Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [28th January]:
That this House has confidence in His Majesty's Government and will aid it to the utmost in the vigorous prosecution of the War."—My. Attlee.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
The Prime Minister, for reasons which he explained and which for my part I think conclusive, has asked the House of Commons for a Vote of Confidence. The Motion, as the Lord Privy Seal said yesterday, does not ask us to declare that the Government is perfect, or that there is universal satisfaction with all aspects of its policy, or with all the members of its personnel. All Governments make serious mistakes, all Governments have grave defects, and Coalition Governments have more than most. The Prime Minister by his speech has asked the House of Commons to judge, not by a fantastic standard of perfection, but by the general record of the Government's conduct of the war since he 954 and his colleagues took office 20 months ago. I find it difficult to believe that any hon. Member, on that record, could refuse the Vote for which he asks. The Prime Minister on Tuesday reviewed the great changes which have happened in the war in the last two months. Whether I cast my mind back two months to the Japanese attack, or six months to Hitler's attack on Russia, or 15 months to Mussolini's invasion of Greece, or 20 months to the days of Dunkirk, Bordeaux and Vichy—of whichever date I think, I cannot persuade myself to take a gloomy view of the war situation or to condemn the Government's general conduct of the war.
The Prime Minister has never offered us soft perspectives or easy hopes, but on Tuesday he felt able to say that he felt the broadening swell of victory and liberation bearing us onwards safely to the final goal. When my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) says, as he said yesterday, that the war situation is steadily deteriorating, I think not only of that saying of the Prime Minister's on Tuesday, but of another authority whose knowledge and realism my hon. Friend will not dispute. If there is one set of men in government who understand the hideous prostitution of human heroism and scientific genius which we call modern war, it is Premier Stalin and his General Staff. Their opinion, if anyone's, is entitled to our respect. They say not only that we are certain of victory, but that final victory may come this year. They confidently expect that by this autumn we shall smash the Nazi war machine. Well, if it is possible for Premier Stalin to entertain such hopes, that is due not only to the magnificent resistance of the Russian Armies and the Russian people, which we all so much admire; it is due also to the fact that for a year we held the pass alone. It is because, since May, 1940, we had fought what Mr. Lees-Smith called "a long series of delaying actions," and because in those actions we have won successes that gave us time to mobilise our power.
Dunkirk; the Battle of Britain; the Battle of London; the Battle of the Atlantic; the destruction of 400,000 Italians in the first Battle of Libya and in Abyssinia; the great military result obtained in Greece and Crete—and it was a great result, in spite of the mistakes we made; the actions in Syria, Iraq and Iran, 955 by which we saved Turkey from encirclement and Russia from a dangerous onslaught from the rear—these were all defeats for Hitler, they were all successes for us of the highest strategical importance. They were successes won while we were still alone, and still far weaker than our enemies in numbers and in arms. They were the successes by which we saved the cause of freedom from defeat until Hitler's attack on Russia gave us new Allies. Since that attack, the Government have given very considerable help to Russia by land and sea and air. We all wish it could have been more; the Government wish so. Some people think it could have been more, particularly in the early stages of the war. I am among them. I think it would have been more but for the disastrous advice which they received about the power of Russia to resist. But in any case, since October, we have sent Stalin what he asked for, and I believe, as I said in October, that the help we gave, together with our action by land, by sea and in the air, may well have meant to our Russian Allies the difference between victorious resistance and perhaps defeat.
Since the attack on Russia we have had the second Battle of Libya. It is not yet concluded. But of its first phase we can certainly say three things: that even if Rommel recaptures Cyrenaica, it has meant a diversion of Axis troops and tanks and aircraft which might have been of immense service to Hitler on the Russian front. It has been an episode of the first importance in the long struggle for the North coast of Africa, which we shall win, and upon which our hope of final victory will much depend. And we can say that up to the capture of Jedabya it was not only a success, it was a smashing victory. That record of successes, and the stupendous change in the perspectives of the war since the Government came to power, entitled them to claim that they have made a wise disposition of the Forces, the transport and the supplies at their disposal, and it is on that record that we have to vote. For my own part, I think it is the duty of hon. Members to give the Government the support for which they ask.
It is also the duty of hon. Members, and I am sure the Government agree, to express the anxieties or doubts which they may feel or which may be felt by their 956 constituents outside. And I think the Prime Minister would make a grave mistake if he fastened his eyes only on the general desire of the House to give him its confidence and did not note the very real and deep anxiety which exists, in the House and outside, on certain points.
There is anxiety, deep and real, about production. I know that-the total of our output is now enormous and is constantly increasing. I know that in modern war, with the sinkings of raw materials, with constant changes in the types of tanks and aircraft, big dislocations in the factories cannot be avoided. But know, we all know, and the Government know, that there are great dislocations which ought to be avoided; and they are becoming a very serious matter in the factories and the workshops of the land. I beg the Government to listen to the warnings of the Trades Union Congress. The Trades Union Congress have proved their patriotism; they have made great efforts to spur the workers on; they are particularly well informed. And they would not say, without strong reason, that they werevery perturbed at the numbers of reports of slackness which they receive.I have had occasion in years gone by to make a study of armament production in the last war, and I am afraid that we are repeating now, in different forms, some of the mistakes which we made then. There is a view held vehemently by many people who do not belong to the Labour party that big private enterprises, cartels and corporations are being allowed to pursue policies which do not help to maximise our war production. No one can talk to the workers in the shops and doubt that neither the Government nor the employers take them sufficiently into consultation. There is still friction, waste and overlapping due to the fact that we have three big Supply Departments, instead of one. I am very glad that the Government said yesterday that they had an open mind about a Minister of Production. I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us to-day of his decision to appoint one and that with the help of that new Minister he will institute at once the changes and investigations for which the Trades Union Congress have asked.
There is grave anxiety about India. I will not repeat what was said so well on Tuesday by my right hon. Friend the 957 Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), but I do hope that the Prime Minister will read and ponder the appeal which my right hon. Friend then made. There is a very widespread feeling that some new action must be taken, and taken quickly, about India. There is a feeling that only the Prime Minister can take it; that he of all men can best persuade the Indian people that we are in earnest in giving the pledge we have made. I hope the Prime Minister will agree that a happy solution of the Indian problem is what my right hon. Friend called it—"a vital part of our war effort"—and' that it will not brook delay.
There is another matter about which, for my own part, I have long felt anxiety, anxiety which the Prime Minister's speech has alleviated but not altogether removed. That is what I call the political machinery for directing and controlling the main strategy of the war. We are no longer alone. We are part of what the Prime Minister called "a vast confederacy" of peoples; and the problem is to call forth the maximum effort of each nation in that confederacy and so to direct its effort that it shall produce its maximum effect. Very much depends on properly co-ordinated political direction and control. No one Government, no one Cabinet—I say it with respect—however powerful and however wise, can do it for the rest. If the Governments act in isolation, the result is chaos and defeat. There must be political machinery. Not too much of it—there must not be "more harness than horse," as the Prime Minister said. But there must be enough, because without proper harness the horse cannot pull its load. We have not had enough harness.
Let me give what some hon. Members may regard as a somewhat theoretical illustration. I have talked to many Norwegians who took part in the fighting during the campaign in that country, and I have never been convinced that, if the right action had been taken, the Battle of Norway could not have been won, and that Norway might not have been in our possession ever since. I have talked to Greeks who fought in the Albanian Mountains; and I believe that, with the right kind of extra help, extra help which it might have been possible for us to give, the Greeks might have driven Mussolini's 20 divisions into the Adriatic Sea. I be- 958 lieve still more strongly that Crete could and should have been successfully held. I believe that, in all those cases, our defeats were due, apart from all other factors, to the lack of adequate political machinery for consultation and co-ordination. It may have been impossible to get it; I am not discussing that. I am only saying that if we had been able to understand the situation as it really was, if we had had a full grasp of what our Allies might have done, if we had been thinking of their territories, their resources, their forces—those 20 magnificent divisions of the Greeks—if we had come to think of them as being as important as our own to final victory, we might have got a different result.
I have studied with great care the speeches of both the Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal, and they have left me still wondering whether the same kind of thing has not happened about Malaya and Singapore. I believe that the nation is gravely perturbed and greatly puzzled about what has happened over Singapore. They understand quite well that the Government never expected Thailand to play the jackal part of Bulgaria. They understand that the disasters of Pearl Harbour and the Gulf of Siam deprived us of the command of the sea and enabled Japan to send great convoys to Singora. But they remember also that we have taught the whole Commonwealth to think of Singapore as the very crux of our defence in the Pacific. Looking on at the long, unequal struggle of our men down the peninsula for the seven weeks during which they have fought their way back from the Thailand border, people have asked themselves, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminister (Sir J. Ward-law-Milne) asked yesterday, "Was there really nothing that we could have done to hold that vital country against the Japanese?" The Prime Minister and the Lord Privy Seal answer, "Nothing. Every aircraft and every tank we could spare had to go to Libya and Russia; and in any case we had not got the ships." I say, frankly, that they do not leave me wholly convinced. Our Forces have not been driven back from the Thailand border by the weight of enemy tanks. Most of Malaya is not a tank country at all. The "Times" special correspondent has said in a series of admirable articles that nearly all the fighting has taken place in the jungle and off the roads; that tanks and 959 armoured cars have only played a "very secondary part," and that even artillery have only "rarely been able to operate," that the Japanese infantry advanced because they had a great preponderance of numbers, and because their air force had the mastery of the air. Time and again, the correspondents say—this is the "Times":Our troops understand the Japanese tactics and can effectively counter them when they are not greatly outnumbered by the enemy.But with superior numbers the enemy could outflank our forces. They could land on the coast behind our lines. They were constantly surrounding our units or cutting them off.
In the same way, the Japanese air force outnumbered our squadrons and, still more important, were superior to them in the quality of their machines. We had Buffaloes as fighters and some Blenheims. So weak were our fighter forces that we did not dare to risk them up the line. We never used all those aerodromes. They are a present for the Japanese to bomb Singapore. We kept our fighters back for the defence of the fortress of Singapore itself. The question is: What extra force on the ground and in the air we should have needed to hold the Japanese. What strength had the Japanese? If I am rightly informed, about five or six divisions against our two in the line and our one in reserve. If we had had three or four or five more divisions, we should have had equality, we should have been able to guard our lines against infiltration and to defeat landings in the rear—and I mean ordinary divisions, not tank divisions or divisions specially equipped. And as regards the air, such experts as I have been able to consult believe that if we had had a small number of modern fighters, four or five or six squadrons of Hurricanes, we should have been able, not only to fight the Japanese air force in the forward areas, but to smash it there. The Buffaloes, when they have had Tomahawk protection, have done extremely well against the Japanese bombers over Rangoon. If I have read the communiqués aright, in three days last week they destroyed 41 Japanese aircraft, and probably 10 more, for a loss of two pilots and three machines. They destroyed 35 per cent. of the raiding 960 forces, although they were outnumbered by four to one.
The question is, Could we have found four or five more infantry divisions and half-a-dozen squadrons of Hurricanes, and could we have sent them there? Well, the Indian Army is 1,000,000 strong. Most of it is still in India, and I find it very difficult to think that we could not have taken five more divisions from there and could not have sent them with virtually no shipping problem at all. Could we not even have concerted a plan with General Chiang Kai-Shek, who has shown in every way his great desire to help? Malaya and Singapore are his vital interest as they are ours. As to the Hurricanes, the Luftwaffe is certainly no stronger than it was in August, 1940. It can no longer concentrate against this Island. Its main strength must be in Russia, Libya and elsewhere. Our fighter force is far stronger than it was when it won the Battle of Britain. I believe we could have sent the squadrons from here without a shadow of a risk. Could we not have found the ships, as we did find them, perhaps too late, on 12th December? I find it hard to believe, though I will accept the Government's assurance if they give it, that even in September so small a quantity of tonnage could not be found.
I have raised these matters not to play the history game, not to engage in idle or controversial reconstruction of the past. I have done so because I want to draw what I believe profoundly to be the true moral of these events. I believe that if we had had proper political machinery to decide such questions as these about Malaya and Singapore—I am not blaming the Government—but if we had been able to have a War Cabinet with the authorised spokesmen of the Dominions, the Prime Ministers, or their deputies from Australia, New Zealand and India, we should have sent the five divisions and the Hurricanes. For such questions, and innumerable others which will arise, it is impossible—and again I say it with all respect—that a Cabinet of United Kingdom politicians, sitting in London, should see these problems as people see them who are nearer to the spot. I believe that for many months the Commonwealth taken a grave risk, a political and military risk, in not having an Imperial War Cabinet. The case for it was made in another place by Lord Bennett yesterday. 961 It has been made by responsible Australians of all parties. It was made by the leaders of every Dominion a quarter of a century ago. That case, practically and theoretically, is unanswerable. I understand the reasons which made the Governments of Canada and South Africa oppose it. I understand the embarrassment their opposition caused to the Government here. But great things are now at stake, and I hope the Governments will think again and that an Imperial War Cabinet will shortly be formed on the basis of the decisions that were taken, after mature experience, in July, 1918. In the meantime, I welcome very warmly, and would do nothing to upset, the arrangements on which the Government have decided for Australian and New Zealand representation in our War Cabinet. It is a great step forward.
I welcome too, and very warmly, the Pacific Council of which the Prime Minister spoke. I hope it will include China. The Prime Minister told us that if he had learned anything in the United States which he could express in one word, it would be "China." That illustrates extremely well the argument I have tried to put about the effect of geographical environment upon the human mind. For five years China has fought our battle in the Far East. But for her resistance, we should have been ejected long ago. But China is also the gateway to our future victory. We shall not subdue the Japanese by fighting back, island by island, from the Solomon Islands to Formosa and Japan. When we have given China 5 per cent. of President Roosevelt's tanks and 5 per cent. of his modern aircraft we shall sweep with her across Northern China to the narrow Straits behind which lies Japan. At every stage, and on every issue, China is a vital factor in the Pacific and I hope she will be in the Pacific Council from the start.
I believe that we need a European Council. Some people say that the Allied Governments in this country are political ghosts, who have no real importance or power. I think they show their ignorance of the facts. If we were in Secret Session, I think I could show the Government, from past events, that this Council, or some new and better machinery of European collaboration, is required. I think it is urgently required because of 962 what may happen in Europe in 1942. I hope the Government will not think I have over-emphasised the importance of this matter, or that I want to over-elaborate the machinery of collaboration which they should set up. I appreciate very highly the splendid start the Prime Minister has made by his journey to America. I only want to urge on him and on the Government that the job is not yet finished, that the matter is one of continuing importance, that it still requires his personal attention, that it may be a vital factor in ensuring the rapid victory of the great confederacy of nations he leads.
Because what is the salient factor of the present situation? It is that, if they could only use it, the United Nations now have predominant material, as they have always had predominant moral power. On the most conservative computation the United Nations have 18,000,000 men in arms, mobilised, trained, equipped. The Axis cannot have more than 15,000,000; and 3,000,000 of them are the reluctant serfs of the senile criminal in Rome. Our production of arms has great defects; but with the production of Russia it must now equal or very nearly equal the output which Hitler can achieve: and on top of that we have the 45,000 tanks and the 60,000 aircraft which President Roosevelt has promised for this year. We have still vast unmobilised resources; the Axis Powers have none. We have on the Continent of Europe many divisions of men organised, with secret stocks of arms, waiting to rise and carry on the guerilla warfare which in China and Russia has proved so devastating to our foes. There is a crisis in the German High Command; the death of Reichenau, whom I have always thought of as the nastiest but the healthiest man of my acquaintance, has proved that that is true. There is an incipient crisis in Germany itself. That is shown by the promotion of Himmler and Heydrich to supreme control. The Axis have two mortal dangers from which we are immune—morale and oil.
The European peoples, like Premier Stalin, are hoping and expecting that we shall strike this year. Upon our share in their liberation will depend, not only the duration of the struggle, but our power in the peace conference and in the years beyond. Now is the time to prepare the master plan. Now is the time to strike again at their supplies of oil. Now is 963 the time, by a tremendous effort of political education, to show the misguided enemy peoples that our victory is in their true interests as it is in ours. The Prime Minister has many different duties, and they are all important. But his supreme task is to draw together, to co-ordinate, to guide, the immense material and moral forces which we now control. Let him go on where he left off across the Atlantic; let him listen to the friendly voices in the House of Commons, and then let him go forward to set the whole world free.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South West)
We have listened to a very interesting and powerful speech, which is a model of the kind of speech that is helpful to the progress of the war. During the last two days a number of Members have made valuable contributions. Almost every speech has sung the praises of the Prime Minister. The nation believes in him, and regards him as its greatest asset. It is grateful for his inspiring leadership during the dark days that followed Dunkirk. But it is not only this country that looks to him for leadership. In the Dominions and the United States no one stands higher in the public esteem. The only people who would rejoice at the weakening of his authority would be our enemies. The Prime Minister, however, is very human. Of course, he has made mistakes, but he is a great House of Commons man. He owes what success he has had in public life to this. I hope he will listen to the speeches, take them in good part, and realise that suggestions like those of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) are made not in order to hinder him, but to help. We, as Members of the House of Commons, have a responsibility.
All war is a great upheaval, and the machinery of government, which works smoothly and well in peace-time, creeks badly in time of war. Our Civil Service, which is our pride in peace-time, is efficient, but it works slowly. It is full of safeguards, and does not seem to adapt itself to war conditions. Ever since the war began we have tried to change the machinery of Government. In the first year, during the war of attrition, very little was done. One of the first things the present Prime Minister did when he took over was to set up an inner War Cabinet. Already he has made interesting experiments, some of them new, some based on 964 the experience of the last war. The first thing that occurred when he took over was that a national Government was formed. That was a change of method, and a change of heart. The Prime Minister made the interesting experiment of a Minister of State. That was a right example, as I believe, of a policy of devolution, as opposed to a policy of centralisation.
The essential for successful prosecution of the war is prompt decision. A good deal has been said, not only during this Debate, about the need for a War Cabinet composed of Ministers without departmental responsibilities. I remember that we had the same problem in the last war. In 1916 it split the Cabinet, and brought down Mr. Asquith's Government. There was one vital difference about the position then. In those days there were powerful personalities, with established reputations. It may be that such personalities exist in the background now, but they have not yet asserted themselves. In the Government formed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), we had such experienced people as Mr. Balfour, Mr. Bonar Law, the present Prime Minister, Lord Milner, and Lord Curzon, while facing them were personalities like Mr. Asquith, Mr. McKenna, and Mr. Runciman. But that experiment was made, and we have the evidence both of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and of many of his critics that the system worked smoothly.
The real difficulty is that if you are going to have these powers of control over all the various Departments of Government vested in Ministers without departmental responsibilities, you must have men of exceptional ability and authority, whose decisions are likely to be accepted by the Ministers concerned. I see four of the Ministers who are in the War Cabinet now present. Two, at least, of them are without departmental responsibilities—the Lord President of the Council and the Lord Privy Seal. I think the only member of the War Cabinet who would have pretentions to be a superman is Lord Beaverbrook. He is already. Minister of Supply. I think it is worth considering whether he should be elevated to the dizzy position of Minister of Production, or, alternatively, whether he should be subject to the control of a 965 Minister of Production. I cannot imagine him in a subordinate position. We have to be frank with ourselves. If we are to have a Minister of Production, it must obviously be the present Minister of Supply. I would just say this in parenthesis. In the last war we did have a Ministry of Production. We did not have a Ministry of Aircraft Production, because aircraft production played a comparatively small part in our war effort. The Navy, then as now, remained outside. If we are to have a Ministry of Production, the Admiralty must not be exempt. The whole production machinery will have to be brought under one man.
I think that all of us who were present during the period when the Prime Minister was absent abroad felt that during his absence the machinery of government was not effective for its purpose. There was a general feeling that there was no one with the real authority to handle the ever-changing position. We have been hearing justified criticism of what happened in Malaya and the Pacific during the early weeks of this year. I see that in another place Lord Chatfield, who was a Member of the Government in the first year of the war, was severely critical of the handling of the naval position in the Pacific, which brought about the loss of the "Prince of Wales." I think it is essential for the Prime Minister to dissipate the doubts that have arisen, not only as a result of the speech of the Noble Lord, but as the result of much of the criticism both in this House and outside. There is a feeling that some of these mistakes are due to the fact that too much power is concentrated in his own hands. If the Government are to work smoothly, either we must have what we had during the last two years of the last war, an inner Cabinet, with full authority, composed of Ministers giving all their time to a general survey of the war, or alternatively, the Prime Minister must divide his responsibility with other men.
The Prime Minister was right in going to the United States of America. His speech at Washington more than justified his visit, and, from all I hear, his conferences with President Roosevelt brought the two countries together in a way that would have been impossible without such a visit. It is possible, and more than probable, that the Prime Minister will have to go to America again. What is to be the machinery of government when the 966 Prime Minister is absent abroad? The Prime Minister must be the person to decide who his colleagues shall be, but we in the House of Commons think—I think it is the general feeling of the House—that a system of government that works possibly well, in peace-time and to some extent is affected when the war is limited to Europe and the West, breaks down when you have, like to-day, a war which is worldwide.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has made an interesting experiment in co-operation with President Roosevelt, something quite novel in administration, in setting up a Pacific Council. That is the kind of thing that we must visualise if the war is to be effectively prosecuted, and when we have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) wisely pointed out, two separate theatres of war. I was glad that the Prime Minister thought that the Pacific was not a secondary theatre. On the contrary, it is just as vital in the struggle as our war in the West. I do not accept the doctrine that our first job is to defeat the Nazis and that the Japanese can wait to be dealt with afterwards. It is some comfort to us, with the Germans at our doorstep, but it really is poor comfort to our Australian, New Zealand and Canadian fellow citizens. I regard Australia and New Zealand as just as much part of the Commonwealth as either Wales or Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom. When we were in danger in the Boer War and the last war, and again in this war, they never hesitated to come right across the oceans to our help.
We have to remember and rub in as much as possible that the Japanese are as great criminals as the Germans or any other of our enemies on the Continent. It was they who started the game of aggression and treachery. They never stopped re-arming, and the failure of the Washington Naval Conference was largely due to them. If we had had a definite policy 20 or 10 years ago, we might have avoided some of the happenings of to-day. Let us have no delusions. The Japs are a cruel and a savage people. They have no regard for life. They have made a fine art of assassination and suicide, and their treatment of the Chinese has been as brutal and as callous as any treatment in any war in the history of 967 mankind. We have no right to say to the Australians that they must bide their time. Of course, they can take it. They are a brave people, but they have a vast Continent, the size of the United States of America, with only two persons to the square mile, with the large concentrations of population in five big cities, and they feel naturally alarmed, with the very small forces at their disposal to protect themselves.
I recognise that definite constitutional problems are created by the new proposals put forward by the Prime Minister, but I am sure that we are on the right lines. They may be novel. After all, our Constitution has always been elastic and has enabled us to adapt it to any conditions. I rather gather that neither Canada nor South Africa either desire or intend to be represented at the Cabinet table, and that the Australian and New Zealand Ministers will be present but will not be responsible for decisions. But the fact that they are there will give confidence to Australia and New Zealand and the Dominions that their problems are not being ignored, that we are not taking a narrow view of the war and that we are viewing the problem as a whole.
There is one vacant seat at the Cabinet table, as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out. In the last war there was an Imperial War Cabinet, an outer Cabinet, in which there were representatives of all the Dominions, including—and I emphasise this—India. India has never played her rightful part in this war. She has stood aside as spectator, though not altogether, because her soldiers have fought now on every battlefield with bravery and courage and effectively. India now is almost in the danger zone. With Burma invaded, India no longer can feel outside the war. Out of 400,000,000 of people, 1,000,000 men is a small contribution. If at this stage we can only make some gesture that will make the Indians feel that they are partners in this great struggle, it may not only bring their effort to our side, but it will help to solve the problems of the future.
There is among Congress and political leaders of India a very real suspicion that the Prime Minister is the obstacle to any progress in constitutional change. The fact that he opposed the Government of 968 India Bill during its passage through this House justifies that suspicion. The one man, the one personality, that can change the whole attitude of the Indian people to the war—I prefer to apply this particularly to the political Indian—is the Prime Minister. A statement now from him in emphatic terms that he is prepared to recognise the right of India to full partnership in the war would make a profound impression on the whole of the Indian people. We have our backs to the wall. We want help from every side. We must not allow colour prejudice or racial difficulties to stand in the way. Here is a practical proposal, and it would be a fine thing for the Prime Minister, with his great authority and international reputation, and the prestige he has throughout the world, to hold out the hand of friendship and offer political equality to the Indian people at this critical stage in the war, when their help in the Pacific and elsewhere would make such a profound difference to the success of the war.
§ Major Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Gentle man the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who opened to-day's Debate, mentioned the anxiety which he said he had found in this House, in his constituency and in the country. I think he will agree that neither of us deprecates the existence of anxiety, because anxiety is the antithesis of complacency and is a sign of a wakened and a continued interest. To anxiety we make no opposition, nor does anyone make any complaint. But I think part of the difficulty which has shown itself has been the attempt in certain quarters to represent anxiety as hostility. For any suggestion that there is hostility to the Prime Minister or to his Administration there is, and can be, no foundation, either in the House or in the country to-day. There have been many attempts to suggest it. Most of us have heard with interest the rather crude but continued efforts on the part of the German radio during the last few days to make these suggestions. There was interspersed in a rather curious musical programme the anxious question as to whether the Prime Minister would receive the same reception in the House of Commons as he had done previously. Well, to that musical doubt I think the House of Commons has returned a quite certain and sure answer.
969 There was also, on the part of Mr. Joyce, a statement that there will be much criticism. One could almost detect the wistful tone coming into his references to something which for several years he had never heard or of which he had never realised the meaning. Criticism, yes; everyone and every part of the House has welcomed its statement, but it is a criticism of welcome; it is a direct assistance firmly and independently stated, and it is in giving that assistance to the Government that we wish to convey our support to-day. I have been rather astonished at certain lines on which the criticism has been made. With regard to the point of the hon. Member for Derby as to the ease with which he found it possible to imagine troops being sent to Singapore, I am still in a difficulty, although I followed his speech as closely as I could. The transference of five divisions which, the Prime Minister told us, when discussing invasion, takes a considerable number of ships, can never be a negligible shipping problem. That, of course, is a matter upon which the hon. Member is entitled to his opinion; but when we come to the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), that, at the time when, according to the Prime Minister, things were so difficult that he had to make a stop in the use of the Burma Road, we should have increased our aid to China and have precipitated an outbreak in the Far East, so in that way confronting ourselves, in 1940, with the difficulties we were in with the vastly increased war commitments which we have to-day, no doubt it is my folly for not perceiving it, but that seems to be strategical insanity in a diplomatic wonderland. I cannot see how that is related to the realities of the world to-day. On the major issue put to us, I suggest that we had no difficulty in coming to a conclusion at that time. In the circumstances with which we were faced it was not possible to transfer men and material to Malaya from the vitally important theatres which have been indicated to us.
I would like for a few minutes to consider two other aspects of this Debate which have been given prominence. The first is with regard to the personnel of the Government and the choice of the Prime Minister. I think we must face that position. There is common ground that the Prime Minister must choose his team. 970 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) stressed it only a few minutes ago. There is common ground, too, that the House of Commons does not claim to be a selection committee. It can only claim to be a well-informed pavilion critic. But what has to be recognised is that an entirely unprecedented situation in British political life obtains to-day. There has never before been a period during a war when a Government has had neither a political nor a personal opposition. There has never before been a period when a Prime Minister has held office without any obvious successor being clear, desired or even aspiring to the position.
There have been few periods when the subjects of debate have been necessarily limited by the times of sitting and by matters which must be secret during a war like the present, but in these times there are bound to be growing pains, an adjusting of our political procedure to new conditions, and I think it is essential that the Government and Members alike should try to find a method by which representations can be made and difficulties can be communicated without disturbance to the war effort or Governmental activity. That is the position we are facing, and again I say that to endeavour to represent such a condition as hostility between the House and the Government is a complete misinterpretation of the position to-day.
The third main division of subjects in the Debate has been the question of production. There I take the view that we have, by the insistence merely on the position of a Minister of Production, really been guilty of the very gentle error to-day of over-simplifying the problem with which we have to deal. I think it is much more important that the co-ordination of Government effort, and the Government approach to the 100,000 firms who carry on British industry at the present time, should be at a regional level where they will come into direct and more useful contact with a large variety of firms. I am much more concerned that the five Government Departments that deal with industry should be co-ordinated by a regional organisation which would enable them to meet industry and enable industry to provide the best method for co-operation with them in that way. Every one is agreed that one of the vital points is to obviate as far as possible 971 long-range clerical control from Whitehall. To my mind the question of administration in that direction is more important than the rather academic question of whether or not there should be a Minister of Production. That is the home aspect, and with regard to that question of administration, I have hopes that improvement will come about.
On the other production problem which has been worrying us, namely, the constitution and powers of the Eastern Group Supply Council, we have seen, as a result of the Prime Minister's visit, a great improvement and a very large plan of co-operation between this country and the United States of America. That is in its infancy, but it is, we are told, working, and we welcome it and welcome the opportunities it will give. But when we have surveyed the three fields of activity over which this Debate has ranged—strategy, the question of personal position, and production—I think that at this time, when one can take stock and when one has listened to the Debate for three days, there can be no doubt that, irrespective of party and irrespective of past views, we are determined not only to support the Government in this Vote of Confidence, but to make our support the beginning of a greater, a vaster, and a quicker national effort to win the war and bring us to triumphant victory.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has made a plain demand for a clear, honest, blunt Vote of Confidence or no confidence, and I think it is plain that the Prime Minister will get his Vote of Confidence, if indeed a Division is even challenged. Nevertheless, in the demand made by the Prime Minister there is a good deal of food for thought. One asks why the Prime Minister thinks it necessary to make the demand. On the face of things, in the country, in the House, and even in the Lobbies, there was not, and certainly is not, any ground for supposing that the right hon. Gentleman needs an explicit declaration of confidence in himself, either for home consumption or even for foreign consumption, because it must be plain to everybody that, in spite of many things around him, he enjoys confidence in this country to a degree which few statesmen in anxious times, or in any other times, have ever enjoyed, 972 and intrigues themselves seem to have fallen into the background. Therefore, surely it is unnecessary to talk any longer about a Vote of Confidence. But a Vote of Confidence is still demanded, and as it has been once demanded, perhaps one would not think there was any great harm, difficulty or complexity about the demand being carried through, if it were not for this fact.
There are dozens of people in the House and millions in the country—I have been receiving telegrams from all sorts of people about it—whose feelings are on the following lines: "We have no difficulty about supporting the Prime Minister, but if we are asked to vote simply and solely on a Vote of Confidence—and the decision of the Chair, which I do not seek for one moment to challenge, means that we shall not be able to explain in an Amendment that we would like the Prime Minister to gather around him a little better Government—we are put in the position substantially of having to say that this is all couleur de rose or all black." Everybody knows perfectly well that it is neither one nor the other. One of the reasons put forward by the Lord Privy Seal for giving the Vote was that everybody knows it does not really mean that we think the Government are perfect when we pass a Vote of Confidence in them. These things are a question of degree. Dissatisfaction with a good many of the people whom the Prime Minister has around him is so great that many people would have felt very much easier if they had been able to record formally their vote on that point before going on to express their confidence in the Prime Minister. I do not think there is any doubt that those who are not given the opportunity of voting for Amendments will, nevertheless, if a Division is challenged, vote wholeheartedly for the Prime Minister, but still, that will give an air of slight unreality to the Vote—not to the Debate, because, in obedience to the Prime Minister's demand, most hon. Members have not been at all mealy-mouthed.
I want, however, to express grave anxiety about the personnel of the Government. Everybody agrees that it is absolutely vital at the present time to have the best possible Government, and I think everybody agrees that we have not got it; but still, it is suggested that we ought to be nice and content about it. 973 To-day it is vital to have the best Government How much more vital will it be in a few months' time, or a year's time, when it becomes necessary for the Government to form a view as to their attitude to some new government in Germany, after a good many things have happened there which may be more or less genuine, which may be more or less faked, which may be more or less reactionary? At that time we shall want, above all things, a Government the whole of which we can really trust. I am not talking about mental calibre, because whenever I do that I become more than usually offensive, and I do not want to be so. But think of the outlook and the qualities that anybody demands in a Government. In this war, which now at any rate, quite clearly, is a war against Fascism, a long anti-Fascist record would be some recommendation. One has not even got to go back to July, 1939—one has only to go back a few months—with some of the Ministers to discover that their anti-Fascism, if it exists at all, has hardly poked its nose up above the ground from its roots. We would like some people with no record of flirtation either with Hitler or Mussolini. Some of them do not come out very well on that. A good anti-Japanese record would be something, and a good record of some understanding of and sympathy with the Soviet Union prior to 22nd June last. But I must not ask for miracles, so I will pass on.
I wish to deal specifically with three or four points which the Prime Minister put forward as an answer. The Prime Minister knows a number of things, and among them he knows that this feeling in the country is very widespread indeed. He wisely attacked before the original attack was made, which, I believe, is sound strategy. Therefore we have his points made available to us in advance, and we can consider them. His first point is that he will not be driven to provide or manufacture or find scapegoats for recent disasters. Here I would say that nobody is talking about recent disasters, at least, not so far as I know, and that the agitation to get rid of this group of people has been going on for many months. The agitation existed before the right hon. Gentleman became Prime Minister, and I am not sure that it was not partly one of the elements which made the right hon. Gentleman Prime Minister. It is no good 974 his looking at these people with a long, long unsatisfactory record and saying that they may be partly to blame for Malaya, but must not be made scapegoats for it. We do not ask him to burden them with Malaya. They have a much larger unsatisfactory record than that. They are recidivists rather than first offenders. I do not want it thought that scapegoats are necessarily a bad thing. To make a man, a scapegoat for something for which he is not responsible is bad, but to get rid of somebody who is partly responsible for it when there has been a disaster is not necessarily a bad thing. If you do nothing else, you can always send him to another place, and the difference between ourselves and the Soviet Union is that they send inefficient people to a somewhat different place. [Interruption.] It seems that hon. Members want to know where that is, and I will tell them that privately later, although I should have thought by now that they had discovered it.
The next thing which the Prime Minister says—and he says it with the generosity one expects from a man who has not much littleness of mind, whatever other defects he may have—is, "I take the fullest responsibility." It is very nice, fine and loyal that a big man should stand up and say that he takes the fullest responsibility, but if he had a good Government around him, there would not be such horrible things for him to take responsibility for, which, of course, would deprive him of the opportunity of that loyal gesture, although we should have a better government. He then says that these people are his loyal and trusted colleagues. I suppose that it would be ungenerous of me to quote to the House what he said about them before they were. However, he says that they are his loyal and trusted colleagues. I respectfully suggest that that is not good enough. These people are not his servants, but are the servants of the whole country. If they have not got the country's trust, the country's confidence and the country's loyalty, then, unless there is something very exceptional about them they should go. They are not our loyal and trusted colleagues. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister provided the answer to this point himself, because when dealing with the allegation that these people were gathered around him as a government on a party political basis he said, "Yes, so they are."
975 I do not want at the moment to tear up the party system—it has been largely torn up already, and, therefore, it would not be worth my while bothering about it. But surely we can all agree that a system whereby people are selected at a vital period like this on substantially a party political basis, although by good fortune some of them may be good, is not the best method of selecting the best Government. Although I do not necessarily agree with what has been said by a great many people in the country about Ministers drawn from outside, it is a fact that a good many Ministers have by those means been selected irrespective of party.
A large number of people object to them on the basis of their record of lukewarm-ness, indeed even warmth, towards Fascism in the past. I would say one further thing about these people. I will recall what the Prime Minister said in one of his finer speeches when Hitler marched into Prague, or perhaps it was Vienna. At any rate the speech was made at a time of one of Hitler's long series of moves, which were welcomed by the gentlemen who are now waging this anti-Fascist war, and who are the Prime Minister's loyal colleagues. I remember the Prime Minister making his speech and pointing out that these things get more difficult as they go on. He said that when Germany wanted to march into the Rhineland a division would have been enough to stop him; that when Germany wanted to march into Vienna a corps would have been enough, that when Germany marched into Prague an army would have been enough, but that the next time it would have to be a European war.
It is very much the same thing as getting rid of these people. The longer they are there, and the more anxious the situation, the more difficult it will be to remove them, If I may make a joke about it, we at the moment cannot even have a division. I suggest that these people are a very serious and anxious menace. I do not wish to range over the whole field, because so many things have been discussed so fully by others during this Debate. I will mention one matter only, which is a little off the line—the question of British India, and the industrial and military help we can gain from the peoples of British India. I am not going to discuss this matter at length, because it has been discussed fully by others who under- 976 stand it better than I. Sooner or later, by a gesture, or by pressure which will be turned into a gesture, the Prime Minister will have to do something about India, and it is these people NN he will be an obstacle, in the same way as in the case of a reactionary government being set up in Germany.
I do not want to be offensive, although I am afraid I cannot help it. If there was some compelling reason for retaining these people because of their particular abilities, one could understand it, but the trouble is that there does not appear to be any outstanding reason for retaining their services. We are told that the House is so poor that it cannot supply men to the their place. I do not believe that, because almost anyone could take their place, and in any case people can always be brought in from outside. We have had lots of Cabinet changes during this war. All sorts of people have been changed, and all sorts of people are wondering if they will be changed. There is no compelling reason why these people should not be changed. One wonders whether these people are not retained because someone is, thinking more about what is going to happen to them after the war than about winning the war.
Most Members, though not addressing meetings, will be moving about the country and seeing all sorts of people, even constituents, though constituents are not usually in their constituencies. That is the case with most Members who represent urban areas. They have wandered all over the place, and some of the most important people in the country have not got votes at all, but they have minds and ideas, and Members will learn a great deal in going about the country of what people are thinking. I address four to six meetings every week and get questions and conversations and learn a good deal. There can be little doubt that, apart from the political views of any particular section, if the country heard tomorrow that a group of these people?. were going in a reconstruction, there would be more enthusiasm, more improvement in morale, and more actual and direct improvement in industrial production Man any other single act that the Prime Minister could possibly perform. People faced with the problem of voting for a Vote of Confidence without an opportunity of expressing, by voting on an Amendment, that they have this very definite reservation in 977 their minds will certainly choose without hesitation to cast their vote for the Prime Minister, but there is that other point in it too.
§ Mr. Nunn (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
During the two and half days that I have sat here, indulging in a considerable amount of useful exercise in springing up and down, I have had the melancholy experience of noticing that nearly all the points I wanted to make have been extremely fully dealt with. As I have a constitutional objection to wasting words, I propose to devote myself entirely to one particular aspect. I am especially interested in the criticism that has been uttered about the situation in the Far East. Although I know that the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet must accept full responsibility for what has happened, I feel that there has been something seriously wrong locally. I know the country fairly well. I think too much reliance has been placed upon what was called the impenetrable jungle. I said in August that there was no such thing as an impenetrable jungle in the Malay Peninsula.
I can look back for 30 years, and I remember that I was constantly encountering Japanese agents scattered all over the country. If a rubber planter in a remote part of the country wanted to report to his management on the condition of his trees, he had only to wait four or five days and he could get a Japanese photographer to take a picture. I came upon a head coolie on the border on the Siam side. I was rather struck with his fluency in languages and asked him how many he spoke, and I discovered that he was Japanese. He admitted frankly that he was a half-pay sergeant-major in the Japanese army and was working for Japan as well as being a thoroughly efficient head coolie on that estate. That was 32 years ago. In 1900 the Dutch in Java were nervous about the Japanese and spoke about it openly. Somewhere about 29 years ago I found on a small trading steamer run by a Malay on the West Coast of Siam an apparent coolie. I was attracted by a book that he was reading. It was a very expensive book upon the Russo-Japanese war. He was no coolie. I found them all over the place. Indeed, during the last war, when I had certain duties in connection with seditious active- 978 ties, I used a Japanese as one of my most useful secret agents.
There has been a lack of appreciation of the awful danger which the Japanese presented in that part of the world. I think on the whole our information from the part of the world that I knew best, Thailand, was full. The Minister is a personal friend, whom I have known for more than 30 years. He is one of the few diplomats who really know the country, and he speaks the language fluently. I am not sure that even he has been fully supplied with information by his subordinates. Only an hour ago I received a letter from one of my old officers in the East. He reminds me of an incident that occurred when he drew attention to the activities of the Japanese on some islands off the coast going round towards Indo-China. He drew the attention of the local British Consul to it, and was told:What a wonderful experience you are having. How interesting. But officially we are not interested. In fact, we are not amused.That, I am afraid, has been very much the attitude of many of our people in that part of the world, and a good deal of the trouble we are in now is due to it. An answer was given yesterday to the effect that there was no official knowledge in the Foreign Office about certain aerodromes at Singora. Two days after the war started I was informed that the Japanese had five aerodromes there, and Singora is the headquarters of a British Consul. I have always known that there was one. It was the official aerodrome of the Siamese Government, and it has been there for many years, but the Japanese had five there. It does not seem to have been known. I am sure that is not due to slackness or inefficiency on the part of the present Minister, but someone has slipped up, and we owe a great deal of our trouble to that lack of precise information, that inability to grasp essentials. I do not believe there was a single jungle track all down the Malay Peninsula which was not fully known to the Japanese. We have had Japanese fishermen along the coast for 20 or 30 years. They know the whole of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) was not quite correct about Singora being a port. There is every possibility of it being a port if it is drained, but ships drawing more than three or four feet can- 979 not enter. There are heavy sandbanks, and the inland sea, which looks so impressive on the map, is nothing but a shallow pond. It could be made a port, and now that the Japanese are in command they will see that it is a port.
A statement was made by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) referring to Thailand as a rotten State. I do not think that that was necessary. The Siamese are suffering, as the people of Norway are, from having two or three members of their Government as Quislings, but the Siamese are not unfriendly to us; many of them are very much the reverse. I do not think I am disclosing anything dangerous when I say that a prominent Siamese in this country sent me a Christmas card. It was a nicely coloured picture showing Whitley bombers on the way to Berlin. That does not strike me as a clearly marked indication of a lack of sympathy. There is one thing I want particularly to say, and this is why I have persisted in rising and trying to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. A few days ago the London Press published a good deal of stuff about me and something I had said about the situation in the Far East. I did not know anything about it, and it was done without my knowledge. The only paragraph I have seen finished with this statement:The attention of the Foreign Secretary was drawn to these matters, and he took no notice.I am of a rather critical disposition, and I have no particular love for members of the Cabinet and Ministers. On the whole I have thought that they were set up there as fair marks. I want to say, however, that what was published in this paragraph is entirely contrary to the truth, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will note that. My experience over a considerable time is that the Foreign Office has been extremely receptive. I want to make this statement public.
I am a little critical of the bombing operations which, are going on against Thailand. I have seen three or four times lately in the papers a statement that Bangkok has been bombed and that the dock area has in particular been bombed. What is the dock area of Bangkok? There are a number of British-owned quays stretched along the river bank and two 980 engineering works, both British-owned. One of them has a dock which is capable of taking in lighters and nothing else. They are mixed engineering firms largely concerned in selling motor cars. I really cannot see what particular object is served in bombing to pieces establishments of that sort. They are usable, but no ships of any size can get up the river. Ships drawing more than 12 feet, or 14 feet at the highest spring tide, cannot pass up the river. If bombing expeditions are made in that area, there may be aerodromes and so on that should be bombed, but if we have a shortage of bombing planes, surely the effective targets are the railways. The Northern railway from Bangkok to the north of Siam, to the point that is nearest in that area to the Burma Road, passes for miles over very high viaducts. Some hon. Members may remember if they are old enough those viaducts that used to be on the Cornwall line built by Brunel. These are all of that type, high wooden structures crossing wide deep valleys.
These are the places to bomb. It is no good wasting bombs on the innocent Siamese in the town of Bangkok. The only reference I have seen to bombing the railway which goes from Bangkok towards the Federated Malay States is that the railway junction at Singora had been bombed. That is the one point where it is ineffective to bomb the railway, because at that point the road stops. To the north of that then: are no roads. There are, however, wide rivers which the railways have to cross, and if the bridges across the rivers could be bombed something effective would be done. Here again I feel that our information is a bit lacking. I do not attempt to attribute blame, but there is some blame. Although the Cabinet and the Prim Minister have shouldered the blame, same of it must fall on those people who have been shortsighted, indifferent and perhaps even lazy, which is not unknown in those in the service.
There is no doubt about what will be the outcome of this Debate. I feel that when the Prime Minister spoke as he did the other day he could have done and said nothing else. Much as I agree with most of the criticism which has been made, I do not see what else the Prime Minister could have done. Could he have stood there with a bright smile on his face and said to the House, "I thank my hon. 981 Friends and right hon. Friends from the bottom of my heart for the extremely kind things they have said about me," and then, turning his head right and left, have said, "Looking down this line of my colleagues, I want to tell you the truth, that I think very little of them"? Was that possible? The Prime Minister could have done nothing other than be did do. He has to take the responsibility. Is it to be imagined that the Prime Minister's head is so constructed that things that go in one ear come out at the other without making any impression on his mind? I am content myself to know that the House will give the Prime Minister a full Vote of Confidence and to leave it to him.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)
The Prime Minister certainly cleared the air with regard to the question of a Vote of Confidence. A good many Members had thought before the Debate began that it was perhaps not very wise for the Government to ask for a Vote of Confidence, and before the Debate began the Prime Minister himself said that he would demand a Vote of Confidence if the criticisms in the course of the Debate appeared to be so strong and assumed a more or less hostile character and that he would then table a Vote of Confidence. He went further than that in his speech and said that in any event he was determined upon a Vote of Confidence. I think that he made out a pretty unanswerable case for it, but he seemed to me to put rather too much stress upon the constitutional doctrine that the Government must stand or fall as a whole, and he seemed almost to say that he was hardly at liberty to make any changes in his Government except after a hostile vote of the House. Surely that is carrying the constitutional doctrine rather too far. I think that there is no doubt that if the Prime Minister thinks it necessary, he can bring about the resignation of members of his Administration, just as in recent times the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) resigned his position as Secretary of State for War, not, as we all know, because he himself wanted to resign, but because the Prime Minister put it to him that his resignation would be acceptable to him.
I ask the House what would happen if this Vote of Confidence in the Government were to be defeated. It would 982 mean, of course, the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister and the Government. What would happen then? There is no lack of confidence in the Prime Minister as Prime Minister. That has been made clear a hundred times in the course of this Debate, and I do not think there would be any very great competition to succeed the present Prime Minister. Therefore, what would obviously happen would be that the present Prime Minister would be sent for by the King and asked to form another Administration, and no doubt he would do so with a certain number of changes. In this Debate there has been much criticism from all sides, and I think there is a strong feeling both in this House and in the country that there should be some changes in the personnel of this Government, and I hope that when he has got his Vote of Confidence, as of course he will, the Prime Minister will not ignore that obvious expression of opinion.
Despite all the anxieties that one has over the present situation, I cannot help feeling in general more hopeful about the eventual outcome of this war than I have ever done since the war began. In the course of the last few weeks two outstanding events have happened which are bound to have a tremendous effect upon the result of this conflict. The first, and I put it first because it is the most important of all, is the fact that at last the United States of America are definitely in the war as our Allies; and not only are they in the war, but I have a feeling that they are in the war much more whole-heartedly than they were in the last war. The other outstanding fact is the successful resistance of Russia to the German onslaught. With regard to the participation of the United States in the war, I should like to say how very glad I am to feel that it should be the part of the country which I represent which has been the site of the advent of the first part of the American Expeditionary Force to this country. The people of Northern Ireland are delighted to welcome the American troops into their territory. While referring to this subject I cannot help saying that I though it was, to put it mildly, rather out of place that the Head of the Government in Southern Ireland should complain that he had not been consulted about the American Expeditionary Force coming to this country. Is is usual for belligerents in the course of 983 their military operations and plans to consult neutrals as to what they should do? No, Sir.
The first troops of the American Forces to come to this country will, I hope, be followed by many more troops in all parts of the world. As a result of America's participation in men and in munitions, with her tremendous industrial power, the result is bound to be that the successful end of this war is much nearer. After all the months and months of isolationism and disinclination on the part of sections of the American population to come into the war, it is a splendid, magnificent thing to think that now they are in it, our full Allies in the war and in the peace which will follow the war. The results cannot be anything but stupendous. There is one further point which I should like to stress as regards American participation in the war. Up to the time the United States came in, if Britain had been invaded, if we had been conquered, the war would have been over, but now that America is in the war, if we are invaded, if we are conquered, the war does not end, because we have great Allies, the United States and Russia, to carry it on, with the rest of the Empire, to a successful conclusion, no matter what should happen in this island. That is a stupendous fact.
In spite of the fact that one cannot help feeling more hopeful than one felt some months ago, nevertheless this Debate has brought out very clearly and very emphatically the grave anxieties which Members of the House feel with regard to the situation in the Far East. I was appalled, as we all were, when the Prime Minister announced a few weeks ago the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse." Hon. Members who are experts on naval matters have raised this question in the course of this Debate, and I do not intend to refer to more than one aspect of it at the moment. The Government have been asked whether the decision to send those great ships to the Far East was a naval decision or a political decision. If it was a decision backed and approved by the Lords of the Admiralty and the Naval Staff, well, there is nobody to blame; but if the decision was not approved by the Lords of the Admiralty and the Naval Staff, if they were against it, if it was purely a political decision, then the situation becomes very much 'pore serious. It seems to me to 984 raise this issue, which I have often felt one has to contemplate, particularly in war-time: Suppose the political heads of a Government press some matter of policy so strongly that the experts disagree. Ought there not to come a time, if the matter is serious enough, at which the experts, the staff officers, should go so far even as to take their careers into their hands and resign rather than agree to a line of policy which it is felt is wrong and contrary to the best interests of the Service?
While on that aspect of the matter, I cannot help referring to an issue of that kind which occurred in this country only two or three years ago, over the decision of the Government of the day to hand over the ports in Southern Ireland to the Southern Irish Government and to give up the rights in those ports which had been retained by the British Government, in the Treaty of 1921, because it was then felt that they were strategically of tremendous importance. Did the Naval Staff of that day agree to those ports being abandoned as harbours by the British Government? This incident took place about one year before the cutbreak of this war. I am not sure that I am right, but so far as I can remember the First Sea Lord at that time was Lord Chatfield. Did Lord Chatfield agree, in that matter of grave policy of handing over the ports? If he did not, was it not a matter of such importance to the strategy and safety of these Islands that the head of the Naval Staff should have resigned rather than agree? There would rave been no necessity for resignation, because if the Admiralty Chief of Staff had gone to the Government and said that this thing was strategically impossible and was so important to the country that the Admiralty could not possibly agree to it, the whole thing might have been dropped and nothing more been heard of it.
I would like to put one other point, and it is with regard to the formation of an Imperial War Cabinet. I was very glad indeed to hear that Australia was pressing this matter and to hear the Prime Minister say that the Government would give Australia the seat in the War Cabinet which she demanded; but I have felt for the last year or more that, for some reason, the Government have been very sticky in the matter. The hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. Granville) has raised the matter over and over again in 985 Questions and speeches in this House. I myself asked a Question of the Prime Minister many months ago. There appears to have been a kind of reluctance on the part of the Prime Minister to come out in favour of Dominion representation in the War Cabinet. Now that it has come, I hope that the representatives of the Dominions in the War Cabinet, the Australian representative now and others that may follow him, will, in order to make the scheme workable, be plenipotentiaries. They must have full power. If they have not full power, the extraordinary anomaly will arise of a War Cabinet having to postpone decisions which require to be carried out quickly because some of its members need to seek authorisation from the Governments which they represent. That would be an impossible and intolerable situation. I hope that the eventual construction of the Imperial War Cabinet will work out much as it did towards the end of the last war, and that it will be able to take quick and important decisions. If it functions in that way, it will undoubtedly be one of the things which will help us most towards final success in the war.
We are facing an extraordinarily difficult situation. We are going through a very nasty patch in the war. Our chief anxieties are from a new enemy, an implacable enemy, efficient and steeped in fanaticism, attended with a disregard of death which cannot be anything but formidable. In spite of all this and in spite of the further anxieties and difficulties which we have to face and to which the Prime Minister referred, I feel strongly that the turning point in this war came when Hitler decided to attack Russia. I feel certain that as soon as we reach full and efficient co-operation among all the different Allies, and if we have learned the lessons taught by recent disasters and setbacks, there will assuredly come a time, whether soon or late, when once again all will be well.
§ Major Milner (Leeds, South-East)
I do not propose to follow fully my right hon. Friend who has just addressed the House, but I would refer to one matter of considerable constitutional importance which he has raised, and that is the responsibility of the Board of Admiralty. This is not the time or the occcasion to argue the case, but I think it will be found that a very curious state of affairs exists in the Admiralty. I point it out for the in- 986 formation of hon. Members. I believe that the real responsibility, by Orders in Council passed a good many years ago, is that of the First Sea Lord; the Board of Admiralty as a whole have little or no responsibility. I am not at all sure whether its members have even the right to resign, which my right hon. Friend thought in such cases they might have had. That is, however, a matter which can be looked into by the House on some future occasion, when I shall have a rather longer contribution to make.
I was also interested, and I am sure the House as a whole was interested, in the very informative contribution made by the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Nunn). He has spent a great many years in Siam, and there was one thought which occurred to me in that connection. The hon. Gentleman told us about the information and knowledge which he and presumably many others possessed of the intentions of the Japanese as much as 30 years ago, but I do not recollect that in the early part of 1932 he raised any protest, as some did, at the first aggression of the Japanese in Manchuria, which, as was pointed out at that time, might in due course have very serious consequences in the Malay Peninsula and to which this country in effect, under the then National Government, assented.
§ Mr. Nunn
It is perfectly true that at that time I rather took the line, in a speech I made on that subject, that the time was not opportune to interfere with Japan. It seemed to me that it was not this country's obligation to take upon its shoulders the whole of the work of the League of Nations, particularly as I had not—and I still feel the same way—any particular faith in that organisation. It is quite true that I did not call attention publicly at any time during that period to the activities of the Japanese in Thailand, which was a country with which we were on particularly friendly terms, but it is on record at the Foreign Office that I did present to them the results of my inquiries.
§ Major Milner
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it was from that very small beginning that a great many ill consequences have flowed. I will add no more to what I have said on that point. In the very short time during which I propose to detain the House I do not intend to go into detail as to whether the 987 Prime Minister is right or wrong in demanding a Vote of Confidence. My own personal opinion is that, burdened as he is by fearful responsibilities at the present time, he is fully entitled to demand it, certainly on this occasion—but I venture to express the hope that a similar demand will not be made on too many occasions. No doubt on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman will receive his Vote, but he must still understand that the House and the country are far from satisfied with the conduct of affairs and that we expect him to take note of what has been said. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal assured us yesterday that the most serious note will be taken of the advice and criticism which have been tendered to him in this Debate, and it will largely be in the belief, and on the assurance that action will also be taken where necessary, that many of us will support the Prime Minister and give him the Vote of Confidence for which he asks.
Nor do I intend to enter upon the vexed question of production, except to say that we are spending £13,000,000 a day, we have been spending very little less for a good many years past, and so far we have seen very little concrete or military achievement for that expenditure. It has so often been said that the people of this country are willing to make heavy sacrifices—almost indeed, any sacrifice—but they do expect to see results. The answer so frequently given, that we are short of the munitions of war, will not, in my submission, carry conviction very much longer, particularly in view of the optimistic statements which have been made for such a long time past and which are so continually repeated.
It has been said that we cannot be strong everywhere, but in fact we have not been strong, nor are we to-day strong, anywhere. We have had ample warning, as the hon. Member for West Newcastle told us, of the intentions at some date of the Japanese, and perhaps it is now clear to many who did not appreciate it before that, just like Hitler, the Japanese have for years past been acquiring bases from which they could in due course launch their assault. I can even believe that we could not send all that was necessary to Malaya, but the question is, Did we do all that we could with the material at our disposal? In my submission, we did 988 not do all that we might have done. It is clear from the answers to Questions and from this Debate that we did little or nothing to prepare the defences of Singapore on the landward side, and that in particular no attempt was made to recruit the population of Malaya. It is of little use saying that four-fifths or three-quarters of the world are with us if we do not organise them, and it is on that particular subject that I now want to say a special word or two about India.
As has frequently been said in this Debate, we ought to have been able to draw upon almost inexhaustible manpower in India to-day, much of it trained, and if the Government here and in India had done what they might have done even at the outbreak of war in the way of recruiting, what a great asset that would have been for us to-day and, perhaps even more important, what a great saving of our own man-power that would have been. Instead of which, if my information is correct, as I believe it to be, almost the same position has existed and still exists in India about which so much complaint has been made in regard to Malaya. That position is so calamitous that I cannot detail in public the information which has been given to me. I hope that at an early date the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, and the Secretary of State for War, will receive a deputation from a few of us who are interested and have some information to give him on this matter. But I will mention one or two points. The normal intake in the Indian Army is some 30,000 recruits a year, and yet, including territorials and called-up reservists, less than 100,000 have been recruited into the Army in the first 18 months of the war. That is out of a population approaching 400,000,000. Compare that with the position, for example, in New Zealand, which, out of a population of 1,500,000 only, had in the same time recruited something like 150,000.
The result, of course, is obvious in many directions. The result of the neglect in India has been that troops have been sent to Singapore with only a few months' training. Many of them are raw villagers, and many of them, I am informed on very creditable authority, have never seen or used a rifle before embarking. We all know how long the training of a soldier takes. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister told us on a previous occa- 989 sion, and I think the Secretary of State for India has also said, that the difficulty was the lack of equipment. Hitler has told us, I think in "Mein Kampf," that it takes four years to train a soldier. We know that it takes a good many months with the most intelligent men, but it is not necessary to have equipment for the first few months, or even years, in training Indians to become soldiers. We can teach them discipline, marching, physical training, give them education of various kinds, build up their strength, feed them well, teach them to drive lorries and to operate various mechanical contrivances, and even teach them to shoot, with almost a minimum of equipment. Therefore, that excuse is not in the least valid.
It is also said that India is almost self-supporting in munitions. Yet I am informed that troops have left India less than a year from this date for theatres of war without even having tin hats. I cannot speak of the last few months, but I am informed that up to July, 1941, no tactical exercises had taken place for months, and in some cases for years, in one district of India and probably in others. There is a grave shortage of officers in every department. So one might go on. There are also other considerations with regard to India. I am informed that long after the United States had stopped sending scrap iron to Japan, India continued and that up to quite a few months ago scrap iron was being sent to Japan by the shipload from India. If those facts, and others which I hope to give the right hon. Gentleman, are true, surely the position of affairs is deplorable. The state of inertia and blimpism amounting almost to 5th columnness among our own people in positions of authority is fearful to contemplate and that with this enormous reserve of human and material wealth we have hardly tried to organise a millionth part of the help that is available there.
I say with regret that the example shown by the Viceroy up to quite recently when he continued running his garden parties and attending his tiger shoots as usual, was not showing the best example to officials and others. We must be thankful that even at this late date the same action has been taken by His Majesty's Government as was taken in 1917. In that year the conduct of the Mesopotamian campaign was taken out of the hands of the Indian Government and placed in the 990 hands of the War Office at home. We all know that recently, although little public attention has been directed to it, the conduct of the war in Iran, Syria and other portions of the Middle East has been taken out of the hands of the Indian Government and placed in the hands of General Auchinleck and the Government at home. I have said nothing of the political situation in India, but I would submit that from all we know and from what has been said in this Debate it requires the most urgent action, not consideration, but urgent action, on the part of the Government.
Now how is it that in so many Departments of State, in so many Ministries, in so many branches of the Services, we are not rising to the heights of which we know this nation and our people to be capable? I do not think it is altogether a question of machinery. A good deal of this Debate has revolved round the question of machinery, which is no doubt important as a basis on which to work. I think there are reasons even deeper than the question of not having adequate machinery. Somehow, whatever the reason be, most of us must feel that we and many others have not yet aroused ourselves to the urgency of the situation. Everywhere, in every sphere of life, assisting in the war effort to-day, there are many men, able men, struggling against inertia, against reaction and against red tape. Some of those able men are in the Government. There are others, some of them in the Government, who are not pulling their weight, who are hidebound, who are against new ideas, who cannot get out of the rut and who do not accept responsibility. That is especially so, in my small experience, among officials in the East; I think, also, in the Army. I am afraid I have but little regard for the brass hats, and I do not think they are a great deal of credit to us in the present war. The fact that we have had no fewer than four Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff does not appear to give grounds for a great deal of confidence. Where in this war have we shown any real initiative or any measure of improvisation or adaptation? For example, it may be an amateur suggestion, but I make it for what it is worth, in Libya, where such high hopes have been held out, why is it, when we have air and sea superiority, that we have not 991 made an effort to land behind Rommel and the Germans? I believe that that coast is perfectly fit for landings for hundreds of miles. Why is it that one of our commandos, either with or without tanks—and the Japanese appear to have been able to land tanks in Malaya—has not landed and got to the rear and dealt a deadly blow at the German forces there? Why if we are out-gunned do we not mount larger guns on our chassis? I am told that we have chassis on which we can mount even such a powerful and excellent gun as the 25-pounder. Why do we not do it?
Is it not possible to raid, by parachute troops or otherwise, the guns opposite Dover, 20 miles away, bombing the area beforehand if that is necessary? In this country we have many thousands, maybe millions, of troops eating their hearts out, and in many cases little or nothing is being done to make use of them. What are wanted are greater speed in everything, a greater sense of urgency, livelier initiative, and greater appreciation by all that the times of business and pleasure as usual have gone. Particularly does this apply in the Far East. We must wake up, pull ourselves and our affairs together and throw ourselves more seriously into the fight. The Government's duty is to go to it and see to it that everyone else goes to it. If they do that, they will certainly receive the aid and encouragement for which the Prime Minister asks.
§ Mr. De Chair (Norfolk, South-Western)
I have been away from this House for over a year, and I hope that the House will give me a little indulgence. If I have chilled any other speakers out of their opportunity, I apologise and hope that they will sympathise with me in the circumstances. I confess that I have had an exciting and romantic time while I have been away. T. E. Lawrence wrote in one of his letters that a year in the Middle East counted for 10 anywhere else. I know what he meant. Looking back on a year in the Middle East, one has such a variegated picture of many kinds of experience that it seems much more than a year. I have camped amid the timeless scenery of the Bible, floundered in mud in the Jordan Valley during that season of the year when even kings cannot go forth to battle, and found myself in 992 deserts and floods; and, if I may say so, it is not an everyday experience for a Parliamentarian to find himself being carried blindfold at dawn into the city of the Caliphs, and there to have the bandages removed from his eyes, and to see, across the fast waters of the Tigris, the minarets and domes of that fabled city which is associated with the memory of Haroun al Raschid. It would be surprising if during this year I had not gained some experience.
But, before coming to that, I would like to say that I cannot help noticing a remarkable difference in the atmosphere, both in the House and in the country, between the time when I went away and the time when I came back. I left this country when the Battle of Britain was drawing to its close, in October, 940. The House was united and resolute, and a back bencher was almost as obsolete as the Dodo or the great Auk; he had no functions to perform. At that time, the country had its back to the wall, and was fighting in complete unity. It is a shock to come back to a House in which there is so much criticism of the way in which the war is being carried on by the Government. I am tempted to ask myself whether the war position is really so very much worse at present than when I went away that it would justify this change in the atmosphere. When I look back to October, 1940, I recall that bombs were raining night after night on this city and upon other cities of Great Britain; the country was holding out as the last bastion of democracy in the fighting line; the German armies were everywhere arrogantly pushing forward, and successful; Russia, with a semi-alliance with the German war machine, was at best an enigmatic neutral; America was hesitant, and clinging in large part to her underlying isolation; and out in the Middle East, when I first arrived, Italian armies had already advanced within the territories of Egypt, had occupied Sidi Barani, had driven us from British Somaliland, and this nation of Caesars lowered down upon us from the Abyssinian hinterland and surrounded the basin of the Nile.
When I arrived in the Middle East, one had a disheartening impression of the extent to which a mesh of Axis intrigue overlaid the whole of the Near Orient. In Syria, the Italian disarmament commission was influential, if not dominant, in the councils of General Dentz. In Iraq, 993 the Germans had completely won over the Government of Raschid Ali, supported by an organisation called the Golden Square, and the Germans relied upon the Iraq Government to make their coup at the favourable moment. In Iran, a highly-organised fifth column bloc of 4,000 Germans, under gauleiters, was ready, mobilisable, only awaiting the word of the Fuhrer to seize important key points for a German invasion. Shortly afterwards, disasters were to follow in Greece and Crete, and then was to occur the German breakthrough into Libya. What is the picture now? Iraq was cleared of the Raschid Ali Government, and that centre of Axis intrigue, which was the key to the Near East, because thither had gone all the chief rebels, came under our influence; Syria was invaded by us, and that landing-ground on the way to the bases for oil in Iran and Iraq was taken over by us; and in Iran the German fifth column was completely liquidated. Our strategic position has been immeasurably improved. We have pushed up to the Turkish frontier and eastwards to make a junction with our Russian Allies. In the West, General Rommel's force has been reduced considerably in striking power. The threat to Tobruk, which had held out so gallantly for five and a half months, has been removed; the menace to Egypt has been pushed back; and the operations in the desert have brought tremendous relief to our Allies on the Russian front. In Russia, the Russian Armies, after reaching the limit of their calculated recoil, have now roared back into action, and Germany, for the first time in this war, has turned from the offensive to the defensive on two fronts.
Why should there now be an atmosphere of such violent criticism of the Prime Minister's conduct of the war? Coming back, I got a fleeting impression which I must give the House. The Prime Minister may agree that he is wedded to the Parliamentary system by indissoluble tics of long association, and that the Mother of Parliament is somewhat in the position of his spouse at the moment. It struck me that the spouse was a little ruffled at his flirting with the more glamorous British public—indeed, it seemed that he had been flirting with the public in the United States and Canada as well—and the mood of the House seemed to be that of a woman scorned. We know that hell has no fury like a 994 woman scorned, and she was ready to tear his eyes out, whatever he suggested. When he said, "I want my speech broadcast," the spouse said, "No." I think that accounted for a good deal of the feeling, but, of course, that does not dispose by any means of the very large volume of criticism. I think that criticism has arisen because the public and the House are only just about awakening to the magnitude of the task before us. The Prime Minister has spoken about the equipment for the Libyan campaign. Before the battle, he said that we were meeting the Germans, for the first time, with equality of equipment. The Prime Minister's son yesterday went a little further, and said that we had a superiority of 7 to 4 in tanks over the Axis Forces. It is a very unpalatable fact that, with a superiority of 7 to 4 in tanks, we have suffered 18,000 casualties in this gruesome battle in the desert.
I would like the Prime Minister to clear up one point, on which I misunderstood him. He spoke as if the total forces we had at any time in action in the desert were 45,000. In that case casualties of 18,000 out of 45,000 would give the impression that nearly one in every two men was killed, captured or wounded, and that would be a most formidable casualty in this type of fighting. I know this type of desert warfare. The men usually manage to get away from the vehicles when they are attacked by aeroplanes which swoop down upon them and machine-gun them and attack them with cannon, shell and bombs, and it is the vehicles which usually get hit. When they come back they may find the vehicles hit and themselves safe. If the casualties have been as great as that you may take it that our position in vehicles and transport must be very serious indeed. It is not the men that can be blamed, and I am sure it is not the Government. I know the equipment was substantial. What is to blame? I do not think that you can blame this or that commander or this or that Minister. We ought to ask ourselves, Is it a contrast between the rival types of military machines? On the one hand, we have the unified command in the Nazi armies over the Task Forces, with trained and long-practiced co-operation between ground and air forces, and, on the other hand, the haphazard co-operation between three different Services. Great attempts have been made, apparently successfully in this battle, to get adequate co-ordination 995 between the Services, and I know what happened up to July of last year. There was practically no co-operation at all. I can tell that to the House.
In conclusion, I would ask the House whether we ought not to have a unified command such as the Germans and the Russians have and begin it with the use of a unified task force for every operation under a unified commander such as we have for General Wavell in the A.B.D.A. area. One asks oneself why we have not shown more readily the ability to adapt ourselves to the new conditions. I think it is because our political and social systems have in the past been bringing the wrong type of man to the top. A roseate glow of self-complacency spreads its softening hues over Westminster, Whitehall, Cairo, Suez and Singapore. What is the origin of this phenomenon? It is the last bloody glimmer of the sunset of the "old school tie." Thank God, my old school in New South Wales has not got a tie. I believe that the Prime Minister is the one man with the fresh mind and outlook who can tackle these problems in the spirit that is wanted, and I shall have no hesitation whatever in giving him my vote in the Lobby.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
As I understand the Prime Minister desires to address the House for longer than he originally intended, I will endeavour to go lightly over the ground which has been fully trodden in the two days' Debate. The issue raised is whether or not the House of Commons can properly make a Vote of Confidence in the Prime Minister conditional upon his revising the composition of his Cabinet, or conversely, whether the Prime Minister can suitably accept a Vote of Confidence from a House of Commons which seeks to impose a restraint upon his liberty of choice. To such questions there is only one answer, and that is the answer which the Prime Minister has given. We in Parliament can break Governments, but we cannot expect to form them. That is the historic and indefeasible right, the most basic of all the rights, of the Prime Minister. He stands or falls by the verdict of Parliament on the work of the Government which he has chosen. The country requires that he should have regard solely to the public interest in selecting his colleagues and in maintaining them. Were 996 he to yield them up to clamour or to pressure, he would indeed be derogating from the high traditions of his office. That was the fate of Lord Haldane in the last war, and indeed it was the fate of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself. In each case the country suffered a grievous loss. One was sacrificed to popular superstition and the other to political prejudice.
For my part I was glad to hear the defence which my right hon. Friend made of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The blunt announcement that he had been asked to wind up his mission and to return home caused the impression that he had been "sacked." I would have liked the Prime Minister to have said more about his mission and about the great service which I am sure he has rendered. He has wrestled heroically with great difficulties. It is fitting that the injustice under which he must have laboured should be removed.
While the question of Cabinet responsibility has been the dominant theme in this Debate, the developments in the Far East were the primary cause of it. There has been a terrible, indeed an almost incredible, series of disasters. When Hong Kong, our oldest trading port in the Far East, fell it was a shock. When Malaya, a stretch of the Empire of which we are most proud and with which we have had so long a connection, was being severed from us, and we were being involved in great and irreplaceable and unexpected losses, it was inevitable that there should be serious perturbation. The country has naturally expected a full explanation of the circumstances and desires to know that vigorous remedial measures are being taken. Searching questions jump to the mind about the loss of Malaya, and some have been put in this Debate. There were the usual self-confident statements, indicative of our under-estimation of the skill and resources of the enemy, statements which have proved to be the invariable preludes to disaster. It must be understood that commanders in this war are being put into a very difficult position by being called upon to make pronouncements to appease public feeling or to stimulate courage. The question of what their exact relationship to the public should be should be investigated. In the meantime,Let not him that girdeth on his armour boast himself as he that put eth it off.997 Events have shown that a scheme of defence was operated which did not anticipate the kind of attack which was launched. Perhaps it was felt that the monsoon would rise and prevent a Japanese landing, or that the jungle would be an impenetrable barrier preventing the passage of the enemy down to Singapore. Certainly it was believed that forces would be sent out of Burma to strike at the Japanese. Announcements to this effect were made. All these considerations, however, fall into comparatively insignificant proportions when the real and fundamental cause of our reverses is considered. The defence of Singapore was always regarded as a naval operation, but the great strategic plan, which had required years to evolve, was burnt in the conflagration in Hawaii. The instrument which was to execute that plan—the American Main Pacific Fleet—was disabled. Its disruption was an indispensable preliminary to the execution of the Japanese project—
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
I am sorry I have only a short time left. I would willingly give way in more normal circumstances. The enemy was, of course, facilitated by the sinking of the "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse." Had the American Main Fleet remained intact, the series of events about which we have been complaining would not have occurred. The Japanese lines of communication would have been broken; the enemy would never have dared to have undertaken the far-stretching enterprises upon which they are now engaged. Therefore, it is useless to conduct an inquest into that matter. The American Government have done so with commendable frankness. The practical questions which should absorb us are these: What are the means by which the totalitarian Powers have achieved, and are still achieving, their successes? How is it that they have swept through Europe, and how is it they show such resilience in Africa? How is it that they are extending so swiftly their sway over British, Dutch and American possessions in the Pacific? The answer, surely, is this: By the use of the aeroplane as an integral part of their sea and land forces.
Pearl Harbour was blasted from the air and sea in one combined operation. Malaya has been overrun by an army preceded at every stage by squadrons of 998 dive bombers borne on the establishment of that army. Burma has been subjected to similar treatment, as the communiqués tell us. The Philippines are now being assaulted by an army which has its own air arm, and it is in the Philippines that the greatest resistance is being offered—greater than anywhere else—by an army also having its own air arm. Sarawak, Borneo, Celebes, New Guinea, and now the Bismarck Archipelago are being invaded by co-ordinated forces operating in the three elements. It would be unfair to anticipate the inquiry into the loss of the "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse." I will, therefore, content myself with stating the fact, that the "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" were lost because they had no overhead protection. Hong Kong was subjected to pitiless bombardment because no fighters were available to fend it off. These grim consequences are not due to a shortage of aeroplanes. At the time our troops were suffering in Greece our storehouses were "bulging with aeroplanes" owing to the dynamic activity of Lord Beaverbrook, whose vivid phrase that is.
We have reached air parity with Germany, on which I would congratulate the Government. We therefore have the machines, but have we the right machines? Have we the types suitable for use with the Army? Great stress has been laid on the strategical role of the Air Force. I make no reflection on that Service, to which we owe the survival of our country, when I say that the tactical possibilities of the aeroplane have been comparatively neglected. Why is this? The tactical development of a weapon can surely only be fostered by the Service primarily responsible for the operations in which the weapon is used? Unless the sea or land commander has as much control over his air support as he has over other weapons, he can never formulate plans completely nor accustom himself to think as spontaneously in terms of the air as in terms of his own Service. An Army should not be moved without its supporting aeroplanes. It is to place it in a dangerous—an unfairly dangerous—position to leave it without so essential-a requirement. These supporting aeroplanes should be borne on the establishment of the Army in the same way as artillery. The Navy should have its own shore-based aircraft. The tragic series of experiences we have had indoctrinates 999 that lesson. It is said—and we must rejoice at it—that co-operation between the Army and the Air Force has been very close in Libya. There for the first time it extends down to lower levels than G.H.Q. I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, and who has fought so valiantly for this country speaking about that matter. I cannot rival his knowledge, but I can reinforce him by saying that co-operation is not integration, and it is integration that we must achieve. The moment is propitious for fresh decisions, for the striking of a new balance between the strategical and tactical functions of the Royal Air Force now that so great a programme is being undertaken in the United States.
We have set an example of co-ordinated effort in the creation of the commandos, for which I understand the Prime Minister himself was responsible. Well, Japan is showing on a bigger scale her skill for combining the use of her land, sea and air forces. Ask an intelligent Commando what is the lesson he has learned by the raids which are being made on Norway and elsewhere, and he will say, "The desirability of a common entry into the Services." The ideal is not three separate Services, but to integrate all Services. What do we do nine months after Maleme? We make a compromise about the defence of our aerodromes and create a Royal Air Force Regiment—a hybrid force, additional to both the Army and the Air Force. In peace-time compromises have often been our political salvation. In war they may be our military undoing. This is the time to settle this question of the Army Air Arm, and I hope the Prime Minister will settle it before the lesson is more sharply enforced upon us by fresh experiences. Let us not continue with a compromise.
I say that it is by a combination of the three Services that the Japanese are spreading their conquests. Their progress has been much facilitated and accelerated by their pocket editions of all the principal striking weapons. In addition to the small aircraft carriers in which they have specialised, they have two-man tanks and two-man submarines. How are we to beat Japan out of the territories which she has taken except by following her methods?
1000 To the extent to which we have lost our island possessions we shall have to rely in this ocean of great distances on aircraft carriers. In the West, our task is the exact converse of what it is in the East. In the Atlantic we are defending our communications against commerce raiders, Fokker-Wolffs, and submarines. In the Far East, Japan is called upon to defend hers. To meet the necessity for having more of those weapons which Japan is so successfully employing—submarines and aircraft carriers in particular—involves great inroads on the shipbuilding capacity and shipbuilding labour which it is proposed in the United States programme to allot for the purpose of overtaking our losses of merchant tonnage in the Atlantic. Here is indeed one of those instances where events may mock and falsify human effort and design. I commend to the serious attention of the Government the remarks made on the subject of our future at sea and of our shipbuilding prospects by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) yesterday.
In all these circumstances, a greater effort and a greater vigour is evoked from us. We must steel ourselves to the prospect of a harder struggle. We must impose upon ourselves more sacrifices. We have magnificent Allies. Russia has performed the greatest of all military feats, the reversal of a retreat is into an advance, and her people are undergoing the greatest privations in order to win this war. China has shown her readiness to help us wholeheartedly in every quarter. Where should we be if the Netherlands East Indies had gone the way of the French Colonies? We can thank God for that decision by a great Ally. A new sense of participation in this war, a new sense of responsibility, must be given to India and Burma.
While my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was conferring with President Roosevelt in Washington representatives of the Axis Powers had a meeting in Berlin. They also concluded an agreement. Its declared purpose was to strengthen the military, diplomatic, and economic bonds which unite them. There is no reason to suppose that its aims were less far-reaching or that its scope was less extensive than the affirmation of the 26 nations. Many possible eventualities must have been envisaged—many permutations and combinations of fate and circum- 1001 stance. The agreement will have provided perhaps for the creation of a second front against Russia in the spring. That will largely depend on whether we hold the present Japanese advance. It will certainly have contemplated Japan being in a position to employ her fleet in even wider-ranging zones than the Pacific. The oceans are very much mixed up together. A vista of portentous possibilities, of fateful possibilities, is opened before us. To meet the new challenge we must have a new partnership, not only between managements and workers, but between all parts of the Empire. It will be fatal if Australia is dissatisfied with the offer which has now been made. We must have a new partnership between the Allies. This Vote of Confidence is not intended to express approval of all the policies of the Government, but, in so far as it is intended to give an expression before the whole world of our united resolve to make increased endeavours, it will be granted in ample measure.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
My only excus.2 for speaking is that I was one of those who pressed for a three-day full Debate, and I should like to take the opportunity of thanking the Prime Minister, because it has always been his desire to afford the House the fullest opportunity to discuss questions of moment, as has been apparent on other occasions. We have had an extremely interesting Debate, and, if I may say so, a Debate in which a very high level has been attained. It would be invidious to make comparisons by picking out particular speeches, but I should like to commend the speeches which were made at the beginning of the Debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and also by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill). I do not altogether agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh said in regard to there being a great deal of intriguing going on against the Government; rather it is disquiet in this House and in the country which has been represented by the speeches made in the Debate. We have had a number of interesting speeches, and an amusing and pleasant interlude in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Major Randolph Churchill) whose physi- 1002 cal and moral courage no one will deny. The hon. and gallant Member is not in the Chamber at the moment, but no doubt he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT. I should like to tell him that I am indebted to him for sending me away very happy after the Debate yesterday with the feeling and consciousness that in the encounter of the young gamecock and the old rooster the old rooster lost fewest of his feathers.
I must say that there have been occasions during this Debate when I rather regretted that the Prime Minister was not sitting upon this Bench leading the Opposition. May I, in parenthesis, recall that when the Prime Minister for a short period was not a member of the Government during the last war he took up a most objective and determined attitude towards the sins of the then Government? Indeed, on one occasion he was terribly rebuked by Mr. Bonar Law for what he regarded as a most mischievous speech. If the Prime Minister had been sitting on this Bench with a regular Opposition, I can imagine how he would have guyed the whole proceedings. He would ask whether we are to express a Vote of Confidence in the Government every time they suffer a reverse, whether we are to express a Vote of Confidence not only after the loss of Crete and Greece but over Malaya and the loss of the two battleships. He would ask whether we are to have a Vote of Confidence in the Government in a month's time when we suffer further reverses, when Singapore is invested, the Burma Road cut and the Indian Ocean made unsafe for our sea traffic. I should like to say, although this is a singular point of view, that one of the reasons why I am so glad the Prime Minister is Prime Minister is because, if he was on this bench and was supported by one or two resolute adherents in different quarters of the House, he would make, by his supreme genius in Debate, by his comprehensive knowledge of strategy, by his huge prestige and by his massive intellect the position of any lesser mortals impossible. I know that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will not think I am making an-invidious comparison when I say that there is not one of them who would be able to stand up, if he were Prime Minister, to the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the Opposition.
1003 I agree whole-heartedly with the right hon. Gentleman's true and typically generous and courageous assumption of responsibility for the failures, if there be any, of the Government. I cheered that portion of his speech very loudly. I frequently cheer his speeches, though sometimes in the wrong place. In all sincerity, I would say that it is fantastic to criticise the Government apart from the Prime Minister. It is foolish to suggest removals from the Government. You lay yourself open to a very effective retort. To use a cricketing analogy, I will tell the House what the Government remind me of. The late W. G. Grace, at the end of the first-class cricketing season, was in the habit of going into the country districts of Gloucestershire and choosing a team from among the village players, and they went and played at different places. Grace went in first, invariably remained in until the last wicket down and bowled the whole of the time. The other players were quite satisfied to serve under so grand a master. Continuing the analogy, I should like to add that several of the players in the present team have played for a good many other sides and are equally ready to play for any other side that is put forward.
It is abundantly clear that the Prime Minister has a greater power in matters of strategy than that possessed by any Prime Minister, not even excluding the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). In all seriousness, and without any attempt to say anything wounding, because that is not my intention, I would say that the right hon. Gentleman can literally, by the great position that he occupies, win or lose this war for us. I believe that he can and will win it, but I think it right to add that, if the time comes when the least of us think that his methods are losing it, it will be our duty to attempt by every means in our power to overthrow him. If the facts were on our side, we should succeed. The Prime Minister and the Government must be judged by results. This is the House of Commons and not the Reichstag. It cannot be and never has been in history dependent on any one man to win the war. The right hon. Gentleman stands out above everyone else. His undoubted successes as strategist in chief, because that is what he is, are much greater than his undoubted failures, but, if it should be the other way about in 1004 future, the nation will demand a change. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman can afford to ignore all the fretful criticism and all the sickening adulation which fall to the lot of every Prime Minister, and which, to quote a phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, have the same effect on me as a bad Channel crossing. Neither of these things will change his position as long as the public feel that he is the man to direct our share in this conflict as far as any man can. I regard a vote, although I am alone in this opinion, as entirely unnecessary. I should not vote against it if there was a reasoned Amendment.
What will be the effect? The Press tomorrow will come out with, "Prime Minister's great victory over his detractors," "Premier's triumph," "Country heartened by striking Vote of Confidence." Tucked away in corners of the newspapers will be accounts of the only things that matter—the ebb and flow, of battles in Libya and Malaya and Burma, and in the Mediterranean. The uninstructed public will think that this Vote cancels out our calamitous losses of rubber, tin and oil in the Far East, despite the valiant efforts of under-trained troops, at times almost without air support. It does not matter, however little the Government by their own pleading are to blame for it. What matters is what has happened and the steps to be taken to find some alleviation of the appalling disadvantages from which we are suffering. There are some questions which I sincerely hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer. In regard to the Burma Road, where are the Indian troops? We know that 1,000,000 men have been raised and 300,000 of them are overseas. We can assume that another 300,000 are in training and that 200,000 should be kept in India. Where are the other 200,000? There are disquieting rumours of this subject. There are suggestions that, owing to the constitutional position in India, these troops are not being used to the best advantage. The defence of the Burma Road is absolutely essential. If it is not defended, the whole of the most valuable support of our Chinese Ally crashes. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some assurance on these points.
I also hope that, not Perhaps in this Debate, but very soon, we shall hear that the magnificent soldiers of our great Ally, 1005 the United States, are being used where they are most needed. I am happy to see them in Northern Ireland, but there are other parts of the world where they are most urgently required. I had the great honour of serving with the Australians in the last war—commanding a body consisting of two-thirds Australians and one-third British—and I can hardly without emotion stand and recollect what magnificent fighting people the Australians were. At this moment they are most seriously perturbed in mind. Is it a wonder that the anxieties of these brave fellow citizens of ours are not allayed by pompous leading articles in some of the British Press? It is our duty to reassure them, and we can only do it by action and not by words. I have seen a comparison between the position of this country 18 months ago and Australia now. We have a population of 45,000,000 people; we had command of the seas—it is true only narrow seas and we were faced by 70,000,000 Germans. What is the position of Australia and New Zealand to-day? They have no more than 10,000,000 people, they are faced by Japan's 90,000,000, and we have lost command of the Pacific for the moment. Is it any wonder that these people are perturbed? It is the most solemn and sacred duty of this House, and as great a duty as it is to defend the British Isles, to do everything to allay their anxiety and to send every ship and man we can afford.
The important question is this: I am precluded by the rules of Debate from referring to anything that occurred in another place, but I can put it in a roundabout way. It is on record that in recent weeks an important statement has been made, by a man who is honoured in his own profession as one of the greatest naval officers of our time and who was First Sea Lord in the War Cabinet, on the subject of the battleships sent out to Malaya. I have three questions which, if not answered in this Debate, should be answered at some future time, because they have not yet been answered. The first is, Were the ships sent there for strategical or political reasons, using "political reasons" in the widest sense? The second is, Why was it not possible to supply sufficient ancillary vessels when they went out? The third is, Why was Air support lacking? My fourth question is this—we have never yet had it answered in the House: Has the old rule that the 1006 officer in charge of a ship which is lost has the obligation and the privilege, for it used to be both, to be submitted to a court-martial been abrogated, or does it still exist, and how soon shall we be able to know what are the results of the Departmental inquiry? I hope that these questions are not too direct.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman of my complete personal confidence in him and in his Government, because I do not believe that it is the duty of anyone to criticise the members of a Government apart from the head of the Government itself. A Government stands or falls as one. I know that he will think I am not saying anything which he could regard as distasteful if I venture to submit, as a Member who has sat for some time in this House and who has sat throughout the whole of this Debate, that there is a very great degree of disquiet in this House at the present time, and that nothing that can be done in the way of a vote will alter that disquiet. Only one thing will do that—facts and results more favourable to our cause than those which have occurred in the last few months.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
I must apologise to my Noble Friend for not being in my place when he began a speech which, I think everyone will say, was in his best form and in the expansive Parliamentary style of former days. I shall do my best to answer his questions as they occur, and I assure him and other hon. Members who have likewise suffered an apparent discourtesy on my part that it is not because I have been idle during the previous hours of the Debate. No one can say that this has not been a full and free Debate. No one can say that criticism has been hampered or stilled. No one can say that it has not been a necessary Debate. Many will think it has been a valuable Debate. But I think there will be very few—the Noble Lord spoke of himself as being almost alone—who upon reflection will doubt that a Debate of this far-reaching character and memorable importance, in times of hard and anxious war, with the state of the world what it is, our relationships to other countries being what they are, and our own safety so deeply involved—very few people will doubt that it should close without a solemn and formal expression of the opinion of the House in relation 1007 both to the Government and to the prosecution of the war.
Sir, in no country in the world at the present time could a Government conducting a war be exposed to such a stress. No dictator country fighting for its life would dare allow such a discussion. They do not even allow the free transmission of news to their peoples, or even the reception of foreign broadcasts, to which we are all now so hardily inured. Even in the great democracy of the United States the Executive does not stand in the same direct, immediate, day-to-day relation to the Legislative body as we do. The President, in many vital respects independent of the Legislature, Commander-in-Chief of all the Forces of the Republic, has a fixed term of office, during which his authority can scarcely be impugned. But here in this country the House of Commons is master all the time of the life of the Administration. Against its decisions there is only one appeal, the appeal to the nation, an appeal it is very difficult to make under the conditions of a war like this, with a register like this, with air raids and invasion always hanging over us.
Therefore, I say that the House of Commons has a great responsibility. It owes it to itself and it owes it to the people and the whole Empire, and to the world cause, either to produce an effective, alternative Administration by which the King's Government can be carried on, or to sustain that Government in the enormous tasks and trials which it has to endure. I feel myself very much in need of that help at the present time, and I am sure I shall be accorded it in a manner to give encouragement and comfort, as well as guidance and suggestion. I am sorry, as I have said, that I have not been able to be here throughout the whole Debate, but I have read every word of the Debate, except what has been spoken and has not yet been printed, and I can assure the House that I shall be ready to profit to the full from many constructive and helpful lines of thought which have been advanced, even when they come from the most hostile quarter. I shall not be like that saint to whom I have before referred in this House, but whose name I have unhappily forgotten, who refused to do right because the devil prompted him. Neither 1008 shall I be deterred from doing what I am convinced is right by he fact that I have thought differently about it in some distant, or even in some recent past.
When events are moving at hurricane speed and when scenes change with baffling frequency, it would be disastrous to lose that flexibility of mind in dealing with new situations on which I have often been complimented, which is the essential counterpart of a consistent and unswerving purpose. Let me take an instance. During my visit to America, events occurred which alter in a decisive way the question of creating a Minister of Production. President Roosevelt has appointed Mr. Donald Nelson to supervise the whole field of American production. All the resources of our two countries are now pooled, in shipping, in munitions, and in raw materials, and some similar office, I will not say with exactly the same scope, but of similar scope, must be created here, if harmonious working between Great Britain and the United States is to be maintained upon this very high level. I have been for some weeks carefully considering this, and the strong opinions which have been expressed in the House, even though I do not share their reasoning in all respects, have reinforced the conclusions with which I returned from the United States. I will not of course anticipate any advice that it may be my duty to tender to the Crown.
I was forced to inflict upon the House two days ago a very lengthy statement, which cost me a great deal of time and trouble, in the intervals of busy days and nights, to prepare. I do not desire to add to it to any important extent. It would not be possible for me to answer all the criticisms and inquiries which have been made during this Debate. I have several times pointed out to the House the disadvantage I lie under, compared with the leaders of other countries who are charged with general war direction, in having to make so many public statements, and the danger that in explaining fully our position to our friends we may also be stating it rather too fully to our enemies. Moreover, the Lord Privy Seal, in his excellent speech yesterday, has already replied to a number of the controversial issues which were raised. There are therefore only a few points with which I wish to deal to-day, but they are important points.
1009 The first is the advantage, not only to Britain but to the Empire, of the arrival of powerful American Army and Air Forces in the United Kingdom. First of all, it meets the wish of the American people and of the leaders of the Republic that the large mass of trained and equipped troops which they have under arms in the United States shall come into contact with the enemy as closely and as soon as possible. Secondly, the presence of these forces in these Islands imparts a greater freedom of movement overseas, to theatres where we are already engaged, of the mature and seasoned divisions of the British Home Army. It avoids the difficulty of reinforcing theatres where we are engaged with troops of another nation, with all the complications of armament and command which arise there from. Therefore we must consider this arrival of the American Army as giving us a latitude of manoeuvre which we have not hitherto possessed. Thirdly, the presence in our Islands of a Force of heavy but unknown strength, and the establishment of a broader bridgehead between us and the New World, constitutes an important additional deterrent to invasion at a time when the successful invasion of these Islands is Hitler's last remaining hope of total victory. Fourthly—and here I address myself to what my noble Friend has said about aiding and succouring Australia and New Zealand—the fact that well-equipped American divisions can be sent into these islands so easily and rapidly will enable substantial supplies of weapons and munitions, now being made in the United States for our account, to be sent direct on the other side of the world to Australia and New Zealand, to meet the new dangers of home defence which are cast upon them by the Japanese war. Lastly, this whole business cannot do Mr. de Valera any harm, and it may even do him some good. It certainly offers a measure of protection to Southern Ireland, and to Ireland as a whole, which she could not otherwise enjoy. I feel sure that the House will find these reasons, or most of them, solid and satisfactory.
The course of this Debate has mainly turned upon the admitted inadequacy of our preparations to meet the full onslaught of the new and mighty military opponent who has launched against us his whole force, his whole energies and fury 1010 in Malaya and in the Far East. There is not very much I wish to add, and that only by way of illustration, to the connected argument which I deployed to the House on Tuesday. The speeches of the hon. Members for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) and Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) dwelt from different angles upon this all-important issue. I do not, of course, pretend that there may not have been avoidable shortcomings or mistakes, or that some oversight might not have been shown in making use of our resources, limited though those resources were. While I take full responsibility for the broad strategic dispositions, that does not mean that scandals, or inefficiency or misbehaviour of functionaries at particular moments and particular places, occurring on the spot, will not be probed or will be covered by the general support I gave to our commanders in the field.
I am by no means claiming that faults have not been committed in the minor sphere, and faults for which the Government are blameworthy. But when all is said and done, the House must not be led into supposing that even if everything on the spot had gone perfectly—which the Noble Lord, who has experience, will agree is rare in war—they must not be led into supposing that this would have made any decisive difference to the heavy British and American forfeits which followed inexorably from the temporary loss of sea power in the Pacific, combined with the fact of our being so fully extended elsewhere. Even that is not exhaustive, because; before the defeat of Pearl Harbour—I am speaking of eight or nine months ago—our ability to defend the Malay Peninsula was seriously prejudiced by the incursion of the Japanese into French Indo-China and the steady building-up of very powerful forces and bases there. Even at the time when I went to meet the President in Newfoundland the invasion of Siam seemed imminent, and probably it was due to the measures which the President took as the result of our conversations that this attack was staved off for so long, and might well have been staved off indefinitely. In ordinary circumstances, if we had not been engaged to the last ounce in Europe and the Nile Valley, we should ourselves, of course, have confronted the Japanese agression into Indo-China with the strongest possible resistance from the moment when they began 1011 to build up a large military and air power. We were not in a position to do this.
If we had gone to war with Japan to stop the Japanese coming across the long ocean stretches from their own country, and establishing themselves within close striking distance of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, we should have had to fight alone, perhaps for a long time, the whole of the Japanese attacks upon our loosely-knit establishments and possessions in this vast Oriental region. As I said on Tuesday, we have never had the power, and we never could have had the power, to fight Germany, Italy and Japan single-handed at the same time. We therefore had to watch the march of events with an anxiety which increased with the growth of the Japanese concentrations, but at the same time was offset by the continuous approach of the United States ever nearer to the confines of the war. It must not be supposed that endless, repeated consultations and discussions were not held by the Staffs, by the Defence Committee, by Ministers, and that Staff conferences were not held at Singapore. Contact was maintained with Australia and New Zealand, and with the United States to a lesser degree.
All this went on; but, when all was said and done, there was the danger, and the means of meeting it had yet to be found. Ought we not in that interval to have considered the question which the House must ask itself—I want to answer the case quite fairly—that, in view of that menace, apart from minor precautions, many of which were taken and some of which were not, ought we not to have reduced our aid in munitions to Russia? A part of what we sent to Russia would have made us, I will not say safe, because I do not think that that was possible in view of what happened at sea, but far better prepared in Burma and Malaya than we were. Figures were mentioned by the hon. Member for Seaham yesterday. He will not expect me to confirm or deny those figures, but, taking them as a basis, half of that would have made us far better off, and would have dazzled the eyes of Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, who so repeatedly asked for more supplies of all those commodities of which we were most short. We did not make such a reduction, and I believe that the vast majority 1012 of opinion in all parts of the House, and in the country, endorses our decision now, even after the event. If they had to go back, they would take it again, even although they see now what serious consequences have arisen.
Let me say, in answer to the Noble Lord, as it is a question which he put, that I entirely agree with him about the vital importance of the Burma Road and of fighting with every means in our power to keep a strong hand grasp with the Chinese Armies and the closest contact with their splendid leader Chiang Kaishek. He may rest assured that nothing has prevented the employment of Indian troops in that area, except the use of them in other theatres and the immense difficulties of transport in those regions. So much for the Russian policy, which, for good or for ill, has played a very great part in the thoughts and actions of the people of this country in this struggle, and I believe has played a very important part—not by any means a decisive part, but a very important part—in the crushing defeats which have been inflicted on the German army and the possible demoralisation of the wicked regimé which uses that army.
But, apart from Russia, what about the campaign in Libya? What were the reasons which made that a necessary operation? First, we had to remove, and probably we have removed, the menace to the Nile Valley from the West for a considerable time, thus liberating important forces and still more important transport to meet what seemed to be an impending attack through the Caucasus from the North. Secondly, this was the only place where we could open a second front against the enemy. Everyone will remember, conveniently short as memories may be, the natural and passionate impatience which our prolonged inactivity aroused in all our hearts while Russia seemed to be being battered to pieces by the fearful machinery of the Germany army. There is no doubt whatever that, although our offensive in Libya was on a small scale compared with the mighty struggle on the Russian front, it nevertheless drew important German air forces from that front. They were moved at a most critical moment in that battle and transferred to the Mediterranean theatre. Thirdly, this second front in the Western Desert afforded us the opportunity of fighting a 1013 campaign against Germany and Italy on terms most costly to them. If there be any place where we can fight them with marked advantage, it is in the Western Desert and Libya, because not only, as I explained, have we managed to destroy two-thirds of their African army, a great amount of its equipment and air power, but also to take a formidable toll of all their reinforcements of men and materials and above all of their limited shipping across the Mediterranean by which they were forced to maintain themselves. The longer they go on fighting in this theatre the longer that process will go on, and there is no part of the world where you have a chance of getting better results for the blood and valour of your soldiers.
For these reasons, I am sure that it was a sound decision, and one with which all our professional advisers agreed, to take the offensive in the Western Desert and to do our utmost to make it a success. We have been over this ground in Cyrenaica already. The first time we took a quarter of a million Italian prisoners without serious loss to ourselves. The second time we have accounted for 60,000 men, including many. Germans, for the loss of only one-third to ourselves. Even if we have to do part of it a third time, as seems possible, in view of the tactical successes of the enemy attacks upon our armoured brigade last week, there seems no reason why the campaign should not retain its profitable character in the war in North East Africa and become a dangerous drain, a festering sore, upon the German and Italian resources.
This is the question: Should we have been right to sacrifice all this, and stand idly on the defensive in the Western Desert and send all our available Forces to garrison Malaya and guard against a war against Japan which nevertheless might not have taken place, and which, I believe, did take place only through the civil Government being overwhelmed by a military coup d'etat? That is a matter of opinion, and it is quite easy for those who clamoured eagerly for opening an offensive in Libya to dilate upon our want of foresight and preparedness in the Far East. That is a matter on which anyone can form an opinion, and those are lucky who do not have to form one before the course of events is known.
1014 I come now to this battle which is raging in Johore. I cannot tell how it will go or how the attack upon the Island of Singapore will go, but a steady stream of reinforcements, both air and troops, have flowed into the island for several weeks past. The Forces which have been sent were, of course, set in motion within a few days, and some within a few hours, of the Japanese declaration of war. To sum up, I submit to the House that the main strategic and political decision to, aid Russia, to deliver an offensive in Libya and to accept a consequential state of weakness in the then peaceful theatre of the Far East was sound and will be found to have played a useful part in the general course of the war and that this is in no wise invalidated by the unexpected naval misfortunes and the heavy forfeits which we have paid, and will have to pay, in the Far East. For this Vote of Confidence on that I rest.
There is, however, one episode of a tactical rather than a strategic character about which many questions have been asked, both here and in another place, to which it is not so easy to refer as my Noble Friend opposite seems to suggest. I mean, of course, the despatch from this country of the "Prince of Wales' during November last and, secondly, the operation which led 19 the sinking of the "Prince of Wales" and of the "Repulse," which had started earlier. This sinking took place on 9th December. It was the policy' of the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee, initiated by the Naval Staff, to build up in the Indian Ocean and base mainly on Singapore, a battle squadron to act, it was hoped, in co-operation with the United States fleet in general protective work in Far Eastern waters. I am not at liberty to state how these plans stand at the present time, but the House may be assured that nothing has been left undone, which was in our power, to repair the heavy losses which have been sustained. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has asked very properly—and the Noble Lord opposite made a specific point of it—why the "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" were sent to Eastern waters if they could not be properly protected by aircraft. The answer to this question is that the decision to send those ships in advance to the Far East was taken in the hope, primarily, of deterring the Japanese from going to war at all, or, 1015 failing that, of deterring her from sending convoys into the Gulf of Siam, having regard to the then position of the strong American fleet at Hawaii.
After long and careful consideration it was decided, in view of the importance of having in Far Eastern waters at least one ship which could catch or kill any individual vessel of the enemy—the Americans then not having a new battleship available—to send the "Prince of Wales." Moreover, she was the only ship available at the moment which could reach the spot in time for any deterrent effect to be produced. The intention was that these two fast ships, whose arrival at Cape Town was deliberately not concealed, would not only act as a deterrent upon Japan coming into the war but a deterrent upon the activities of individual heavy ships of the enemy, our ships being able to choose their moment to fight. The suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) that the Naval Staff desired to send an aircraft-carrier and were overruled by me is as mischievous as it is untrue. It was always the intention that any fast ships proceeding to the Far East should be accompanied by an aircraft-carrier. Unfortunately, at the time, with the exception of an aircraft-carrier in home waters, not a single one of this type was available. Through a succession of accidents, some of very slight consequence, all of them, except the one with the Home Fleet, were under repair. Accordingly, the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" arrived at Singapore, and it was hoped they would shortly leave again for secret bases and the broad waters, which would enable them to put a continuous restraining preoccupation on all the movements of the enemy. That is the first phase of the story.
I now come to the further question of why, the presence of the two ships having failed to achieve the deterrent object, Pearl Harbour having occurred, and the Japanese having begun war, they were sent North from Singapore to oppose the Japanese landings from the Gulf of Siam on the Kra Peninsula. Admiral Tom Phillips, as Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff, was fully acquainted with the whole policy I have described, and had sailed in the "Prince of Wales" to carry it out. On 8th December he decided, after conferring with his captain and staff officers, 1016 that in the circumstances, and in view of the movement of Japanese transports with a weak fighting escort towards the Kra Peninsula, drastic and urgent naval action was required. This action, if successful, would have presented the Army with a good prospect of defeating the landings and possibly of paralysing the invasion of Malaya at its birth. The stakes on both sides were very high. The prize was great if gained; if lost, our danger most grievous. Admiral Phillips was fully aware of the risk, and he took steps for air reconnaissance to see whether there was an enemy aircraft-carrier about and for fighter protection up to the limit of the short-range fighters available. Only after he left harbour was he informed that fighter protection could not be provided in the area in which lie intended to operate, but in view of the low visibility he decided to stand on. Later, in accordance with his pre-determined plans, he turned back, because, as he had always made up his mind to do, the weather began to clear, and he knew he had been sighted. However, later still, during his retirement, a further landing more to the South of the peninsula was reported, presenting an even more serious threat to Malaya, and he decided to investigate this. It was on returning from this investigation, which proved to be negative, that his force was attacked, not, as has been supposed, by torpedo or bomber aircraft flown off a carrier, but by very long-range shore-based heavy two-engined torpedo bombers from the main Japanese aerodromes 400 miles away.
In the opinion of the Board of Admiralty, which it is my duty to pronounce, the risks which Admiral Phillips took were fair and reasonable, in the light of the knowledge which he had of the enemy, when compared with the very urgent and vital issues at stake on which the whole safety of Malaya might have depended. I have given an account of this episode. No doubt the Admiralty will have its own inquiry for the purpose of informing itself and of studying the lessons, but I could not bring myself, even on the first day that this matter was mentioned, although the information I had was most scanty, to pronounce condemnation of the audacious, daring action of Admiral Tom Phillips in going forward, although he knew the risks he ran, when the prize might have been 20,000 of the enemy drowned in the sea, and a relief 1017 from the whole catalogue of misfortunes which have since come upon us, and have still to come.
I have finished, and it only remains for us to act. I have tried to lay the whole position before the House as far as public interest will allow, and very fully have we gone into matters. On behalf of His Majesty's Government, I make no complaint of the Debate, I offer no apologies, I offer no excuses, I make no promises. In no way have I mitigated the sense of danger and impending misfortunes of a minor character and of a severe character which still hang over us, but at the same time I avow my confidence, never stronger than at this moment, that we shall bring this conflict to and end in a manner agreeable to the interests of our country, and in a manner agreeable to the future of the world. I have finished. Let every man act now in accordance with what he thinks is his duty in harmony with his heart and conscience.
|Division No. 6.]||AYES.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Broad, F. A.||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Adams, Major S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Brooke, H.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Browne, Capt. A. C. (Belfast, W.)||De Chair, S. S.|
|Alexander, Bg.-Gn. Sir W. (G'gow, C.)||Bullock, Capt. M.||De la Bère, R.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'd, W.)||Burghley, Lord.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Digby, Capt K. S. D. W.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (So'h Univ.)||Burke, W. A.||Doland, G. F.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Capt. W. J.||Burton, Col. H. W.||Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Douglas, F. C. R.|
|Assheton, R.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Drewe, C.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Caine, G. R. Hall||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Carver, Colonel W. H.||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cary, R. A.||Duggan, H. J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Cazalet, Major V. A. (Chippenham)||Dunn, E.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Challen, C.||Ede, J. C.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Channon, H.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Charleton, H. C.||Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Chater, D.||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff Central)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Elliston, Captain G. S.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Christie, J. A.||Emery, J. F.|
|Benson, G.||Churchill, R. F. E. S. (Preston)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Epp'g)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Berry, Capt. Hon. J. S.||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Cluse, W. S.||Errington, Squadron-Leader E.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Cobb, Captain E. C.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Cocks, F. S.||Etherton, Flight-Lieut. Ralph|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Colegate, W. A.||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Boothby, Flight-Lieut. R. J. G.||Collindridge, F.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Bossam, A. C.||Colman, N. C. D.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Conant, Capt. R. J. E.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T. R. A. M. (N'flk, N.)||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Bower, N. A. H. (Harrow)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Brabner, R. A.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Fleming, Squadron-Leader E. L.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Foot, D. M.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Cox, Captain H. B. Trevor||Fox, Sir G. W. G.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's)||Craven-Ellis, W.||Fraser, Capt. Sir Ian|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Critchley, A.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes (Portsmouth, North)
I hope that the Prime Minister will receive a unanimous vote, because we want to show to the whole world that this country is behind him in his determination to carry this war to a victorious issue. We are very grateful to the Prime Minister for the great inspiration which he gave us in our blackest hour. We are grateful to him for the wonderful and inspiring speeches he has made, which have expressed the opinion of this country in words which we should all like to emulate. At the same time I adhere to what I said in this House on 25th November, that until he overhauls the war machine and the War Cabinet, victory will be delayed and the issue will be prolonged, with all this means in cost of life and material. I do trust that he will consider what I have said.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 464; Noes, 1.
|Furness, S. N.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Fyfe, Major D. P. M.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Gallacher, W.||Keeling, E. H.||Nunn, W.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Key, C. W.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Owen, Major G.|
|Gibbins, J.||Kimball, Major L.||Paling, W.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Gledhill, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Peake, O.|
|Gluckstein, Captain L. H.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Pearson, A.|
|Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Peat, C. U.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Lathan, G.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Granville, E. L.||Law, R. K.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Lawson, J. J.||Pilkington, Captain R. A.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Leach, W.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lees-Jones, J.||Ponsonby, Col. G. E.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Leigh, Sir J.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Grey, Captain G. C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Leonard, W.||Profumo, Captain J. D.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Leslie, J. R.||Purbriek, R.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Levy, T.||Pym, L. R.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Lewis, O.||Radford, E. A.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Liddall, W. S.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Groves, T. E.||Lindsay, K. M.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)||Lipson, D. L.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Guest, Major Hn. O. (C'mb'w'l, N.W.)||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Rathbone, Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Hambro, A. V.||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Richards, R.|
|Harland, H. P.||Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Rickards, G. W.|
|Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Lyons, Major A. M.||Ridley, G.|
|Haslam, Henry||Mabane, W.||Ritson, J.|
|Hayday, A.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Roberts, W.|
|Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||McCallum, Major D.||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Heilgers, Major F. F. A.||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Henderson, Maj. A. (Kingswinford)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||McEntee, V. La T.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N.E.)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Ross, Lt.-Col. Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||McKie, J. H.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||Macnamara, Lt. Col. J. R. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Hewlett, T. H.||McNeil, H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Hicks, E. G.||Magnay, T.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Higgs, W. F.||Maitland, Sir A.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Hill, Prof. A. V.||Makins, Brig-Gen. Sir E.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mander, G. le M.||Salt, E. W.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Hollins, A. (Hanley)||Markham, Captain S. F.||Sandarson, Sir F. B.|
|Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Marlowe, Major A.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Marshall, F.||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Martin, J. H.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Medlicott, Colonel Frank||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (H'ckn'y, N.)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Hughes, R. M.||Milner, Major J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Hunter, T.||Molson, A. H. E.||Shute, Col. Sir J. J.|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Montague, F.||Silkin, L.|
|Hutchison, Lt.Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Moore, Lieut-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. J. T. C.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon Sir A.|
|Jagger, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|James, Wing-Comdr. A. W. H.||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Jennings, R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Jewson, P. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Somerset, T.|
|John, W.||Mort, D. L.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Muff, G.||Southby, Comd. Sir A. R. J.|
|Johnstone, H. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Munro, P.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Nall, Sir J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Naylor, T. E.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Storey, S.||Touche, G. C.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Train, Sir J.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Tree, E. R. L. F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Viant, S. P.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wakefield, W. W.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Summers, G. S.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)||Willink, H. U.|
|Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Walker, J.||Windsor, W.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Tate, Mavis C.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Taylor, Capt. C. S. (Eastbourne)||Warrender, Sir V.||Woodburn, A.|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Watkins, F. C.||Woolley, W. E.|
|Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)||Wragg, H.|
|Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Wayland, Sir W. A.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold||York, Capt. C.|
|Thorne, W.||Wells, Sir S. Richard||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Weston, W. Garfield||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Thurtle, E.||Westwood, J.|
|Tinker, J. J.||White, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Titchfield, Lt.-Col. Marquess of||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)||Mr. James Stuart and Sir|
|Tomlinson, G.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)||Charles Edwards.|
|Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. McGovern and Mr. Stephen.|
That this House has confidence in His Majesty's Government and will aid it to the utmost in the vigorous prosecution of the War.