I have been rather dismayed at the reactions of many to reverses in the South-West Pacific, which have had about them a quality almost of inevitability. It does not seem to be recognised yet that we have in the Japanese an enemy whose morals are as low and as negative as those of the Germans. An aggressor so elaborately prepared as Japan, who strikes with the suddenness, surprise, ruthlessness and efficiency of the attack upon Pearl Harbour, is bound at first, in the nature of the case, to make alarming and bewildering strides forward. While we have been in many respects politically and militarily half asleep, the Japanese have learned much in 10 years of aggression 248 against China. The Japanese are excellently equipped. They are as industrious as beavers and as numerous as ants. In some ways, indeed, they are more terrible than the Germans, because their needs are less and they are more indifferent, it seems, to their individual safety. It would be futile to expect from them in the early stages of their entry into the war anything less than an avalanche of progress, accustomed as they are to 10 years of conquest and success.
In one respect I was grateful for a speech delivered last night. I hope the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will not engage the representative of the War Office too long, because some of my remarks are going to relate to military matters. It was the speech, made in the presence of a large number of hon. Members, by the right hon. Baronet who represents South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). His remarks about the barbarism of the Japanese showed that we should have been in strange company if we had preserved our Alliance with Japan. It is perhaps an unfortunate thing that it has taken 10 years to convince some of the bestial cruelty of the Japanese. You might as well have been allied with Judas Iscariot.
This is a terrible war, the most terrible in history, and we shall not prevail without enduring reverses. To win, we have to face terrors and expect more terrible things to come. And we have, I submit, to remember that the days when defensive action was likely to yield the best results, as was true during many periods between 1914 and 1918, are over for good. Modern weapons confer an unprecedented advantage on the side that can grasp and hold the initiative. To stem a modern attack static defence is of no value. That is fully recognised by the authorities of the Army. I am well aware of that. The initiative has to be wrenched out of the hands of your antagonist. Indeed, the offensive is less dangerous and less wasteful than pure defence. To-day the only answer to the assault is the counterassault.
It is useless to blame our Government, as some disgruntled persons might be inclined to do, for the unreadiness of our friends at Pearl Harbour, Guam and Wake Island. That was not, and could never be, the Government's responsibility, 249 but all the subsequent disasters in the Pacific have flowed directly or indirectly from that initial attack. There is this ground for satisfaction. The number of surprises which the Axis is able to spring upon the United Nations is growing less each month. One major surprise is still possible, an attack by Japan upon Russia. When that surprise is performed, as I think is very probable, it will be the last. It will, as it were, be the final trump in the gambler's hand.
We are inclined to over-estimate the importance of certain misfortunes, for example, the escape of the German warships. It was a disappointment and seriously damaged our maritime pride. I shall not attempt to forestall any finding that may emerge from the inquiry, but I would point out that these warships did not steam up the Channel, as though they belonged to a Power that possessed control of the ocean, in the broad daylight of a long summer day. They had to steal out, hugging the coast in the misty gloom of a long night and a short winter day. The enemy indeed may have calculated that he could pass through entirely unobserved. That incident is serious, no doubt, but it is as nothing by comparison with what has happened at Singapore. A bad thing has happened, but only our ability to endure bad things and to prevent their recurrence will enable us to win.
We shall not win the war by periodic explosions against the Prime Minister. Nobody is indispensable, least of all in a democracy, but the Prime Minister—and I say this expressly and deliberately—is as nearly irreplaceable at this moment in our fortunes as any man has ever been. I hope, therefore, if I may be a little less serious for one moment—but I mean seriously what underlies this remark—that he will not fly the Atlantic again until we are at peace. Whereas it was a duty to displace his predecessor—let us be frank at a period of such crisis as to-day—our present leader is to our Allies the epitome of British determination and the highest manifestation of our warlike genius. He is also a terror to our enemies, and that is why the Germans have consistently and persistently been manufacturing and rolling out propaganda against him. It is therefore a crime to weaken the authority of the Prime Minister. Great careers are full of ironies, and the greatest men survive them, but surely few ironies 250 have been more cruel than the return of the Prime Minister from his resounding mission across the Atlantic to the savage cacophony of criticism at home. It is not by wringing our hands over defeat but by fortitude that we shall win this war.
Much of the criticism that has been audible has come from the extreme Right of political opinion. The result is that we now have as Leader of the House a right hon. and learned Gentleman who was once o too far to the Left for the Labour party. I hope that any Chamberlainites who may still survive are pleased and gratified with their handiwork. For my part, I regard the elevation of the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as one of the Prime Minister's finer strokes of genius. The new Leader of the House is a statesman of outstanding ability, resolution and, above all, integrity. That is absolutely unquestioned. Nobody has served our cause better than he did when he was our Ambassador in Moscow. Party machinery remains, even in war-time, a lamentably strong factor in our national affairs, but I trust that any lack of party affiliations will not be allowed to prevent my right hon. and learned Friend from continuing to serve the State in his new capacity with the same distinction. We have heard from the Prime Minister of the massive external factors that will affect our fortunes. It is not, as so many hon. Members have said, by any mere regrouping of Ministers that we shall win the war. I venture to reinforce that it is Russia who has shown us what is necessary to win the war. We have to work and fight as never before.
I have nearly done. I am very grateful to the House for the patience it has extended to me on one of the very rare occasions that I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or anybody's else's eye. Having said what I have about the Government, I do not think I shall be charged with disloyalty if I state where I believe certain obvious and remediable imperfections still exist. Even now, after the last shaking of the sieve, certain Ministers are so palpably unequal to their job that I can only conclude that the Prime Minister has some excellent but entirely hidden motives for keeping them there. Perhaps some of them are too stout to slip through the meshes. Another point which must be laboured because we have to see this 251 wrong righted before hostilities are over—this applies particularly to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for War (Sir E. Grigg)—is that he and his colleagues would ensure far happier services to-day and a healthier nation to-morrow if the War Office would boldly reduce the rewards that certain trade unionists now enjoy and would increase the pay and allowances of the private soldier, the able-bodied seaman and the junior officer in the Services.—[Interruption.]—I hope that the hon. Communist Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will hold his peace for a moment. I wish he would emulate me in having to preserve silence for long periods. What has been done lately merely scratches the surface of a grave social problem. I do not see why we should be expected to acquiesce in the repetition of what was admittedly a cardinal mistake made in the last war and about which we were promised it would never recur. When this war is over many unskilled workers in industry may have saved a small fortune.
§ Major Adams
And good luck to them. Perhaps the hon. Member for West Fife, who is so persistently interrupting me—
§ Major Adams
Groaning is perhaps the most characteristic interruption that proceeds from the lips of the hon. Member. Compared with these industrial workers—and perhaps the hon. Member will pay attention to this, because these are the men who are going to win the war for him, with his friends and my friends in Russia to help them—their brothers in the Navy and Army will, after the war, re-enter the street with next to nothing, except the accumulated £9 a year and any gratuities they may be granted, and the knowledge of having run every sort of risk for next to no reward. I have heard the £9 ambiguously described, in very unhappy language, as a "nest egg to fall back upon". The resultant splash will, I am afraid, be neither very extensive nor very satisfying. If you can revise the pay of the Services—and this observation is made especially to please the hon. Member for West Fife—maintain that of the workers, and at the same time avoid 252 inflation, well and good. I should be as pleased as the hon. Gentleman who is physically on my right, but politically so far to my left. But if, by raising Service pay, you risk inflation, let the workers take smaller rewards, and anyone, including the hon. Member on my right, is entitled, if he likes, and is welcome to come into my constituency and quote that against me. Do not let the present Chancellor of the Exchequer say, as he has said inside and outside the House, that no Member of Parliament is willing or courageous enough to advocate this policy. A great many Members say it, openly as well as privately.
The House has been patient, and I have nearly done. But I want to say one word—a very presumptions one—on strategy. I will not apologise for repeating that the Royal Air Force is a far too independent Service, because I could quote great military authority, inside and outside the serving Army, to support that opinion. It is a truism, but none the less true for that, that co-operation between the soldier, the sailor and the airman—tanks, artillery, aircraft and ships—is the only way to ensure military success and to avoid waste of effort and naval strength. Yet we persist, in official but old-fashioned and obsolescent circles, in this curious and quite unaccountable prejudice against the dive-bomber. As has been said to-day—and I make no apology for repeating it—Germany has blasted her way across a Continent by the skilful use of the dive-bomber in co-operation with the tank and infantry. Every one of our calamities has derived in part at least from inadequate air support. There is one exception and one only to that rule in this war: the defence of Tobruk, where the garrison proved, in a manner which might well be emulated in other theatres of war, that there is no need to surrender if, for the moment, you do not enjoy local air superiority.
To ensure success, no military expedition should to-day set out without its flying contingent, and the only way to make sure that that flying contingent is there is to give the Army an air component; so many fighters to a corps, or better still, so many fighters to a division. It is much more important to win campaigns than to preserve the absolute administrative independence of the Royal Air Force.
We have the men, and we are getting the machines, though it would be quite 253 wrong to suggest that we have anything approaching a surfeit of machines. The Royal Air Force, through its commitments, is stretched now as it has never been stretched before. What is now needed is to ensure their proper use and distribution, so that what I believe can happen will happen, that Germany will disintegrate within 12 months and Japan be reduced within three years. I believe it can be done, and I believe the Prime Minister and the new War Cabinet are the men who can do it. We have now such an accumulation of forces on our side that in the end we can only lose this war by one or both of two things—faint-heartedness or crass stupidity. Our present leaders—I hope they are the ones who are going to carry us through—will win our lasting gratitude if they can hasten our victory beyond our present sober hopes and expectations.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
I think that too little attention has been paid, in discussing the cause of that great spurt of enthusiasm after Dunkirk, to the real belief of our people that the policy of the Government was going to change. We felt that we were no longer being governed by a mysterious little group whose judgments were made as a result of calculations which we could not ourselves understand, and we thought in fact, when the present Government was first formed, that we were going to be governed by ourselves and according to principles that we understood. Then, gradually, it seemed to emerge that the policy was not to be different after all. One looked around in vain for anything being done which one could say was something that would not have been done by the old set-up. I believe that this present Government, which has created, I am convinced, a quickening of enthusiasm, will be judged very soon by whether people see something happen which they can say honestly is the kind of thing which would not have happened six months ago.
With that in mind, may I say something about India? I remember so well that speech of the present Prime Minister when he was First Lord of the Admiralty: "Not a week, hot a day, not an hour to be lost." Surely those words, true of this country at that time, are equally true about India now. There is not an hour to be lost before we make that generous 254 gesture to India which it is obvious we should have made 2½ years ago. Not an hour to be lost, and in regard to that generous gesture may I make a point which I believe will appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the House? For Heaven's sake let us banish those two words, "Dominion status." Let us wipe them clean out of our vocabulary when dealing with India. That may seem outrageous, but I believe the case for doing so is absolutely unanswerable. I will put it in this quite short way. We have said that Dominion status is, for all practical purposes, the equivalent of independence. Is that true or is it not true, because if it is not true, then in using the words "Dominion status" we are practising a deception. If, on the other hand, it is true that Dominion status for all practical purposes is exactly the same thing as independence, then we are hanging on to a phrase for the sake of our own sentimentality.
I am very keen on sentiment, and I do not minimise the importance of sentimental forces, but in order that these forces may be advantageous to us, the sentiment must be there; you cannot create it by sentimental phrases. Among our Dominions, among men of our own stock and of our own traditions, the conception of Dominion status is a fine thing. It holds us together, it gives us both encouragement to feel that we are bound to them by this piece of sentiment. It is a magnificent sentiment. But when you are dealing with people of a different race and a different culture, a different background, I feel that to stress this Dominion status, which we state has no practical difference from independence, produces sentiments of a negative, unfavourable and disadvantageous kind. I would therefore plead with the Leader of the House that whatever the declaration may be, the words "Dominion status" be scrapped, and in their place "independence" be used.
I am sorry that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has left the Chamber. It is curious the way some hon. Members get prickly all over when anything is to be said which suggests that their kind of life, the associated set of ideas which dominate their lives, are just clean finished. Surely it would be of great advantage to our war effort if we were to get rid of a set of ideas which are 255 played out and finished, if we were to recognise that this is the fact, and drop them into the waste paper basket. Let us say "goodbye" to them. I do not know whether it is a comedy or tragedy to see the Members of the 1922 Committee becoming angry and critical with the Government about our strategical and tactical reverses in the Far East. What is it which has been defeated in the Far East and the South-Western Pacific? It is the ideas of the 1922 Committee which have been defeated, and they will never rise again; they are clean finished. It is no use saying that these particular individuals were inefficient and that plans were inefficient. If you had had different individuals, and they had been the same kind of men, they would have produced the same kind of results. We ought to accept the conclusion that never again is Malaya going back under the joint control of British rubber planters and the kind of Colonial administrators who have lived there in the general kind of atmosphere of the Carlton Club. All those men, if they had appeared in the Carlton Club one by one, would have been greeted with, "You are just the kind of man we want for a job in Malaya." It is never going back to that kind of thing again, and do let us face the fact that that really and truly is so.
I was rather alarmed by the suggestion that we are to publish in pamphlet form the outstanding parts of the Molotov document on atrocities. I understood the Answer to a Question to-day to be that that was proposed. What is it thought that that will achieve? May I ask that a suggestion I made in a supplementary question be very seriously considered if we do that—that we should couple with that document Stalin's speech, so as to get a correct picture of the Russian outlook on these propaganda questions? At this moment it is being broadcast to the Germans from Russia hour by hour that Hitlers may come and Hitlers may go, but the German State will go on. That is the Russian line, the right line, which quite clearly dissociates Nazis and the crimes of Nazism from the German people themselves.
Lastly, on the question of morale, I would like not to use the word "morale" because once again, when anybody uses it, everybody seems to get so extremely prickly. I would like to express 256 my view. I think the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) had something to say on these lines. Whether some Members opposite like it, or believe it, or not, it is the truth that the spirits of our people in the Army, in the factories, are lower than they ought to be now because there is no picture of a future held up in front of them for which they can fight. We are perpetually being told what we are fighting against. That is good so far as it goes. But what are we fighting for? I will quote the words of the Bishop of Bradford, who in another place used the same words which he used at a public meeting in his Diocese. It is his words at that meeting which I am quoting. He said:I have found among the workers in my Diocese that one of the causes for the lack of enthusiasm arises from the fact that they are wondering whether they are going to be led up the garden path all over again like they were last time.The hon. Member for Walsall suggested as a solution to that problem that we should work out a lot of coherent plans for our future and put them before the public. With great respect, that solution does not work, because, frankly, if Members over there worked out those plans, a sort of P.E.P. picture for reconstruction in this country, a lot of people over here would not agree with it. If we were to work out our sort of plans, a lot of Members over there would not agree with that picture. What is the solution? I suggest to those engaged in the Ministry of Information and to those engaged on the spirits of the troops that the solution is to raise this subject out of the sort of taboos which cover it now, and bring it up as one of the subjects which is to be discussed in public and from every possible point of view. It has been quietened down as being something which it is almost indecent to talk about—the future state of our country. It is the one subject they dare not print and offer to the troops in pamphlets, the one subject that has not been discussed on the B.B.C. It is absolute nonsense to treat it as though some dangerous forces might be roused by raising it. Of course it is dangerous to all those who think that Malaya is going back to the rubber planters and the traditional Civil Service, but I think these "danger-our forces" are extremely useful to us and would thereby be harnessed to the cause of victory.
§ Major-General Sir Alfred Knox (Wycombe)
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) has told us a good deal in rather scathing terms about the 1922 Committee, the Carlton Club and Malaya rubber planters. I wonder really, without offence, how much he knows of any of these institutions. I am a member of the Carlton Club and of the 1922 Committee, and I do not remember having seen him in our institutions. Has he ever been in Malaya? I have been there, but only as a passing globe trotter. I happen to have met several of those rubber planters about whom he is so scathing. When we hear the true history of why Malaya fell and why Singapore surrendered so quickly we shall find that the rubber planters, at any rate, are not to blame. They lived on their own in out of the way places, doing their job as well as any Member of this House, better than many.
I would like to say a word or two about a problem which many Members have touched upon in this Debate, the future of India. When my friends and I fought the Government of India Bill some years ago anyone speaking of independence would have been looked upon as an absolute lunatic. Times have indeed advanced—or receded. Whatever our opinions are about independence for India, it is absolute lunacy to think of any big political change in India to-day, under the stress of war. Look at the figures of population. According to the latest statistics, the population of India, I believe, is 388,000,000. There are about 250,000,000 Hindus and 100,000,000 Mohammedans. The Mohammedans are against any change on direct democratic lines. We all know what democracy is—the counting of heads without reference to what is inside them. The Mohammedans are against that, because they know that under such a system they would be doomed to be in a perpetual minority. The strongest force in India is the clash between the Mohammedans and the Hindus. The present Secretary of State for India has done his best to bring together the Mohammedans, under Mr. Jinnah, and the Congress Party, representing the Hindus, who are the majority; but he has not been successful. To give the Continent of India its independence now would drive all these Mohammedans into definite revolt. They have said so. Only yesterday the hon. Member for Walsall 258 (Sir G. Schuster), in his most interesting speech, mentioned that he had had a letter from Mr. Jinnah, saying that nothing would induce his group to agree with the Hindus.
I do not say that we have done enough in preparing India for defence. We have not. I agree with what the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) said yesterday about the lack of armament works in India. One aeroplane to-day is more important than any sort of political concession. Is there a factory in India for making fighter 'planes? That is what matters. When the hon. Member asks why, out of these 388,000,000 people in India, we have not raised a larger Army, there are a lot of things to be considered. The whole population of India is not a fighting population. There are many races which do not want to fight, and nothing would induce them to do so. People ask why the Malayans have not fought. I have been told by people who have been there that the Malayans would not fight if they were armed to the teeth. They are men of peace, not men of war.
We have not yet the information as to why Singapore fell so rapidly. It was a great disappointment. Was it because of lack of air preparation, or lack of antiaircraft guns; or what was the reason? I think our General Staff should get it into their heads at last that no military force and no fleet is safe without adequate air protection. If they get that into their heads, I think we shall avoid some of these mistakes in future. Surely it was wrong to land a division at Singapore three or four days before the assault. After going around the world for three months, the men got there without a chance of being hardened to fight in a tropical climate. It was madness. Those young fellows, anxious to do their bit, are now prisoners of war of the Japanese. What equipment they had is gone. I am sorry that the Lord Privy Seal is not here, because I would like him, from his knowledge of Russia, to tell us something. We know from a statement in another place that no fewer than 10,000 'planes were sent abroad last year. I presume most of them were sent to Russia. Russia is doing splendidly, and no doubt our planes have been of much assistance. But I should like to know from a military expert whether we could not have sent half of those planes—which amounted to so much 259 from our point of view, and must have been but a drop in the bucket for Russia, which has so enormous a front—to Russia, and given the other half to our own people in the Far East and in the Middle East. I realise that we had to help Russia, and that they are doing splendidly, but it seems a frightful thing to let our people down for want of the necessary protection. The time may come when the Army's heart will be broken—and the Navy's heart, too, if they are allowed to go into action without the umbrella which they ought to have.
Some people suggest that that sortie of the "Gneisenau" and the "Scharnhorst," and the collection of a respectable German fleet, may be a prelude to invasion of this country. If invasion comes, I wonder whether the authorities will think of the way in which they have allowed the Home Guard to go practically unarmed. It is a disgrace. The Home Guard is one of the biggest patriotic movements we have had in this country. We have men giving up practically the whole of their spare time, many of them men of a ripe age, and they have been most inadequately rewarded. They ought to be properly armed. I ask the new official in charge of the War Office whether he would ask the General Staff whether they are convinced that the Regular Army is trained in the discipline that they used to be. As an old soldier, walking about, I think the men do not look as if they are proud of themselves. If they are not proud of themselves, they will not fight.
I have had many complaints in my constituency from people who say that in their factories their pals are not working all out. Sometimes the complaints are about the management, sometimes about other workers. I send these complaints on to the Ministry of Aircraft Production or the Ministry of Supply, as the case may be; and they always look into the cases, and send me a reply, which I hand on to the people complaining. In some instances, with which I am acquainted, there has been improvement. The hon. Member for Walsall said yesterday that the great majority of the workers would welcome increased discipline in the factories. He said that the discipline in the factories was bad on account of a small minority, perhaps 10 per cent., of the workers. We are told that the Soviet 260 trade union delegation went round the factories, and presented a report. I should very much like to see that report. We are told that the discipline in Russian factories is very different from that in our own, that there is an iron discipline there, and that men really work all out. The Lord Privy Seal may be able to tell us something about that.
I know nothing about the factories in Russia now. I used to go to the Russian factories in the last war, but now it has all changed. I have heard that two lists are put up at the end of the month. Everybody has a minimum of work he must carry out, otherwise he does not get the minimum wage. A list is kept of men in the factories who have exceeded that minimum amount of work, and as a mark of honour their names are put up in the factory. I am told that these men receive 50 per cent. more rations for the following month, and this is an inducement. On the other side, a list is put up containing the names of men who have not done the proper amount of work, and it is said that these men receive 50 per cent. less rations. Of course, if they continue in the following month still to do less work, I suppose they receive another 50 per cent. less rations. I want to know whether there is any truth in this sort of thing. I know that the Russians have changed in many ways since my time and are very mechanically minded.
But let me get back to the real reason—the difficulty of democracy in waging war compared with the totalitarian State, where everything is for the State and harsh methods are allowed and understood by the people with which we here, in our easy going way, do not agree. I do not propose to say any more, because I am strongly of opinion that some of the things that one would like to say in open Debate are much better said in a delegation to the Prime Minister when you can talk as man to man. I realise that all our Debates here make very pleasant reading to the enemy and that they must make Hitler and his entourage laugh very heartily.
§ Mr. Barstow (Pontefract)
It was not my intention to make any references to Russia during this discussion, but, having regard to the absurdities that we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), it might be as well that we should clear the air as to what does happen in Russian 261 factories. There is no iron discipline in Russian factories except the discipline that is imposed by the workers themselves. In all Russian factories there is a desire to increase production and a healthy competition between the people in the factories as to who can turn out the most goods. It is different from the system that we adopt in this country. The men and women working in Russia know that they are working for themselves and for the rest of the community. It is different here. It is desirable that before anyone begins to make speeches about Russia or to throw innuendoes about indiscriminately he should certainly learn something about the subject.
I have been to Russia, and so has the hon. and gallant Member, only I went in more pleasant circumstances, and he will appreciate that. We have been at war two years and a half, and prior to that we had a year of preparation for the war. Therefore we have had three years and a half of preparation and war. What have we got? Have we distinguished ourselves on the battlefields of Europe? Have we established a second front in Europe? No. Only ten days ago the Minister of Pensions was pleading for a second front. Many Members of this House have long held the idea that we ought to have established a second front a long time ago, when Stalin gave the call for it. Now we are told that we ought to realise how important it is that we did not send a force into Europe. But is it to be our policy always to stand on the defensive? Are we to continue to keep 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 men in England in case of invasion, or are we to use them to assist the Russians to finish enemy No. 1 this year? I believe that the Soviet Union will finish off the German armies this year. But last week the ex-Secretary of State for War went as far as to say that even now, after the three years and a half of preparation, we are not fully equipped. Why is it? There have been hundreds of speeches in this House on the question of production. Is that question insoluble? By present methods it is.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) asked a short time ago why the Government did not tell the people for what we are fighting. I can tell him why. The view of the Govern- 262 ment and of the view of the man-in-the-street are totally different. You cannot fight a war against nations armed to the teeth on old methods. You cannot fight a war and at the same time endeavour to maintain a "business as usual" policy. That is why the Government cannot tell the people their war aims. "Business as usual." When the war broke out the first thing that happened was that every industry in the country was asked to nominate a controller for that industry. I believe there are 16 of these controllers, and their function is to control the industry in the interests of its owners, and the interests of its owners are reflected in company reports and balance-sheets. The Minister of State can be brought back from Cairo and can endeavour to organise production, but where Lord Beaverbrook failed, he also will fail. There is no man who can solve the question of production without entirely changing the methods that we are employing to wage this war. It is no good my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Leeds (Major Adams) talking about the disparity between soldiers, sailors and airmen and civilian workers. I agree that in many cases there is a big disparity, but you cannot expect civilians to work 72 hours or 84 hours a week without reaping what may be termed a reasonable wage. Undoubtedly it is true that soldiers, sailors and airmen and their dependants are living in a state of semi-poverty, but you would not affect their conditions by endeavouring to reduce the level of the men and women in munitions factories, and no Minister of Production dare try it.
What is wrong? This is wrong. Every day and every week one can read company balance-sheets and find that industry, taking it by and large, is in precisely the same position as it was before the war. Twenty-five per cent. is quite a usual dividend. In my own constituency, only last week, one manufacturing concern paid a dividend of 25 per cent., after paying tax. Therefore, the point I put to the House is this, that the Government must take over all the essential industries of the country. There will have to be a change made sooner or later. The latest news is that the Russians are again breaking through. They are advancing mile after mile, and their ideas are advancing before them mile after mile. While we may think that our best hopes lie in 263 America, the peoples of Europe are looking to the East far more than they are to the West.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) said that there had been drastic changes made in the Government, a change in the personnel which meant new men, new methods, and new principles. There has been no change in the Government. A change of heads does not make a change in principle. It is the same body of people, in effect, representing the same interests. Big business is firmly in the saddle, and in order that it may become stronger, the Controller of Cement has been brought into the Government further to cement their interests. Certainly he has no other qualifications to be in the Government. The time is ripe for a change. You have got to have that change, and you might as well start to-day by taking over all the essential industries, establishing definite wage rates, with fixed prices, closing down the big emporiums of luxury, scrapping all the private motor cars that are running about the streets—scrapping everything that is not required for the war effort. And in taking over these industries, I would say, as an hon. Member said a short time ago, that they must have reasonable compensation. I am prepared to give them reasonable compensation, and the figure I would fix is 2½ per cent.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
The interesting speech to which the House has just listened is one that has touched upon the problem which I want to discuss in this Debate. In detail, I probably disagree with a very great deal of what the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Barstow) said, but there is no doubt that there are a great many people in this country who have the kind of opinion and the kind of views which he has expressed about our difficulties. I believe the hon. Member was making a maiden speech, and if that is so, I should like to congratulate him upon the able manner in which he delivered it on what is always a trying occasion.
Before coming to the main question with which I wish to deal, there are two short points which I should like to make about the general war situation. I shall not touch in any detail upon military matters, because I do not consider myself 264 qualified to deal with them, but I must say that the explanations which the House has received up to the present concerning the misfortunes that have overtaken us are, to my mind, inadequate and unsatisfactory. I suppose it has not yet been possible to disclose the whole truth of the situation, but I think that, in the main, one thing makes itself clear, and it is that, in any case, a lack of the necessary material of various kinds on the spot has been a large contribution to these misfortunes. The only other thing I want to say about military or naval matters is this. I hope that whoever winds up the Debate for the Government will be able to assure the House and the country that in America, in the Dominions, and in this country, the question of naval construction and shipping is being given priority over every other item of armament. It is obvious that whatever else we can make or construct, unless we can provide the shipping to take the material where it is required, our other efforts will indeed be wasted.
To come to the point with which I want more particularly to deal—it is a matter on which many other hon. Members have spoken—I am concerned with the national effort, the war effort, and with reference to that, the question of national morale. Curiously enough, the other day I came across what I believe to be the biggest indictment against the policy of the Government in a Government publication. I received from the Ministry of Agriculture "Notes on Agricultural Policy," a well-worded and a helpful book, put out to guide farmers on the production of what are vital necessities for us to-day, and explaining how difficulties are being met. The paragraph which particularly caught my attention was as follows:The land, like the factory, must be at the full disposal of the Government to be used in the way that is best for the war effort. This may not always be the way that the occupier thinks best, or that he is used to: it may sometimes mean hardship and loss Just as one factory or shop is ruined and another flourishes, just as one man is called up and another is left, just as one brother earns high wages and another makes the supreme sacrifice, so one farmer may be called upon to plough up most of his farm or revolutionise his whole method of farming, with possible loss to himself, whilst his neighbour, engaged in mixed arable farmng, continues relatively undisturbed with increased profits. These are the fortunes of war which it is difficult and often impossible to avoid.265 That appears in a Government publication, and, in view of the state in which this country finds itself to-day, the fact that a Minister should find it necessary in urging farmers to increase production to disclose a policy such as is indicated in that paragraph, is to my mind an indictment of the policy of the Government. The fact of the matter is that we have all trusted the Prime Minister to lead us in military matters, to which I believe he directs the whole of his attention, but we have failed up to the present to discover any corresponding personality, with vision, courage and determination, to lead us on the Home Front. I think it is, generally, the accepted policy of the country and of this House—it has been frequently declared to be the policy, and, to some extent, has been emphasised in legislation—that there is not to be any profiteering in this war. When I use the word "profiteering," I apply it equally to the capitalist and labour sections. We shall never get the real national effort required until problems of the sort raised by the hon. Member for Pontefract have disappeared as matters of controversy. It is a difficult task I know, but with good will I do not see why it should not be taken in hand and achieved. We shall remain with our different outlooks about how our industries and our commercial practice ought to be conducted in this country in times of peace, but there is no reason why we should be saddled, handicapped and hamstrung in our efforts by differences of opinion of that kind in time of war. I am no Socialist, but there is no Socialist measure, if it could be shown to me to be helpful to us in our war effort, which I would not support to the very best of my ability.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to certain factors which may contribute in some way towards attaining that better state of affairs. First let us deal with profiteering. People cannot get away with much profit to-day, as everyone who knows anything about Excess Profits Tax recognises, although, undoubtedly, there are ways for some persons to accumulate profits in spite of the tax. I believe that it would be a good thing if, when the next Income Tax papers are sent out, a form were included upon which every citizen was ordered to state the whole of his personal assets. They could be stated in some detail, and the form could then be returned with the 266 Income Tax papers. It would not need any great administrative machinery, and no expert valuer would have to be brought in because it could be regarded as a token valuation subject to adjustment later. By introducing such a scheme, we could get a rough idea of the possessions of the community, either at the present stage of the war, or, if more convenient, at the commencement of the war. This information would be available when the time comes to clear up these matters; there is obviously going to be some kind of capital levy, of one kind or another, or on increments during the war, which will be a matter for later decision. At any rate we should have in hand the machinery to deprive those who, in spite of the wishes of the nation, have made profits during the war, indirectly, directly or by round-the-corner methods. I hope that some such scheme may be introduced, because it would take away from the minds of those connected with labour the belief that they are being asked to work in order to enhance the profits of individuals.
I now turn to the labour side. Again, I cannot pretend to speak as one who has expert knowledge. However, I represent an industrial constituency, I meet a great many men and employers, I am a regular attendant here and I have been, I think I may say, an attentive listener to Labour speeches. I have tried to understand these things with an unbiased mind, and I have arrived at the following conclusion. One of the greatest difficulties in the labour position to-day is the treatment of overtime. There is nothing to be said against a man, who is working overtime for the convenience or the benefit of a private individual, demanding that he should be paid double rate, or whatever he can get. But it appears to me to be quite a different matter when that man is asked to work overtime on behalf of the State, at a time when the State is in peril, and when his comrades in the Services are working without extra remuneration, and are, in addition, offering, if necessary, their lives. In saying that, I do not want anybody to think that I want to reduce the present basic wage of those employed in industry. I do not, but I believe a great deal of waste and expense is incurred through the present system of overtime. It appears to have been definitely laid down that any excessive overtime is detrimental to the war effort and to the workers themselves. 267 Therefore, no overtime should be worked except on a Government certificate, and some industries could have certain facilities and latitude so that important Government work should not be held up. The man who works overtime should be limited to his usual rate of pay during the war, as a war sacrifice, and should not be paid additional rates. As regards recovering these privileges after the war, we have passed a Measure to secure that. In any case, I do not think they would be in any danger because everyone recognises that trade union rights and privileges are more likely to be increased than decreased when the war is over.
In saying these things I am not contending that the workers' remuneration should be reduced. I want better distribution. It would be far better, in some directions, to raise the standard wage rather than pay extra for overtime. I throw that out as a suggestion which is worth consideration. I realise that the overtime question is not easy to get over. We are faced with trade union practices and all kinds of prejudices and the point of view which has just been put forward in this Debate. In dealing with these things, it is not difficult to put up an ideal theory and I may be accused of having done so. I recognise readily that what can easily be put forward in theory, is often difficult to achieve in practice. We must, however, aim at an ideal, and if other concessions have to be made to win the full and united co-operation of labour in the war effort, I would say that this was a very inappropriate moment to bring in the tax on wages. It does not seem to have been a particularly sensible thing to do. I am all in favour of a tax on the higher earnings of the workers; I think it is bound to come sooner or later; but I do not think that in the middle of the war, with all our difficulties, this added complication will help production. To the workers, however, it must be explained that the Government are taking steps to prevent any profiteering on the employers' side and that they ask the full co-operation of the workers to prevent the same thing on the labour side. There is no gainsaying the fact that there is profiteering not only on the employers' but on the workers' side. I could not help hoping when I heard that the new Lord Privy Seal had been added to the 268 Government that he would, possibly, provide that lead, drive and inspiration which are needed to bring this country really, unitedly together in the tremendous war effort which must be achieved if we are to be successful.
§ Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)
I am sure that the House and the country in general are profoundly disappointed at the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday. There was in the country a feeling of expectation that this rhetorical wizard might be able to allay the feelings of dismay which had spread throughout the land. I say "might" advisedly because the glamour of his oratory is being seriously diminished and he is again assuming that role of Jonah which has dogged him throughout his political career. He did nothing to disperse the gloom. If anything, he deepened the feeling of despair and proved, beyond peradventure, that gross incompetence has been in the saddle, that precious lives have been needlessly thrown away, that hard-earned equipment, turned out by the sweat and toil of our industrial workers, has been thrown into the whirlpool, that whole armies have been taken prisoner, and that the whole strategy of the war has been in the hands of bunglers and muddlers. He told us that in carrying through the reconstruction of the Cabinet he had dropped a number of Ministers overboard. He made the amazing confession that those he had sacked had no greater share of responsibility for all the sins of omission and commission than those he had retained. I wonder then on what principle he booted them out. How did he come to the conclusion, if they were all right, which crowd he would drop and which crowd he would retain? This is surely the most amazing piece of effrontery that has ever been displayed before this House.
I wonder whether the reorganisation will prove of any benefit at all. This switching-off of heads every time we meet with disaster has, so far, led to no improvement in the Government or in the country. I wonder that he made such a vital blunder in strategy as to appoint the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as Leader of the House. It is a change which will very quickly "debunk" the amazing theory that has grown up round the Prime Minister that he is indispensable. The Prime Minister cheers us up by telling us 269 that in the last two months there has been a most serious increase in our shipping losses. He tells us that the enemy have for the time being—whatever that may mean—what he calls a waning command of the sea, and that their command of the air makes it costly and difficult for our reinforcements to establish themselves and secure dominance. Most damning of all, he tells us that we sent to Singapore, which all the experts now declare was so vulnerable and indefensible, nine convoys of reinforcements comprising 40,000 men with their equipment to hand themselves over to the Japanese. It is in keeping with the statement the Prime Minister made a few days before the two battleships were sunk, that they had just arrived off the coast of Malaya at the opportune moment.
Let somebody who can pierce the armour of the Prime Minister and gain his confidence tell him that his stock has slumped badly and that the time has gone when he can blame everybody in the Cabinet except himself. His star is in the descendant. It has not as yet perhaps assumed the velocity of Lucifer when he fell from heaven, but his descent will grow in speed and he will end up with a sorry splash. When people are in a corner they invariably resort to comparisons, and he compares his War Cabinet, and its disasters and its muddling, with those of the Lloyd George Cabinet of the last war. I find it difficult to understand what consolation he expects the British people to derive from that. It does not console us much to remember the stupid, idiotic mistakes of the last war. I noticed that, although he referred to the slaughter of Passchendaele and Caporetto and the destruction of the Fifth Army in March, 1918, he refrained, either by accident or by design, from mentioning Gallipolli, Mesopotamia and Archangel.
I am not of a critical turn of mind. I have always believed in the application of sweet reasonableness. Therefore, I recommend to the Government drastically to overhaul its propaganda. I believe that infinitely more could be accomplished by the written and spoken word than by guns and tanks and bullets. This war can be shortened, it may be by years, by the application of sound common sense. It is a very natural desire to demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and two lives for a life. It is human to ask for 270 revenge, for the extermination of the German or the Japanese, and even for visiting the sins of the fathers on the third and fourth generations. This propensity to revenge is as old as man himself. Mr. Stalin has stated that the U.S.S.R. does not seek the extermination of the German people and that punishment will be reserved only for those who have precipitated the war and caused so much misery in the world. Cannot we have such a statement from our Government? We require a complete statement of war and peace aims. We extracted a statement from the Government with considerable difficulty when the war was confined to Europe, but it was of a nebulous character and required a great deal of elucidation. The field has been broadened and the Far East is now the cauldron of the hell's broth that is brewing.
Demands have been made for a statement on India. I think the Government would be wise to study well the speech of the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) yesterday. The Prime Minister knew that this was a very important question which was exercising the minds of a vast number of people in this country and in the world. It is significant that he made no reference to it except that the Pacific Council would include representatives from Australia, New Zealand, India and the Netherlands. Could we have a little more information on this point? Could that very cryptic reference be extended just a little? If India is not to be free, how can she be represented on the War Council? If India is to be represented, by whom or by what is she to be represented? Is it the Indian people who are to be represented or is it the British Government's nominee? If so, that is a farce and a blatant insult to the Indian nation. India will not enter any council or take part in any movement with the British, unless and until the question of India's freedom is resolved. Since 26th January nation-wide demonstrations have taken place in India celebrating Independence Day which they declared in 1929. The Indian Movement has never looked back since then. They have never wavered from their determination. National independence is the objective of the overwhelming majority of the Indian people. It has intensified their unity and helped them to realise that their 271 struggle for freedom is part of the larger world freedom.
Chiang Kai-shek made a very important statement at the week-end. In his message to the Indian people he suggests that at this critical moment the people of China and India should exert themselves to the utmost in the cause of freedom for the whole of mankind. He hopes and believes that Britain, without waiting for any demand on the part of the Indian people, will as speedily as possible give them real political power. He believes that this will be the wisest policy and will redound to the credit of the British Empire. Was this an inspired statement, and is there a possibility that the age-long difficulty is about to be solved? If so, why cannot the Prime Minister say so? Why cannot he make a virtue of what has undoubtedly become a necessity and make one of the most important political announcements of all times? India is only one part of a huge area including scores of millions of people who require freedom. If, as has been claimed, this is a war for freedom and democracy and the rights of nations to govern themselves, we cannot limit our freedom to certain people. If we are to fight for freedom for the Poles, the Czechoslovaks, the Belgians and the Greeks, we must not limit our horizon now that the matter has been forced upon us. We must widen our perspective. We must establish freedom wherever it does not exist, and if we have stumbled across areas which stand as much, or more, in need of freedom than some of our European countries, we must act as if we mean what we say and say what we mean.
The public conscience has been shocked since the limelight has been turned upon Singapore. We are, in the main, an easygoing people. Malaya and Singapore were merely names of far-off places in foreign lands. They conveyed little to the average mind. The general public do not study Stock Exchange reports. They are entirely ignorant that rubber, tin and oil are the attractions there. They are in the main completely unconscious that this area is the greatest sink of corruption in the whole world. They are unfamiliar with the fact that these ornaments of British capitalism have done more to degrade Britain in the eyes of the East than any scoundrels 272 since our depredations in Africa. These tin, rubber and oil companies have exploited the bodies and souls of the natives of the Far East. Those natives have lived in poverty and misery, and the only crime they have committed is to be born in the richest country in the world. Those companies have made fabulous fortunes. They have paid dividends of 50 per cent. and over. Some hon. Member interrupted when another hon. Member making his maiden speech, spoke about dividends of 25 per cent. but there is no doubt that dividends of 50 per cent. have been made by the rubber, tin and oil companies of the East, at a time when the natives were working for wages ranging from 2½d. to 2s. per day in their own land. How is it that the natives of Singapore were so indifferent to the fate of that island? How is it that they would give us no assistance in its defence? There is an indictment of our Government in Singapore in the following paragraph from a despatch from the "Times" correspondent in Singapore:In Malaya there was no time for the static to be replaced by dynamic and able leadership. The Government had no roots in the life of the people of the country. With the exception of a certain section of the Chinese community—some inspired by free China's struggle for survival, others by Soviet precept and example—the bulk of the Asiatic population remained spectators from start to finish. Their inclination was to get as far away as possible from the scene of hostilities.Is there any cause for wonder? Their land was invaded by an Imperialist-minded army, but they were already dominated by another of the same type. What material difference would it make to the Malayans? Merely exchanging one set of vultures for another, not the difference perhaps of a bowl of rice. Listen further to this correspondent:After nearly 120 years of British rule the vast majority of the Asiatics were not sufficiently interested in the continuance of this struggle to take any steps to secure its continuance. And if it is true that the Government had no roots in the life of the people, it is equally true that the few thousand British officials in Malaya and the few thousand British residents who made their living out of the country—practically none of whom looked upon Malaya as being their home—were completely out of touch with the people. British and Asiatics lived their lives apart. There was never any fusion or even cementing of these two groups. British rule and culture and the small British community formed no more than a thin and brittle veneer.Surely this is about the most complete and damning indictment of British 273 Imperialism ever written. Whatever may be the opinion Of the people in this country with regard to the after-war settlement of Malaya there is no dubiety in the minds of the swindling gang of sharks there. They are less concerned about the loss of life than about the loss of assets. They measure the extent of their disaster in terms of £ s. d.; they do not assess them in terms of soldiers' lives, in the number of merchantmen who are blasted to pieces, the number of navy men who go down with their ships or the number of airmen who go down in flame. The measuring rod they apply is the extent of the damage to their property. Here is an extract from the Press on the subject:A fall in market capitalisation of more than £10,000,000 occurred in leading oil shares on the the London Stock Exchange yesterday. Burma slump of 6s. 3d. to the lowest level for 10 years lopped £4,000,000 off the market valuation of this share alone.That is the sort of thing that appeals to their mean little souls. Or take this from one of the financial papers to show that they are not concerned about the position now but concerned about the position in which they will find their assets, their rubber plantations, their oil wells, their tin mines after the war. They will be off for a little holiday just now, but after it is all over they will go back. They think they are just going to walk back and start where they left off. That, of course, is significant not only in Malaya but of this country, where employers of labour have more concern about what is going to happen immediately the war is over than about what will happen during the period of the war. The paper says, after dealing with the question of the share market:To visualise the state of affairs on the plantations themselves is obviously impossible.Of course, they are not there to see. The Japanese will not let them go to have a look.Nevertheless, from all that is known of the character of the fighting, all the way down from Kedah to Singapore, it is possible to draw certain reasonable conclusions.They are active, these fellows, they can visualise happenings.The speed of the advance and the fact that there has been no pitched battle on a broad front leads to the assumption that the actual destruction of rubber trees has been comparatively slight.274 They kept to the main roads, I suppose, and did not go into the fields.Young trees would mostly escape unscathed while old trees of considerable growth would be welcome as an aid to skirmishing troops.Provide them with good hiding places.It is therefore a fair inference that the major damage inflicted has been the destruction of rubber stock, factories, equipment and buildings in general, apart from coolie lines, which would in the main probably be left intact. On the whole it seems a reasonable conclusion that if the enemy were ejected after a brief occupation the plantations would revert to their owners without having suffered much damage apart from the capital loss of destroyed buildings and plant. Nor would a lengthy occupation by the enemy necessarily imply irreparable damage, for if as seems probable the Japanese are bent on doing their utmost to carry on the industry then reasonable maintenance and repair will be indispensable.So they have it both ways. If the Japanese go quickly, there will not be much damage done, and if the Japanese keep there for a certain time they will keep the factories in operation and the plantations going. They do not imagine that they will suffer any great loss. I think that the opinion and the good sense of the majority of the people in this House will be that Malaya can never go back to where it was the week before last. Many statements have been made that we are fighting the war for democracy, justice, righteousness and truth. We have signed the Atlantic Charter; if Article 3 means anything, it is that all people shall be entitled to the form of government that they desire to set up in their own lands, and that foreigners of any and every description, whether the great white sahib who has for so many centuries exploited the people of the East, or any other type of man, shall not be entitled to go into another man's land and use it for the purposes of exploitation.
We ought to have from the Government a statement of aims in regard to the Far East. The question of India is pressing, but the question of Malaya and the other islands is not less pressing. I would ask the Government what agreement, if any, is to be carried through with the Dutch. Are we to expect that British lads shall give their lives fighting in the Far East to re-establish not only British capitalism but Dutch capitalism? If a factory is destroyed, it can be built again, but when you have given your life you have given something which can never be restored. 275 Take the case of Java; it has 50,000,000 natives and fewer than 200,000 whites. The natives are compelled to work and produce profits for the whites, and it is a matter of indifference whether the whites are Dutch, British, Belgian or any other kind. How can we have any ultimate settlement of the Far Eastern question, in which there shall be no more Singapore? This naval base was built 19 years ago. A friend of mine, Mr. Hughes, who is Editor of "Forward," writes in this week's issue that on the very week when Singapore was commenced he wrote that the Japanese would look upon the building of Singapore as an act of aggression against themselves; further, that during the very same week the financiers of the City of London loaned to the Japanese £25,000,000 to build a navy for the purpose of destroying the Singapore, base which was costing us £20,000,000 to build. This game has gone on, and the poor people out there have been made the shuttlecocks of European finance. We ask that the reply to the Debate shall include an answer from the Government as to what is to be the ultimate settlement of these questions in the Far East.
§ Mr. Garfield Weston (Macclesfield)
This is the first occasion on which I have ventured to address this House. It has seemed to me that the time of this House was so valuable that I could best serve by listening and learning and, within the limits of my opportunity, contributing to the war effort outside. Recent events have moved me to express grave concern at the way our country is heading, and I hope that what I am going to say will do some good and will give no offence.
As some hon. Members may know, I am not a native of these Islands, but I regard it as a great privilege to play some small part in the life thereof. My loyalty to the British House of Commons is inherent; I have, like all Canadians, looked to the British House of Commons from my boyhood as our highest tribunal and as the great influence which ultimately guides the destiny of the whole British race. The great impelling forces that brought me from Canada to this country were not based on commercial considerations, but were rooted in the desire to come, by easy stages, to a point where I could do something to add to the great and many advantages conferred by this 276 House. I had before me the inspiration of such great Canadians as Mr. Bonar Law, Lord Greenwood, Lord Beaverbrook, and Viscount Bennett, to mention only four of those who have played a part in this great Empire development. Those men are regarded by millions of Canadians with esteem and gratitude, and whatever shade of political view any of us holds in this House, I am sure that none is so devoid of gratitude that he cannot concede that those great statesmen and sons of their native land have played a noble part. Their technique has been dissimilar and their methods have earned varying degrees of popularity, but their efforts have been great, noble and sincere.
Popularity is fleeting; it is fickle. We are all inclined to allow our prejudices to influence our judgment about a man's qualities. That is why I have chosen this moment to speak a few words of appreciation of a fellow countryman, Lord Beaverbrook, whom I regard as one of the great, outstanding geniuses thrown up by this war. The forceful, dynamic driving power which he possesses is acknowledged by all, but I have seldom heard a kindly word about him uttered in this House except by the Prime Minister. Lord Beaverbrook, after a record of achievement in this war which far surpasses that of most of us, has left the Government at a time when qualities such as he possesses are of immeasurable benefit to the whole war effort, yet hardly a word of regret has been uttered at his going. That he could have remained in the Government had he chosen to, no one will dispute. The fact remains that he has gone. He is no longer to bring his courage, his drive, his tenacity into our inner councils. We are told that he has gone because he had asthma. He has asthma, of course he has, but I am told that he has had it for 20 years, and if asthma does to a man what it has done to him, I would enjoy the experience of hearing every hon. Member coughing so vigorously that no one could hear a single word of what I am saying.
I do not believe, however, that that is why he left. I believe, and I am entitled to express my personal belief, that Lord Beaverbrook left because he had become sick unto death of Government by committee. As I have already remarked, my sojourn here has been chiefly as a spectator, but it has been my good fortune in life to take effective notice of 277 what I have seen going on around me. Just as I have seen good businesses go downhill for want of a clearly defined policy and courageous men to carry it out, so I perceive a slowing down of our national effort for want of incisive decisions and their forceful application. After Dunkirk we were doing things. Our spirit was high, and I take nothing from our great Prime Minister when I say that it was that spirit which enabled him to do the great things which he has done and can continue to do for us all. But the spirit has changed in the whole country. Complacency is reasserting itself, and in spite of the great personal efforts of the Prime Minister, our response is still too casual. If ever a Prime Minister needed self-sacrificing, redoubtable and resourceful men around him, it is now, when we have just witnessed the passing of one man who, whatever his other characteristics, certainly possesses those great qualities to a tremendous degree.
I simply could not sit silent in this House any longer and watch these things happening. It is a national misfortune. No one can fairly say that I say this only because Lord Beaverbrook is a Canadian and I am a Canadian, because everyone who hears my words knows in his heart that I am speaking the truth. I shall not waste your time, nor mine, by discussing his methods. I shall not employ my mind with such empty and stupid charges as I have heard from time to time, to the effect that he goes into a Ministry, raises Cain, turns everything upside clown, robs the production line, gets results and gets out while the going is good. I have heard the same kind of flapdoodle about 50 great men in my time, because the little fellows cannot take it and cannot find any other excuse, but I have always proved that it is utter nonsense. When you have a good manager—and I have heard a lot from the Labour side of this House about good management—you will always find a fellow of lesser stature who can tell you what is wrong with him, but do not believe it; it, does not make sense. When you have a manager who gets results, bind him to your business with rods of iron, even if everyone tells you he is a supreme disorganiser. It is the results that count.
Lord Beaverbrook is the possession of the Empire, the Empire's greatest indivi- 278 dual driving force at the present time. He belongs to the Empire; he is not the private property of these British Isles. He belongs to Canada, to Australia, India and South Africa, and they have a right to have him where he can do them the most good. Do not forget that there are millions in the Dominions who are greatly perplexed because he is no longer in this Government. There is no time nowadays to do things in the committee way. This is the time for resolute action by men of flair and inspiration, and not too much good manners. A great British industrialist recently said to me, "I am tired of good manners and bad figures." That is something for every hon. Member of this House to ponder. It is worth pondering, because it is a great truth. Finally, may I say that whatever may be the trials which the British Empire is called upon to endure, whatever burdens we are asked to bear, the Dominions will continue to fortify and strengthen this old Motherland? The resources of all our people will be at her command and at the command of those who come forward to battle for our united race and the liberties we enjoy. But in the Empire's name, for the Empire's sake, bring Beaverbrook back.
§ Colonel Colville (Midlothian and Peebles)
It is my lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Garfield Weston) on his maiden speech, and welcome him to this House. We welcome the spirit which runs through his speech and his love of the country of his birth, and if he waves the maple leaf for us to see, we honour him for it. The staunch support which that Dominion gives to the mother country is typified by the spirit of his speech. I hope my hon. Friend will not think that I am entering into controversy with him—a thing one must never do with a maiden speaker—if I do not in the course of my remarks agree with him as to the view taken in this country of Lord Beaverbrook's leaving the War Cabinet.
I do not know that Mr. Speaker will regard it as a disaster that so few Scottish Members have spoken in this Debate, but it is seldom that there is a two days' Debate on a first-class issue in which there is not more oratory from North of the Border. The two Scottish Members who have spoken, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire 279 (Mr. Sloan), hold views which differ very widely from my own, and I therefore feel that I should like to put a point of view which I think represents a majority feeling in Scotland. The view represented by the two hon. Gentlemen is not that of the majority in Scotland. Their view is that we should make peace as soon as we can on the best terms that we can, and Scotland does not want that. I believe that the changes which have been made in the Government have been generally accepted in Scotland as wise. The necessity for them was incessantly urged in Parliament, and I believe, though he would be a bold man who would take to himself the right to speak for Scotland as a whole, that the majority of people in Scotland regard the re-organisation of the administration as a sound step and one calculated to produce greater efficiency.
I reflect that one major reverse, that of the Norway battle, was sufficient to bring about a change from the Chamberlain Government. That Administration never really had the support of the Labour party in the prosecution of the war. I will not enter into the reasons why that support was withheld by Labour Members. I know that their point of view can be argued, but I say as a fact, as one who was a member of that Government, that in the prosecution of the war which we all stood to live or die by that Administration had not the full support of the Labour party. There came then the Churchill Administration, to which the Labour party gave its support and in which many of its prominent members were included. It has carried us now through nearly two years in which this country has suffered greater disasters, greater reverses, than Norway. It has done so mainly because of the deep-rooted feeling of confidence which the country has in the Prime Minister himself and in his determination to win in spite of all obstacles. That very determination of the Prime Minister perhaps made it difficult for him to realise that the country was not really content with the team he was leading. I am glad, I think many others with me, that he has recognised the view of Parliament and has made changes in the structure as well as in the personnel of his Government. He has now achieved what he himself describes as a more tensely braced and com- 280 pact Administration, and this Debate, which was expected to be a critical and tense Debate, has not been of that character because the House as a whole has decided to see how this new Administration in fact functions.
Like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, but for different reasons, I am not in a critical mood. It is expected that the Government will show its increased efficiency in the improvement in the work of certain Departments. While I do not want to go into detail I should like to make one or two observations on several of these Departments. In the War Office, where a major and most unusual change has taken place, we shall expect great things. I say on personal grounds that I am sorry my right hon. and gallant Friend is no longer in charge. His conduct with those of us who have had to approach him on any matter has been always helpful and courteous. Again, I am prepared, as many others are, to see how this experiment works, this remarkable experiment of taking the Civil Service head of the Department who himself has been responsible for some years for the detailed administration in that Department, and putting him at the head of it as Minister. We shall see how that works. I must say of the new Secretary of State that his fine record and his considerable experience bear the closest examination and we shall look forward with interest to see how he handles the political as well as the administrative side of the work. He has a great deal to do in that Department. I mention one thing in Army organisation which gives me and many others worry. That is, the lack of decentralisation of power to give a decision. Speaking with a little experience I know of long delays in arriving at decisions, and the reason for such delay appears to be difficult to understand. I believe that that could be overcome by a larger delegation of authority to Commands, Districts and Areas, particularly in administrative and supply matters. I hope that one of the tasks of the new Secretary of State will be to examine this.
From time to time committees are set up on staff administration. In addition to Army officers carrying out such investigations it might be wise to include men of experience of business and management particularly when these investigations refer to administrative and supply 281 rather than operational duties. I am a Territorial officer. I have no reason to complain, but I do find very few Territorial officers holding the same rank as myself; few receive appointments above lieutenant-colonel rank. In the last war there were many more, and I think it is fair to ask whether men who have business experience as well as some Army experience though not in the Regular Army are being given the fullest opportunity to hold the higher posts in administration in the Army? That is a subject on which I hope the Secretary of State will reflect. I do not suggest that full-time Regular Army training is not the right nursery to produce the higher operational commanders, but in administrative posts it is certainly worth considering whether business and managerial experience should not be taken into account in making selections for such offices.
Then I turn to another Department which interests me. A change has been made in the Ministry of Works and Buildings. On that, may I sound a Scottish note? The town and country planning scheme and post-war plans which occupy that Ministry are of great interest, but in Scotland we are most anxious that the reconstruction and planning done there should be the function of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think it is generally conceded that that is desirable. The Secretary of State for Scotland has far better contacts with all local authorities than could possibly be secured by a Minister in any other Department.
I welcome my right hon. and gallant Friend's promotion to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The right hon. and gallant Member for Uxbridge (Colonel Llewellin) had experience in that post under Lord Beaverbrook. His work at that time was known to many throughout the country. We wish him good luck in what is one of the most important posts in the country at the present time and much will depend on the successful working of that Department.
In conclusion I come back from the Departments to say a word about the country in general and parts of Scotland in particular. What I am about to say may make me unpopular, not with one section only, because I am applying this very widely. I do not think that we in the country as a whole are working all-out. I do not think we 282 have got back to the real spirit of sacrifice and endeavour which we showed some time ago. I do not think that Clydeside is working all-out at this time on naval and mercantile marine construction which is so vital to our country, with a margin of naval superiority very dangerously threatened by the advent of the Japanese into the war. I do not think that those districts which construct our ships—and I am not referring to one class of workmen only—realise the extreme necessity under which we are working and I believe that we could secure more in the way of production in those districts if that was realised, and if all workers in those parts of the world were fully bending to the task. After Dunkirk, there was a great spurt. It affected managements men, and everybody. Again, I saw it after the air raids on Clydeside about a year ago. In spite of the fact that certain shops and yards were affected, the production held on magnificently, because the people were stung to angry activity. In the last war in 1917, at the time of the great submarine menace, there was an earnest and feverish activity in Clydeside. To-day, with Russia doing well—good Luck to them—and Singapore very far away, we have false normality at home, and not the intense degree of endeavour which we must have to secure victory. We make the highest demands of all on our soldiers, sailors and airmen. Let the Government not be afraid to make those high demands on our people.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I would like to say how much I agree with the remarks of my right hon. and gallant Friend with regard to production, particularly in Scotland. I must also thank him for his reference to the lack hitherto of sufficient Scottish speakers in this Debate, because I think it may perhaps have influenced you, Sir, to call me, and may lead you to call more Scottish Members. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will agree with me that, from the point of view of strategy, one of the most interesting and arresting speeches in the Debate was that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha). I do not know whether every Member here was present during that speech. My right hon. Friend developed a formidable case against the R.A.F., and accompanied this by a categorical demand that the Army should have its own Air Force, under its 283 own command. With many of the views expressed by my right hon. Friend, I am, in principle, in agreement; but I suggest that the remedy he proposes is a counsel of despair. I would ask the House to consider whether the proper method of tackling this problem is not to go all out for far closer co-operation between the three Services than exists at present, rather than to give the Army its own Air Force, which will, of course, be immediately followed by demands from the Navy for its own, thus widening still further the gulf between the three Services. The problem, I suggest, should be tackled from the completely opposite angle; we should impose on all three Services greater co-ordination and co-operation from above, and see that that extends right through so that in the end we shall have, for operational purposes, one unified Service.
I shall be referring to the other aspects of my right hon. Friend's observation on the Air Force in a moment or two. But he referred specifically to Brest, as an indication that Bomber Command was not serving a sufficiently useful purpose; and he repeated, what is much heard in the country, that we ought to put a greater emphasis on fighters and torpedo-carrying aircraft. In the case of the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau," there were two obvious methods of dealing with that particular situation. One was a close naval blockade; the other was the invasion of Brittany. For obvious reasons, we could not take either course; but that Bomber Command alone could deal with those two ships from a great height at night, unless they had an inconceivable stroke of good fortune, was never claimed. What was claimed—and achieved—was that for a considerable time the ships were kept blocked in that port, and rendered incapable of taking part in commerce-raiding activities.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
But surely my hon. and gallant Friend took note of the Prime Minister's own words, when he stated that we were now in a more advantageous position because those ships had left Brest? That proves that the bombing policy was a waste of money.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Boothby
I confess that, although I would not dare to disagree with the Prime Minister on a matter 284 of strategy, I found it difficult to follow his argument. It seems to me that in that case we should have escorted the ships to their German base.
If I may say just another word on the question of general strategy, I think, while I entirely agree with everything that has been said about complacency, that it is possible for us to be unduly cast down by recent events. One of the strange things about the conduct of war is that it is governed by principles which do not change. It has been pointed out by the Prime Minister, and also—insufficiently I think—in the House, that we are suffering from a temporary lack of sea power. The fall of Malaya and Singapore, the partial failure in Libya, and the escape of the "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau," flow directly and inescapably from this single cause. I suggest that those admirals who, in the past, have stressed the importance of sea power have been proved, not wrong, but right, by the course of this war. The Japanese successes are founded on the existence of a battle fleet which no one has yet seen; just as our victory in the last war was founded upon the existence of a battle fleet which was in action for 20 minutes in four years. The whole argument is set forth with unparalleled lucidity, if perhaps at inordinate length, in the pages of the American writer Admiral Mahan. If the First Lord of the Admiralty could deprive us of just one of his week-end speeches, and study the pages of Mahan, he would derive consolation as well as profit. He would see why we have suffered these reverses, and what will happen when we regain our sea power.
The causes of our loss of sea power, partially in the Mediterranean, completely in the Pacific, are, first, because of the failure of successive Governments before the war to maintain the Navy at safety level—and, of all the bad things that those Governments did, I think that their failure to maintain the Navy at safety level was the worst; secondly, the disaster of Pearl Harbour, for which nobody can blame His Majesty's Government; thirdly, the dispersal of a battle fleet which was already dangerously below the level of safety; and, lastly, that we have not been able, because of all the calls made upon us, to proceed with adequate naval construction during these first years of the war. I suggest that naval construction now deserves, and requires, absolute 285 priority over all other construction. It is the most vital thing of all.
The fact that the conduct of naval operations in modern warfare requires air cover does not in the slightest degree vitiate the arguments of Admiral Mahan. The conduct of military operations equally requires air cover. What is necessary is that that cover should be provided instantly; and that it should have priority as far as aircraft construction is concerned.
In the final analysis I think it will be generally agreed that two things alone can bring us once again into mortal peril. First of all, the failure to regain sea power within a measurable space of time; and, secondly, the defeat of the Russian Armies. These are the two things which can bring us into the sort of danger which we had to face in 1940. Therefore, in concentrating upon the reinforcement of naval power, and of our Russian Allies in the field, the fundamental strategy of the Government is sound. Everything must be subordinated to this twin-objective, but we must face the consequences of it. We must be prepared to face consequences which, during the immediate next phase, will not be pleasant. One of the dangers inherent in this policy is that for the time being we may have to assume a purely defensive role. I believe that the answer to this—and here I disagree most respectfully with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha)—lies in Bomber Command. In Bomber Command we have fashioned a most formidable weapon of offence. I beg of hon. Members to believe that. It is not a weapon that can be used very effectively during the winter months. Now is the period when it will begin to be used effectively. Moreover, it is the only method available to us at present of striking directly at Germany. We should therefore use it to the full.
Everybody has read with interest and concern the articles which have lately appeared in the Press and elsewhere, and the criticisms that have been made in many quarters, regarding the night bomber, and how, it is alleged, it is not an effective weapon of war. Hon. Members should realise the psychological effect that this sort of argument and debate in public has upon the bomber crews. Arguments of this kind ought 286 not to be bandied about thoughtlessly; because it is tough to ask these chaps to undergo great dangers and perils, which they do cheerfully and bravely, unless they are convinced, as they are at present, that it, is worth doing. I think that hon. Members will agree about this. It has been suggested that we ought to scrap our heavy bombers and concentrate entirely on torpedo-carrying aircraft, fighters, and "tank-busters." I am convinced that that would be a profound mistake. If we have a weapon, then let us use it to the full; and concentrate upon improving its efficacy, and upon getting torpedo-carrying aircraft and "tank-busters" as well, and using all three. There is no weapon that we should not produce and use at the present time.
I would like to say a word, in leaving this somewhat dangerous field of strategy, about the recent changes in the Government, upon which I think the Prime Minister and the House and country are to be congratulated, in spite of the sense of personal loss it causes to some of us, including the hon. Member behind me who made such an admirable maiden speech. Although Lord Beaver-brook may have been against committees, as, I believe, he was, this new structure does substitute, in various important respects, men for committees, and that is wholly to the good. An hon. Member who spoke about, the B.B.C. yesterday, and with whom I found myself in substantial agreement, said that somebody had told him quite naturally that things "take so much longer in this war." This applies over a very wide field. Yet speed is the essence of war; and, provided he has sufficient powers to decide and not merely to compromise between conflicting interests, the man will beat the committee every time.
There is only one other point on the subject of the machinery of government to which I would like to refer, and that is the question of inter-departmental disputes. These can only be settled at Cabinet level, and they should be settled quickly. It is to be hoped that the Cabinet will give to its individual members sufficient powers to act on their behalf and to settle all such disputes quickly, and not refer them to committees. There is also a case for the very serious consideration of the amalgamation of certain Departments of State. I would refer to one of which I have had personal ex- 287 perience, namely, the Ministry of Food, and to the Ministry of Agriculture. These Departments cover, as some other Departments also do, the same ground to a very considerable extent. If you cover the same ground you have either to co-operate, or to compete. At the present time all competition should be confined to competition against Germany and Japan. During the brief period that I was at the Ministry of Food I remember the amount of time and energy spent—I might almost say wasted—in arguing about agricultural prices. I was astounded to see in the newspapers the other day that the whole exhaustive and exhausting process seems to have been repeated, and that it was even worse this year than last, with arguments being referred to Cabinet committees, then up to the Cabinet itself, and then referred hack to other committees accompanied by supporting threats of resignations. Is this to be an annual performance? I hope not. The surest way of eliminating redundant competition, which is a waste of time and energy, and of ensuring co-operation, is amalgamation. And I hope that the Prime Minister will give some consideration to the possibility of extending this method of Government rationalisation.
I come back to the question of production, of ships, aeroplanes and tanks, upon which the successful outcome of this war mainly depends. Many of us feel—and it has been expressed all through this Debate—that the powers at present exercised by the Government over both property and labour are quite insufficient for the gigantic effort that is now required. Many of us remember that complete powers over both have already been given to the Government by the unanimous vote of this House. All we now ask is that they shall be used. It is all very well to complain that people are suffering from complacency. You have the power to order the people, and if you do they will be delighted, and then you will get back that sense of urgency which the Lord Privy Seal said he missed when he returned from Russia. Compel the people, order them to do things, and you will get the response you want, and will please everybody in this country. At the moment many people do not know what to do. In order to win this war, revolutionary methods are required, and the Lord Privy Seal has made a close study of revolu- 288 tions. The Act of May, 1940, is the blueprint for a revolution. If the Lord Privy Seal likes to translate that blue-print into action, he has absolute powers to do so both as regards labour and production. And he will meet with nothing but approval. I do not think that the House or the country are to be blamed. I have heard it said that the Conservative party are to blame because they always resist threats to property, and that the Labour party are to blame because they are always defending the rights of labour. Anyone who reads the Act of 1940 will be astounded, as I was, to see how much power the Government have now got over both property and labour, if they choose to exercise it.
We have been discussing, necessarily and rightly, the higher direction of our war effort and strategy; but in this war, more than in any other, efficiency is required on every hand, and at every level, and not merely in the War Cabinet. This is a war of organisation. Not only in the desert is it the quartermaster's nightmare. It will be won not only by valour in the field, but also by superior administration and technical skill. Not only in the three Services but in every Department of State, from the top to the bottom, the incompetent should be sacked, the efficient should be promoted, and the right pegs "should be found for the right holes. It is no good saying that the Beveridge Committee's report on the Army was not profoundly disturbing. It was. I suggest that is one of the first things to which the new Secretary of State for War should direct his attention.
I have had the honour, for the last nine months, to serve at an operational station of the Royal Air Force. It has been a great experience, and I should like briefly to tell the House what has impressed me most. First of all, as I have already said, I think there is a lack of co-operation between the Services, and even between branches of the same Service, not so much at the top among the highest staff officers, as at the lower levels; and this is not for any lack of will on the part of the junior officers in all the Services. It is for lack of opportunity and lack of machinery. I think the machinery and the opportunity can, and should, be provided. Another thing that has struck me is the menace of paper. Sometimes it advances and sometimes it recedes, but it is ever present, an awful shadow in the 289 background. Forms descend upon you. They begin to descend upon you at 7 o'clock in the morning, and, if you are not very careful, they will go on descending upon you until 7 o'clock at night, and when you come back next morning, they have miraculously increased during the night. And I do not think this form and voucher problem is so bad in the Royal Air Force as it is in some of the other Services. There is supposed to be a shortage of paper. I can make some suggestions about that. I know I am speaking for serving Members when I say that there is a colossal wastage of paper in the Services. I think it would be worth while for the Service Departments seriously to consider appointing a special officer, a competent officer—a salvage officer—to go through these forms perpetually and see which ones can be eliminated.
The final thing that has impressed me is the capacity of youth to direct and to command. Here, indeed, the values in the Services are different from those which prevail in the House. In the past, we have been all wrong about youth. In this House we call bald-headed and grey-headed gentlemen of between 40 and 50 young men. The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) said recently what a scandal it was that four young men, of an average age of 50, should be appointed to inquire into the A.T.S. Alas! it is not so. We are no longer young. You have to go into the Royal Air Force to realise that you are, after all, an old buffer. It is a salutary, if somewhat painful, experience. I have watched at close quarters what we in the House would call boys, almost babies, of 25, 26 and 27 easily and competently discharging responsibilities much more onerous, much more pressing, much more poignant, than those discharged by any Member of the House, even on the Front Bench. Let us face the truth. For 20 years the politicians of this country have been frightened of youth. It was not by youth, which was rigorously excluded from power for 20 years, that we were conducted to the brink of disaster. Now, as always, when the follies of the politicians have landed us in war, we turn to youth to get us out of it. My final plea is that not only while the tempest rages should youth be given a chance, but also after it is over.
§ Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I am glad to have an opportunity 290 of dealing with one or two of the matters raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby). I know that even right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite will find it rather peculiar that my hon. and gallant Friend, who so fully supported the past Governments which he now actively criticises, should discover that they were such a lot of old buffers. The hon. and gallant Member said that the proper strategy for the Government to follow was first to maintain and strengthen the Navy and, secondly, to give assistance to Russia; and he said that he believed this was responsible for many of the unhappy events of the past. I want to say that I do not quarrel with the Government if they have such a plan of high strategy, but if they have that plan, surely their other plans could have been so arranged that when we suffered the losses, expected by the hon. and gallant Member, we would not have lost such huge masses of military material and personnel. Surely, it cannot be suggested that the Government's strategy in maintaining those two main plans was such that they were actually prepared to lose at Singapore 73,000 fighting men, together with military equipment of a sort that our Armies have very seldom had before. Those who, like the hon. and gallant Member, put forward this reason for the unhappy events that have taken place know perfectly well that just previous to the fall of Singapore the garrison there was considerably strengthened. Therefore, someone was at fault. If we are prepared to say that we shall carry out those two parts of a main programme of high strategy, and if at the same time we are prepared, in every other part of the world, constantly to send men and material there and lose them, it will not be very long before we are in an even worse position than we are at present.
I do not consider myself competent to deal with matters of high strategy. I am an ex-soldier, and my hon. and gallant Friend is at present serving, and has had, I think, almost a year's service in the Forces. I feel that those who are serving in such capacities are much more able to advise the Government than I am. I want to put a question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal and to ask for—what past experience tells me I shall receive—a plain and blunt 291 reply. I want to ask why the position taken at recent very critical meetings of the House was not met. Why have the claims of the House for a complete change in the machinery of production not been met? Some of the changes that have taken place are not, to me personally and, I believe, to some of my colleagues, very welcome. They are not only unwelcome to me, but they seem unhealthy and ominous. I will give the House an illustration of what I mean.
Speaker after speaker has referred to the complete inefficiency of War Office administration during the past few years, and we have heard captains, majors and colonels in this House talking about the great amount of forms they have to fill in and the great waste of time it means. We have heard of the waste of time in the Army on "spit and polish," and we know that the Army is bored stiff with more saluting than shooting practice. We have heard complaint after complaint with regard to War Office administration, and yet, to appease a critical House of Commons, the Minister, who, generally speaking, accepts the guidance and advice of his Permanent Secretary, is changed for the man who could really be held responsible. It is not only a funny position; it is an ominous position for every Minister. How are they to treat their Permanent Secretaries in the future? Is there to be distrust brought into Departments, and will Ministers feel confident that nothing is being done to undermine them? Will Ministers be sure of the advice they receive? This is a departure from a practice of the House of Commons which has been observed for very many years. I want to ask my right hon. and learned Friend to submit to this House a reasoned answer as to why this change took place. I want to ask him why the demand of this House for a War Cabinet composed of Ministers unhampered with departmental responsibility has not been met. That demand did not come entirely from Labour Benches, but from some of the most competent authorities on industrial organisation in this House. The demand was made, and the Prime Minister, by giving an assurance that the views of the House would be considered, obtained a Vote of Confidence. But how have they been considered?
292 My right hon. Friend who took part in War Cabinet meetings unhampered with Departmental responsibilities has now had the Dominions Office placed on his shoulders. Of all people, the Minister of Labour is now in the War Cabinet. The Minister of Labour has to understand, study and consider every method of applying labour, obtaining labour and shifting labour from one place to another, and yet with all these responsibilities he has to accept the further responsibility of directing strategy. [HON. MEMBERS: "He was in the War Cabinet before."] Then all I can say is that he is retained in the War Cabinet against the desire of this House.
I now come to the Minister of Production. I do not think that any Member would have considered it a suitable reply to the criticism made in this House during a recent Debate, if he had known that the only change was to transfer the Office from one man to another. I want to know whether any additional powers have been given to the Minister of Production, and whether any regional organisations, with a certain amount of executive authority, are being set up, as was demanded by this House. I want to know whether the Minister of Production is merely to be placed in the same position as the last Minister, who had to fight and battle with every Department in order to get his own way. If the Minister who is to take over this office is to be placed in the same position as Lord Beaverbrook, we have made a wrong change, because he has not got the courage, the callousness or the disrespect for the fine feelings of others which Lord Beaverbrook had, which unfortunately he found very necessary in order to impress other members of the Cabinet.
The whole of the strategy in this war must be based on production. You cannot send arms to Singapore or to any other place, and you cannot supply your troops in Libya, if there is inefficiency in production here, if there is bad administration and a conflict between managerial staffs and workers' staffs, if there is absenteeism, and if, as was stated, there is a lack of production in Clydeside. If all these things are taking place at a time when the Government have power to conscript labour, the responsibility cannot lie with the people in industry, but must lie with the Government who are afraid to use their power. I will tell my 293 right hon. and learned Friend, if there is a lack in production to-day as compared with one year, ago, it is because the workers of this country are beginning to disbelieve more and more the promises of the Government. What has happened to incite enthusiasm among shipyard workers, engineer workers, labourers and all the others taking part in industry? What has happened to incite their enthusiasm this week? A pledge was made to every ex-Service man and woman in this country that they would be well looked after at the end of the war, and that a Ministry of Reconstruction would be maintained in order to see to it that what happened in the last war would not happen again. That pledge has been sent back by the Prime Minister. I have to go to the people in Maryhill, Glasgow, and to the people in Clydeside and tell them that, so far as reconstruction is concerned, the Prime Minister has stated that while he is making these changes we shall have to expect some delay. We have had no word from him this week as to what exactly will take place as regards reconstruction after the war.
From all sides of the House there came a demand, which was ably expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), that the antagonisms of peoples over whom we have had control for many years should be allayed and that some message should come from the Government that we were prepared to give them a much better deal than they could expect from the Axis Powers. What is the strength of the propaganda of Germany and Japan? They say to these people, "You have been exploited, and you have no say in the government of the country where you reside. You are merely serfs under the British administration. If you recognise that we will give you certain benefits, you should defend the Axis Powers." The antagonisms of the Indian people must be met, but they cannot be met by an indifferent British Government. Some responsibility must be placed upon the shoulders of the Indian people for their own lives and methods of living. As a student of politics, I fully realise that great difficulties and obstacles are in the way. They have always been in the way of any major reform in this country itself. Great obstacles and difficulties were raised when we tried to improve the Factories Acts, and they have been put in the way of every great reform, and particularly in the 294 way of freeing people who have so long been governed by another nation. This is a total war.
If we have to make sacrifices, if British Tommies and British women have to sacrifice their lives, if their sons are taken away from comfortable homes and placed in the terrorism of war, if we have to give up hard-won rights—if these things are done by the common people to-day, surely the Government can say that we shall make some sacrifice in order to assist the people of India to resist aggression. It would be far better to have that great Empire as a friend and as a country which is able to say, "Even though it was during a war, on the advice and counsel of reasonable men in this country the British Government have extended to us a means of administering our own affairs so that we can look after our own people and not be a nation subdued and exploited for the benefit of a certain number of the community." I am not asking even my right hon. and learned Friend to create a revolution in India. I merely ask that these people, whom we expect and whom he expects to defend him and his, should have extended to them a reasonable right of government. If that is done, I am certain that we shall bring to our side one of the strongest Allies this country could possibly have.
Walking side by side with production inefficiency, we have the ghosts of Norway, Dunkirk, Crete, Greece, Malay States, Singapore and Benghazi. I appeal to my right hon. and learned Friend to represent to the Government the tone of the House during recent Debates, which is that even with production at 100 per cent. we must instal a machine whereby it will be fully utilised. That cannot be done with a War Cabinet containing Ministers with departmental responsibilities, and including the Minister of Labour, trying to solve problems affecting the Far East, the Near East, France and Russia and problems of world-wide strategy, and containing also the Minister of Supply, who is held back from obtaining 100 per cent. production because of the clashing interests of various Service Departments. That is bad organisation, and I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to draw these things and the desires of the House to the attention of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Burgin (Luton)
) The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) will forgive 295 me if I do not follow him in the observations he has just addressed to us. It is right and proper in a democracy that in the House of Commons we should devote far more of our time to discussion than to decision. If that process, however, were devoted to the war effort, it would be fatal, and the question which I wish to put to the House is whether Members are satisfied that enough attention is devoted in the councils of the State to decision or whether too much is not devoted to discussion. Within this grim Chamber there is something almost unnatural and unreal. Our comfort, our conventions, our leisurely conduct of business are in sharp and startling contrast with the urgency, the need and the value of every passing minute on the fields of war. As the Prime Minister has said, from time to time when he takes journeys abroad from this House and goes to the Fighting Forces, he draws a breath of fresh air from the keenness and the sense of contribution which he finds when he reaches the outposts of defence and sees the men who are our shield. When you go from the rather unnatural atmosphere of this House to a big industrial centre you find another change. You find a sense of threat, a sense of frustration, a sense of impediment. How true that is was shown by my hon. and gallant Friend speaking as of olden times from Aberdeen. I would assure him that not only do the men in the Forces feel that deluge of papers and forms, but men in industry and business feel it even more.
What I find as a Member for an industrial constituency making a not unimportant contribution to the entire Allied war effort, what I find in the big factories, is a sense of inability to secure a decision under a long period of time. Matters are submitted and discussed and passed to and fro within the Department, but the decision is not reached, as in the House, at the end of the day. It is not reached that day at all, and there is a sense of frustration and impediment. In business, if you are competing on behalf of your firm with another big firm for the placing of a large order, it is not the slightest use arriving after the customer has placed his order with your competitor. It does not matter then how good your output is or how good the sales organisation of the firm is. If the customer has already placed his order with the other side, you 296 are too late. This is a business war, and it is time that some of the mottoes of big business were realised and that the decision to take a particular course of action took less time to filter down to the officer upon the spot whose decision it is to implement that order.
There is something unreal in the House of Commons atmosphere. There is something unreal in the time we take in discussion and something unreal in the time within which a decision is reached. This House, of course, expected a Debate of a very different character from that in which we are now taking part. Not for the first time many of us who have desired to place Questions on the Paper, or to administer searching interrogatories, find ourselves requested not to do so in the interests of the State. I, for one, propose to defer to the Prime Minister's request and not to make a speech which traverses disasters in the Far East, and I think the House is to be congratulated on the extent to which, the Prime Minister with a full sense of responsibility having given that warning, the House has acceded to his request not to indulge in recriminations and searching inquiries; but many of us have memories. If many of these questions are not put to-day, it does not mean that they will not be put. It means that this is not the time nor the season to find reasons for set-backs and disappointments. No thinking man or woman can but have the greatest sympathy for the tremendous weight of responsibility that falls upon those who have the conduct of affairs of State, those who can never escape from the dread weight of responsibility. I would not add to that responsibility at all.
I welcome many of the changes which the Prime Minister, with an unerring sense of the demands that this House has made upon the Government, has granted. I welcome particularly the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Privy Seal. I see in his appointment not only a deserved tribute to his own work and to the work he did for his country and his Empire in Moscow, but I see a most deserved tribute to the Russian people themselves. I do not believe there is a man living who knows more of the state and condition inside Russia than the Lord Privy Seal, and, as one who for 25 years has had an office and a correspondent in Moscow, who knows something of the language of that people, who has studied 297 their history and who made a political and trade agreement with them while Minister of Supply, I have some special interest in following all that has to do with Russia. No more wonderful achievement in history has appeared than the series of successes which the Russian Army is gaining over the greatest military machine of all time. Long may the retreat of the Germans and the advance of the Russians continue. I regard the right hon. and learned Gentleman's appointment as a tribute to the great Russian people, and I think a very worthy one
When the Prime Minister asks that questions should not be put in this Debate with regard to events in the Far East, he is putting his finger upon a very delicate matter. There is something inconsistent between the conduct of free Parliamentary institutions and freedom of discussion in a democracy and the carrying on of a war against totalitarian peoples who have abolished and obliterated all ideas of freedom in their land. Therefore, many of us who felt we had a part to play in the national war effort have felt, perhaps in deference to that difficulty of discussing matters in the public forum of debate here, that we were better advised to submit memoranda and reasoned arguments to Departments and to Ministers rather than raise matters on the Floor of the House. If for some time past I have not troubled this House by making addresses to it, that does not mean that one has not adopted the other method, and done all that lay in one's power to bring facts and information and what were thought to be helpful criticisms to the notice of those to whom they were directed. There are many circumstances in which cold logic plays a more important part in assisting Governments to arrive at a conclusion than hot words and rhetoric in debate, and a case does not always become less valuable because it is well argued on paper.
In this Debate a number of references have been made to production, and I want to ask the House whether we are all convinced that we are right in addressing our critical faculties to the volume of production rather than to what we produce. I believe the House, when history comes to be written, will be staggered and surprised at the extent to which production estimates have been fulfilled. When 298 plans were laid down for the production of given instruments of warfare, given types of ordnance, given classes of armoured vehicles, given classes of ammunition—and plans were made for their production in fabulous quantities over periods of time—I believe it will be found very largely that those production estimates have been reached and passed. But I believe the real question is not whether production as one total has reached a particular aggregate, but whether we are producing the right thing at the right time.
That comes back to this question, Are the right people placing the right orders? Certainly at the outbreak of the war there were neither the right people nor the right orders. Many of the weapons that are now common form and matters of daily requirement were not ordered at all in the early days of the war, and I think that a great deal of our inquiry might be directed not to production as if it were one global total but to whether the immense productive capacity of a highly industrialised country like our own is really being directed to produce that which lies in its power to produce, what is wanted by the General Staff, whether it ought to be wanted by the General Staff and whether it is produced at the right time. What a dismal calculation it is to think that so many months' production of equipment is thrown away by a misuse of the equipment once it has been delivered to particular units of troops by their being sent upon what is a forlorn hope.
If production does reach a particular limit and if that limit is satisfactory, if we are producing the right goods and if we are producing them at the right time, it is still necessary to see that the production, once it has been handed to the Army, the Navy or the Air Force, is used in an operation which is worthy of all the effort that has gone into that production. Great production of the right thing at the right time is not consistent with dissipation of those weapons, that ammunition and those stocks in forlorn hopes. There is profound dissatisfaction among the public at the handling of the war machine by the General Staff—profound. Let me remind the Prime Minister that in mountaineering, when you are crossing a snowstorm, it is not what is on the surface that illustrates the greatest danger but what is at a lower level. While the changes in the War Cabinet are no doubt welcome and show 299 that there is a tighter bracing of the machine, it is at a lower level that we want inquiry and there is profound disturbance.
When I ask whether the right thing is being ordered, I want also to know whether anybody is paying attention to the provision of a larger mortar capable of hurling a larger shell. Have we learned the lesson of the fighting of those enemies who oppose us, and the immense use they make of the light mortar of a larger calibre than that with which our Army was equipped in the early days? Is the right proportion of tracer bullets being made among our.303s and.5s? Are we really learning the lesson that the tactics of the last two-and-a-half years have shown us? It is no use firing a machine gun, Lewis gun or Bren gun at an aircraft unless you can see whether your bullets are entering some vital part. Specifying tracer or illuminated or coloured ammunition is of enormous importance when placing orders for ammunition generally. I believe it is a well-accepted principle that the country will make any effort and sacrifice called for, provided only that people are satisfied about the use that is being made of the sacrifice that they are willing to stand.
My intervention this afternoon was not intended to cover the strategic field or the changes in the Government, welcome though some of those changes are. I wanted to raise an economic matter, and I will do so very shortly, because I do not wish to distract the House from other thoughts. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his speech yesterday, as in previous speeches, has, from the Front Bench of the Opposition, demanded nationalisation, and socialisation by State purchase, of certain industries. He has referred to proposals that are being made to the Government in that regard. Let me say at once that, so far as I and my hon. Friends are concerned, any contribution necessary for sustaining or increasing the war effort will be willingly agreed to. As a war measure there is no limit that I know of to which the economic interests for which I speak would not be prepared to go, but do let it be clearly understood that national ownership, national purchase and complete alteration of the ownership of industry is a controversial matter. Do not embark upon it as if it were something that could be slipped through during the course of 300 the war, except to the extent to which it contributes directly and immediately to the prosecution of the war. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about the nationalisation of labour?"] I do not want to be drawn aside from the very narrow point which I am trying to make. It is the right and duty of any Member or group of Members who feel that they can achieve an advantage by so doing, to make representations as they may see fit, but nothing in the nature of representations followed by commitments can possibly take place unless the matter is freely and properly discussed on the Floor of this House. I am merely putting in a plea that if proposals respecting any of these contested matters are made, those proposals should come to the Floor of this House. Do not let us, however, do anything to impair national unity by putting forward controversial matters at this time. Nationalisation, the State ownership of industry, is an enormous question. Do not let us embark upon anything that would weaken or hinder the entire national effort which is needed to win this war.
I conclude by simply saying that the one object which is before us is to win the war, on terms which are equitable for all those who contribute to the winning of it. Do not let us worry about more detailed war aims or peace aims than that at the moment. We are in a period of extreme difficulty. Trust the man at the helm, make clear to him the things that we desire changed, contribute the full benefit of the advice and experience of all in the House—let no one have the idea that this is a personal war from which the help of others can be excluded—let us not have any obstinacy in high places or elsewhere, but by realising more acutely the note of urgency and the note of need, let us do what each has in his power to contribute to final victory, bearing in mind that the speed with which that victory is obtained is almost as important as the victory itself.
§ Sir Edward Campbell (Bromley)
There have been a great number of speeches about Malaya, Burma and the Far East, and I would like to say, for the benefit of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), who seems to be particularly unknowledgable on the subject, that those of us who have been interested most of our lives in the Far East and in that part of the world are to-day suffering a great deal more than a Socialist capital levy. 301 I mention that because I am sure it will please him. Other hon. Members have mentioned the fact that the natives in Burma, in the Malay States, in Singapore and in some parts of the Dutch East Indies have been lukewarm, have not entered into the battle, and indeed seem to be indifferent as to what happens. The fact of the matter is that these people have never been brought up to be warlike men. Nobody wanted a war, nobody tried to militarise all the native populations in case there should be a war, and very few of the natives in any of these Colonies are capable of fighting at all.
In this connection, and in reference to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hare-Belisha), it is not the total number of people on the side of the Allies or on the side of the Axis which counts. That statement is very misleading. The real calculation is how many armed men are on the side of the Allies, and how many are on the side of the Axis. There are millions of men in Europe to-day, many of them soldiers, who are whole-heartedly favourable to the Allies, but they are unarmed and are kept in absolute subjugation by a handful of armed Gestapo. Therefore, the calculation which is so often bandied about to the effect that we have three-quarters or four-fifths of the population of the world on our side, against one-fifth or whatever it may be on the Axis side, had better be washed out entirely.
§ Mr. Davidson
Will the hon. Member permit me to suggest that he is bearing out the argument of many speakers here saying that a great majority of those people were lukewarm to our ideals and aspirations because of our treatment of them? Fair treatment would bring them to our side, and we should have the numbers.
§ Sir E. Campbell
I dare say the hon. Member has more knowledge than I have after 21 years out there. His suggestions are absolutely wrong. No one likes the Japanese less than the Malays, the Chinese or the Javanese. I have had experience of that myself in Java, where the Japanese have bought estates and have brought Javanese coolies down. In six months or a year those coolies have disappeared, not because of the Dutch or British, but because the natives did not like them. And they never will like them. 302 Therefore, I wish to suggest that that viewpoint is entirely wrong.
I will conclude by saying this: We may still have a long time to go in the Far East. Our difficulties are great. I do not blame the Government for the difficult position in which we are to-day. They have been explained, and I accept whole-heartedly the great difficulties which the Government have been in owing to having to keep an Army here, and fight in Libya and other parts of the world. But sooner or later, and the sooner the better, the Japanese will crack. When that time comes, and it is no use saying it is premature to mention that now, I want to ask the Government, before the Peace Pledge Union, before the peace-at-any-price people, before the social and political and sentimental cranks get in first, to bear in mind at that time that we must send an expeditionary force into Japan, and with that expeditionary force there must be natives from Burma, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, so that they may see for themselves what is done in Japan in repayment for what the Japanese have done in their countries, what they have done to the homes of the natives, what they have done in the temples of the natives, what they have done to the peoples in those countries. I want that to sink into the Government now, so they may think over it, discuss it and, when the time comes, do what is necessary.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said that in the last war the Cabinet themselves were surprised that it ended so quickly. We do not know what is going to happen now. It may go on for one year, two years, but when the time comes it is only natural that those cranks, as I call them, who want peace at any price, should get at the Government and for political and other reasons try to get them to say, "Sign a peace. We want peace at any price. We want to get on with the job." I put that to the Government. I do not make any further suggestions as to how it should be done. I do hope that it will be remembered.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
The Debate which is drawing to its close has emphasised the essential unity of the nation. There has been nothing in it to hearten the enemy. There have been highly critical speeches, but they have exhibited no divergence of opinion in the 303 country or in this House about the need for prosecuting this war with the utmost vigour to a successful conclusion. No one has asked the Government to be more soft with the people of this country. On the contrary, the note that has run through all the speeches has been one of determination to face the grim facts and there has been a demand that the Government should exact from everyone of us the last ounce of our energy in the common cause. When the House rose at the end of last week, there was a state of tension, that amounted almost to a quarrel between the House and the Prime Minister as to the structure of the Cabinet and the functions that its Members ought to perform. That tension was relieved during the week-end by the decision of the Prime Minister to reconstitute his Government. Taking the changes as a whole, they have been well received by this House. While, of course, it is not to be expected that any section of opinion will be completely satisfied, either as to personnel or as to function, the House has accepted the changes as a genuine attempt to infuse greater energy and drive into the war effort.
But the proof of the Cabinet pudding will be in the eating, and the House will not lavish enconiums upon the chief cook until it has tasted and approved the qualities of the dish that he is setting before us. I do not mean to suggest that there ought to be a fresh crisis, unless events in the various theatres of war take an immediate turn for the better. It may not be within the power of anyone to command victories, least of all in the Far East, at the moment; but at least, the House must be satisfied that in the future everything possible shall be done to secure victory. The House has not been so satisfied in regard to the past.
Many of the speeches in this Debate have been devoted to a critical examination of the strategic decisions that have been taken. I do not propose to add anything to what has been said already on such matters. They speak for themselves, and I leave it to the Government spokesman to deal with them. I do not know whether my right hon. and learned Friend is going to deal with these matters; it is for him to decide the line he takes.
But there has been another class of criticism, of a purely constructive 304 character, which has been heard in all parts of the House during this Debate. It formed a large part of the speech—the excellent speech, as I think the House will agree—of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), when he followed the Prime Minister yesterday. It was presented in vigorous speeches by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) and the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), and it has been re-echoed by many of my hon. Friends behind me. It was a demand for a new approach to the problems of the hour and new action with regard to them. I propose to sum up this criticism, coming not, as I have said, from one section of the House alone, in a single word.
We are all familiar with the personality that the foremost cartoonist of our day has created, of "Colonel Blimp." I suggest that what these critics desire to impress on the Government—and I am in full sympathy with them—is that, if the Government are to carry the country with them in their war effort, they must set about abolishing "Blimpery" in all fields of life. What is the essence of "Blimpery?" It has, no doubt two main characteristics. In the first place, there is the refusal to entertain new ideas, and, in the second place, the determination to keep the bottom dog permanently in his place. I propose to illustrate those two essentials of "Blimpery."
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Is not the essence of "Blimpery" wanting to keep the top-dog in his place?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
It comes nearly to the same thing in the end. I will begin with the Army. The traditional view in the Army of the common soldier is that he is just a common soldier, and as such can be equally well employed upon any task which needs to be done at the moment. It may be sweeping floors or handing round Brussels sprouts in the officers' mess. I am not suggesting that there are not many wise heads in the War Office who know better and do better than that or that there are not many enlightened commanding officers who have a much better judgment and a much better response to the needs of the moment. But we have the opinion of the Beveridge Report to show that a great deal of that "Blimpery" still remains. 305 I will read one or two short passages from the Beveridge Report. It speaks of the continuingfailure to use men of engineering skill according to their skill, which has surprised us by its extent.In another part of the Report, referring to the importance of being able to repair machinery, it says:To obtain without damaging repercussions the skilled men they need, the Services must be economical not only in skilled men, but in men without special skill who are of good physique. There is needed a scrutiny of the use of all man-power in the Services and not of skilled men alone.I will take another matter relating to the Army. I believe there is a desire, genuinely felt, to give commissions to competent men who start from humble positions in life, but this purpose is, in many cases, frustrated by purely financial considerations. I have received letters from people pointing out that the initial cost of obtaining a commission in clothes alone greatly exceeds the Government allowance. Thus a man is put into debt directly he takes a commission. Over and above that, it is well known that his recurring expenses, owing to the charges that fall upon him by convention and tradition, are such that he has the greatest difficulty in providing for himself and for those at home. In my constituency, recently, a woman told me that her husband had been offered a commission but was reluctant to take it because he realised she would be considerably worse off if he did so than she was before. Those are two illustrations of how this principle affects the Army. I put it to the Government that all this "Blimpery" must be got rid of. What I want to know is whether the new Secretary of State for War will do this.
I feel that here I ought to diverge a moment to say a few words about the appointment of the new Secretary of State for War. Certainly, it is not a personal matter with me, because I know Sir James Grigg very well, and I believe him to be a forcible and fearless man who, if anyone can, will cut through red tape and bring good results. The Prime Minister, whom he served at the Treasury for many years, is, no doubt, well aware of all those qualities. But I hope this appointment by the Prime Minister will not be taken as a precedent for similar appointments. Certainly, it would be a 306 very dangerous thing if a Minister during all his term of office were subjected to the risk of being supplanted by his own Permanent Secretary. However, the appointment has been made, and the occupant of the position is one who possesses great courage, and I hope he will prove equal to the task of getting rid of "Blimpery" wherever it manifests itself in the Army.
I turn now to the Colonial Office. For years past many of us have been saying that the administration of our Colonies was a scandal. For one thing, in something like a century preceding 1929 there were practically no labour legislation and no social services in the Colonies. There may have been in one or two cases, but, broadly speaking, there were not. The coloured man was the bottom dog who could be exploited to an almost unlimited extent by his white master. We who made those criticisms said that the prestige of the British Empire was at stake. As a result of what we said, and of the facts that intervened, some impression was made, and some action has been taken recently. But if we had said that the existence of the British Colonial Empire was at stake, I think we should have been told that we were talking nonsense. I say in all seriousness that in this war at the present moment we are in the act of losing a part of our Colonial Empire, and losing it, in some measure, because of the very "Blimpery" against which we have been campaigning. When I say that, I say it with very considerable authority behind me. I read in the "Times" a week ago to-day an account of the reasons why the campaign in Malaya and Singapore had been so unfortunate. I find that the "Times" contributor says:Early on in the war, of the labour force of 12,000 Asiatics employed at the Naval base, only 800 were reporting for duty. There was no native labour at the docks. Soldiers had to be taken from military duties to load and unload ships.Another part of the report says:Unlike Tobruk, Singapore had a civil population of 700,000 people. Unlike Moscow, the bulk of this population were apathetic spectators of a conflict which they felt did not concern them.That is what the correspondent of the "Times" said. Why was it that the Malayans felt this conflict did not concern them? I have called the main reason "Blimpery," but the "Times" in its 307 leading article used more dignified language, although, I think, if Members listen to it carefully, they will find that it means precisely the same thing. This is what the "Times" stated:Recent events have confirmed longstanding doubts whether either the spirit or the machinery of the British Colonial policy had adapted itself with sufficient rapidity and flexibility to a changed and changing world.That is rather a long paraphrase of the description I gave when I was defining "Blimpery" earlier in my remarks. It may be when the war is over we shall get back this part of our Colonial Empire, but, if we do, it will only be on conditions which justify our being allowed to hold it in the interests of the world and in the interests of the people who live in those parts.
I turn from the Colonial Empire by natural transition to the question of India. I will not deny that there have been great Englishmen and great Scotsmen who have rendered notable service to India in the past, and a great number of the British community who are continuing to do so. Having said that, I maintain it cannot be denied that "Blimpery" has played a big part in our relations in India. On previous occasions I have urged immediate action on the Prime Minister, and the same advice has come from all parts of the House in this Debate. What inducement is there, it was asked, for Indians to fight on our side? When that was said, there was a pertinent interruption to the effect that the inducement was to be safe from Germany. There is some relevance in that point but I will put this consideration to the House. It would probably have been well for the denizens of the pool if they had kept King Log, and not found themselves, later, under the rule of King Stork. I wonder whether the House imagines that King Log could have used that as a very valid argument to induce his subjects to accept his rule. I think, in fact, it would not have achieved its purpose.
I am glad to see it stated in the Press that the Prime Minister is shortly to reply to the appeal of the Indian Liberals. I trust that when the reply is made it will carry this very difficult problem a big step forward to a satisfactory conclusion. Members in all parts of the House have shown that it is of vital value to the 308 British Empire that the immense population of India should be enthused to fight for the defence of their country and to act in accord with us in repelling the aggressive actions of the Axis Powers.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
What kind of enthusiasm does the right hon. Gentleman think will be necessary to induce the bulk of the inhabitants of Bengal to take up arms and fight?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
If the hon. Gentleman is attempting to cast aspersions on a section of His Majesty's subjects I think that is a very unfortunate interruption. If that is not his intention, I see no point in it.
I come to the question of production and the employment of labour. Here again I am not concerned to deny the many good things that are happening at the present time. I know that there are large manufactories and large firms where excellent relations are maintained between employers and workers and where the work is being done by all concerned with a patriotic drive that has nothing but the good of the country at heart. I also know that that is very far from the case in quite a number of factories and workshops throughout the length and breadth of England and Scotland, as to the latter of which I am particularly informed.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
And in the coal mines, of course. Members in all parts of the House have drawn attention to the waste of man-power that is going on. It is well-known to many of us that considerable friction prevails because of the refusal of managers to take the workers into their confidence in many respects. When I was a young man, if an employer had rebuked an employee and the latter began his reply by saying, "I thought, sir—" the employer would cut him short by saying, "I do not pay you to think." Probably those words are much more rarely used to-day than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but their spirit frequently remains. I will give an illustration. A few days ago a worker in a firm which has a large piece of national work to do came to see me. This establishment is not a factory, but it employs a large number of workers, mostly what are called black-coated workers. They had come to the conclusion that the work they 309 were doing could be done more economically, both in time and output, if, sometimes, representatives of those who were employed had a chance of presenting certain matters to the management. They were received, it is true, but they were given to understand that it was not their business and that they had much better leave what was the management's affair to the management and, if they had individual grievances to represent, to do so individually.
That is typical of the state of mind that prevails in certain sections of employment and it is that kind of thing that has to be got rid of. We all know that works cannot be run by committees, but we recognise that intelligent men and women at work very often have valuable suggestions to make for more economic management and for better work, and to neglect, them and treat them as underlings who are not paid to think, is the worst way to get on with the nation's business. I had another illustration brought to my attention a few days ago in the city that I represent. There was a very sudden demand in a certain works for the immediate production of certain machinery. The men had counted on going home to dinner, but they were told they could not possibly do so, and that they would have to remain on at work until nine at night. They said if they could not go home they thought the management ought to stand them a tea. It was not a very unreasonable request and any sensible management would have been only too glad to get their co-operation at so small an outlay. What happened in fact was that the head manager was telephoned for and, in order to enforce his point, he collected members of the police force on his way, had as big a row as he could and finally forced the workpeople into submission. I do not suggest that that is typical of what is going on in the country. [Interruption.] I am raising it, because individual cases of that kind continue to exist.
§ Sir I. Albery
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, in the public interest, such a case ought to be exposed? Will he not let us have the names?
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that this is a slur upon industry as a whole, and that in a case of this description he should give the name, or at least give it to the Department?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
Of course, I have given it to the Department and it is being looked into. I mention it as an illustration. I do not think it is a slur upon industry as a whole, because I was careful to say that I am quite aware that it is not typical of industry as a whole. What I do say is that wherever cases of that kind arise it is essential that the Ministry of Labour—and perhaps also the Ministry of Production if it be concerned—should act, and act vigorously, to get rid of such instances of "Blimpery" as I have tried to expose.
I come finally to the sumptuary question. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and other speakers have already made reference to it. In spite of the Income Tax, in spite of the rationing of food, of petrol and other articles, there is still an immense amount of luxury expenditure and wasteful self-indulgence. All sorts of expensive foods can be bought and consumed by persons whose wealth remains intact. All sorts of expensive and unnecessary amusements are indulged in. I am not by any means suggesting that this applies generally. I believe in all ranks of life there is a real attempt among the great bulk of the people to live frugally and to contribute substantially to the savings of the nation, but we all know that such things as I have referred to do go on, and on a scale which affects other people very seriously when they see what is happening.
Everyone who is in touch with the workers knows how detrimental it is to the vigour of the war effort when they see what is happening among a certain class of people. I say, without any doubt, that "Blimpery" is still rampant in certain circles, and it is up to the Ministers concerned to put a stop to it. I do not pretend to decide what the remedy may have to be. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have to play his part, and that the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Minister of Food and the President of the Board of Trade will all have to take action, and that not until that action is carried through shall we get the state of feeling in our society which is really required. I have come to the end of what I have to say. I have attempted to give a few illustrations of some of the things in which vital changes are required, but in my view "Blimpery"—
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I have defined it. I say that "Blimpery" is the first enemy to be destroyed. Only with its defeat will victory be assured and the post-war world rendered safe for democracy.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
On a point of Order. My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House kindly intimated to the House earlier that he proposed to try to catch your eye a little later than the present moment. May I ask whether, in those circumstances, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, it is in your opinion proper for those of us who have not had the good fortune of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) to continue the Debate afterwards?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
That is a matter which I must leave entirely to hon. Members themselves.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I almost feel that I ought to ask for the indulgence of this House, since it is very nearly two years now since I last had the honour of addressing its Members. I am sure that the Government will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken for a speech which was most helpful in its terms, and for a type of criticism which I, at least, shall always welcome in this House. Indeed, during the course of this Debate, the great majority of the speeches have been of that character. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as an expert cook, which we all know him to be—at least, those of us who look at the picture papers. I can assure him that the Cabinet are quite prepared to let him taste the pudding when it comes to be cooked. I am also certain that every member of the Cabinet will be prepared to accompany the right hon. Gentleman to the funeral of that person whom I hope we may now describe as the late and not lamented Colonel Blimp. I will go in detail into the matters to which he particularly referred, if he will now excuse me from answering them at this moment.
The House will, I am sure, realise that though I will do my best to deal with some of the important questions that have been raised in the course of the Debate, 312 it is not possible for me to deal with them all, especially as my return to this country has been so recent and my entry into the Government even more recent. I have not been able yet to acquaint myself with the vast mass of detail that it would be necessary to know in order to deal with many of those questions. This applies particularly to definite and specific points as regards the production programme, military matters and strategy, of which I confess I have not at present a very profound knowledge. I think it would be most useful to the House if I were to attempt, in the first instance, to deal with the general approach of the Government to the present situation, and then to deal with some of the more specific matters which have been raised. Let me start by saying to the House in all sincerity that I am most anxious to make the criticism and the co-operation of the Members as fruitful as possible, from the point of view of our joint effort to win the war. I shall regard my position as Leader of the House as having for its object the interpretation of the views of the House to the War Cabinet and also the views of the War Cabinet to the House.
There is one matter which I am sure all Members of the House will bear in mind. All of us desire unity in our efforts. We know the need and the crucial necessity at this moment for that unity; but unity is not the same as uniformity. There must be unity in our purpose, though we may have wide disconformity or disuniformity in the methods we suggest of reaching our objective. Nevertheless, we have to work out our solutions together, and both sides—or all views and opinions—must compromise in the eventual working-out of a common policy of action which is to be put into operation. There are some who wish for rapid and violent progress, some perhaps even in the Cabinet itself, and they cannot have all they wish, but no more can those who desire to remain static have their wish either. One side must go forward, just as the other must hold back, if we are to march forward along a common front. I have in the past been a critic myself of many things and Governments, and I fully appreciate the fact that both critics and supporters alike are out to help to win this war and to make, each one in his own way, that contribution which he best feels able to make to the united war effort.
313 I believe, moreover, that this House of Commons has a vital and all-important part to play in our victory. We may not see eye to eye as to the best and quickest path, and we may and will have many differences and discussions as to how we may go forward most rapidly to the desired end, but as long as we are determined upon the goal which we intend to reach, these differences and discussions should not decrease but should invigorate and revitalise our efforts. Perhaps it may be thought that with a totalitarian Parliament the conduct of the war might be easier for those who are in charge of it. But we are fighting for something different from totalitarianism, and for something that we believe to be better. If, however, we are determined to preserve and use to the full our machinery of democracy, we must not be afraid to examine its working, with a view to creating from it a machine of the maximum efficiency for our purpose, whether that purpose be victory in the present or reconstruction in the future. We must no more allow deficiencies or antiquated methods to interfere with our democratic machine than we must with our military machine, and I am certain that we can make this House of Commons an even greater and more inspiring body for the people of this country than it has ever been in its history—and it has had a long and distinguished history—if we are prepared to adapt our methods and our mentality to the urgent needs of the present time.
The Prime Minister, in opening this Debate, and many of the Members who have followed him have stressed the darkness of the present stage of the war, despite the gallantry of the many Allies who are helping us to-day in the Far East—the Dutch, the Chinese, the Americans. It is rightly stressed that the onslaught of the Japanese, added to the already enormous effort of Germany and her satellite Powers, has cast upon us a burden that is heavier than any which we have yet borne. It is not the last straw, and it will not break the back of the British people. We are no less confident to-day of our ultimate victory, but for weeks and it may be for months we shall pass through times of acute anxiety and difficulty, and it is because of this present state of affairs, and the prospect of the coming months, that we must brace ourselves anew in our effort 314 for victory. The circumstances are grave, and the Government are convinced that it is the wish of the people in this country to treat this grave situation with all the seriousness and austerity that it undoubtedly demands. For two and a half years now the great majority of the people of this country have been working their hardest in their various spheres to give every help that they could, but there still remains a minority of people to whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) referred, who appear to regard their personal interests in a manner which is not consonant with that totality of effort which is required if we are to come through the present difficulties with success. The Government are determined that such an attitude cannot be permitted to persist. It creates an attitude and spreads a sense of frustration and disappointment, and it must be dealt with ruthlessly wherever and whenever it occurs.
We are not engaged in a war effort in which we can have as our motto "Business as usual," or "Pleasure as usual." The Government propose to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent the abuse of the wishes of the majority of the people by any small or selfish group. Such incidents as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his opening speech, dog racing and boxing displays among them, are completely out of accord with the true spirit of determination of the people in this crisis in their history, and steps will be taken to see that such and similar activities are no longer allowed to offend the solid and serious intention of this country to achieve victory. Personal extravagance must be eliminated, together with every other form of wastage, small or large, and all unnecessary expenditure. In the realm of the war effort itself no person can be allowed to stand in the way of efficiency or swiftness of production, and we must, without regard to the interests of individuals, key up the tempo of our war effort on every side.
A number of hon. Members have commented in this regard on the presentation of the home news over the wireless and have stressed the need for giving the public as true a picture of events as possible, while, of course, guarding against the disclosure 315 of facts which would be of assistance to the enemy in the prosecution of the war. The Government are wholly in accord with the necessity for presenting a true picture to the people, because they are confident that the people of this country are firm and courageous enough to face the facts, however unpleasant they may be. At the same time, the House will realise that care must be taken not to create an atmosphere of undiluted depression when events are temporarily against us. We must stress throughout our absolute conviction, which I am sure we all hold, of our ultimate success, provided that everyone plays his full part in this achievement. In that setting, I am sure that the public are anxious for, and would welcome, a properly-balanced statement of the actual position; and I will discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Information the question of what improvements can be made in the presentation of the home news as it is sent out over the wireless.
I come to a question which has vexed the minds of Members on all sides of the House—the question of India. The Government are much concerned, as is everybody else, about the whole question of the unity and the strength of India in the face of the dangers which now threaten that country, and they very fully realise that it is important that this country should do its utmost in the present circumstances to make a full contribution towards that unity. I think, however, that it would not be profitable to debate so important and vital a question now in a partial manner; but the Government hope that such a Debate will be possible very shortly, upon the basis of a Government decision in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has also raised the question of Colonial policy. I cannot deal with that now, but there is a new Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I am sure that he will reconsider the methods of administration and the policies of the Colonial Empire.
Two further points were raised as regards India, with which I would like to deal now. The first was, whether the training of Indian troops has been adequate. That was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner). The second question was, whether the industrial development was adequate. That was raised by 316 the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster). On the question of troops, the man-power is available in India. The training facilities are adequate, too. The difficulty has arisen over equipment. As soon as that can be supplied, the number of troops can be increased. Industrial development is a matter which the Government regard as of great importance; and, although there are, as the hon. Member will know, difficulties, in view of the great effort of production which has to be made in this country and in other parts of the Commonwealth, it is a matter into which I will inquire, with a view to seeing whether something should be done to expedite that development.
Next, I come to a question which has been much raised and commented upon—what happened in Malaya. As the Prime Minister has said, there are no details or particulars available; and until they come, it would be neither right nor fair to make any comments on the situation. If I may take just one example of the criticism in this matter, some hon. Members have suggested that it was not right to send troops there at the last minute, in order to try and save the situation. Had facts turned out otherwise and those troops had not been sent, I wonder what would have been said in this House. There would have been universal condemnation of the Government for not making an attempt to save that most valuable base in the Pacific.
Another question which has been raised by a great number of Members is the question of the policy as to the continued use of heavy bombers and the bombing of Germany. A number of hon. Members have questioned whether, in the existing circumstances, the continued devotion of a considerable part of our effort to the building-up of this bombing force is the best use that we can make of our resources. It is obviously a matter which it is almost impossible to debate in public, but, if I may, I would remind the House that this policy was initiated at a time when we were fighting alone against the combined forces of Germany and Italy, and it then seemed that it was the most effective way in which we, acting alone, could take the initiative against the enemy. Since that time we have had an enormous access of support from the Russian Armies, who, according to the latest news, have had yet another victory over the Germans, and also from the great 317 potential strength of the United States of America. Naturally, in such circumstances, the original policy has come under review and is, indeed, kept constantly under review. I can assure the House that the Government are fully aware of the other uses to which our resources could be put, and the moment they arrive at a decision that the circumstances warrant a change, a change in policy will be made.
Some doubt has been expressed by some hon. Members, as, for instance, by the hon. Member for Llanelly as to whether there is that degree of co-ordination of the three Services through the Chiefs of Staff and in the field which is satisfactory at the present time. No doubt, as long as there are three Services, there will be occasions when it may appear that co-ordination has not been 100 per cent. perfect, but I can assure him and other Members that every effort is being made, and is continually made, in order to improve that co-ordination. The Chiefs of Staff Committee is based upon the principle that each one of the three Chiefs of Staff is responsible for advice as to all three Services. That is to say, the Committee is jointly and severally responsible for giving advice as to the three Services, and that factor, which was instituted in 1926, has developed a great degree of co-ordination and co-operation. It has been realised in the action that has been proceeding in the Libyan campaign, where actually in the field probably a higher degree of co-ordination than ever before has been reached between the Army and the Air Force, and I can assure the hon. Member that everything possible will be done to increase, where it is possible, that active co-ordination. The right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) suggested that it was desirable that the Chiefs of Staff should meet alone. He will have heard the figures given by the Prime Minister, that in 90 per cent. or more of the cases when they meet, they do in fact meet alone, and it is only on very special occasions that the Prime Minister presides at their gatherings.
I will deal now with the question that was raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) as regards the publicity of what is happening at Hong Kong. He raised the question of the desirability of making public news with regard to the treatment of the population in Hong Kong and Malaya by the Japanese. If 318 the rumours which he had heard were true, he thought it was desirable that the public should know the kind of people whom we were fighting against. I think that anybody who has followed the course of the Sino-Japanese war for the last four and a half years should have no doubt as to the sort of people against whom we are fighting in the Far East, but so far as the rumours to which the right hon. Baronet referred are concerned, he will realise that there are in this country many hundreds of thousands of people who are intimately affected as regards the position through relations and friends, and it would be neither right nor kind to give any publicity to any such rumours until they can be completely substantiated. The Government have, therefore, not considered it right to encourage in any way the dissemination of those rumours Moreover, we hope that, whatever the conduct of the Japanese may have been in the past, they may show themselves now more humane and decent in their behaviour to captured populations and prisoners.
The question of production was raised, and I want to deal with two specific points, both of which, I think, were raised by the hon. Member for Llanelly, and by other Members. The first was as to the lack of use of the smaller workshops and factories situated about the country. The House will appreciate that where great quantities of material are being dealt with, it is not easy to fit small units into the productive machinery, but, nevertheless, it is essential that some means should be found of making the fullest use of this not inconsiderable part of our potentialities, and I will undertake to look into this matter with the appropriate Ministers in order that it may be reconsidered with a view to trying to get out some scheme which will be more effective than the present. Secondly, a suggestion was made that the joint effort of the workers and the managers might be increased by a fuller co-operation between the two parties in industry. This point was raised by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh and others. The Government are fully conscious of the most valuable part that the skill of the workers can play in assisting the management, and they have already, as the House is aware, in some cases taken steps by setting up workshop committees in order to realise this valuable co-operation. They are anxious that 319 this co-operation should be encouraged to its fullest extent throughout every industry in the country, and upon this question, too, I will consult my colleagues to see whether anything further can be done. My own experience in managing a war factory during the last war taught me personally the immense value that such co-operation could be.
One hon. Member raised the question as to whether we were at the present time retaining within the Civil Defence services a body of persons who might, in view of the temporary cessation of bombing, be utilised in other spheres. He will appreciate that it is necessary to have a full organisation in constant readiness in case there should be a recurrence of attacks upon this country, but at the same time we cannot afford to remain static in our arrangements if by taking a negligible risk we can improve our position in production by making alterations. Again, I am prepared to go into this matter with my colleagues to see whether, under existing circumstances, the time has come when some more flexibility can be introduced to permit persons to get away for more useful productive work.
There is a number of points dealing with Cabinet reorganisation which were put to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green, and I should like to answer these questions. The first was whether the new Minister of War will sit in the House of Commons, and the answer is that he will as soon as a seat can be found for him. I might, perhaps, while dealing with that point, make some answer to the criticisms that have been made as to the method of selection of a Minister for that post. Members have complained, one or two, that it was not in accordance with precedent, that it was going outside tradition and that it might have its dangers. Surely this is the time when we can depart from precedent, when we can take risks, and, if the Prime Minister thinks as he does, that the person is the right person for the job, I do not think any of these considerations should stand in the way.
Then I was asked by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) and others as to what functions the Minister of State would exercise as regards production. He will exercise functions of supervision, co-ordination and the giving of vigorous 320 initiative over the whole field of production. It is probable, or it is hoped, that it will be unnecessary to define these powers with any greater degree of accuracy, because the less the definition, the wider the powers. But if it becomes necessary to do so, that definition will be given. The question as to the exact delimitations must, however, be left over until the Minister of State has returned and the matter can be fully discussed with him. I was asked a question by my right hon. Friend as to the relationship between myself and the Deputy Prime Minister in the House of Commons. I shall deal with all matters concerning the Business of the House, and the Deputy Prime Minister will, in the absence of the Prime Minister, answer all other questions addressed to the Prime Minister.
One or two hon. Members raised questions as to how the War Cabinet would function, and I think that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) was one of them. The War Cabinet is not set up as a body to record decisions taken elsewhere. It has and exercises the fullest powers of deliberation, and the members of the Cabinet have every opportunity of forming independent views upon any question of strategy or any other questions prior to the taking of decisions. As the Prime Minister has said, the responsibility is a joint and several responsibility. The Prime Minister as Minister of Defence operates under the authority of the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee, and in every case the final decision is that of the War Cabinet itself.
I come to the question of reconstruction, as to which a number of Members have been somewhat concerned. The question has been asked as to what is to be done in future with regard to post-war reconstruction, and the necessity has been stressed for making some preparations for the economic and social changes which will probably take place in the new circumstances of the post-war world. In this relation a Department of Reconstruction was set up and was under the direction of the Minister without Portfolio. It is the intention of the Government to continue that Department, since the Government realise fully the importance of the functions which it has to carry out. The precise arrangements as to the responsibility for its direction have not yet been decided by the Government.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
Will this Department be in addition to the Ministry of Works and Buildings under the supervision of Lord Portal?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I understand it will be run as a separate section, but who is to look after it has not yet been decided. I have tried to answer a number of the more important questions. Those that I have not answered I will inquire into and see whether any action can be taken. We are now passing through a period of difficulty and anxiety to which there has probably been no equal in our history. We shall not be borne down by these difficulties or worn out by these anxieties, because we are all constant and determined in our purpose to win through. In the hard months that lie ahead the House can and will, I am sure, give to the people of this country a great lead in determination, freedom and constancy of purpose.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
I do not think we ought to let the occasion of our new Leader's first speech to pass without some comment. Although I am not the oldest Member of the House, I am one who has survived from the last war, and I think I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of all Members that we welcome him among us, particularly so in view of the general style—I will not say the details—of what he has said. There have been a simplicity and directness in his speech to which, I am afraid, we have recently been 322 unaccustomed. So direct have his statements been that it will be our duty to watch him and see that they are implemented as clearly as they were stated. To show what steps the Government propose to take to indicate to the people of this country that they are really in earnest in this war, the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned one or two things which are interfering with our war effort. He mentioned, for instance, professional boxing competitions and greyhound racing, but he did not mention horse racing, and that, I am afraid, was an intentional omission.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I am afraid that rather detracts from the compliments that I was paying the right hon. and learned Gentleman. However, the House wishes to disperse, and I do not wish to keep hon. Members. I think I can say, from what I know of the House, that it will be extremely anxious to help him to the best of its ability and that he will reciprocate by endeavouring to increase the dignity and effectiveness of Parliament.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.