HC Deb 01 July 1942 vol 381 cc224-476
Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)

I beg to move, That this House, while paying tribute to the heroism and endurance of the Armed Forces of the Crown in circumstances of exceptional difficulty, has no confidence in the central direction of the war. No Member of Parliament, I am sure, places upon the Order Paper a Motion of this kind without the gravest consideration, and more especially is that the case at a time when all party interests are subordinated to those of the nation. Every man has to consider what is the effect of any action he may take of this kind upon our cause. These matters have been very present in my mind, and, I am sure, in the minds of those associated with me. I should like to make it plain at the start that I have tabled this Motion with the one object, and the one object only, of assisting us to win this war in the shortest possible time. Various suggestions have been made to me regarding this Motion. I have been told, among other things, that when I put this Motion on the Order Paper I had chosen the time badly. I explained a moment or two ago that the date for this Debate had not been fixed by me, and I might now explain to some hon. Members who have been in doubt about the reason the Motion was tabled last Thursday that it was because that was clearly the most convenient day from the point of view of the Government, who have to make the necessary arrangements for Business for the following series of Sitting Days. It has been suggested to me that I chose the time badly for giving notice of this Motion, and that I ought to have waited until we were in the middle of the Debate when the Government had spoken about the conditions in Libya, and then suddenly to have held a pistol to their heads. That consideration, I can assure the House, has not weighed with me at all. I do not believe in treating serious matters in that way. On the contrary, I have given the Government the longest possible notice of this Motion, and by doing so I have given the Government Whips the longest possible time to make their undoubted influence felt against the Motion. As one who has worked with them very closely and harmoniously for a great many years, I can pay the highest tribute to their work during the last week. It would be interesting, if time permitted, to deal with the extraordinary exhibition of human nature with which I have been treated during the last seven days. I realise how true it is that the "tinker out of Bedford" was not of an age, but for all time. I have seen Mr. Steadfast and Mr. Valiant-for-truth, but how often have I also seen Mr. Timorous and Mr. Pliable? They are all represented in this House. I am not casting aspersions upon anyone. There have been all sorts of statements made, all completely erroneous, that I and those associated with me have been round the House cadging, as it were, for people to sign this Motion. I have asked no single Member to sign it, and the only two people who consulted me, young Members, I suggested in their own interest that it would be far better not to sign it. I said what I would say to any young Member, that he might hope some day to become an Under-Secretary or a Parliamentary Private Secretary. There is another matter which I feel it is necessary, in view of the extraordinary reports which have appeared, that I must deal with. It has been suggested that I placed this Motion on the Order Paper after consultation with certain people outside, including certain ex-Ministers of the Crown. Let me make it quite clear to the House—I know they will accept my word—that I have had no single conversation with any person outside the House, and the only consultations before the Motion was put on the Paper were with hon. Members here to the number of five.

It has been suggested that a Motion of this kind is unnecessary and that what we should have done was to send a deputation to the Prime Minister and hold a pistol at his head that, if he did not make certain changes, certain things would take place. Some hon. Members will recollect a statement that I made about a year ago on the subject of production. A day or two later the Prime Minister came here and, while paying a tribute to what I had said, pointed out, in effect, that my figures were extremely pessimistic, that the situation was really much more optimistic than I had put forward and that it was im- possible to appoint a Minister of Production. Where was a superman of this kind to be found? Months passed, and the superman was found. I have the very greatest hopes from my right hon. Friend who has been appointed Minister of Production, and I hope the new organisation he has just set up will give us the production that we want. While I am on the subject, I may tell the House that in my view we are not yet getting the full production of which the country is capable. The reason I mention this is not to deal with production at this point, but to point out that this question of making representations to the Government has gone on for the last two years. There are a large number of Members who have attended deputations to Ministers on the subjects of tanks, guns, and various other things, and what have they ever achieved? Nothing at all. It is an example of slow or no progress. It is difficult at any time to make advance by speeches in the House unless we are prepared to take direct action. The present situation, as I see it, is too serious to justify delays. On the contrary, I propose to respond to the invitation of the Prime Minister himself. On January 27th last, he said: No one need be mealy-mouthed in debate and no one should be chicken-hearted in voting. I have voted against Governments I have been elected to support and, looking back, I have sometimes felt very glad that I did so. Everyone in these rough times must do what he thinks is his duty"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1942; col. 593, Vol. 377.] I believe it is my duty to draw the attention of the House and the country to the seriousness of the present situation, and I believe that that situation cannot be met by any question of deputations or speeches in the House which do not threaten the position of the Government and thus show the seriousness of the view which is held by hon. Members. It is only a few months since I pressed the House to give the Government a unanimous vote of confidence. I did so, not because everyone was satisfied with the Government's actions, but because I felt at that time that it was imperative that we should give a vote to show the unanimous view of the country. I think we have got past that stage to-day. We have got to the stage when we must make it very clear that we are in a dangerous position and that action will have to be taken.

I will ask hon. Members carefully to examine the words of the Motion. It expresses no confidence in the central direction of the war. It is not an attack upon officers in the field. It has no reference to officers in the field. It is a definite attack upon the central direction here in London, and I hope to show that the causes of our failure lie here far more than in Libya or elsewhere. The first vital mistake that we made in the war was to combine the offices of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, I was not in the country when the Government was formed, but, when I returned, I welcomed it. Above all, I welcomed its leader, and from that day to this, in the House and on public platforms, I have never ceased to pay tribute to the Prime Minister nor to express the regret that I and others must have felt that the House and the country in pre-war days neglected his warnings, and, above all, I pay tribute to his leadership in the wonderful days after Dunkirk. But that does not alter the fact that I firmly believe we made a very serious error when, to the enormous duties of the Prime Minister's office, we attached those of the Ministry of Defence.

Let the House consider what the Prime Minister, as Prime Minister, has to do, apart from all the ordinary duties of the office. Consider the demands made upon him by the changes in our national life owing to the war, the enormous number of new Ministries, the necessity for the calling to work of young and old throughout the country, the supervision of new activities. Up to recently, at all events, as I hope to show, production, the mainstay of the Armies, was suffering badly from the want of a single head. We want someone to cut the red tape, to inaugurate new methods and to put an end to the interminable delays in getting decisions. Add to this the necessity for close touch with the Dominions and Colonies and with the foreign nations working with us, with our Allies, especially the United States, Russia and China, and the close working which the Prime Minister as Prime Minister and head of the War Cabinet must have with every aspect of the war and every branch of it in every theatre in which it is being fought. These are tremendous duties to ask any one man to undertake.

On the other hand, the Minister of Defence, having got the sanction of the War Cabinet to his plans of grand strategy, has to carry them out by constant supervision, by the closest organisation and with real drive. We must have a strong, full-time leader as the chief of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, I want a strong and independent man appointing his generals and his admirals and so on. I want a strong man in charge of all three branches of the Armed Forces of the Crown. I want him to be strong enough to demand all the weapons which are necessary for victory. I want him to be strong enough to see that his generals and admirals and air marshals are allowed to do their work in their own way and are not interfered with unduly from above. Above all, I want a man who, if he does not get what he wants, will immediately resign. The three Services must work as one. Other nations have found one man to control their armed forces. The Japanese have done so, and the Germans have done so—in one case an admiral and in the other a general—and there seems no reason why we should not do so also.

As a result of combining the two sets of duties to which I have referred, I suggest to the House that we have suffered in both fields. I say deliberately that I think we have suffered in both fields from the want of the closest examination by the Prime Minister of what is going on here at home and also by the want of that direction which we should get from the Minister of Defence, or other officer, whatever his title might be, in charge of the Armed Forces. Incidentally, I hope the House will allow me to make one suggestion in this connection. I do not know whether Members have thought of it, but it would be a very desirable move, if His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness would agree, if His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester were to be appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army—without, of course, administrative duties. He has experience of all fields of battle in the present war, and I believe that his appointment would greatly please all ranks of the Army and give them somebody entirely independent and capable of bringing forward the needs of the Army and the views of the rank and file. This is a matter quite outside the point which I was trying to make for a separate Minister of Defence, but I make the suggestion personally that the appointment of His Royal Highness might well be considered.

This country has, no doubt, some second-rate generals and admirals, but it also has some first-class ones. The men on the spot cannot always be blamed. It is surely clear to any civilian that the series of disasters of the past few months, and indeed of the past two years, is due to fundamental defects in the central administration of the war. The men who would claim the credit if we had successes, must bear the responsibility for the defeats. We have Chiefs of Staff but no co-ordinated effort to work the three arms as one, to calculate ahead the enemy's moves and to anticipate his blows. That should be the work of the Minister of Defence or of somebody acting in that capacity whatever his title.

It is unnecessary to go back into past history too far, because the House is well aware of what has happened. But I would remind hon. Members that we have, so far, failed to get any information from the Government regarding the major disasters in Singapore and Burma. We were first told to wait for information. Now we are told that the information received is unsuitable for publication. I have very little doubt in my own mind why we lost Singapore. I believe we lost it on the mistaken idea that American sea-power would be available to defend our positions in the Far East. I suggest to the House that there was no justification for that view, and that no such undertaking was given by the United States. Indeed, though I am not quite sure, I believe it to be the case that the idea of such an understanding has been scouted in the United States.

I ask the Government why more Indian troops were not sent to the Far East. While still giving supplies to Russia, surely it would have been possible, at least to have given the 500 planes to Malaya which the Prime Minister himself said would have made all the difference and which would have dazzled the eyes of Sir Robert Brooke-Popham. Surely we had plenty of notice of what was likely to happen. Hon. Members will recall the speeches that were made in this House over a year ago pressing for more help for China and putting forward what was likely to happen if that help were not given. On the other hand, so far from any explanation having been given of what has happened, no steps have been taken by the Government even to counteract the completely unfair charges which have been made against civilians in the Far East. To my knowledge, civilians in Malaya were not particularly encouraged to take a very active part in the military defences of the Colony previous to this war.

Then came the loss of Burma after heroic fighting by our troops, inadequately equipped, against heavy odds. The Burma retreat presents us with a most extraordinary situation. The Government have turned that disastrous retreat in Burma almost into a victory. It is most wonderful propaganda, and it really makes one almost begin to think that the British troops have done something marvellous. Of course, as I have said, they fought extremely well. Nobody denies that, but it has been a complete disaster, and I wish to tell the House what is thought of that disaster in other parts of the Empire. I quote from the "News Chronicle," London, under date 8th May: London and Canberra threw Burma away, despite the warnings by General Wavell that that country was of the vastest importance in the strategic scheme. The whole campaign in Burma has been lost not in Burma but in London and Canberra. What, first, General Hutton and his men, and, later, General Alexander achieved in Burma, has been miraculous and if only London had not let them down, they would be sitting in Rangoon at this moment. More than once extra divisions were promised and then diverted, on one occasion almost in sight of Rangoon, and on another without any one informing Burma that a change of destination had been made. That appeared in the public Press in London, passed by the Calcutta censor, and, from inquiries I have made privately, I have come to the conclusion that if it had not been passed, there would have been the best part of a riot because people would have insisted that the public here should know what the East at any rate thought of the way in which they had been let down.

Then I come to the case of Libya. This Motion is not a demand for details of the events of the last few days or even weeks. It is a demand for an inquiry into what it is that causes us always to be behind the enemy. What is wrong with our plans, our strategy or our production which puts us into this inferior position? Two years ago we had the right to say that we had not got the equipment, that we had not the arras, that we had not prepared when we should have prepared and that the setting-up of factories and industries takes a long time. But that excuse does not hold water to-day. We are turning out quantities of munitions, a large number of aeroplanes and a great range of guns. What prevents our getting those things to the right place at the right time? Are they the right things? I agree entirely with the necessity for fully supporting Russia. I know that argument; we have had it continually. God knows what our position would be to-day were it not for the Russians. I want to draw the attention of the House to statements made, not recently, but last year and at the beginning of this year, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking of the coming campaign in Libya at that time, not in connection with the present struggle. On 20th November last year he said: This offensive has been long and elaborately prepared, and we have waited for nearly five months in order that our Army shall be well equipped with all these weapons which have made their mark in this new war. Again: This is the first time we have met the Germans at least equally well-armed and equipped."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1941; cols. 467–8, Vol. 376.] In January, the Prime Minister said in the House: 60,000 men, indeed, were concentrated at Singapore"— if I may put it without offence he was then excusing the situation that had arisen in Singapore—and he went on: but priority in modem aircraft, in tanks and in anti-tank artillery was accorded to the Nile Valley."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th January, 1942; col. 604; Vol. 377.] I suggest definitely to the House that no Minister of Defence with full knowledge of the facts as we know them to-day could possibly have made these statements. They are untrue, they are inaccurate, and I propose to show how completely misled my right hon. Friend was when he made these statements. Apart from that, we have had repeatedly optimistic statements about every campaign until we have almost got to the stage when, if my right hon. Friend comes down to the House to tell us that we are going to win, or makes an optimistic statement elsewhere, one becomes almost afraid of what we shall hear next. I am not referring, I repeat, to events occurring on the field of battle to-day. I have no criticism of what has happened there; I am not qualified to make such criticism, and I have not the information. It would rather appear that on one particular day it looks as if we had been caught napping, but I do not know. It may be that we have to give credit where credit is due and say that we were out-generalled. But those to me are separate points. I am referring to the lack of preparations in this country to equip our troops with weapons which would enable them to fight. That is what is troubling me.

I want to turn in some detail to these weapons. The bulk of the tanks with which we are fighting in Libya, in spite of the statements made six months ago which I have just read, were produced at the time my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) was at the War Office. They were all designed before this war began. These tanks have been manufactured for the last two or three years, and they are being manufactured to-day. Many of them are very good tanks for their purpose, but they are quite unequal to those with which the Germans are now armed. Statements of that kind must not be made without corroboration. I could quote from literally hundreds of newspapers recently publishing accounts from Libya, but I will confine myself to "The Times" of 18th June: The German Mark IV tank was in lavish supply and dominated the battlefield. On 23rd June: The bulk of our tank force was made up of tanks with two-pounder guns which have again and again proved almost completely useless against the German tanks. This time we had some General Grants, but again "The Times" says: It is not clear that these have been available in adequate numbers. I could give dozens of quotations to show the situation. I wish however to give one which is not from the Press but comes directly from the battlefield. It may not be couched in Parliamentary language, but I cannot help thinking that the House will be interested in it. Here is the report of a young officer in a letter to his mother which was delayed some little time, no doubt because of the contents: More enemy planes. They come over every five minutes, and yesterday was the first time we have seen one of our own for a week. Air superiority—my foot! With a few dozen planes we could do wonders here, but we have nothing to touch the Me.109F. The Kitty-hawk is our best here. It tan best operate at 10,000 feet, but the Me is far better higher up. If only our people would realise how much better the German equipment is than ours, then we might do better. Their tanks out-gun ours in range three to one, and their armour is much thicker. We have speed, but they have the guns, the armour and the reliability. I do not know what the House will think, but I consider that that is a terrible indictment. The responsibility for these things rests upon the Government and upon the Members of the House of Commons.

What is this Mark IV tank which dominated the battlefield? It may surprise some Members to know that this country knew all about it before Dunkirk. Drawings of it with its heavy gun were published in the "Illustrated London News" and "Picture Post" in May and June, 1940. Hon. Members will note that I am making no statement which is not backed by reference to the source from which I have taken it, so that no one will accuse me of using any knowledge which I have acquired in another capacity in which I am serving the House. Although details of the Mark IV tank were published in May and June, 1940, most of the tanks we have fighting in Libya have been built since Dunkirk. The same types are being produced to-day. Let the House remember that the first British tank produced in 1916 carried two six-pounder guns. It was known in September, 1939, that the Germans had mounted large guns, even up to 3-inch guns on tanks. What excuse have the Government, what excuse has the House of Commons, for urging the people of this country to strive their utmost to produce weapons which are already largely out of date? What excuse have we for sending men into battle with the scales continually weighted against them? It is no secret that in the last year certain other tanks have been produced in this country, but again I find in a book called "Tanks Advance," written or published in January, 1942, on page 122, the following words: The new Churchill tank is probably the most formidable land-fighting weapon ever built. I ask the Government where this tank is, how many have been built, and how many are in Libya.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

They are doing a good job in the Soviet Union, anyway.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

We have been nearly three years at war, and the Minister of Supply has been changed five times, the present Minister having previously held the post. Each new Minister has appointed a different man to supervise tank design, perhaps quite naturally, and not one of those men has had any previous experience of the construction of tanks. Two are manufacturers of motor accessories, one is a motor car manufacturer, and the fourth is a pump manufacturer. They are men of great business ability, who have sacrificed, no doubt, a great deal in their desire to help the country and work for the Government, but they had no knowledge, and they would not deny it, of tank design or development. At this very critical moment in the war, in spite of what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply read to the House a few moments ago, I say to him that there is on the Tank Board no officer with recent experience of fighting with tanks in the desert. As for the Tank Board, I have tried to follow it, but it has changed so often that it is almost impossible to know who is on it. All I know is that various chairmen have left after doing such service, no doubt, as they could, and they have all been suitably rewarded with Knighthoods, and that the Board meets once a month for a period, I am told, of about two hours. This country invented the tank, and the men who constructed the tank for us in the last war are no doubt still available. They produced this vital weapon, and they know their business. In the early part of this war some of them were appointed as a special committee by the Minister of Supply of that day. When their labours had reached a constructive stage, they were disbanded, and their advice was ignored. Since then, now getting on for a year, their advice has not been taken at all. So much for tanks.

I now turn to the question of guns. Lord Beaverbrook, speaking in another place on 12th February as Minister of Production and a member of the War Cabinet, said: We have now really got a very good supply of these heavier tank guns. We hope they will come into use shortly. They are also for anti-tank work. It— that is, the six-pounder gun— will penetrate the armour of any tank that has ever been built. Of that there can be no doubt. The German and Italian tanks cannot stand up to these guns. This gun was launched long ago and is now in excellent production. I doubt whether anyone who has any knowledge of the recent campaign in Libya would confirm these very optimistic statements, but I ask the Government, even admitting, as we all do, the immense value of this gun over the two-pounder gun we had before as an anti-tank weapon—because it is only, I understand, in that capacity that we have it at present—if it is the case that the orders for this gun which was known of before the war, were placed only in the middle of 1941 and its production only came into spate in January, 1942. "The Times" stated that in Libya our tanks suddenly found themselves face to face with an extremely powerful concentration of anti-tank artillery with which the enemy was so liberally supplied, and this engagement was referred to "as a grave set-back." Our tanks, according to this report, were in fact knocked out by the German guns, and it would appear from other accounts that these were 88-mm. guns. I wonder whether the House of Commons realises that this surprise weapon which knocked out our tanks a few days ago was used in the attack upon Bilbao in Spain in June, 1937. It was fully described in a book published in this country in March, 1940, and in the Official German War Journal in May of the previous year. The German guns are mounted and fired from a cupola, and they are self-propelled guns. The German guns can go straight into action, while we have to unlimber ours and to swing them round. Even in the case of the General Grant tanks, fitted with a 75-mm. gun, the guns are fixed on the tank, and they are therefore handicapped as a tank gun because they cannot be traversed except by moving the tank. I ask the Government definitely what is the reason for this continual neglect of the knowledge and experience of those concerned with building tanks in the last War? What reason is there for us to be so far behind in the production of heavy guns when everything the Germans are using should have been known to us for months and, indeed, for years?

The same question arises in connection with dive-bombers. The Secretary of State for Air stated on 10th June that dive bombers had been ordered in July, 1940, and that when they were received squadrons would be equipped with them. What an answer for any Minister of the Crown to make nearly three years after we started the war. What is the cause of the delay? Yesterday we were told that the War Office and the Air Ministry were still consulting. Consulting! If the House of Commons is satisfied with that answer, then there is not much hope for this assembly.

There is only one point in regard to the actual operations that I do wish to make reference to. I do say, and I hope the Government will tell us, that there is no Member of this House who would not be interested to know one fact regarding Libya: Who gave the decision for the capitulation of Tobruk, and who previously decided to attempt to hold it? I think it is in the interests of the Government to answer. I put the question for this reason: There are all kinds of rumours going about, and we should like to know whether that decision was made upon the battlefield, in Cairo, in London or in Washington.

These matters I have referred to raise questions that, as I say, the Government must answer if the House is to be satisfied. We have had optimistic statements widely distributed through the Press regarding the future outlook for munitions. They are not going to carry much conviction. We are, no doubt, producing a large quantity of guns and tanks, and so are the United States of America, but are they the right guns and the right tanks? They are of no value unless they meet the enemy on equal terms. Whatever the House may decide, the country will not be satisfied with the present state of affairs. It will demand a complete overhauling of the organisation of production, and a far more definite and immediate use of our scientific and technical research facilities to ensure that we shall not always be behind the enemy but a jump ahead for once.

After Pearl Harbour the Americans held an immediate inquiry and then punished those responsible. This did not upset the Government, it did not throw the people of the United States into a panic, it did not upset the soldiers and sailors of America. On the contrary, it reinforced their determination to put things right. For months, indeed for a period running almost into years, some of us have known that things were not right. Attempts to get immediate action have generally, at first at any rate, been obstructed. The House has been smoothed with rosy statements of all the wonderful things we are going to do. I have avoided any exaggerated appeal to the House. I have tried to put before hon. Members facts which I consider are so serious that the House must take action. A number of Members, who, like myself, have signed this Motion, have served in humble positions in their respective parties for a good many years. We need not be accused of self-seeking; matters are far too serious for any question of that kind. This House must decide either to be a packed assembly merely to receive in humble silence Government statements which I think I have proved to have been in many cases quite inaccurate, or must assert itself in a determination to put things right without fear or favour. So far criticism has been an offence, almost taken as a personal affront. The House should make it plain that we require one man to give his whole time to the winning of the war, in complete charge of all the Armed Forces of the Crown, and when we have got him, let the House strengthen him to carry out the task with power and independence.

That, as I see it, is the business of Parliament, and this Debate is a test of whether Parliament functions or not. If it does not exercise its rights, it is failing in its duties. Loyalty to one's country comes before loyalty to any party. I have no confidence in the central direction of the war for the reasons I have stated to the House; but if we make the necessary changes, the stability of this country is unimpaired, its will and determination to victory are supreme, and, dark as the hour may be for us at this moment, if we make the changes, if we do what is necessary, we can win through to victory, to freedom and to peace.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes (Portsmouth, North)

I beg to second the Motion.

It literally expresses what I have felt for the last 18 months, in fact since we failed to make use of our amphibious power in the first Libyan campaign during the winter of 1940–41, when we had the means to strike the enemy's communica- tions and island bases and might well have been able to knock Italy out of North Africa before Germany could come to her aid and what I have felt very acutely since the second Libyan campaign was launched, in November, 1941, and we again failed to make use of our opportunity for amphibious warfare, which might well have turned the scale to victory when the issue was hanging in the balance. We had the means to do so, with a very considerable force which was lying idle. I do not intend to refer to the operations that are now taking place, because I know nothing more of them than does the man-in-the-street. I have no inside knowledge of any sort. I would refer now to the Libyan campaign which was launched in November, 1941. It was difficult for me to comment on that campaign while it was in progress, but I did make four very strong representations to the War Cabinet between 21st October, 1941, and 18th January, 1942. I also offered to fly out in any humble capacity, to help to organise amphibious warfare in the Mediterranean, and in this House, on 25th November, I expressed my misgivings about the tardy working of the war machine. In doing so, I referred to a Debate to which I listened on 7th May, 1941—to which I had to listen tongue-tied, as I was then still in office. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), whom many consider the architect of victory in the last war, gave some advice to the Prime Minister, which concluded with these words: 'We have a very terrible task in front of us. No one man, however able he is, can pull us through. I invite the Prime Minister to see that he has a small War Council who will help him—help him in counsel, help in advice, and help him in action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1941; col. 881, Vol. 371.] It will be remembered that my right hon. Friend's War Council included statesmen of experience and of the calibre of Field-Marshal Smuts and the late Lord Milner. I remember being moved to sympathy by the Prime Minister's retort, which was: My right hon. Friend spoke of the great importance of my being surrounded by people who will stand up to me and say, 'No. No. No.' Why, good gracious, has he no idea how strong the negative principle is in the constitution and workings of the British war-making machine? The difficulty is not, I assure, to have more brakes put on the wheels; the difficulty is to get more impetus and speed behind it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1941; col. 937, Vol. 371.] During the 15th months I was Director of Combined Operations those words of the Prime Minister's most accurately describe what I saw going on from day to day. The story that the Prime Minister rides roughshod over his Service advisers and takes the whole direction of the war into his own hands, which appears to be believed by many and which may perhaps be repeated in this Debate, is simply not true. It is true, of course, that he is masterful, dislikes criticism, and, like every great man who is confident in his own judgment, prefers people who agree with him, but I assure the House that he could never be induced to override the advice of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, or to undertake any enterprise, unless they were prepared to share fully with him in the responsibility. I hope the House will bear with me for referring rather often to my notes, but having been in office, I have to measure my words very carefully. In fact, to my certain knowledge, both in the Norwegian campaign when the Prime Minister was First Lord and during the 15 months I was Director of Combined Operations the Prime Minister accepted the advice of his constitutional naval adviser and rejected that of his Director of Combined Operations. I say naval adviser because no combined operation can be launched unless the naval authority is prepared to undertake the responsibility for carrying it out, since the responsibility for landing a military force and maintaining it must always be a naval responsibility.

A glance at the map of the Mediterranean shows clearly that vital and vulnerable enemy communications follow the coastline; not only in Italy and her islands, but also along the African coast. Is it conceivable that the man who was responsible in the last war for the great strategic conception of attacking the Central Powers where they were weakest by a wide turning movement through the Dardanelles, rather than concentrating on continuing to attack across the barbed wire on the Western Front, was blind to the immediate and immense advantage of shortening the route to the Middle East by capturing strategic positions in the Mediterranean and delivering surprise amphibious attacks on the enemy's communications? I can assure the House that all these considerations were powerfully and insistently urged by my right hon. Friend, but though approved in principle by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the war machine succeeded in producing so much obstruction that action was delayed for some months, until the Germans had forestalled us and introduced hazards which the Prime Minister did not feel able to face without the full support of his Chiefs of Staff, and that was denied him. The difficulty of providing the necessary shipping for more ambitious enterprises, which the Prime Minister was eager to carry out and which I considered feasible, was always stressed by the Admiralty, but how enormously the shipping situation would have been relieved, if we had only concentrated on exercising our sea-power by driving the Italians out of North Africa and capturing some useful island bases for our aircraft and light forces as soon as possible after Italy came into the war, thus making the Mediterranean a safe road to the East for our ships.

When Italy attacked Greece on 28th October, 1940, she presented us with Crete, an invaluable base from which to strike, and from which a properly-equipped naval air service could have provided invaluable support for the Navy and have relieved the naval commander-in-chief of taking his vulnerable aircraft carriers into waters within reach of enemy shore-based aircraft. The Admiralty's failure to insist on such an air force being provided is deplorable. It placed the most cruel handicap on the Navy. It is a tragedy also that the war machine neglected even to develop the aerodromes and defences of Crete, and lost the island. A well-trained commando force with the means to land rapidly could have been in the Mediterranean by the end of November, 1940, if the war machine could only have been induced to move more rapidly instead of passing the buck from one committee to another, with the result that all the vitally important secrecy was lost and the pros and cons were discussed by scores of officers and civil servants who ought to have known nothing about it, and after many delays nothing was done.

How can we make war like this? How can one honestly say that one has confidence in the central direction of the war when such delays are possible? The commando force did not actually arrive in the Mediterranean until April, by which time the war theatre had shifted to Greece, and they lay idle in Egypt for many weeks. It is true that their splendidly-equipped vessels and landing craft proved invaluable when the German attacks forced us to evacuate Greece and Crete. Surely our policy should have been to concentrate everything on knocking Italy out of the war while we had the advantage of her fleet being crippled by the Fleet Air Arm in its attack on Taranto, one of her armies deeply involved in Greece and her African army defeated and the greater part captured by General Wavell's small force. Can anyone doubt, in the light of General Wavell's campaign in Libya and General Cunningham's brilliant victories in Abyssinia and Eritrea, that amphibious attacks, carried out by the flower of our Army in the Commandos would have been equally successful against an enemy whose people really are more friendly to us than they are to the Germans? They might have been completely defeated by vigorous combined action by the Army, Navy and Air Force before the Germans invaded Greece and captured Italy. Our Navy inflicted heavy losses on the Italian fleet, but the damaged ships have always, apparently, been given the leisure to repair unmolested while the Royal Air Force have been engaged in other, perhaps less valuable, operations than concentrating on obtaining command of the sea—which always has been, and always will be, the foundation of all British operations before victory can be achieved. To obtain this, the three Fighting Services must cooperate vigorously.

When the great offensive was launched on 18th November, 1941, to recapture Libya, we were told that we were meeting the enemy on equal terms in armour, with superiority in the air, and with command of the seas. Surely it was the moment to strike amphibiously in strength to make sure of success. Although we had a considerable amphibious force of all arms, highly trained and eager for action, it was immobilised for months on the advice of the Prime Minister's principal naval adviser, and we were unable to deliver an amphibious attack of any moment anywhere. Amphibious warfare has enormous possibilities when carried out by a properly trained force under an experienced and resolute leader ready to accept all the responsibilities involved. The difficulty is to get the war machine to launch it. It is a form of warfare in which, I am positive, we could excel, but it has been left to the Russians and the Germans to show us how it could be done, while the Japanese, by bold amphibious strokes, have driven us and our Allies out of all our Eastern possessions, because Britain neglected to maintain her command of the seas.

The few small enterprises the commandos have been allowed to carry out only serve to emphasise what might have been done in the Mediterranean in 1940 and 1941 if this short-sighted opposition could have been overcome, and when the historians of the future examine the record of our frustrated efforts they will, indeed, marvel at the opportunities which have been missed, and for which we are paying so highly now. For the enemy is now threatening Egypt and our ability to remain in the Mediterranean at all is jeopardised, whilst Germany has complete control of Italy and of practically the whole of Europe. In the autumn of 1941, when the Germans had their hands full in Russia and immense opportunities were open to us, all the information available to the War Cabinet was within my knowledge. Of course, we could not be strong everywhere, but being about to launch another vitally important campaign in Libya, at least we should not have left a valuable amphibious force lying idle at home because the Prime Minister's expert advisers were over-confident of success or were unable to visualise the immense possibilities of combined operations on the coast under the conditions which prevailed in the Mediterranean.

Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)

Will my hon. and gallant Friend say whose was the opposition with which he met?

Sir R. Keyes

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will wait until I tell him. It is hard that three times in the Prime Minister's career he should have been thwarted—in Gallipoli, in Norway and in the Mediterranean—in carrying out strategical strokes which might have altered the whole course of two wars, each time because his constitutional naval adviser declined to share the responsibility with him if it entailed any risk. The House will bear with me, if I make just one more reference to the past. When the Germans defied our naval superiority and invaded Norway, the Prime Minister, then First Lord of the Admiralty, told us on 11th April, 1940, that "we were greatly advantaged by what had occurred provided we acted with the necessary vigour to profit from the strategical blunder which our mortal enemy had made." No one knowing the Prime Minister would doubt that he, personally, was in favour of increasingly vigorous action, but nevertheless two small German torpedo craft were allowed to exercise sea power in Trondheim Fjord and completely defeat our military effort.

When I spoke on this matter in 1940 I was not concerned in any attack on the Government or the Prime Minister, then First Lord. My speech was concerned with naval matters in which the honour of the Navy was involved, and I felt impelled to speak for the fighting men of the Fleet and express their views. The failure to capture Trondheim was, in my opinion, entirely due to the failure of the Admiralty to foresee that the Army's thrust from Namsos was doomed to disaster unless British ships commanded the waters which dominated their advance along the shores of the fjord. This would have been possible if proper use had been made of ships, the loss of which would not in any way have risked the strength of the Fleet, because Trondheim Fjord at that time was defended only by four 30-year old 8-inch guns in shields and a couple of torpedo tubes on a raft, all of which could have been destroyed from outside their range. As a constitutional First Lord, my right hon. Friend was placed in the invidious position of having either to reject the advice of his naval advisers or take full responsibility for carrying out their pusillanimous and short-sighted policy, which he did. I had warned the Admiralty of the importance of sending ships into Trondheim Fjord, as early as 17th April, and it is interesting to read in Shirer's "Berlin Diary," a book by an American journalist, the following: 21st April, 1940:—A friend of mine in the High Command tells me that the whole issue in Norway hangs now on the battle for Trondheim. If the Allies take it they save Norway, or at least the northern half of it. What the Germans fear most, I gather, is that the British Navy will get into. Trondheim Fjord and wipe out the garrison in the city, before the Nazi Forces from Oslo can possibly get there. If it does the German gamble is lost. The extreme caution of the Admiralty in the Norway Campaign was excused because of the fear of risking ships which might be required in case Italy came into the war. But at that time France was still our Ally and had a superior Fleet to the Italians in the Mediterranean. Another American journalist, Virginia Cowles, who was in Rome at the time, wrote in "Looking for Trouble" that the mess made of the Norwegian campaign had a disastrous effect there, particularly in the face of initial optimism in London. Besides that unhappy episode there has been a flood of naval disasters, the loss of the "Courageous," the "Royal Oak," the "Glorious"—a sorry tale for which the Navy will never forgive the Admiralty. The "Repulse" and the "Prince of Wales" were sent to the Far East, provided with no air protection. What for? It was folly, unless they were going to join the American Fleet, of which there was no prospect at that time, since they were entering waters dominated by a vastly superior battle fleet, equipped with aircraft carriers. Their presence in Singapore was only a source of embarrassment. They would have had to keep within range of its guns and within the range of shore-based aircraft. What were they sent for? I am sure that the Prime Minister did not send them there on his own authority against Naval advice.

Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)

I am rather confused at the course the Debate is taking. I understood the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) to move a Vote of Censure, on the ground that the Prime Minister had interfered unduly in the direction of the war. The Seconder seems to be seconding because the Prime Minister has not sufficiently interfered in the direction of the war.

Sir R. Keyes

I do not think that my hon. Friend ever suggested that the Prime Minister had unduly interfered with the naval direction of the war. [Interruption.] Well, if so, I submit that I have dispelled that suggestion. When the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau" escaped it had been expected at Portsmouth for eight or nine days that they were likely to break out through the Channel. What steps were taken by the Admiralty or the war machine to stop them? It was a naval responsibility, since Coastal Command is now supposed to be under Admiralty control. Did they really think that an attack by five old destroyers and a few motor torpedo boats and the suicide of six Swordfish aircraft was a justifiable naval operation in broad daylight against a formidable well-screened force? I can only suppose that they were relying on the R.A.F. to destroy the ships. No one seems to have been blamed for the action or brought to trial or court-martialled for it. If we had been allowed to develop naval aviation and the torpedo plane, as the Japanese have done, those ships would never have got home. As I have told the House, the Prime Minister does not override the naval advice given to him, although he is credited with doing so. It has brought him nothing but misfortune so far, and it would be a relief to the country and to the Navy if he made changes at the Admiralty which are long overdue. There is no confidence in the direction of the present régime.

I have no hesitation in saying once again that but for the naval advice tendered to the Prime Minister last September, the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, would have had a powerful amphibious striking force of all arms, which could not have failed to play a decisive part when the fate of the Libyan campaign was hanging in the balance last winter. The Admiralty's failure to provide the Fleet with the naval aircraft it needed to fulfil its task is absolutely in-excusable after nearly three years of war. Admiral Cunningham's brave tale of the achievements of the Fleet in the Mediterranean and all it suffered from lack of the air support it should have had is absolutely heartrending. As a former Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, I feel I would be failing in my duty to the country and to the Navy if I shirked drawing the attention of the House to these grave matters.

I am not concerned with political tactics. I have been told by many friends that, while they agree with me that the Government and the war machine need a thorough overhaul, they regard this Motion as bad political tactics. I am not concerned with political tactics. I came to the House determined to preserve my independence, to fight for what I thought was right in the true interests of the country. To me it is simply intolerable to watch the war machine lumbering on from one disaster to the next, in the course of which thousands of our young fighting men die or are taken prisoner because they are fighting with equipment inferior to that of the enemy, and lacking the type of air support the Navy and Army need, and without which they cannot hope to achieve victory.

Because the Air Ministry have always been obsessed by the idea that they could win this war by bombing alone, they have neglected the development of the military and naval types of aircraft needed, from lack of which we have suffered so cruelly. I honestly would much rather be seconding a Motion like the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), because the Prime Minister has been my friend for many years, and I have followed his lead, for he too recognised the vital importance of restoring our sea forces and checking disarmament before the war. In my opinion he alone was capable of putting the country in a proper state of defence. I have said so in the House repeatedly at a time when many Members who are now his supporters on the Front Bench, and scores of others, who will probably condemn me for seconding this Motion, were doing all they could to thwart our efforts to re-arm before it was too late, and to discredit him in every possible way. He was my political godfather. It was he who persuaded me to come into the House eight years ago and helped me to fight my Election, when I stood for one thing and one thing only, to restore our sea power and to re-establish naval aviation.

I still think it vitally important that the Prime Minister, who gave us such a wonderful lead and inspiration at the time of the Battle of Dunkirk, should continue to lead us; but I would like to see him at the head of a real National Government—not a Government formed by compromise and the placating of political interests, as the present Government obviously has been, since it contains Ministers in key positions who have neither the courage to rule nor the ability to lead. We have a Home Secretary who, although he was a conscientious objector in the last war, has almost unlimited power over our lives and liberties, and uses it to free strikers, who have been sentenced for breaking the law, thus encouraging other young irresponsible men to do likewise. Instead of discipline these people are given more wages, at the expense of the community. What faith can we have in the Minister of Labour, who, although a successful strike leader, cannot stop strikes, which bring discredit and dishonour to this country and to our system of Government, when the Empire is in danger? We have a First Lord who is responsible for our naval disarmament, which deprived Great Britain of the command of the seas, without which the Empire cannot survive, and which can be regained only by tremendous sacrifice. Is it surprising that, with such Ministers, many of our people are not alive to the dangers which beset us, and are thinking more about what they can get out of the State than about what they can do to sustain our fighting men, who sacrifice their all for us?

We are now on the eve of another Battle of Britain, the heart of a maritime Empire. The first was won by the heroism of our young fighter pilots in 1940. Meanwhile, our seafarers, with selfless devotion and courage, have been fighting to retain our lifeline and the sea communications of our Armies overseas, who have fought heroically and have endured incredible hardships. Now we have to win the battle of the home front. We look to the Prime Minister to put his house in order, and to rally the country once again for its immense task.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

The Motion is directed against the central direction of the war. If the Motion is carried, the Prime Minister has to go; but the hon. and gallant Member is appealing to us to keep the Prime Minister there.

Sir R. Keyes

It would be a deplorable disaster if the Prime Minister had to go. We do not deserve to win the war until the whole nation is imbued with the same spirit of service and self-sacrifice as our fighting men have displayed. Many thousands of our men have given their lives, and many thousands more will be called upon to do so. We owe it to them to see that the central direction of the war is fit to carry out its task, with a Government that can inspire and lead our people. The goddess of fortune has been fickle to the Prime Minister. I feel he has now been given a tremendous opportunity of rallying the country to 100 per cent. effort. I wish I had his power of expression. But what an opportunity he has of making us worthy of our destiny, which is to recover the liberties of the world.

The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)

I have listened with great attention to the speeches made by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion of Censure. I share the confusion of mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). The Seconder has conceived his task as that of answering the arguments of the Mover. One says that the Prime Minister has interfered too much with the direction of the war, and the other that the Prime Minister has not been given sufficient powers over his professional advisers. The one says that the central direction of the war must be changed, and the other that the Prime Minister—who I thought was very near the central direction of the war—must on no account be shorn of any of his responsibilities. I find great difficulty in reconciling these two points of view. I thought both speeches very half-hearted attempts to support a Vote of Censure. I think both Members have had second thoughts. Would it not have been better if their second thoughts had been their first thoughts? Was not the situation sufficiently grave when they put the Motion on the Paper? I think that everybody thought it was.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

What is the alternative?

Mr. Lyttelton

There were other Motions they could have moved. I think it very regrettable that a Vote of Censure has been moved at all. It has received wide publicity all over the world, and in some countries the nature of our Parliamentary system is not well understood. But I do not think that any serious damage has been done to our cause.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

Was not it equally true that the situation was grave on 8th May, 1940? [Interruption]. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is incapable of dealing with interruptions? He said that it was improper to put down a Motion of Censure. This Government came into existence on a Vote of Censure.

Mr. Lyttelton

I did not say that it was improper: I said that it was regrettable; that this Motion had been widely publicised, and that it has been weakly supported. However, hon. Members permitted themselves the indulgence of approaching the battlefield with flying colours, and then faded out when the actual issue was joined. But whatever may be my own feelings upon this matter, I have decided to avoid any form of dialectic. I do not think it would be in accord with the temper of the times, or, indeed, of the House. I will deal in a dispassionate way, and as far as possible outside the field of controversy, with the tactics as far as I can; and hon. Members must draw their own inferences. I think the facts will show that a Motion of this kind cannot be sustained.

I propose to devote myself to two aspects of the subject of this Debate. The Prime Minister, when he winds up, will cover the wider field. These two aspects concern, first, our equipment—and more particularly our equipment of tanks, guns and anti-tank guns—and, secondly, the tactics of the battle around Gazala, Tobruk, and now in Egypt, as far as it has developed. Turning to the first of the two aspects, the matter of equipment in modern war falls more than ever before under the responsibility of the Government at home—and the Government accept that responsibility. It is more than ever before outside the control of the commanders in the field. The main responsibility of commanders in the field, and of the General Staff and of its Chief in the War Office, is to draw lessons from battles, to see the trend of tactics, and to provide the production Ministries with an objective, so that, if possible always, and if not, at some culminating point, the weapons in the hands of our troops should surpass either in power or in mobility, or in concealment, or in surprise, or in all, the weapons which are in the hands of the enemy. This information, as I said previously in a Debate on Production, must, of course, be related to the possibilities of production, and therefore an early synthesis between military thought and production thought must be secured.

But other considerations overlie this simple principle. There come times in war when we cannot afford to interrupt production of serviceable but inferior weapons in order to work out at leisure the prototypes and production of weapons which, when they come into the hands of the troops, would surpass those in the hands of the enemy. These times, unfortunately, come nearly always to the democratic Powers which have sought for peace, which have sometimes, as in this country, even pursued a policy of dis- armament, which have not accorded to soldiers, sailors and airmen the position which is to due to them in the State and have not thought that the military art was one of those activities of the human mind to which greater consideration should be given. When an emergency arises, preparations are negligible, and it is useless to expect either a high strategical or tactical experience, but it is possible to develop both the weapons and the skill under the stress of battle, but how great are the advantages enjoyed by a Power which has already filled the echelons of its armies, the dockyards of its navies, and its air forces; which possesses a reserve at any rate equal to all the immediate needs of battle, and which can therefore develop more powerful and more mobile weapons without at the same time interrupting or harming the striking or defensive powers of its actual armies or navies in the field or at sea. I must also make the general observation that there is a very long lag between finding out from tactical lessons what weapons are likely to be needed in the future and putting those weapons into the hands of the troops, and if we aim, as we should, at not merely parity, but at weapons which are going to surpass any that the enemy have or are likely to have, the time lag is still greater. It must be our constant endeavour to reduce that lag by foresight and imagination.

I hope the House will not think that I am harking back too far if I refer to periods even lying before the war and to the beginning of the war. I think, if the whole picture is to be viewed in perspective, it is necessary to refer to them. There are three periods in particular. The first is the period up to the end of 1938. Until that time our armoured forces consisted of eight battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment equipped with light tanks, which were armed only with machine guns, obsolescent medium tanks, also armed with machine guns, and two cavalry armoured car regiments. This, of course, was during the period of disarmament. The German preparations had already long begun and were being carried out with great thoroughness and on a tremendous scale. I remember seeing in Cairo at G.H.Q. a German sight taken off an armoured car in the battle of last year. It was a very efficient sight and of excellent workmanship and was marked with the date 1936.

The second period to which I must refer is the period from January, 1939, up to June, 1940, that is to say, up to the collapse of France. In October, 1939, we had, as so-called armoured units, three regular cavalry regiments, and three battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment. They had 200 light tanks of the Mark VI series, that is, a 5½-ton tank, very lightly armoured and mounting two machine guns. It was from this type that the Covenanter and Crusader tanks were subsequently developed. Other armoured units were in the course of development, but their equipment was naturally even less than that of the armoured units to which I have referred, and I need not therefore trouble the House with details.

At the end of October, 1939, apart from light tanks armed with machine guns, there were only 117 Cruisers of Marks I and III and 90 infantry tanks and Marks I and II. The only British tanks mounting more than a machine gun which fought in France in those battles, in which the German deployed between four and five thousand tanks, were 23 Mark II infantry tanks and 158 Cruisers of Marks I, II and III, but these latter tanks fought only in the concluding phases of the battle south of the Somme. Even this petty equipment was lost.

We now enter the third period, and this is a particularly important phase to follow. It is the period immediately following Dunkirk. We had, in this country at the time of Dunkirk, only 200 light tanks armed with machine guns and 50 infantry tanks. It was clear, therefore, to the Government at that time, that every effort must be concentrated on producing some weapons against the invasion of the country, or we would have been strangled, and no production could be interrupted in order to start the testing and manufacture of new types. Of course, everyone connected with the problem, the Cabinet, the General Staff and the Ministry of Supply, were aware that we must develop a tank with heavier armour and heavier guns for the future. But present needs had to come first or we would have gone under. The whole field Army had to be reorganised and expanded and re-equipped from zero. We concentrated, therefore, existing plants and existing capacity on the production of types in which admittedly there were known defects and at the same time started to develop new manufacturing capacity to produce new types, although they too had no background of proved mechanical experience behind them.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question before he leaves that point? He says that nothing was done between the end of October, 1939, and June, 1940. But we had the same Minister of Defence as we have now, and was there no tank development during that time, although we knew of the German Mark IV with an 18-pounder gun on it?

Mr. Lyttelton

I am talking of these three periods and I think I must not interrupt my own statement.

Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me——

Mr. Stephen

On a point of Order. Is the Minister in Order in coming here today and reading a speech on the past and present condition of our armaments instead of replying to the arguments of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion of Censure? May I remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of a statement by Mr. Speaker that there should be cut and thrust in Debate and that we ought not to carry on as we are doing now?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)

The right hon. Gentleman must be left to make his own speech in his own way, subject to the Chair seeing no reason to interrupt. I have not heard anything that is out of Order in his speech.

Mr. Maxton

In your view, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is there any reason why a Minister, making a point upon which Members of the House want further enlightment, should not give way to a Member who approaches that point in a courteous manner?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Minister can give way if he sees fit to do so; it is entirely a matter for his discretion.

Mr. Maxton

It is a question of courtesy.

Sir H. Williams

On a point of Order. Is it not laid down clearly that no person is entitled to read his speech in this House? The right hon. Gentleman has read every word so far.

Earl Winterton

On a point of Order. I do not wish to make any attack upon the right hon. Gentleman, but your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I may say so with the deepest respect, may be open to some question through the House not understanding what you said. The point is that it is an old Rule of the House that a Member, whether a Minister or anybody else, may not read the whole of his speech. Is not that Rule still in operation?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Yes, that Rule is still in operation, and its particular application is, I think, generally well understood throughout the whole House.

Mr. Maxton rose——

Mr. Montague (Islington, West)

Do Members know there is a war on? They are wasting time. It is utterly trivial.

Mr. Maxton

The right hon. Gentleman made a statement. This House gave successive Governments from 1938 onwards full power to rearm this nation——

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Did the hon. Member give them any support?

Mr. Maxton

No, I voted against them. This House, by an overwhelming majority, mandated the Government to go full speed ahead. Now the right hon. Gentleman tells us that at the crucial period the Governments concerned did nothing in this matter of tanks. Does he wish to convey that impression to the House?

Mr. Lyttelton

I wish to convey to the House the facts about this matter in order that they can judge why certain of these preparations were very much behind. I have not read the whole of my speech so far, but where it became extremely factual I referred to my very liberal notes. I do not trust my memory on everything.

Now I wish to turn to the matter of 6-pounder guns, heavier weapons and heavier tanks. It was in September, 1940, that the War Office first placed an order for a 6-pounder gun, and it was at that time that production prospects were analysed. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff examined the proposition put to him by the Ministry of Supply and agreed to a new factory being tooled for 6-pounders in the hope of getting 600 of these guns by the end of 1941. The Ministry of Supply, however, pointed out that even by changing only half the plant to 6-pounders the diversion of effort in the preparatory stages and the diversion of the plant would be such—and I quote their actual words—"That we should lose some 600 2-pounders this year to get only 100 6-pounders." This was a risk—a reduction in numbers—which, at that time, could not be accepted. The enemy were at the gates. The 2-pounder gun, whatever its deficiencies may be, in the open country of the desert is a very useful weapon in the hands of determined infantry or tank regiments in an enclosed country such as England. The production policy agreed between the War Office and the Ministry of Supply at the time was two-fold: that the utmost acceleration of production of 6-pounder guns should be secured, but that the production must be from new capacity so that the output of 2-pounders should not be interrupted. I think there can be no question that this decision, taken when the threat of invasions was still imminent, and when we might have been destroyed utterly if we had not had some weapons to our hands, was the right one.

The development and production of the 6-pounder gun happens to have been an outstanding industrial achievement. Production, which began in November, 1941, 13 to 14 months after the first order, has risen continuously and is now running at several hundred per month. I prefer not to give the current figures. On 1st June of this year over 850 of these guns, equivalent to 70 batteries, with field mountings have been allocated to the Middle East. Large numbers have arrived, but only a small proportion of these were in the hands of the troops in Libya at the outset of the present campaign. The House may feel that I exaggerated when I described the production of these guns as an outstanding achievement, but I wish to repeat that statement, because it serves to bring out what is very important—that with modern weapons the time taken up in development, by trickle production, by quantity production, and then by delivery into the hands of the troops over 12,000 miles of sea communications, is necessarily very long.

Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

For what purpose were they used? On tanks or as anti-tank guns?

Mr. Lyttelton

I was referring to 6-pounders on field mountings. The House must not infer from what I have said about the 6-pounder that either the Government, the General Staff or the Ministry of Supply have been content to rest there and to develop merely this weapon. I think it would be true to say that the 6-pounder would give equality with the equivalent weapons of the enemy, but we must surpass them. As an anti-tank gun it is inferior to the 88 mm. used by the enemy, although the 88 mm. is less mobile. It might be inferred from reading the newspapers that except for a small number of 6-pounders we have no weapons similar to the 88 mm. gun of the Germans, which has been so skilfully employed in the present battle. Such an inference would be wholly wrong. We actually had in the Middle East enough guns for three regiments of 4/'s, and these have a great range and are quite capable of taking on the German 88 mm., although I do not want the House to think that these 4/'s were primarily designed as anti-tank guns. The 25-pounders, although not designed as anti-tank guns, have proved particularly effective against tanks; their rate of fire is lower than the ordinary anti-tank weapon, but experience has shown that both in penetration and mobility they are very useful guns against tanks in the desert. The same applies to the 88 mm. gun of the Germans, originally put into the field as an anti-aircraft weapon. Apart altogether from the 2-pounder, the 6-pounder and the 24-pounder, we are developing specialised anti-tank weapons far more powerful than the 6-pounder. The pilot models have been made, the equipment has passed its firing and travelling trials, certain modifications have been embodied in the design, and the main production is expected to start very shortly. These guns will be in the hands of the troops before very long. Clearly, further details cannot be given.

I will now go back to tanks. The House will remember that I am still referring to the third period, namely, that following the collapse of France. Always bearing in mind the need for serviceable tanks, even if they had a lower mileage of reliability than tanks developed at greater leisure, the Government first undertook the production of the A.22, "which is sometimes known as the "Churchill." This tank, which was put into production from the drawing board, is, in the opinion of all those who have had experience of it, an excellent fighting vehicle—and when I say fighting vehicle, I mean the arrangement of the guns and turret are highly suitable for fighting—but it will not have the reliability which could have been obtained if further time had been possible in its development. The first production had numerous defects, and it even appeared from the first few put out that failure of the type might have to be faced. But these have now been largely eliminated. I believe that the present tank will run without major repairs rather more than half the distance which a perfect tank of this type might be expected to run under Service conditions, and in conditions similar to those of this country the tank is of the greatest possible value. [Interruption.] I said half the mileage of a perfect tank. I think it will run without major repairs about half the distance which a perfect tank would run. The figures are about 750 miles, without major repairs, compared with 1,500 miles. No doubt a higher rate of replacement, and consequently of reserves, would have to be provided behind this tank. But there is no doubt in my mind about the correctness of the decision to put this amount into production. Numbers had to be the first consideration, something to fight with. If we had insisted on maximum reliability, we might have had one half or one quarter of the tanks that we now have, and although it is true that they would have been reliable ever greater distances, the account still stands heavily in favour of the numbers as against the mileage. Our immediate impact on the enemy has been increased.

Urgency and crisis are the foes of reliability and perfect mechanical design. The first of the A.22's were, of course, equipped with the 2-pounder gun, for the reason that there were no 6-pounder guns to put in them, but these tanks are now being armed with a 6-pounder gun, and the production is growing. In addition, some of the old tanks are being re-worked. I do not want the House to think that tank development is confined to perfecting the A.22. I can give no details because they would be of value to the enemy, but in armour, armament and power they will far surpass anything which we have so far produced, including gun power. I want to assure the House that to-day the A.22 is an extremely useful weapon in enclosed country. It has not been proved in the desert, and there are none of them in Libya during the present campaign.

Before I leave this part of the subject, let me summarise what I have said. We started the war with no modern tanks, we lost all the armoured equipment which we had in France in June, 1940, although that equipment would by itself have had little value to-day. From that date we concentrated on numbers at the expense of immediate reliability. We started the development of the 6-pounder gun whilst maintaining the output of the 2-pounder. We started the production from the drawing board of the A.22. We have a number of much more powerful cruiser and infantry tanks more heavily armoured in the course of development, some of which will shortly come into production and be in the hands of the troops.

During the battles of 1941 in Libya, it was realised that at all events in this open warfare in the desert we must try to provide the troops with a type of tank of heavier armour and with heavier guns before the production to which I have just referred could come into being; and it was at this time that we obtained help from the United States, who shipped us a considerable quantity of what are now known as "General Grant" tanks, that is to say, the Mark III armed with a 75 mm. gun and with a radial engine and power-operated turret, the latter being a development of English design. I think it is fair to say that this tank has proved a match in battle against the best German tanks that have been put into the field in the present campaign. There is in large-scale production in the United States, as I have seen for myself, a Mark IV which is a later and still more effective weapon than the General Grant.

Mr. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)

How many General Grant tanks are there?

Mr. Lyttelton

I do not think I should give the figures. In spite of the losses in the recent battle in which they have proved their worth, General Auchinleck still has a substantial number of General Grant tanks in service. Others are arriving daily on the battlefield. There is one other point about tanks which I think I should mention. In March of this year a Tank Mission was despatched to the United States, and the production of tanks between the two countries was rationalised, and by this means we shall get the best production of modern tanks possible, and shall be able to concentrate on the proved types. That mission did excellent work, and was in fact the first beginnings of combined production for warlike purposes between the two countries which, under the new arrangement, were concluded in the United States, and of which I made the House aware last week, I consider that great economy, as well as advances in design and efficiency, and volume of production, will come about from these combined arrangements.

There are two other matters which might be of interest to the House. The first concerns the relation of these armoured fighting vehicles to the battle at the end of 1941. I have an intimate knowledge of how they acquitted themselves in that fighting. It was thought then that, in spite of the existence of the 50 mm. gun, we had a sufficient number of tanks, largely Crusaders with two-pounder guns, to secure victory, and so it proved to be, although the issue of the battle hung in balance for a long time. I need not go into the story of how these gains were subsequently lost, but in my opinion—and this has a bearing on the whole question of Crusader tanks—there were three causes in order of importance. Firstly, were tactical mistakes. I incline to the view that South of Benghazi the small forces with which we pursued the enemy were too light for attack, too dispersed and too extended for defence, and too strong for reconnaissance. Secondly, was the unsuitability of the Crusader tanks for desert conditions; and, thirdly, the superior armament in weight and range of the German tanks. I admit it is difficult to give the right emphasis to these three causes, but I have given the House my own opinion. One must mention, in passing, that the 2-pounder gun has a far higher rate of fire than the heavier tank gun.

I mentioned the unreliability of the Crusader tank under desert conditions. The pilot model of the Crusader tank, subject to tests from May, 1940, had many obvious and, it might be supposed, avoidable defects. The turret, for instance, was too small for the man of ordinary physique, the traverse of the gun was interfered with if the lid of the secondary turret was up, and the driver's vision was too limited. The fan-drive assembly gave trouble from the pilot model stage, and it was this which it was found so difficult to rectify. No fewer than eight different attempts were made to put the fan-driving assembly right, and even at the end it was not absolutely satisfactory. It was the cooling system of the Crusaders which caused them to break down under the conditions of the Western Desert.

Earl Winterton

Were these facts known to the Government when the Prime Minister made his speech in November, 1941, about Libya?

Mr. Lyttelton

November, 1941, was the date when this offensive, of which I am speaking, was arranged, and the defects in the Crusader tanks with 2-pounder guns did not really make themselves evident to us, even in the Middle East, until we had swept over Cyrenaica, when we were a long way from distilled water and our base workshops. During the first month of the campaign they proved to be a serviceable weapon of war—I would put it no higher than that. The present campaign—the present attack of Rommel—has been fought on our side with a considerable but insufficient number of General Grant tanks, with cruiser tanks mounting a 2-pounder gun, and at the beginning with a small number of 6-pounder anti-tank guns on field mountings—there were many more of this type later, for the reasons I have already exposed. It is not necessary to add that the 25-pounder gun, though comparatively slow firing, has proved a great success against tanks in the open. The 25-pounder gun is very nearly the same weapon as the 88-mm. gun, there is about a one-hundredth part of an inch difference between the two calibres and I think it is important to remember that. Let me reiterate that the 6-pounder gun is in large production, that long ago far more powerful anti-tank guns were developed and will shortly come into production, and that we have made every attempt to get ahead of the enemy and not only to keep up with him.

Before leaving the subject of equipment, I think I must say something about the air situation. It has not been suggested that any justified criticism has been directed at our machines and the efficiency of our aircraft, except in one respect, and that is the lack of dive-bombers. The present Government have always attached importance to this weapon, and, in fact, a few weeks after the Government were formed orders were placed for dive-bombers in the United States. They were placed by Lord Beaverbrook in June, 1940. [HON. MEMBERS: "How many?"] A large number. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air said in his speech on the Air Estimates, on 4th March, that it was completely mistaken to suppose that the Air Staff have discarded dive-bombers. In 1940, we were desperately short of aircraft, and we needed less specialised types of fighters and bombers even more than we needed dive bombers. Now the situation is changed. Now, with sufficient fighters and bombers, we have gained air superiority in more than one theatre of war, and this ascendency, which is a prerequisite of the use of dive-bombers, means that we can now turn dive-bombers to good account, and we are sure we can employ them effectively at sea. At the time when Lord Beaverbrook acted, there was nothing to be gained in placing orders in this country, and, indeed, there was much to be lost, because to develop a new type of dive-bomber would have interfered very seriously with the output of vital aircraft which we had to have; it would have reduced the output of those aircraft which afterwards proved our salvation. The House will know how long it takes for a new type of aircraft to get into production, and, although there have been delays in the production and modifications in the design, we are to-day receiving deliveries under the contract which was then placed. Some dive-bombers have already reached one theatre of war, and others are on their way.

Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

This is a very important matter, because it may be regarded, to use a vulgarism, as passing the buck to America. It has been said that the Americans did not supply the machines because they would not give priority to our orders for dive-bombers, but were the Americans told that we were prepared to waive priority in other materials to get priority in dive-bombers?

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

Is it the case that the British Air Commission in America was never allowed to give to these dive-bombers any form of priority, which was a statement made by Mr. Westbrook, of the Ministry of Aircraft Production?

Mr. Lyttelton

My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) asked whether a lack of priority led to slow deliveries in dive-bombers. I would say "No." There is no evidence at all that the delivery of dive-bombers would have been guaranteed by any system of priority.

Mr. Bevan

There was no priority?

Mr. Lyttelton

It does not apply, because dive-bombers were not made in the same factories as the other machines. There is no evidence to show that supplies of materials or labour were made scarce in those factories by other orders for more wanted machines being placed at that time. The two types of aircraft were not competitive with each other as far as production is concerned, and, therefore, it is idle to talk about priority having stopped the production of the one for the sake of accelerating the production of the other.

Miss Ward (Wallsend)

Is it not a fact that the Army were asking for dive-bombers in the spring of 1941, and what was the reason for their requirements being overruled?

Sir William Davison (Kensington, South)

What was the reason for the great delay in delivering these dive-bombers from America?

Mr. Lyttelton

The order for delivery of bombers was placed in June, 1940, in the United States—nothing would have been gained by placing the order in this country—and we have at this moment begun to take delivery of machines before any new production in this country could, in any circumstances, have been brought about. There have been delays, which are by no means all the fault of the United States, in the production of this particular machine. That is an inevitable thing which occurred.

The Secretary of State for War yesterday, in saying that the means by which air support can most effectively be given to the troops is constantly under review, was, I think, misunderstood. The House seemed to infer from his statement that there was some difference between him and the Secretary of State for Air on the use of dive-bombers. That is not the case. As soon as the aircraft are obtained in larger quantities from the United States—and that is now beginning—they will be handed over to the Royal Air Force and will be available for use with the Army and also at sea.

Sir H. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that a decision had not yet been arrived at. Will he clear up that point?

Mr. Lyttelton

These are discussions which I do not think will ever be finished, and they never should be finished except in the best way, by perfecting the arrangements for tactical support of one arm by the other. That is quite different from saying that there is a controversy as to whether dive-bombers are desirable or not.

Let me now turn to some of the technical features of the recent battle. I am intimately acquainted with the strategical and tactical features of the battle, I have knowledge of the ground both over which the earlier battles were fought and over which they are now being fought, and I have the advantage of personal association with the commanders now in the field, which stretched over nine months last year. The first thing—I apologise if it is stating the obvious—is that the battle, when joined, depends almost entirely upon armoured forces. Armour must operate on the Southern flank of any German offensive directed from West to East or any British offensive directed from East to West. The moment infantry is moved on to this vast chessboard, its flanks are in danger, and the same applies in a slightly different way to motorised infantry. Their flanks are not so vulnerable, because they move faster than an armoured formation, but they have a large soft spot, which consists of the mass of lorries which have to come up behind them to keep them supplied. One more thing. The Air Arm has brought many changes for modem tactics and, though short lines of communications are highly desirable if they can be defended by fighter aircraft, it is necessary that the base installations, ports, and to some extent even railheads, should be as far back, and not as far forward, as possible. It is a matter of importance to deny to the enemy the use of aerodromes within 400 miles of a base installation, and that is one of the reasons, with these lengthened lines of communication and in order to be free from concentrated bombing, why a modern army has to be equipped with such masses of mechanical transport It is not only the matter of mobility, but also of the distance between the base installation and the fighting front which has to be maintained. That is the general background.

It has been suggested that in the recent battle around Gazala and Tobruk, and later around Matruh, General Ritchie has been dealt with in detail. If this should happen in the end, so to describe it is certainly an over-simplification of a military truism. But infantry, and even motorised infantry, is vulnerable in the desert the moment it moves on to the field of battle. Therefore a system of defence, which appears to me to have been based on perfectly sound military principles, was evolved by which the infantry fortified a number of strong points with wire, mines and anti-tank guns and so on, and round these strong points the armoured forces were to strike at the flanks of the enemy and form the mobile part of the whole defence. I think that was perfectly sound. These strong points also represent places behind which the armoured forces could re-fuel. If in the course of the battle the armoured forces should prove inadequate, or too depleted, to protect the flanks of these strong points, it would be true to say that one of the strong points was dealt with in detail, but it is over-simplification to say that General Ritchie as a whole was dealt with in detail. He certainly manoeuvred his armoured divisions and did not maintain a passive attitude. It is equally clear that between 4th and 13th June our losses were very heavy, and our tank forces were either too exhausted or too depleted to keep going the fight against the enemy armour. It is not yet clear whether the infantry should have played a more mobile role. I suspect that that criticism might be justified, but I do not know on the information so far in our possession.

At this point some remarks are necessary about tanks and armament with 2-pounder guns from the tactical point of view. In an armoured battle against heavier tanks armed with heavier guns they are, of course, at a disadvantage, but, used as a defensive weapon, they have much more value. They are very mobile, and, when they are endeavouring to defend the flanks of infantry, they can manoeuvre to the flank, get into what are called hull-down positions in the desert, where they present a very small mark to artillery and can, if skilfully handled, let the enemy tanks in very close, where the 2-pounder guns will have effect. I admit that, to do this, they have to be very skilfully handled, and the lack of punch in this gun puts a high premium on ingenious tactics. On many occasions these tanks have been handled by the commanders with great brilliancy. At other times they have left much to be desired. In the last battle I remember a small force of 2-pounder tanks by chance getting a stroke of luck and getting within 300 or 400 yards of much heavier German tanks. Owing to their higher rate of fire, they knocked out a large number without any serious damage to themselves. I quote this because it is now put out that the 2-pounder tank has no value at all. It is quite untrue.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

The right hon. Gentleman said that it was dependent on luck.

Mr. Lyttelton

I said that tanks in a hull-down position are of great defensive value and that if they allow the enemy tanks to get within close range, they can knock them out as they did on this occasion.

There is also much misapprehension about air action in the Western Desert. I have heard the question frequently asked why, when so many victories of the enemy are ascribed to superiority in the air, we have not won victories in the desert when we continually claim, and rightly claim, that we have superiority in the air. I have always been quite sure, and indeed have told Members of this House on many occasions, that the value of air superiority in so far as it affects support of infantry and armoured formations in the desert, is nothing like that which it is in enclosed country. You do not cash-in your air superiority in the desert in the way in which you do in other theatres of war. All the experience of the battles of November and those of the present campaign shows that the cooperation between the Air Force and the Army has reached a high level of efficiency, and the Commander-in-Chief has continually referred in his situation reports to this fact. But time and again it is impossible to put down heavy bombing as a tactical weapon on the enemy's tanks when the battle is joined, because of the difficulty of identification. An armoured battle in the desert raises a great dust, and movements are very quick. For five or ten minutes the whole direction of the battle changes. It is the opinion of commanders that a force of dive-bombers could not have affected the course of the battle and that the dive-bombers of the enemy were largely ineffective in the desert for the reason I have given. [Interruption.] There is no evidence to support the view that dive-bombers were responsible for the fall of Bir Hacheim. I said they have proved largely ineffective. Of course, when troops are in a perimeter dive-bombers are more effective than in open country, but during the campaign it is true to say, and the commanders agree, that a force of dive-bombers would not have made any difference and that the enemy dive-bombers were largely ineffective.

Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)

Is it not the case that large forces of enemy dive bombers heavily bombed Bir Hacheim and Tobruk during the decisive period?

Mr. Lyttelton

There were never more than 20 to 30 at any time. I do not think there is any evidence to show that the fall of Bir Hacheim was due to the action of dive bombers. The forces which attacked that place had extremely heavy casualties, and the Free French sent a message of congratulation to the Royal Air Force for having shot down such a large proportion of the attackers. I repeat that in the opinion of the commanders the enemy's dive bomber has been largely ineffective in the present campaign. I do not wish the House to think that that cuts across the general question of the utility of dive bombers. I am only talking about the special local conditions which occur in the Libyan or Egyptian theatres of war. The utility of bombing in Libya or Egypt is more in bombing the enemy's mechanical transport which has to feed the tanks and the motorised infantry and in bombing the back areas, but here again, in spite of the lack of cover, aircraft are at a great disadvantage in this theatre compared with enclosed country, because mechanical transport can be moved far off the roads in small packets and widely dispersed. They present a very small target to bombing aircraft. The most effective way, which has been largely used in this campaign, is to attack them with fighters armed with cannons or machine guns. Again, there are very few defiles in the whole of Libya. There are one or two, such as that just East of Benghazi. There again is a reason why you do not cash-in on air superiority. There are no defiles like a bridge or a defile between mountains which collect the enemy.

Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)

What does air superiority mean?

Mr. Lyttelton

It means that your troops are not themselves attacked in their front positions by forces of enemy bombers, that your installations are protected, and that your reconnaissance machines are not shot down when they are trying to locate the enemy installations. It does not mean that the air can play a decisive tactical role in supporting infantry. I only permit myself one more remark on military matters. That is, that our strategy must always be read as primarily designed to defend the Suez Canal, the oil-fields, the friendly populations of Palestine and Egypt, and British citizens in those parts.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

Surely we should have bombed the ports with our heavy bombers. Can my right hon. Friend say why we did not pulverise the harbour at Benghazi to prevent reinforcements reaching Rommel?

Mr. Lyttelton

Of course, the bombing of the ports in the earlier part of the campaign was of primary importance. We have had a heavy force of bombers on these objectives during the whole campaign. These ports are used as reinforcement ports, and they must be kept under heavy bombardment. Even then reinforcements will get in. We have had a force of heavy bombers on these objectives, and I think that they have interrupted to some extent the flow of reinforcements and material to General Rommel.

Mr. Culverwell (Bristol, West)

Is it a fact that since we began to evacuate the Libyan desert we have despatched heavy long-distance bombers to Africa? Would it not have been better to drop the strategic bombing in Europe in order to send them earlier?

Mr. Lyttelton

There has been a continuous flow of reinforcements to the Middle East. I have said that the primary object of our strategy in the Middle East must be to defend this vital part of the Imperial communications and the friendly populations of those countries. Nothing of this so far has been lost, although some of these strategical points are seriously threatened. The principal damage up to date, it is important to realise, is that the enemy now commands aerodromes so far East that he can bring our base installations under much closer bombardment.

Mr. Shinwell

I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend. I accept all he says about this new interpretation of air superiority, but what is troubling me, and I have no doubt troubling other Members, is that the British public when they hear talk about air superiority believe that it means what it says, that it means what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air says.

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Archibald Sinclair)

I have never said anything different from what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Shinwell

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has never said anything in public that really was worth while saying.

Mr. Lyttelton

I think my hon. Friend has not quite followed my argument. What I said was that we had air superiority in this theatre of war, but that owing to the nature of the campaign, you cannot cash in on it to the extent that you could in closed country.

Mr. Shinwell

I accept that.

Mr. Lyttelton

I am very glad to hear it. I have tried to give, as far as I can, a sober account of the whole facts of the equipment of which these forces in Libya have disposed. We have given them the best we had. It is only now that we are catching up in this long race, and I can assure the House that my own opinion is that we are shortly going to surpass, in several important weapons, the equipment of the enemy. I think the record of equipment in this theatre cannot be used as a reproach to the Government.

Mr. C. Davies

Should I be in Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in moving that this House do rot proceed further with this Debate, in view of the terrible disclosures that have been made about the position, and that we should proceed at once to consider the impeachment of the persons responsible for this state of affairs?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sure that such a Motion would not be accepted by the Chair at this point.

Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)

The House has been to some extent, I think, but only to some extent, enlightened by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production; but before I come to that speech I wish, at the outset, to say that last week, before the clouds were as black as they are today, those for whom I speak decided that, should a Vote of Censure be carried to a Division, we should oppose it. In this hour of peril, graver than it was a week ago, when a deadly struggle is still being fought, this House, I feel certain, will not sound a note of disunity. The Prime Minister has spoken on previous occasions, perhaps a little petulantly, of those who wish to rock the boat. The question today, and I am not accusing anybody of this, and certainly not the Mover of the Motion, is whether anybody wishes to wreck the boat, and so far as I am concerned I would rule that out of the discussion.

Let me remind the House how this Debate arose. It was out of a desire on the part of hon. Members to find out the facts regarding the Libyan and Mediterranean situation at a time when it looked as though things were going badly, but were not as grave as they have since become. My noble Friend a week last Thursday put down a Question on this matter and it was answered on the following Tuesday. By that time Tobruk had fallen. The centre of interest in the House that day was the fall of Tobruk and the Libyan situation. Since then Members of this House, quite within their rights, have widened the issue, the issue which I believe is deepest in the heart and mind of people, and have challenged the whole central direction of the war. I personally regret their decision, but at the same time it must be said that the Government today stands on its defence. I am looking at this as any ordinary man-in-the-street, and the fact is—whether it was unavoidable or not may be argued—that we have suffered a series of setbacks, reverses and defeats. I do not propose to retail them nor do I propose to consider the wider issues which have already been raised and will continue to be raised during the course of the Debate. I prefer to confine myself to the more immediate situation.

During the past 10 days I have done my best, as, no doubt, have other hon. Members, to assess both public and Press opinion regarding the Battle of Libya, the fall of Tobruk and now, in the last day or two, the new Battle of Egypt. I have spent a good deal of time on this problem since the fall of Tobruk, and it is no exaggeration to say that from north to south, from east to west, the people of this country have never had so profound a shock as they had in the fall of Tobruk since the dark days of Dunkirk. I do not believe that our people were shocked even by Malaya and Singapore as they have been by the events of the past few days. The people of this country were bewildered and bitterly disappointed by the sombre news. It is not that they quail before reverses, however bitter they may be. It is universally agreed and has been said in this House on many occasions, that they can face with steadfastness and fortitude the heaviest of adverse blows. What naturally distresses and disturbs them, what fills them to-day with sorrowful indignation, is the feeling that things have gone wrong when they ought not to have gone wrong. The Government must dismiss from its mind at once any suspicion it may have about the bona fide purposes of this Debate. The overwhelming majority of our citizens are not seeking a scapegoat. They have the utmost admiration for and complete confidence in all the branches of our Fighting Services. They seek no head on a charger, and they would certainly not tolerate the sacrifice of people to cloak the sins of omission and commission of other people. What our people desire, as my study leads me to believe, is that they should be told, so far as the facts may be properly disclosed, whether our expected reverses could have been avoided. My right hon. Friend has made an attempt up to a point, to which I will return in a moment, to deal with that.

What the House and what the people want, not because they are moved by any unworthy motive of revenge, is that avoidable setbacks shall be avoided. This they want not merely because reverses are distasteful and may be dangerous but because it appeared to them, and, indeed, so appeared to this House, that there were solid grounds for hope of success in the present Libyan campaign. It is argued that something must have gone wrong somewhere, and therefore the view is held, I have no doubt by the vast majority of hon. Members, that the way to victory depends upon profiting from our errors. The views I have expressed are not merely my own views but, I am convinced, are the views of the vast majority of the people of this country, the views of men and women whose primary aim is victory in the war. They are not playing politics. They are desperately concerned with the course of the war, as are all Members of this House, and that is the fundamental reason why many of us feel that this matter must be probed and investigated, and why those inside this House and outside should be given as complete an explanation as can be given of the Libyan campaign. If the relevant facts are not all yet available, as I rather gathered from my right hon. Friend, then let us proceed to a closer examination of those aspects of the campaign which lie under our own hand.

There have been a number of interruptions to-day, quite apart from the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Ward-law-Milne), dealing with the question of equipment. Either we had or we had not sufficient equipment in Libya; either we had the right kind of things or we had not the right kind of things; and, in spite of the enlightenment we have had, and some things were cleared up by my right hon. Friend, I doubt whether the public would be prepared to let it go at what my right hon. Friend has said. Press and public alike believe it to be incredible—only yesterday "The Times" said it was incredible—that such things should come to pass in Libya and in Egypt. The insistent question is, Why? It is the question which is being asked now in every home, in every workshop, in every factory, in every camp, in every military, naval and air unit. It is the question that is being asked the world over. Why? I submit the right hon. Gentleman has not given us yet a complete answer.

I am not complaining or indulging in any attack on my right hon. Friend, because the facts may not yet all be there, but the undoubted truth is that we have not yet had disclosed to us what will satisfy the people of this country on this particular issue. I realise that wars are not won on inquiries and investigations. On the other hand, neither are defeats inevitably the stepping stones to victory. I appreciate that inquests are open to grave objection. In the first place, they may hamper the war effort by diverting responsible persons from their proper duties in the war, and repeated inquiries would, I am certain, dispirit our fighting men, create alarm and despondency among our Allies, and bring comfort to the enemy. I myself have never joined in the demand for an inquiry into Singapore. Up to now, I have never been a party to any demand for any inquiry of any kind. But I do think in this case, so disturbed are the people of this country, that we really ought to satisfy them by so complete a statement that their hopes will be sustained.

I am not concerned to press this or that form of inquiry. The real purpose and the real value of this Debate, so far as I am concerned, will be to restore and fortify public confidence, by the Government telling the House and the country—without giving anything away to the enemy—the causes of our setback a little more definitely than they have so far been told, and by declaring in emphatic terms, as I hope they will before the Debate finishes, their determination to root out every possible source of defeat, to root out every form, of inefficiency, wherever it may be. If that is done, this Debate, which I assert is born out of the agony of the common people of this country, ought before we close it to become an inspiration to them in the dark days that probably lie before us.

In the course of the Debate to-day we have had quotations from the Prime Minister and others. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister told the House eight days ago that the fall of Tobruk and the capture of a large part of its garrison was a heavy and unexpected blow—an unexpected blow. How much heavier, how much more unexpected, was the blow which fell upon the people of this country and especially those who had relatives and friends in Tobruk, and upon our Allies. For though the language used on many occasions in the last seven months to describe the course of events on the Libyan front may have been cautious, phrases and sentences have been used which conveyed to the general public—and to the Members of this House, so innocent are we—a sense of confidence in the result. I do not propose to go through the speeches, but I have read them with very considerable care more than once since the fall of Tobruk, and while speeches may be balanced, while the Prime Minister may say that although on a certain occasion he did create a comfortable feeling among people in this House, he at the same time and almost in the same breath pointed out the dangers which still lay ahead—while all that may be true, one must look at the situation as the ordinary person sees it. The people had come to feel, because of a series of statements, because perhaps the Press had given undue prominence to the most cheering parts of the speeches made in the House, that here at last we were on a good thing. But it had not happened before, and now, of course, it has not happened again.

It is clear from my right hon. Friend's own statement that the Government themselves were taken aback by the fall of Tobruk. That can only have been be-cause their reasonable expectations have not been fulfilled. The Government obviously believed that such a sad loss was, to say the least of it, improbable, otherwise they would not have been shocked when the news broke upon us. The question to which I come back, the question which is on the lips of millions of people in this country and in other countries joined with us in the war, is. What went wrong? What events, what circumstances, led to this most unfortunate result? I am not gifted, as many Members of this House are, I am not one of those who can peer through the smokescreen of a far-distant battlefield, and I am certainly not one of those armchair strategists who possess a sixth sense enabling them to see the sun through the fog which covers the minds of common people like me. I simply ask what multitudes of free men and women are asking and repeating to themselves. What was it that went wrong? It is quite clear from the Prime Minister's short statement in the House yesterday that something went wrong. Otherwise he would not have informed us of the new operational arrangements.

During the course of this Debate a good many questions have already been asked, and I do not feel that they have been fully answered. In fact, in regard to 6-pounder guns, tanks and dive bombers, I do not think that the House felt that my right hon. Friend's reply was adequate to the occasion. If we are not sending the right kind of guns, it is not the fault of the people in the factories who are making them. If the men in the field are not getting the right kind of equipment, it is not their fault if there is a reverse. The situation must be dealt with on a much higher level. There is a feeling, which my right hon. Friend's speech did not dispel from the House, that the dive bomber situation is not as satisfactory as it ought to be. It is not clear, when Lord Beaverbrook on 12th February said that the 6-inch gun was in excellent production, why four months later they were not there in sufficient numbers.

I appreciate all the difficulties of the change-over from one weapon to another, but my right hon. Friend's explanation about the change-over from the 2-pounder to the 6-pounder is beside the point. My point is that statements made by the then Minister of Supply on 12th February were in a most cheerful vein. He said: This is the greatest war winner. There is nothing to face it, and it is in excellent production. It is these problems which the House wants clearing up, and that is what I myself wish to emphasise. I have not entered into the higher realms of strategy, and I hope I have not strayed from the most uncontroversial ground; I believe that what I have said most people in this House know to be true. The mood of the people of this country is one of the deepest disquiet. It is the duty of Members of this House, it is my duty as a Member, to voice that mood, and it is the paramount duty of the Government to hearken to the voice of the people and to reinvigorate them by frankly explaining the difficulties of the war situation in more detail, which my right hon. Friend was not able to do to-day, and by quite as frankly admitting shortcomings and mistakes, as my right hon. Friend to some extent did to-day.

What can with perfect justice be put on the credit side of the war balance-sheet does not, and cannot, black out of the people's minds the debit side. The people do not expect war to be a sort of oneway traffic of victory for us and perpetual reverses for the enemy, but they do insist that such reverses as we have to suffer shall not be due to inefficient leadership, inefficient organisation, or inefficient and inadequate equipment. I say quite frankly that unless the people are satisfied on this score, the Government's position and authority will be gravely imperilled. The object of this Debate—and I have spoken in no bitter partisan vein to-day—is to reassure and deepen the spirit of this country, and I hope it will be so conducted that we shall succeed.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

This Debate as a whole has been conducted in the very best of tempers, except for a little acerbity introduced at the beginning of the speech of the Minister of Production when he indulged in a rather unnecessary sneer at those who have associated themselves with this Vote of Censure. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for an hour or, shall I say, batted for an hour, scored no runs, and I think there were a couple of wides and one leg-bye. There is no particular reason why anybody should follow in any detail the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, because it was completely inadequate to the occasion. He told us that it takes a long time to make things. I am not unfamiliar with that. He said it takes a long time to change-over production. I am not unfamiliar with that, but he seems to forget that we started rearming in 1936, that when the war started we had in being a Ministry of Supply, and that we had planned, and in some cases had constructed, the greater number of the war factories now existing. It is not as if this planning started in September, 1939.

He promised us that soon we should have a lot of dive bombers, and having said that, he said that they were no good. He said that they did not capture Bir Hacheim, or Tobruk, but if that is so, who told the public untruths? Why did all the inspired newspaper correspondents of Cairo say those things? Are they prompted, are they censored? I think it is a scandal that on that tragic Sunday when we heard on the wireless that Tobruk had fallen—I was shocked and horrified, like everybody else—an examination of all the Sunday papers printed that morning showed that they contained communications from Pressmen sent from Cairo on the Saturday; I have four of them here, and the statements in all these cuttings are untrue. They had all passed the censor. I will go further, and make the prediction that they had not only passed the censor but had been inspired by the gentleman who succeeded the military spokesmen. I ask the Government to explain why this kind of twaddle is permitted to be published. But it is going on. On the tape machine of this House yesterday appeared this almost incredible thing: Nevertheless the importance of the success of British arms at Mersa Matruh will probably be demonstrated in the not-too-distant future. The evacuation of Mersa Mutruh was described on the tape machine of this House at 1.57 p.m. yesterday as a great British success. I am not surprised that the Minister of Production has departed in order to find out where that came from. We have been told by implication in all the newspapers that it is a most undesirable thing in the public interest because of international relations that we should have this Debate at this time, that it is untimely. My colleagues who belong to that mysterious institution, the 1922 Committee, apparently came to the conclusion that it was untimely. What is the right time to have a Vote of Censure? Immediately after a victory, or at a time when everybody is bored because there is nothing doing, or when a Government has made a mess of things? When is it time? That phrase is merely one whereby people hope to escape their responsibility to give a vote at the conclusion of this Debate.

We had a great Debate on 7th and 8th May, 1940, a critical Debate. We had suffered great reverses, the situation in Norway was critical. Strong things were said in that Debate, said by all sorts of people, said with great vigour. But was it held by gentlemen who are now members of the Government that we should not have the Debate? Let us read this: What the right hon. Gentleman has said, and what is constantly said, is that you must not attack the Government because it will endanger the country. There are times when the only safety of the country is an attack upon the Government, and it will be a grave dereliction of duty on the part of the Members of this House if, being honestly convinced that it is necessary to challenge the issue, they took no steps to do it. That is why I regard the Debate that we are having to-day as the most momentous that has ever taken place in the history of Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1940; col. 1290, Vol. 360.] They were strong words. A Vote of Censure had been announced that day in the speech of the present Home Secretary. [Interruption.] The Motion was originally a Motion on the Adjournment; it was in form a Motion on the Adjourn- ment. But the Home Secretary opened on the second day with a speech, in the course of which he announced the determination of the party to which he belongs. They said that they were going to interpret that Motion as a Vote of Censure, and the mere fact that it did not take that form on the Order Paper made no difference at all. Who made those remarks which I have just read out—"most momentous in the history of Parliament"? It was the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now Leader of the House, so he is counted out from the point of view of those who think it is untimely that we should have this Debate. I would ask hon. Members, and perhaps more particularly the Deputy Prime Minister, to read what he said: No one of us wishes to give any handle to the enemy, but we have a service and a duty to the nation to perform in examining into the events that have occurred. We have to face facts. We are not afraid of facing facts. This is a reverse and, let it be remembered, high hopes were raised, raised partly in the speeches of Ministers, but very much in the Press and over the wireless."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1940; col. 1087, Vol. 360.] So he is counted out as one of the high moralists who can say that this is not an appropriate occasion to bring the Government to book for those things for which he now has a responsibility.

Some of us without malice—and I am one—for over 18 months have made every kind of representation we could through the usual channels, and sometimes through unusual ones, to urge upon the Prime Minister the principle that we should have a small War Cabinet with its members completely divorced from administrative responsibilities I do not intend to read out too many of these paragraphs, but a very eloquent speech was made on that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman who sits for the St. George's Division of Westminster (Mr. Duff Cooper), and who is now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He has still to make his report about the disaster which occurred in Singapore and Malaya, a thing that dare not be published, in the public interest. May I ask whether it is in the interest of Ministers that it dare not be published? He made an interesting speech outlining the form of Government he believed in, with great clarity and lucidity—the Prime Minister, a separate Minister of Defence, a Minister of Production, a Minister of Home Affairs, a Minister for Foreign Affairs and Information, and a Minister of Economics, all these Ministers to be without departmental responsibility. He has been in the Government for two years and has not achieved those ambitions which he announced in the House then, I agree with them. Does he agree with them to-day? There is the Secretary of State for Air. He said some bright things. He, always does say bright things but says them at rather too great a length, but that does not matter, because we always like the way he says them. He said: Another serious loss we have suffered is the blow to the credit of our Press and the B.B.C."—[OFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1940: col. 1096, Vol. 360.] The B.B.C. is always in trouble. This is another interesting thing he said: Conversely I am not at all sure that it might not be a good thing for Ministers themselves to keep in their own hands contacts with the Press and that it would not be better if contact with the Press were made by Ministers when making statements and not by professional staff officers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1940; col. 1095, Vol. 360.] I have given some good examples, and I only wish that the gospellers who wrote that Bible would re-read it and act accordingly. The Government have been in office for 26 months. During that period they have spent £9,000,000,000 which is a very convenient way to measure our war effort in man-hours spent, material used, etc. With what result? One major victory against our major enemy, the Battle of Britain in the air; won with what? With machines designed and, in the main, constructed before the present Government sat on that Bench. That is their only victory.

Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)

What about Abyssinia?

Sir H. Williams

I said carefully "against our major enemy." The hon. Member who has just interrupted thought on 7th and 8th May, 1940, that this Government should not come into being. His fidelity only began after it was born. He did not support the Vote of Censure that day. To take Abyssinia, our enemies were completely isolated, far away from their home base, and, after all, it was the "Wops" we were fighting, not the Germans. I should not claim that as an outstanding success proving the efficiency of this Government. There were great skill and great courage shown in that campaign, but it could have been won by the pre-war Army, without a Minister of Production and without a War Cabinet. I do not think that is going to be claimed as an outstanding triumph of the Government by which they will be tested when history comes to be written.

None of us who are associated with this Motion has any malice against the Prime Minister. He is a great national figure, and has been for many years. He is attractive in personal relationships, kindly, a man of the happiest family life, all the qualities one admires in a good Englishman, and a capacity for speech so amazing that when people have listened to him they do not think there is any need to do anything themselves. This capacity for speech is a dangerous weapon. The pen is mightier than the sword; the voice is mightier than both. Hitler has created his power by his facility for speech; but he delegates authority to other people. He has a capacity for delegation of authority which the Prime Minister will not adopt. That is not a hostile criticism; it is true. We want that delegation of authority. Until we get it, these troubles will go on. We have had the disaster of Malaya: no explanation; the disaster of Burma: no explanation; the disaster of the two great capital ships: no explanation. Now we have had the disaster of Tobruk; and we do not know what is ahead of us. We meet at the most perilous period in the history of this war; because, if our hold on Egypt goes, we are faced with a situation unpredictable, incredible, almost, in its significance. There was, on a previous occasion, a challenge to the Government of this country in a time of crisis. That challenge resulted in a change of Government. No one associated with that challenge can complain about a similar challenge. I ask Members to examine their consciences in the light of what they then said. The public are angry, disquieted, above all, bewildered; and we must have something better than we have had from the Minister of Production if the public mind is to be quieted.

Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)

There can be no denying that the feeling left in the minds of the people of this country by the recent military disaster is one of acute concern and of great frustration. I do not think the ordinary man-in- the-street wants to indulge in witch-hunts. What he wants to know, broadly, is what is wrong, because his trust in our soldiers is as strong as ever, his trust in himself and in the people generally of this country is as strong as ever, and, I believe, for the most part his belief in the Prime Minister is as strong as ever. At our darkest moments the Prime Minister did not hesitate to be entirely frank with the people of this country; and I hope that, as a result of this Debate, he will answer, not so much the specific inquiries, made with more or less knowledge, by Members of this House, but the broad worries of the British public. I agree with most of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). There must, in these circumstances, be a Debate in this House; but I profoundly regret the form that this Debate has taken. I was sitting in my place on Tuesday of last week when the idea of this Debate first arose, and, however difficult, I think it my duty to say that when I heard the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) say that what was wanted by the House was an opportunity of discussing the conduct of military direction of the war, I strongly disagreed. We are in the middle of a battle that may well decide the fate of our Empire; is that the moment to put down a Motion saying that we mistrust the central direction of the war? [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Norway Debate?"] The Norway Debate arose on a Motion for the Adjournment and not on a Motion of Censure.

Sir H. Williams

I thought the hon. and learned Member was in his place when I pointed out that the present Home Secretary, getting up to open the second day's Debate for the Labour party, pointed out that they were going to treat the Motion as a Vote of Censure.

Mr. Erskine-Hill

I would have said then, as I say now, that it is a most unfortunate thing for the morale of the Army that such a Debate should take place. On the same night I was rung up on the telephone by one well versed in the subject, who pointed out the effect on American opinion of a Motion of this sort going down. The Prime Minister was in America, on the most important negotiations—clearly, they must have been of the greatest importance, to take him there at such a time. Is there any moment when any citizen of this country ought to have greater support than when he is engaged on most delicate and important negotiations for the country?

Sir H. Williams

In the absence of ray hon. Friend, who gave notice of the Motion without my knowledge, might I point out that the Government announced that they would have this Debate, and that the Motion was put down later, the tabling of the Motion being held back until the latest moment, in the hope that the Prime Minister would be back before it was tabled?

Mr. Erskine-Hill

I am glad that the hon. Member has said that. To weaken the support of the Prime Minister when he was engaged in this important work would have constituted a vitriolic attack. [Interruption.] I do not want to raise feelings, and I respect the anxiety and honest purpose of all who put this Motion down; but it is the fact that the entire military direction was attacked by the Motion which made the vital difference between this Motion and a Motion put down by the Government. What happened as a result? In America, the anti-British papers used this Motion for an attack on the Prime Minister. We must remember that what we say in this House goes abroad, and may do irreparable damage. For that reason, I regret that my hon. Friends found it was necessary to put down the present Motion. I am going to say something about what I think does worry the country in regard to the military direction, by the generals. I do not blame the generals for making mistakes. Every general makes mistakes, and the battle is won, as was said, I think, by Napoleon, by the one who makes least mistakes. We especially cannot blame generals who make mistakes, because for years, in peace-time, they had no opportunity of learning their trade, as we had such a small Army. But what I think the man-in-the-street is concerned about is that the younger men who have had practical experience of battle should have their chance, as soon as it can be arranged, of attaining to positions of real control and leadership in the Army, so that we shall have all the benefits of practical experience in a war which is of a novel and an unprecedented character.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox (Wycombe)

As General Ritchie is only 45 and General Auchinleck 58, at what age would the hon. and learned Member appoint men as generals?

Mr. Erskine-Hill

I have no desire to lay down any rules. Many of the older generals are far better than the younger men. I am much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend for raising the point. What is wanted is that, where there is proved merit, there should be every chance given for the younger men to get to the top.

The next point I would like to make—and here I agree with a great deal of what my, hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster said, is that there should be every inquiry made into the question of equipment. There is a profound belief that over and over again our men have been let down by lack of equipment. I said in this House many months ago that I hoped that those who were producing the equipment would have the imagination to look forward and to see that it would not only keep pace with the German effort but would be certain to go beyond it, and I say so now. It is absolutely vital that this country should look ahead. However much we have failed in the past, it is not too late now to do everything we can to see that our equipment is all that can be desired. On the question of appointments, it is absolutely essential that we should reach the stage when promotions are made without any liability to party labels. I believe that the ordinary man-in-the-street would like the Prime Minister to put his own name at the head of a sheet of paper, and, regardless of any other considerations but the national interest, fill in the names of the best possible people. We have reached a stage in the war where it is absolutely of vital importance that we should all co-operate together. The war cannot be won unless there is a more national Government than a coalition Government.

I have said nothing in this speech which suggested that I thought criticism was bad. I would emphasise that my own personal view is that criticism is excellent, but when you make it you must see that it is not doing more harm to the national interest than good. I believe that those who put their names to this Motion acted with the most honourable and sincere purpose. They are profoundly worried, as all of us are worried, that everything should be done to see that changes are made which will bring this war to a speedier conclusion. The war can only be won by a national effort of a most tremendous sort. We want unity wherever we can achieve it, and if we cannot get that then we shall be failing in the 100 per cent. war effort which is essential to success. This House at heart is willing to give up everything for the one purpose. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster in an article published last Sunday, which I read with great interest, said: It is the time for plain speech. The one thing this country has, our one priceless asset, is an absolute and combined determination to win through to victory. I think that no words could have been more truly spoken. Any criticisms I have passed on the terms and timing of this Motion have been because I could not see how in any way the Motion could possibly attain the object of my hon. Friend. If we are prepared to insist upon national effort all round and to forgo our personal ambitions and our party interests, then, I believe, the war will finish more quickly than we imagine because we shall be able to achieve that flow of production, that spirit which is so important to the winning of the war, that will carry all before it. I want the House to realise that to achieve that purpose we have not to let our leaders down in time of crisis, and I for one propose to support the Prime Minister.

Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

I am afraid that any attempt that I might make to deal with the observations which have fallen from the hon. and learned Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Erskine-Hill), or the Minister of Production, would be entirely inadequate, and I believe that only the Prime Minister could deal with them so faithfully and so well and so pungently as he used to do when some similar roseate statements were made from the Government benches before this war. Whether we were right in putting down this Motion or whether we had ulterior motives or were unpatriotic or not is not really for this House to say. The House will be asked to give a vote on the contents of that Vote of Censure, but only our constituents will be able to say whether they believe in our bona fides or not. It may have occurred to the House that so far only one of the speeches has really supported the Government entirely. All the other speeches that have been made have in themselves been votes of censure. They have been critical in varying degrees.

My right hon. Friend who is now leading the Labour party asked for an inquiry. Why should we want an inquiry if things are as satisfactory as we are led to believe by the Government? We ought not to run away from the essential facts. During the time that this Motion is being debated many speeches will be made criticising the Government and asking for changes for which the hon. Member has just asked, and the only difference will be that hon. Members will be unable to support their views by a vote in the Lobby. Something similar to that happened before France fell. At any rate I think hon. Members can be satisfied of the intentions of those Labour Members who have put their names to this Motion when they realise the form of pressure to which Labour Members are subjected from their party. (HON. MEMBERS: "Why do you put up with it?"). We do not put up with it, and that is why we have put our names to this Motion. It is because we believe in our own independent judgment that we can support certain hon. Members with whom we often disagree politically.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)

It would have been better if the hon. Member had worn his uniform then.

Mr. Bellenger

My hon. Friend may be right, but at least I have worn a uniform.

Mr. Logan

May I tell my hon. Friend that my own kith and kin are abroad in the East? They did not ask for a commission and when they got there throw it up.

Mr. Bellenger

I do not think it is necessary for me to follow the remarks of the hon. Member. I am sorry that I have been led off my main theme.

Mr. Logan

Then do not talk about the Labour party.

Mr. Bellenger

I want to convince hon. Members, as I believe they have a right to be convinced, that those of us who put our names to the Motion are determined to carry it right through to the end, whatever the cost. Will it create disunity in the nation? If it does, that will not be our fault. Disunity is already there. There are signs of it in almost every by-election that takes place in this country, and it may interest Members to know that without any request on my part leading supporters, gathered together in council in my constituency, have voted unanimously their approval of my action in supporting this Vote of Censure. I believe the time has arrived when the House should make up its mind whether this series of disasters we have been suffering can go on any longer without some action being taken to prevent them in so far as the House can do it. What are the grounds for our complaint against the Government? I will not say that I can entirely dismiss the military authorities. I do not want to criticise people who cannot reply, but we would be fools, nay, worse than fools, if we overlooked evidence which is there of "inefficiency in the field. I will mention only one instance. Whenever a commander-in-chief, in the midst of a battle, when serious operations like those in Egypt are going on, has to supersede one of his Army commanders and himself take command of operations, then everybody who understands military affairs knows that something is very grievously wrong.

Our main ground of complaint is the lack of adequate equipment, tanks, antitank guns, and dive bombers. The Minister of Production attempted to deal with some of these points in his statement, but I need produce only one argument to show how entirely misleading a Minister's statement may be. He said that the 4.5 gun was a useful weapon to use against tanks. I have no doubt it is, but that is not its main purpose. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will know the purpose of the 4.5 gun in the last war and also in this. Its main purpose is counter battery work. It is a gun which is very heavy to move about and is not mobile enough to deal with fast moving tanks. Why is the House misled by a statement by the Minister of Production on such a serious occasion as this?

Mr. Spens (Ashford)

I am sure the hon. Member misheard my right hon. Friend, who most expressly informed the House that the 4.5 gun was not intended as an anti-tank, gun but had proved most useful in Libya for dealing with tanks. I do not understand the hon. Member's criticism. He has accused my right hon. Friend of misleading the House, and I should have thought that that was a most untruthful statement.

Mr. Bellenger

I will attempt to substantiate the argument. The 4.5 gun was not sent out as an anti-tank gun in the equipment of the Army. The more 4.5 guns you take away from their legitimate purpose—that is, dealing with the enemy's artillery—then the less effective your counter battery work will be. The Minister went on to say that we have a useful anti-tank gun in the 25-pounder. But it was never meant for that, although, of course, it is bound to be effective. Members with any artillery experience know that by putting these guns where they would be effective against tanks you have a high rate of casualties among your gunners, as, in fact, we have had in Libya. In the last battle casualties were probably higher among artillerymen than infantrymen. Let Members ponder that. It is not the proper function of these guns to be anti-tank guns. It is no use the Government saying they have a certain gun which can knock out a tank. We say that the Army must be complete with all types of guns.

Major Gluckstein (Nottingham, East)

I think the hon. Gentleman is unintentionally misleading the House. Surely in the last war there was a 4.5 howitzer which does not exist to-day. Now we have the 4.5 heavy anti-aircraft gun, and these are used, I understand, for anti-tank work.

Mr. Bellenger

They may be used for this purpose at times. I remember that in the last war there was a 4.5 gun as well as a 4.5 howitzer. I served with the 6-inch howitzers. At any rate, there was a gun of this nature. Vast improvements have been made to some of these 4.5 guns to-day, but they are not meant to be antitank guns, and I was merely quoting this to show how easily one can be misled by, no doubt, an innocent remark of a Minister.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

The hon. Member is saying that the Minister misled the House. Surely he has always understood that the 25-pounder has a secondary role in an anti-tank capacity. Every gunner understands that.

Mr. Bellenger

Of course it has; so has the infantry a secondary role, but it is the primary role we are concerned with, and unless you concentrate on the primary role you will never get adequate equipment. However, if I dealt in detail with all these points, it would take up the time of the House far longer than I, or they, would wish. The next point of our complaint is this: There appears to us to have been faulty strategical planning. There seems to have been hand-to-mouth planning. Members saw signs of that when troops were diverted from the theatre of war to which they were proceeding and sent to Singapore, where they marched off their ships almost into captivity. We say that you cannot fight by this means a man like Hitler, who lives on no hand-to-mouth policy but who works with big-scale maps and has done so since the beginning of the war. Planning must be visualised as a whole. I know how impossible it is for a Private Member of this House to deal with this subject adequately, but Members often talk over this matter themselves. Those with contacts with those responsible for our planning know what I am referring to.

Another ground for complaint against the Government is this: I should have thought, in view of what the Minister of Production told us to-day, that it was, quite obvious from the start that we could not hope to carry out a serious offensive policy until at least two or three years after the war had begun. I should have thought that we would have taken up a most strongly defended line and held it until the time for a counter-offensive, instead of which the subject of a counterattack and a second front has now become a public issue. It should not be. We are dealing with the lives of men, and our sons, and this should not be a subject for public agitation. It is the Government's fault for having allowed it to develop to that point. I will not say it may not be vitally necessary—not in Russia's interests, but in the interests of this war—to start an attack when we may not be fully prepared for it. I will not be the first to say to the Government, without more adequate knowledge than I have at the moment, when they should do it or whether they should do it at all. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says that they have promised it. That is like a good many more of the Government's statements—open to more than one interpretation.

There is another ground of complaint that I have against the Government. I direct my remarks particularly to my Labour colleagues in the Government. Although I sometimes have the reputation of being what is popularly known as a "rebel," I do not think the Labour Members of the Government will say that in this war I have not tried, as far as possible, to support them and the Government. Indeed, I advocated, in the Debate on Norway, when no other Labour Member did so, that Labour should take its responsibility; but I am not going to let the matter stop at that. I say to my hon. Friends in the Government that I am very much surprised that they, at any rate, have not found it possible to make a more inspiring appeal to all classes in this country, particularly those who work by hand and brain. We delude ourselves when we go on to platforms up and down the country and say that the country is working all out. Many people are working very long hours—I am afraid too long hours for production purposes and for their own health—but that does not mean that we are getting the production. Every hon. Member knows that we are not getting it. I should have thought that it would have been possible to rouse the country as it was roused by Lord Kitchener in 1914. He did not promise a quick war; he said to all those whom he asked to join up, "Three years or the duration of the war." The Government, from the start of the war, and even now, in face of disaster, are leading us to believe that prosperity is just round the corner. Mr. Hoover said the same thing; there was not a Vote of Censure against him in Congress, but he went down; and I warn the Government that if they do not pay attention to their constructive and friendly critics, they will suffer the same fate. It matters not to me, or perhaps to them, whether they do, but it seriously matters to me if my country goes down with them.

Another ground of complaint is the indecision and the patchwork policy of the Government. Let us take coal, the most recent example of this indecision. I wonder what Hitler and his generals said if they read, or had reported to them, the Debates that took place here on coal. If that matter was a sign of the virility of our military policy, we are doomed to defeat, whatever the people or the Army try to do. We must have much firmer methods and much firmer minds, both in the military and civilian spheres, if we are to win the war. I will mention one other thing—swages and taxation. We are in the happy, or unhappy, position that the Chancellor is piling on taxes and demands are coming from everywhere for increased wages. Of course there will be those demands ad infinitum with this lack of a clear policy. I shall myself take part in advocating those demands, in a very early Debate, on behalf of the Armed Forces of the Crown, who are one of the most underpaid sections of the community. Nevertheless, with this policy, where shall we stop? The Chancellor apparently does not know, the Government do not know. But I think most of us have our ideas of where we shall end.

The liaison between the two land Forces is not good enough. Every airman and every Army man knows that the liaison, although it has become close, is not sufficient. We need integration before we can get satisfactory results from our two land Forces. At the present time, I am a little perturbed by the feeling which there is between some Air Force officers and some Army officers. I am certain that in their own minds, with the best will in the world, they are still a bit doubtful of each other. The Army think they are not getting dive bombers and close co-operation from the Air Force, and unfortunately, with reason sometimes, the Air Force think the Array are not doing their job. The defeats we are suffering all tend to underline that difference. It is a bad sign. I do not want to exaggerate, or to say that it is widespread or so deep that it cannot be remedied, but to my knowledge there is a little coolness—I put it no higher—between the two branches of the land Forces.

I feel that we have to go a little more closely into the question of generals, and indeed, admirals, too, and perhaps, for all we know, air marshals. I will not attempt to deal with that matter, because it is not within my province to do so, but the public mind is, to say the least, a little disturbed by this series of reverses. The Government, indeed, are themselves critics of those Services. What do the Government attempt to do? The Prime Minister tells us, and tells the Army at the same time, that, for the first time, "British and Empire troops will meet the Germans with ample equipment in modern weapons of all kinds," and again, that, "on the whole, we have met Rommel with equal weapons." What does that mean? Why have we not won, and why have the Germans won, if we have air superiority and equal weapons? Does it not, by implication, tend to throw criticism upon the fighting ardour and valour of our troops? It may not have been intended to have that effect, but while the Government attempt to protect themselves, they throw doubt upon the leadership of our troops and their personal valour. I, like every hon. Member, would be the last to desire that. But let the Government inquire very closely into the leadership in the Armed Forces.

The last matter I wish to raise in connection with our grounds of complaint is what I would term the "news dope." The news that we have received time and again would not be submitted to children in a nursery. We are men, and not children to put up with the fatuous statements that have been made both from Cairo and here at home. Why cannot the Government deal with this matter? Why cannot they concert the news and opinions which flow from official quarters and tell the country the truth, as they are not doing at the present time? Why is the country so despondent? A little while ago the newspapers were warning the country to be careful and not to be so optimistic—the war was not won. There was a feeling in the country, which I had heard expressed by many otherwise intelligent men, that the war would end this year. Every year, almost, we have had talk of that sort and everyone knew, especially the Government, especially the Minister of Production, who has recited to us to-day the shortcomings of previous Governments, every Minister, everybody with average intelligence, knew that there never was any possibility of finishing the war in quick time, and that it will be a long war, as Mr. Curtin or one of the other Dominion Prime Ministers said, and that we must prepare for it—and not with talk only. We must strip to the waist. We are not stripped to the waist; we are muffled up with very comfortable words from those who speak to us almost every week-end.

I submit to the House that this situation can be remedied only by a complete change in the heart of the Government. The Motion means, if I understand it aright—and this is why I shall vote for it, unless I hear from the Prime Minister that he is prepared to concede the things for which we are asking—it means, in effect, that the Government's policy must undergo a radical change, and indeed, that there must be a change in the personnel of the Government. Generals can be dismissed and retired, officers can be thrown out of the Army if they happen to be over a certain datum line in age; why, therefore, should we hesitate in the case of those members of the Government who have time and again shown their inefficiency and their incompetency?

A duty which cannot be escaped rests with every hon. Member in this House. If hon. Members try to avoid issues for reasons of party loyalty or because of personal friendships to individuals in the Government, then Parliament itself will be in danger. Parliament cannot hope to survive if Members continually run away from the things which they know to be true, which they talk about in the smoke-room and elsewhere in private conversations, which they discuss in their clubs and with their friends, and which they read in the newspapers.

I would ask those who attempt to say that this is a wicked, diabolical and filthy agitation by certain newspaper proprietors to choose their words a little more carefully. I am not a newspaper proprietor, and I am not concerned in defending them, but at least one of those newspapers, which I always understood to be, and which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said was, Labour's own newspaper, has been just as vehement and consistent in its attack upon the Government as some of those capitalist newspapers which we may or may not read. Let us be clear in our own minds what we are censuring in this Motion. We ask some of the Members who, just as sincerely, hold the same convictions as we, to come with us into the Lobby, not to destroy unity, but to give an impetus and greater virility to our war effort, so that we can bring the war to a complete and successful conclusion.

Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)

In spite of the vigorous observations of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), and in spite of the speech to which we have just listened, I am convinced that most Members in this House regret that a Debate of this kind should be taking place at this moment on a Motion of Censure. To-day, by common agreement, we are facing one of the gravest anxieties in the whole period of the war. Eight days have passed since my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) made his somewhat impetuous intimation that he and certain of his friends would support a Motion of Censure, only 48 hours after the fall of Tobruk, when the situation was obviously fluid and perilous. During those eight days the position has continued to become more and more anxious, and day after day I hoped the hon. Member and his friends would see that this was a most inappropriate season for such a Motion in the middle of such a battle. My hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon sought to draw a parallel with the great Debate of 7th and 8th May, 1940, which took place before I had the honour to be a Member of this House. I hope my facts are correct, but my impression is that when that Debate began, the Norwegian affair had substantially ended, and there was no reason whatever to believe that the storm was going to break on Denmark and Holland three days later.

Sir H. Williams

My hon. Friend is totally wrong in saying that the Norwegian episode had ended. Even after that a declaration was made that it was still to be a major issue. Narvik had not happened.

Mr. Willink

In spite of what my hon. Friend says, it was not a moment of supreme crisis in the sense that exists today. It was not a moment when an intimation, such as that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, could have had the damaging effects which the Prime Minister hinted at earlier.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

I would ask my hon. and learned Friend to remember it has been made perfectly clear in this House to-day that this Motion has nothing to do with the fighting in Libya, but deals with the whole question of the provision of materials for our troops both in Libya and elsewhere.

Mr. Willink

If my hon. Friend feels that his interruption covers the ground, I venture to submit my disagreement. It is not the subject-matter of his attack which is the gravamen of my charge, but that any attack on the whole central direction of the war should be made in the middle of a critical battle. At the last moment before this Debate began my hon. Friend sought to put the burden on the Government. I, personally, regret very much that the Debate has not been postponed for a week or ten days until the situation is more clear, or, alternatively, if a Debate had to take place at this moment, that it should be conducted in this particular form. Let no one think that those who have a sense of responsibility are not exceedingly anxious. I do not suggest irresponsibility in the speeches which have been made in support of the Motion. But my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) suggested that a Division upon a Motion of this kind will not cause disunity, and appealed in the same breath for all Members to follow him and his friends into the Lobby. Can it seriously be suggested that reports going all over the world that a large number of Members in this House have expressed their lack of confidence in the central direction of the war would not create an impression of disunity? To my mind the matter is self-evident.

As I am referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw, perhaps I may deal with a matter he raised, and which I hope will be clarified by the Government. I am speaking about the question of the 4.5 howitzer. I know something about that gun, because I had the honour to command a battery for two-and-a-half years in the last war. If the Minister of Production was referring to the 4.5 howitzer, it is totally inaccurate to say that the primary object of that gun was for counter battery work.

Mr. Bellenger

There is a vast difference in the range of a 4.5 howitzer and a 4.5 gun, and, therefore, I imagine the right hon. Gentleman was referring to a 4.5 gun.

Mr. Willink

If he was, my experience has no relevance to the matter. There was no 4.5 gun in the last war. My impression was that my right hon. Friend was referring to the 4.7 gun. However that may be I was quite unable to follow the argument that because a gun was designed for a primary purpose it should not be used and taken into account for some other purpose, particularly when we recall that the 88 mm. gun which the enemy have used with effect is primarily an anti-aircraft gun. Why in those circumstances he should quarrel with reliance being place upon or account being taken of the 4.5-inch gun I entirely fail to understand.

Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)

I should like to suggest that my hon. and learned Friend is completely forgetting the tremendous importance of mobility and is overlooking the fact that the. 88 mm. gun is mounted on a mobile carriage.

Mr. Nunn (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Is not the 4.5, about which all this discussion is taking place, the heavy mobile A.A. gun?

Mr. Willink

For further light on the subject we must await further information.

Mr. Bevan

Cannot the Secretary of State for War enlighten us?

Mr. Willink

As I listened to the opening speech in the Debate I was, of course, struck, as we always are, by my hon. Friend's sincerity, but I could not help feeling that his advocacy of his cause was hardly fair. There were so many major points in our inherent situation to which he gave no attention and did not refer in any way. I am going to refer to certain points which cause me real anxiety and worry. But I desire to show that I am, so far as I can, taking into account what I have referred to as major inherent facts in our situation.

My hon. Friend never referred to the long years—many years before the war—during which Germany planned her armour—armour of many kinds I am told. He did not refer to the state of our plans for tanks at the beginning of the war, a matter on which I hope we shall hear something from the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) whose name is attached to the Motion and who, we are given to understand, will intervene. I think the difference between the German and our preparations in the matter of tanks at the beginning of the war and for many months afterwards, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon-port was still Secretary of State for War, has much to do with our present troubles. No reference either was made by my hon. Friend to something which seems to me quite central. No reference was made to two baffling problems in the distribution of our resources. An immensely difficult problem must have faced the War Cabinet after the invasion of Russia as to what amount of assistance was possible, and an immensely difficult problem arose as to the proper measures to take in anticipation of a possible attack by Japan. A third inherent feature of great importance and relevance lies in the length of our route to Libya and the shortness of the route of our enemies, and a fourth in the very great length of time, not well understood by the public I am sure, that it takes to produce in any quantity new types of either ranks or aircraft.

May I pass to a few matters on which I hope Government speakers—I hope the Prime Minister himself—will be able to give us some explanation and assurance? The country as a whole, I feel sure, and many instructed people in particular, are still not convinced that we have yet achieved that full measure of co-operation between the Fighting Services and the Ministry of Supply which is essential. I believe myself that our troubles mainly lie in the past, many of them in the quite distant past, and it seems to me unwise and unreasonable to stress some of these points in relation to a Government which was reconstructed, to the general satisfaction of the House, only five months ago. The Minister of Production can have singularly little responsibility for the weapons in Libya to-day. My second point—it is a delicate subject, but frank speech is best, and I feel sure that explanation and assurance would be welcomed—relates to the frequent rumours of political interference with commanders in the field. I will mention one instance in particular, to which I myself have not for a moment felt inclined to give the slightest credence. It is directly in relation to this campaign and it relates to the holding of Tobruk. Looking at this matter, with ordinary common sense I hope, I see that there was great military advantage in holding Tobruk if it could be held. We all heard General Auchinleck's statement that the force left there was believed to be fully adequate for this purpose, and that Tobruk should be held was obviously most desirable. I feel sure that it Would be a great assurance to many to be told categorically that the decision to hold Tobruk was a military decision.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman stating that in his opinion it has always been General Auchinleck's intention that Tobruk should be held?

Mr. Willink

It is not for me to express military opinions as to General Auchinleck's intentions. What I was expressing was a layman's opinion that there was no evidence of political interference in the mere fact that. Tobruk was held when it was held, but it has been widely stated and I hope that it will be categorically denied. The third point on which I know there is anxiety, and of which I hope there may be some explanation, is as to what would appear to have been a serious miscalculation about the adequacy of the detachment. It cannot be denied that people have been gravely disturbed by the speed with which the fall of Tobruk was achieved by the enemy.

As my fourth point, I would raise the question of General Cunningham. The speech of the Minister of Production was not fairly described by the hon. Member who spoke last. I did not get the Impression at all that my right hon. Friend was saying that everything was very satisfactory. He gave us descriptions of our armament in Libya from time to time. But five or six months ago we heard that on 24th November a general in whom we at that time had great confidence, General Cunningham, had been replaced, or superseded, as I gathered because he felt that it was wrong to go further with that campaign at the moment.

Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)

Was it not stated at the time that it was for reasons of health? Was that true?

Mr. Willink

It was said that the general was suffering in health, but the reason for his supersession was, I gathered, that he was not pushing on as fast as he should. He was "under the weather" as one might put it. It looks as if a decision not to go further at that point might have been the right decision at that time.

On all these matters the country is very anxious, but I believe that the main cause of our grave troubles lies in the past, not least in that period when, instead of a steady drive in the organisation of production we had a policy of fitful impulse and showmanship. I would add that the course of this Debate and the speech of the Minister of Production have confirmed the grave disquiet I felt when I first read the speech that Lord Beaverbrook made on 12th February with regard to the 6-pounder gun.

My reasons for voting against this Motion could hardly be better put than in certain words that I should like to read. They were spoken on 28th January this year, and they run as follows: I think there are interests at stake much greater than the question of the constitution of this Government, much greater than the position of the Prime Minister himself. There is the whole question of the Inter-Allied war relationship in the most difficult days which are to come. To my mind it is essential, absolutely essential, that at a vital time like this it should be made perfectly clear to the whole world that the British people are of one mind, that we are behind this or any other Government which will fight the war to a successful conclusion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1942; col. 739, Vol. 377.] These were the words of the hon. Member who moved this Vote of Censure. For the reasons he stated there I shall cast my vote against it.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)

I was one of 40 Members who, by voting against our own party, were instrumental in getting rid of the last Government and in substituting the present Administration in the spring of 1940. For my part, I certainly do not regret the action we took on that occasion. I regret to see that ray hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), who played a great part with us, in that transaction, appears to be anxious to-day to undo his handiwork. I think that we were just in the nick of time when we changed the Government, and I have never seen any reason to change my view upon that matter. When all is said and done, this is the Government, and this the Prime Minister, who "stood when earth's foundations fell." They saw us through a tougher hour than we are going through at the moment; and I see no reason to believe that they will not see us through again to-day.

What is the solution that has been offered to the House by the Mover and Seconder of this Motion? I yield to no hon. Member in my admiration, affection and loyalty for the Royal Family; but I cannot believe that the final solution of our present problems, in our great fight for democracy, is to be found in the appointment as Commander-in-Chief of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. If that was the main object of my hon. Friend, I think he showed great levity in putting down a Vote of Censure; a Vote which has, by common consent, done great damage to this country in other countries, and which has undoubtedly advantaged the enemy.

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

Surely the hon. and gallant Member ought not to say there is common consent, because many of us would not put down a Motion which would advantage the enemy. We have put it down because we believe it will advantage this country.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I am not disputing the point my hon. Friend makes, but I say that by common consent the effect of the Motion abroad, particularly in the United States, has been very unfortunate. An impression has been conveyed that the House of Commons lacks confidence in the present Government and the Prime Minister, and I think that that at this juncture has done harm rather than good. It may be that my hon. Friend did not think that would be the result. Equally I am sure he never thought that the main object of the Mover of the Motion was to make the Duke of Gloucester the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. What did the Seconder of the Motion say? He said it would be a "deplorable disaster" if anything happened to remove the Prime Minister from his office, or anything occurred to diminish his power. The whole of his argument was that the Prime Minister had not half enough power, and did not exercise it sufficiently.

It seems to me that to bring forward a Motion of this gravity at this hour of danger in these circumstances is rather an irresponsible thing to do. I am convinced that so long as the present Prime Minister remains head of the Government he has to be Minister of Defence, because what can a Prime Minister be in time of war but Minister of Defence? He must also have the machinery that he chooses, and he must accept the supreme and main responsibility. On this issue no compromise is possible. It would be entirely wrong for this House to attempt to impose upon him some form of machinery that he does not want, or to attempt to curb his powers. The choice which lies before us at the end of the Debate is either to keep the present Prime Minister and the present methods of conducting the war at the summit and the centre, or to dismiss the Government with the object of changing the Prime Minister. The House will be well advised to face that, because that is the real issue. I am in favour of keeping the present Government and the present Prime Minister in power and, therefore, I think it is a waste of time to argue about the machinery of government at the summit. The conduct of operations in the field should be subject to searching criticism in the House from time to time, with a view to correcting faults; and the Government ought not to resent such criticism if it is made in the right spirit.

We have had an interesting speech from the Minister of Production on the subject of production. I am not an expert on this subject, but I have always secretly held the view that many of those who were responsible for the conduct of our affairs in 1938 and 1939 ought to have been imprisoned rather than promoted. Nothing that my right hon. Friend said has changed that view. The question has been asked, and I have no doubt will be asked again before the Debate is over "whether we had" enough of the right kind of weapons, in the right place, at the right time. If the answer is, as I think it must be, "Not always," it is surely primarily the fault of those who for years before the war, and despite repeated warnings, failed to discharge the primary duty of any Government to secure the safety of the Realm. What is the complaint of the critics? It is that we have been unable to provide adequately for the defence of Greece, Crete, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, India and Egypt, as well as this country; and at the same time supply substantial quantities of arms to Russia, and to start another front. In the circumstances that have prevailed, the thing was never possible; and the only criticism of the Government, if there is a criticism, is not that they have not done enough, but that they have attempted to do too much with the material at their disposal. That is a criticism which is not often heard, but it might well be heard again.

It is necessary to remind the House, which is, after all, ultimately responsible, that even after Munich a great effort could have been made to speed up the production of arms before the outbreak of the war, and that it was not made. For months on end some of us continued to press the Government to set up a Ministry of Supply, and we were always told that it would interfere with industry and was therefore not justified. "We are not at war" the late Prime Minister said. But in fact we were at war; and the first campaign of this war was lost in 1938, with results from which we still suffer. The second campaign was lost in 1939 before a shot was fired by this country except at sea. And the third campaign culminated in Dunkirk, and the tragic loss of such material as we then possessed in France. After all that is only just over two years ago. We had to start all over again, literally from scratch. I sometimes wonder whether hon. Members bear in mind the state in which we found ourselves on the morrow of Dunkirk. We had not even enough rifles for the Regular Army. We had to begin again right at the beginning. I think that, in all the circumstances, we have done very well; and certainly the present Government are not to blame.

What has happened since? I think they were a bit slow in appointing a Minister of Production; but the limiting factor, so far as reinforcing overseas is concerned, has been the loss of sea power, with all that that involves. It takes six months to reinforce our forces in the Middle East, and longer in the Far East. Are the Government responsible for this? I cannot think so. Let hon. Members look back to the Naval Treaty of 1935, which gave Germany the right, the legal right, to build and to train a great submarine fleet. Look also at the Government which brought us into the war, with inadequate stocks, with a rotting agriculture, with a comparatively small merchant fleet, and with shipyards all round the coast which had been deliberately dismantled as a part of the Government's policy.

Mr. Quibell (Brigg)

It was a Tory Government.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I was against them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has complained frequently of the lack of air support for the Army, But air support for the Army does depend largely upon dive bombing, and we have it upon the authority of the Secretary of State for Air that orders for dive bombers were not placed until after the present Government came into power. In these circumstances what has my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport got to say, with conviction, on the subject of adequate air support for the Army?

If we turn to the Far East, Admiral Richmond has pointed out that our losses there were entirely due to Japanese naval supremacy in the Pacific; and I ask hon. Members again: Were this Government responsible for that? No. We must look here to Pearl Harbour, which temporarily drove the United States Fleet out of the Pacific Ocean, and obliged us to send naval reinforcements to America instead of getting reinforcements from America. Nevertheless, during these months we have managed to collect and secure Syria, to secure Persia, and to secure Madagascar, three vital strategic points. Apart from that, the major decision of His Majesty's Government, in the face of all these fearful disasters, has been—what? To continue, persistently and remorselessly, to reinforce on a very great scale the Russian armies. Who in this House is prepared to say that that strategic decision is wrong? I do not think anybody can say that, when they see what is going on. We must bear in mind the fact that we have, persistently and consistently, and in spite of all the disasters which have befallen us, gone on with the reinforcement of the Russian armies. I think it is absolutely essential that this House should bear in mind the truly terrible legacy that was inherited by the Prime Minister and the members of the present Government, for which the House itself, together with all its Members—at any rate a lot of us—bears a very great responsibility.

Next I should like to say a word or two with regard to the actual conduct of operations in this Middle East campaign, because in the last three or four weeks I have had the great advantage of meeting at my station in the Royal Air Force no fewer than four members of operational squadrons who have just returned from the Middle East; and, without giving away anything that could conceivably be of value to the enemy, I should like to give in broad outline the picture they have painted for me. They have all been there for the last 12 months, most of them for 18 months, and two of them for two years. They have painted a picture of an enormous staff in Cairo, writing minutes and filing documents. They have painted a picture of an absence of inter-Service co-operation, not at the top, but in the lower ranges. One of them said, "You know, we never really knew exactly what the Pongos were trying to do." For the benefit of hon. Members, "Pongos" is the name the Air Force gives to the Army; and if hon. Members look it up in the dictionary they will see that Pongos are an obscure African tribe of rather dim intelligence. It is just one of those inter-Service genialities, and is not to be regarded as denoting any serious hostility between the Services. But it is an indication of lack of co-operation. They do not seem to have had any idea of what was behind the strategical or tactical movements of the Army.

Then they painted a picture of the absolutely maddening slowness of communications; and another picture of endless headquarters. I am not saying whether they are right or wrong; but everything seems to have had to go from battalion headquarters to brigade, brigade to division, division to corps, and so on, up to Cairo; and then back it had to come from Cairo to corps, to division, to brigade, to battalion—and mostly in code. All this caused endless delays. Finally, they did say there was a lack of authority amongst comparatively junior officers actually on the field of battle, to give decisions, and to give orders; and that consequently there was a certain lack of initiative. One of these officers said, "No one in the front line could ever say 'I want two fighter squadrons at point B in 10 minutes' and be sure that they would be there." But that is what Rommel was doing all the time. In short the general impression they gave was of a clogged machine.

The contrasting picture they drew f Rommel was of a man in the front line directing operations from an armoured car or an aeroplane, changing his mind every 10 minutes, but enforcing his decisions without delay, signalling en clair, driving his transports in the full glare of headlights and searchlights, and prepared to stand up to a certain amount of losses for the sake of speed. There was the case of the tanker which he got into the port of Benghazi, within 24 hours of reaching the place. The whole impression of Rommel which was given to me was an impression of speed. Lord Fisher once said Speed is the essence of war; and I am sure there is a good deal of truth in that aphorism. I do not necessarily accept all the views of these officers absolutely literally; I merely give them to the House because I think they are of interest. But when I happen to open the "Daily Telegraph" and read from the sober military correspondent of that newspaper the current crack that if Rommel ever gets to the Pyramids and our G.H.Q. staff have to turn out in its own defence then it will be the first time in his career that Rommel will have found himself outnumbered, I begin to wonder. In the, same article I read that one is reluctantly driven to the conclusion that some part of what has happened is due to the tendency to put in command of armoured units officers whose sole qualification has been cavalry experience, and I believe there must be something in that. If we ask ourselves the question, "Has Rommel won so far by superior strength or superior speed?" probably the truthful answer would be that it was by superior speed. I am not qualified to discuss the technical merits of tanks as my hon. Friend has done; but I do suggest that speed has had a great deal to do with what has happened, and the corollary is that once again our tactics have been obvious, orthodox, and slow. The lessons we have to learn from this campaign are our lack of speed, and a certain lack of flexibility.

I see present my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, and I feel very doubtful whether in my position I ought to venture to say anything with regard to Air policy at the present moment; but I would suggest that if any force should be mobile it is the Bomber Command, and I would further suggest that in recent months it has not been very mobile. It seems to me that we could have reinforced substantially the Middle East with bomber squadrons flown direct from this country during the winter months. They were not over Cologne then, because the Continent was icebound and frost-bound and fog-bound; and they could have been flown back in time to take part in the great spring air offensive against Germany. I do not know whether we could have sent them there in the numbers required; but I think that an effort might have been made to move a force of heavy bombers, and a greater effort might have been made to smash finally and for ever the ports on the north coast of Africa which have proved to be of such immense value to Rommel. It sems to me that there has also been a tendency to under-estimate the strength of the enemy before undertaking an operation—we see that in the Cairo communiques—and also a certain tendency to complacency after a tactical success which may have been only temporary. We were inclined, so my friends have said to me, to sit down after we had captured Benghazi and say, "That is a damned good job. Let's have a drink, and we can take Tripoli next month."

Viscountess Astor

Hear, hear.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I am glad that I have converted my hon. Friend to alcohol. I knew it would happen sooner or later. This lack of flexibility is an old story; and I think one is driven to the conclusion that our whole system is still too rigid. At one time or another every hon. Member has had bitter experience of the difficulty of getting quick decisions or, indeed, any decisions from Government Departments. Our civil administration, with its system of committees and Treasury control, was designed, indeed, to avoid decisions; and it was not at all bad for that purpose. Committees are the curse of this country, and to-day Whitehall is more committee-ridden than ever. I remember during my brief period of office as a Minister of the Crown the first Ministerial Committee which I ever attended. I was thrilled and excited. It was just about the time of Dunkirk. I went into the room and found a large table surrounded by some of the most eminent Ministers of the Crown. I sat down awed and expectant. For over half-an-hour we discussed whether a Scottish Act dealing with divorce law reform was to be applied to Scotsmen domiciled in India or not. I am only giving that as an example of the sort of things that happen at committees. I believe that a man will take a decision quicker than a committee every time.

I despair of changing the system so far as the Civil Service is concerned; but it is a little disheartening to find so much of it in the Armed Forces and in the Fighting Services. There may be a lack of cooperation between the Services in the field of battle, but, in the great internal paper war that is conducted day and night in all the Services without cessation they have a great deal in common. Files, minutes, forms to be rendered in quadruplicate and sometimes in sextuplicate, returns, A.C.I.'s, A.M.O.'s—one after the other the papers descend. I feel that it would be a good thing if Ministers would direct their attention once again, as I believe they have done in the past, to eliminating some of this avalanche of paper that falls upon all of us in the country to-day; and try also to reduce the number of committees, because if Rommel has taught us anything he has taught us the value of quick decisions.

I come now to my last point, the constructive proposal that I want to make. I apologise if I have been too long, but it is a simple one and relates to the question of inter-Service co-operation. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Major C. Taylor) has put down an Amendment on the Paper which I think goes to a very large extent to the root of this problem. I believe that there is a definite lack of effective co-operation between the Services at the lower levels. I am not speaking now about the Chiefs of Staff, or the high staffs anywhere; or, about Whitehall. I mean that all the way through the Services there is a lack of knowledge about the other Services, and even about other branches of the same Service. Take Bomber Command. They know as much about what Fighter Command is doing as if they were fighting the war in Mars. There is no real mutual co-operation or knowledge between different branches of the Services and the different Services; and I feel most strongly that that is all wrong in a mechanised war which is being fought in three dimensions. The ultimate aim must be the combined unit, and a unified command. Over a year ago some of us advocated combined staff training. That was turned down; but I still think that it is not too late to fill the gap. I believe that it would be a very good thing to select some of the ablest junior officers of all three Services and post them as liaison officers with the other Services, on the German lines. The Germans have a carefully worked-out system of liaison officers, which extends right down to battalion headquarters; and I beg Ministers of the Crown to give this question of inter-Service co-operation, and the institution of combined staff training very serious consideration.

In conclusion I would like to say that the rigidity of our system, and the general lack of flexibility, is, perhaps, inherent in our national character; but it is much more deadly in this war than in the last. The last war was won, in the end, by the steadfast endurance of our troops. This war will not be won by valour alone, but by superior administration and superior ability. Up to date we have consistently under-estimated the dynamic of the German war machine under Nazi leadership; most grossly perhaps in the Autumn of 1939; but again, and badly, during the last three months, when an insane wave of optimism swept this country and the United States of America. Do not let us make that mistake again. At the same time, do not let us be cast down. The production of the United Nations in the long run must be absolutely irresistible, and can be made irresistible. As for the personnel, no one who has spent a year in a bomber station can have any doubts about them. There is no reason for this House, or for the country, to lose their spirit because of a tactical reverse in the North African desert. There is no reason to be miserable. The British Empire was not created by men who were miserable and melancholy. It was created by men who were merry; and I think that there are limits to the value of purposeless austerity, which can be carried too far, especially so far as the Armed Forces of the Crown are concerned. Rather let us say, with our greatest modern poet, The troubles of our proud and angry dust Are from eternity and shall not fail: Bear them we can, and if we can, we must; Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I am sorry the Prime Minister is going away, because I shall have quite a few observations to make about him at a later stage, but no doubt he will have the opportunity of reading them in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has made a speech, as he always does, of great ability. I propose in my few observations to revert to an earlier practice of this House and endeavour to reply to what my hon. and gallant Friend and others have said in the course of the Debate. He made a number of serious statements which require answering, statements about the late Government, and may I say in parenthesis that it would really be more appropriate so far as those statements are concerned if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were standing at this Box, for the attacks which my hon. and gallant Friend made were much more against him than they were against any other member of the late Government. He has also made some statements of a very serious character about our military leadership and the whole of our military system which, as an old soldier of the last war, I shall answer to the best of my ability.

First of all, however, I would like to make a preliminary observation of a somewhat egoistical character. In doing so, I represent, though I have no right to use their names or the names of their constituencies, a good many hon. Members of this House, including at least one right hon. Gentleman and probably two or three. The position is this: We find ourselves so placed that we cannot conscientiously express agreement either with the Motion which has been put down or with the Government, and I will explain in two sentences why that is so. May I say in passing that I have always thought that those who complain that it is the height of weakness to abstain from voting in a Division could never have heard the old election story, one of the oldest stories in the world, about the man who asked, "Have you left off beating your wife yet?" There are some questions which are incapable of being answered by a definite "Yes" or "No." I do not agree with my hon. Friend who put down this Motion in completely condemning the direction of the war. I think there are certain respects in which the war direction has been good, but I want my hon. Friends in all parts of the House to have regard to this fact: A vote given to the Government in this Debate will be a vote which will largely exonerate the Government from anything which may happen in the next few critical weeks. I have evidence which I shall produce in the course of my speech, very different from that brought forward by the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, which goes to show that one of the major reasons for our failure in Libya is the state of our equipment—I mean by that our armoured cars and tanks, and their inferiority to those of the other side. I shall endeavour to show, having due regard to what Mr. Speaker said about the length of speeches, that it is quite impossible for my hon. and gallant Friend, despite his great enthusiasm, to show that the fault lies with previous Governments. It lies with this Government.

That brings me to my first point, and there I would like to say quite frankly that I agree that the Government of 1935, of which I was a member, along with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman who is immediately opposite me, and many other people in the House, must be condemned for its failure to provide equipment which, in the result, has proved to be necessary. At some future date when it would be right to do so under the Official Secrets Act, I shall seek permission from the Prime Minister of that day to disclose a fact in connection with the armaments policy of Mr. Chamberlain's Government which will show what the real reason was—it is not the reason given by the critics—for the slowness in the production of armaments. I cannot give that reason now because of the Official Secrets Act, but I am entitled to refer to it, and it is of historical importance and interest. I am perfectly entitled to say, in reply to an attack made upon that Government, that if anyone knew all the facts he would know that there was one preponderating reason which was responsible.

Let me say one other thing about this first phase. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken failed to mention in his criticism of the Chamberlain Government one thing which cannot be brought out too often in Debate. That Government—and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree with me, as would anyone who held office in it—handicapped as it was by the considerations to which I have referred—and perhaps I might say, in parenthesis, is it not really ridiculous at this time of day that anybody should get up and say that all the blame rests with the Government before the war?

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

If my Noble Friend will give way for a moment, I would like to point out that I never said "all the blame." I said "a very large part of the blame," and that the House was very apt to forget it.

Earl Winterton

That was not what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said. I have his words down. He went much further than that. I do not want to quarrel with anybody on this matter; I think it is admitted that the whole House and the whole country were to blame. Of course they were. In what other country in Europe were people voting against Cadet Corps? In what other country in Europe was the Leader of the Opposition publicly proclaiming himself an enemy of all armaments? It is nonsense to pretend that they were not. My hon. and gallant Friend is perfectly entitled to say that the Government must bear the greater blame, but he is not entitled to say what he did say, all through his speech, namely, What is the use of attacking the present Government when all that has happened and all the defeats which we have suffered are the result of what went on two years ago? They are not. They are very largely the result of what this Government and of what this Prime Minister have done; not entirely, but very largely, and that is why I find myself once again in a difficulty. If I vote for this Motion, I unequivocally condemn this Government for something for which they are not wholly responsible, and if I support the Government, I give them carte blanche and say that they are the most wonderful Government in the world. What about all those defeats which my hon. and gallant Friend so lightly brushed aside when he said how wonderful it was that we had taken Syria, Abyssinia and Madagascar? Has he never heard of Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya, Burma, or the Battle of the Atlantic? Has he never heard of this unparalleled series of collapses? If he means to make a balanced statement of the subject, he must take them into account as well as the great victories we have won.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I must ask my Noble Friend to allow me to interrupt; I did give a balanced account. I said that in the face of the "fearful disasters" which we have suffered, it was rather remarkable that we have managed to secure those countries at all.

Earl Winterton

I will accept what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, and turn now to what the right hon. Gentleman opposite described, I think, as the second phase.

Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)

Before the right hon. Gentleman goes on, he has told the House that he is placed in a dilemma because he must either vote for this Motion and say he has no confidence in the Government, or vote against it and say that he has a whole lot of confidence in them. If he votes against it, he is simply saying that he is not prepared to say that he has no confidence.

Earl Winterton

I am afraid I cannot chop logic with my hon. Friend opposite. The position has been made perfectly plain to me, and seems to be perfectly plain to a great number of hon. Gentlemen, and when my hon. Friend sees the Division list he will see that there are quite a number of people of the same opinion as I am.

I will now pass to the second phase to which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production referred in his speech. Here I would like to ask him a question or two. I think that my right hon. Friend gave what was a very fair, and certainly a very clear and I have no doubt extremely accurate, account of what had occurred since the present Government came into office. In fact, the result of that statement upon the minds of hon. Gentlemen generally was that the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that owing to difficulties with which the Government had been faced they had not yet produced the right type of weapon. If he wishes to contradict that statement, I will gladly sit down. As we have had a lot of questions from all sorts of people, and letters read, may I read a letter which has reached me to-day from some person who does not sign his name? I give it for what it is worth. It bears the Tank Corps heading and says: If you are going to ask the Secretary of Slate for War for information, you must ask the right questions. How many tanks have been issued to Service units at home, and how many of these are fit to fight to-day, not on seven days' notice, but to-day? The answer you will get is that it would not be in the national interest to give the figures. There he is quite right. He goes on: What is the percentage of tanks fit to fight to-day to the total issued to Service units at home? As Service units at home are not in contact with the enemy, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the very high proportion of tanks out of action through mechanical faults? Is it not a fact that the latest infantry tank, the Churchill, has a higher proportion 'out of action' than any other? In Libya, how many (or what proportion) of our tanks were lost through enemy action, and how many were lost to the enemy by mechanical breakdowns? I take the responsibility for saying that a certain London newspaper is in possession of information which in the national interest it is not at present prepared to publish, which confirms everything said in that anonymous letter. I leave other evidence, upon which I based a Question I asked a few days ago from another source which I cannot disclose, that these facts are correct, and the whole impression left by the Minister of Production—if I am wrong, I hope the Prime Minister will contradict it when he speaks—was that he quite frankly admitted that for reasons which he made clear we were not yet in a position to say that the armament of our armoured divisions and our mechanised divisions was satisfactory. I repeat what I said when asking that Question, and I take all responsibility for saying it. If that really be so, to send those divisions overseas to Europe to form a second front will lead to the greatest disaster in our history. The Government should at once inquire into that.

Now I make my last reference to my hon. and gallant Friend. Neither he nor any other apologist for the Government can free the present Government from blame. It may not be their fault, but the constitutional responsibility must lie with them. They have been 26 months in office. I was amazed to hear, about dive bombers, that they were not ordered until two months after Dunkirk. I understood my hon. and gallant Friend to say they should have been ordered before the war. Is that any excuse for the fact that after the Secretary of State for Air had been in office for two whole months he only then gave an order and they are not yet forthcoming? What happened before 1940 is no excuse for what has happened since.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I understand that all the dive bombers are being constructed in America, and the delay has arisen there. My point is that they were not ordered until after the present Government came in, and that they should have been ordered two years before.

Earl Winterton

I will not pursue that, because I do not think their value was proved until a later date than the first one mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend. This Government has had 26 months to provide them. What has been done? I will say another thing. Most wounding references have been made to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Swinton and other Air Ministers of the past. They always took the line, and I always did myself, that owing to the fact that we had no priority system there was only one thing to go for—quality and not quantity; and I say that the planes and the pilots that won the Battle of Britain—the great bull point for this Government, because we hear, "Look at what the Government did, look at what the Prime Minister did, look at what Lord Beaver-brook did"—were produced by my right hon. Friend or by Lord Swinton [Interruption]—in the face of opposition and by no one more than the present Prime Minister in his speeches before the war for he constantly pressed for quantity instead of quality.

My last question on responsibility is this, and I ask the House to consider it very carefully. I agree that it would be a mistake to have a serious political crisis at this time if it could be avoided, though I must say that when my hon. and gallant Friend talks as he has just been talking I wonder he did not use the same arguments as at the time of Narvik. Who incidentally was responsible? Who is the Minister of the Government who practically controlled the Narvik operation? If my hon. and gallant Friend does not know, I will tell him. It is the present Prime Minister, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. We are reaching a very serious state of affairs in this country in the, sense that whenever we have these disasters and defeats, by no means all of which are due to any original sin or action of the Government—some of them due to circumstances over which they have no control, or, as I have already frankly admitted, the mistakes of their predecessors—different things happen. Sometimes it is said that the Service Ministers are no good, that they must go. At other times people take the line which my hon. and gallant Friend takes. But no-one dares put the blame where it should be put constitutionally on the Prime Minister.

I was sorry to hear that part of his speech. He is an old friend of mine, and I was sorry to hear what I regarded as a sneer at the Army, and so were many others who served in the last war. He said they were known as "Pongos." [Interruption.] No doubt it was only a joke, but Lam not quite sure that it was a very good joke to make at this particular period. I am quite sure that you cannot do greater harm to the morale of any Army I know of—some of us are old Gallipolites—that nothing does greater hurt to the morale of an Army whenever there is a defeat than to say it is not the politicians fault, that it is those "silly generals." That was the effect of my hon. and gallant Friend's speech.

Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)

I have listened to this Debate, and nobody has sneered at the Army. It is not right that the Noble Lord should have said that.

Earl Winterton

What I am regretting is a thing frequently done, a differentiation between the leaders of the Army and the followers. If you suggest that the leadership of an Army is all wrong, you do make a breach, I am sure the Secretary of State for War will agree, between followers and leaders. I do not say that the leadership of the Army has been all that it should be. There, I agree with the Minister of Production that if you starve your Army in peace-time, and treat is as something that no one should go into, you cannot expect that Army or its generals or staff to have the experience of Continental armies. The country cannot have it both ways. That being so, I think it is unfortunate for my hon. and gallant Friend to criticise its leadership at this moment.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothby

I think the Noble Lord has said enough to justify an interruption. It is absolutely untrue for him, and I think it very wrong of him as a House of Commons man, to attempt to make out that I ever sneered at the Army. For the rest, I rest on the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow. What he said is not true, and he ought to have the decency to withdraw it.

Earl Winterton

I do not think there is any need for so much heat. I said that I detected in his speech a sneer at the leadership of the Army. If he says that his remarks about the leadership of the Army were not intended as a sneer, and that they were based on his personal knowledge and experience as a Service man, I shall be glad to withdraw my reference to him. But I repeat that nothing does more mischief to the morale of any Army than to laugh at its leadership. I am sure Members of the Government will support me on that. I would ask serious attention for this constitutional point. If, whenever we have disasters—because they are disasters—whenever we have defeats we get the same answer from many. Members of this House, and from the Press outside, that whatever happens you must not blame the Prime Minister, we are getting very close to the intellectual and moral position of the German people—"The Fuehrer is always right." I would point out what a series of events we are likely to be faced with. Assuming that we suffer—as I hope we shall not, but as it looks as if we may—from a major disaster in Egypt and we lose the Suez Canal, and there is another Debate, are we to be told, "Whoever is responsible, the Prime Minister cannot be held to be responsible"? During the 37 years in which I have been in this House I have never seen such attempts to absolve a Prime Minister from Ministerial responsibility as are going on at present.

What happens in normal times to those in high places? It may be an admiral, it may be a general, it may be a Cabinet Minister, it may be a Prime Minister himself. He may be an excellent man, he may have done everything possible, but if the results are bad, it is he who is held responsible, constitutionally, for those results. The admiral or the general is removed by the Cabinet Minister, the Cabinet Minister by the Prime Minister, or the Prime Minister by a vote of this House. I therefore ask the House: Are you prepared, if these disasters continue, whatever happens to say that right up to the end of the war, however long it lasts, we must never have another Defence Minister or another Prime Minister: that he is the only man who can win the war? I hope that that is not the attitude. I entirely agree with those who criticise the critics like myself, and say, "Who are you to say that you are better fitted to hold office than members of the present Cabinet?" The Government have some very good Ministers: many of them are better than the Ministers we had in the last war; but the constitutional position has grown up that the Minister must be responsible.

Therefore, I make this suggestion, in all honesty and sobriety, to the Government. We never had anything in the last war comparable with this series of disasters. I was then both a soldier and a Member of this House, and I know what the Government had to put up with. Now, see what this Government get off with—because the Fuehrer is always right. If this unparalleled series of disasters con- tinues, I do not wish to see the Government as a whole fall. I think an all-party Government is essential. We all agree that the Prime Minister was the captain-general of our courage and constancy in 1940. I think that not even to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) does this country, both the present generation and posterity, owe more than it does to the Prime Minister. But a lot has happened since 1940. If this series of disasters goes on, the right hon. Gentleman, by one of the greatest acts of self-abnegation which any man could carry out, should go to his colleagues—and there is more than one suitable man for Prime Minister on the Treasury Bench now—and suggest that one of them should form a Government, and that the right hon. Gentleman himself would take office under him. He might do so, perhaps, as Foreign Secretary, because his management of our relations with Russia and with the United States has been perfect. [Interruption.] Now that the Prime Minister has come in, my hen. Friend says, "Tell him again." I do not propose to do that, because he can read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I sincerely hope that the situation will not arise; but there is no necessity for me to tell him again, because I am as certain as I could be certain of anything, that if this state of affairs goes on, the country will tell him exactly what I have told him to-day.

Colonel Colville (Midlothian and Peebles)

In this House we can understand the shades of opinion which lead a Member to vote against the Government or to abstain, but we should recollect that these shades of opinion are not so readily understood abroad. Hence, the difficulty which many Members of the House are in over this Debate. They will vote for the Government against the Motion, not because they think the Government perfect, but for a very clear reason, which I will try to state. The result of the Division on this Motion will be scrutinised in enemy capitals. The result of even a large vote for my hon. Friend's Motion of No Confidence would give the greatest possible pleasure in those quarters where our chief enemy is situated, and the fall of the Churchill Government would be a greater victory for Hitler than the capture of any of the objectives he is at present attacking. Therefore, I shall vote for the Gov- ernment, and against the Motion. I do not feel, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) feels, that to do that is to exonerate the Government from blame for any of the events in Libya, but even if there was a risk of my action being construed in that way, I should still vote for the Government, for the reason I have explained. I anticipate that the Prime Minister will receive an overwhelming Vote of Confidence, but I hope he will recognise that a large part of that vote is made up of Members who, like myself, feel critical of certain parts of the Administration.

I am concerned about the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Information. Regarding Supply, I refer to the Army. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby) is not in the House at the moment, but I was going to deal with his reference to the Pongos. I take it to be a term of endearment rather than a term of reproach, otherwise I should at once have questioned it and asked him to settle the matter outside. However, I realise that his criticisms were intended to be helpful in order that the two Services together might secure victory. I am going to say something about the Army and to say it as a serving officer and perhaps risk rebuke in that way. I feel very strongly that of the three Services, when it comes to supply or to man-power the Army is the Cinderella and gets a lower priority than the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy. It must be for someone to assess relative priorities, but it is known that the battles that are being fought to-day on which vast issues depend are being fought by armies and that decisions which will have enormous and far-reaching results are being arrived at by the use of tanks. Our Army has not received the degree of priority that has been accorded to our other Services in either supply or manpower, and results have followed from this.

We all listened very closely to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Production, but I do not think that any of us felt satisfied. He went to great pains to outline what had taken place in the matter of the supply of tanks. But the Tank Department of the Ministry of Supply has a bad name, and it deserves it. I hope that the Minister who is responsible for that Department will look very earnestly into its record. The Royal Air Force has been equipped with aircraft equal to and superior to anything that Germany can produce. Starting with no greater handicap than the R.A.F., our soldiers who fight in armoured units have not been given the equipment and armament with which to meet their enemies on level, still less upon superior, terms. The responsibility must lie at the door of those Ministers who control tank production and supply. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Supply read out a list of the names of the members of the Tank Board, and I see that he has had a new chairman recently by the appointment of Lord Weir. There have been several changes of chairman. The Board is made up partly of Army officers and partly of men of technical experience, but, judging by results, can that Board be said to have given the country good value in the last year? I think not. Their judgment has been wrong. It may be that they have not had from the General Staff quick and accurate enough information, and clear and precise enough demands to enable them to keep the machinery of production at work on an effective weapon. I am not going to attempt to lay the blame upon either side, the military side or the production side, but I will point to the results and ask the Minister responsible for that Department to give it his most earnest attention.

I hope that the Prime Minister, in his winding-up speech, will do something to allay the anxiety of the House and those outside as to the lack of success in tank planning and design and more particularly in the hitting power of our tanks. The two-pounder gun is an excellent weapon, but not for the work it is doing to-day. I hope that before the conclusion of the Debate we shall hear something more reassuring than we heard from the Minister. I could say more on the question of supply, but I do not intend to do so, except to stress the fact that it is striking power and mobility rather than armament that we appear to want. I hope that the concentration of effort needed will be made to provide that striking power and to provide it immediately. The Minister has told us of a gun that can strike. Striking power is vital at the present time and must at once be placed in the hands of our men.

I now pass to the other Ministry to which I want to refer—the Ministry of Information. I have seen many rises and falls of temperature in my time, but never have I seen anything to compete with what took place in the last month or six weeks in this country when it was buoyed up to an absurd degree of optimism by the presentation of certain items of news. The first two great raids on Germany, though they were great achievements, were written up quite out of their true proportion, and accounts were put out which had very harmful effects in this country. People believed the war was almost over except for the shouting.

The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)

Is it suggested for a minute that the Ministry of Information is responsible for what is written up in the Press? If anyone told me that it is any part of my function to censor expressions of opinion by the Press or in any way to ask journalists to write articles according to my desires, I should be a most unworthy Minister of Information. The Minister of Information of this country, thank God, cannot interfere with a free Press. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman should understand the function of the Ministry of Information before he attacks it. The only announcement made by the Ministry of Information was made by me a fortnight ago in a public speech to the American Club, when I said we had to face up to a long series of defeats and disappointments.

Colonel Colville

I do not think my right hon. Friend has helped his case very much. The Ministry of Information surely has some influence on the Press and on public opinion. I was in at the planning of that Ministry a number of years ago. Several years ago, before the war, I was Chairman of the Committee that designed that Ministry and for a short period was Minister-designate, so I know a little about it, though it may have changed since then. There is a strong public feeling in the country that things have been written up not in official communiqués, but in articles, to such a degree as to cause definite harm to public opinion. I look back a few weeks and think of the great raids, the naval battle in the Pacific and the fact that the German offensive had not opened in Russia and was taken to be an indication that Hitler had no kick left in him. A little later there was General Ritchie's initial success in Libya. As I said, I have seen many rises and falls in temperature, but this one has been unprecedented. When the country was faced with dire peril in 1940 it reacted to that peril soundly, as it always will, but it will react very badly to being led up the garden path by tales of victory round the corner, only to find that a hard struggle has still to be fought. I commend to my right hon. Friend the influence which we would like him to have and hope that he will be able to apply it in greater degree.

Mr. Bracken

If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is really suggesting to me that I should take over the functions of Dr. Goebbels in England, I have no qualifications.

Mr. Lawson

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman knows that his right hon. and gallant Friend is supporting the Government.

Viscountess Astor

Is not the Ministry of Information, in every constituency of the country, always putting out propaganda in one way or another? Therefore it cannot be said that it does not put out propaganda.

Colonel Colville

I am supporting the Government. I have already pointed out why and have said that two of their Ministries would come under my criticism. I think I have fulfilled my promise and not gone beyond it. I hope the result of this Debate will be that the Prime Minister will be fortified by a Vote of Confidence, but I also hope he will clearly recognise that within that Vote there are many of us who feel grave disquiet about certain aspects of his Administration. I hope, too, that the questions to which I have particularly addressed myself will have his attention. If this Debate has the result of placing more quickly in the hands of our men the striking power with which to win battles and of preserving the populace at home from the false presentation of news I have mentioned, it will have been worth while.

Mr. Levy (Elland)

I have been very distressed for some considerable time at the way in which this war has been, and is being, conducted. I recognise that when I put my name to this Motion I was taking upon myself a very grave responsibility. A number of people have come to me and told me that it was an unwise thing for me to do, but before putting my name to it I asked myself this question: Can I honestly and conscientiously go into the Lobby and say that I have unbounded faith in this Government in the direction of the war? I came to the conclusion that I could not conscientiously do that. I have been in touch with most of the administrative Ministries. There are some Ministers for whom no words of praise can be too high, but there are others who are incompetent, who have no ability and whose lack of ability is reflected in the Departments over which they are the heads. Of the speeches to which we have listened with so much interest, I think it is true to say that we have not heard one that has not contained many criticisms about the direction of the war. I, personally, support this Motion because I think it is time that a determined, major demonstration was made against the conduct of the war by those who are now in charge of it in this country.

No matter what the political consequences may be to myself, this is no time for not speaking plainly, and I am proposing to speak plainly. There are far greater things than party loyalty, or loyalty to leaders and Ministers. The security of this country and our Empire, the efficient arming of our men in the field and the victorious outcome of this struggle far transcend all party and personal considerations. This House and the Government must face facts. We all know there is a great body of opinion in this House—I would say the majority if it was free to declare itself—which is not satisfied with the conduct of the war. The mass of the ordinary people in the country are profoundly dissatisfied with the conduct of the war; more than that, they are angry, suspicious and in the mood for measures that will shatter this pitiful atmosphere of comfort and complacency, all of which is based on what we intend to do. This has been served up incessantly for the last three years. This House is, or is supposed to be, the voice of the people. There is not, one constituency in which there is not anger or dissatisfaction to-day, and with good reason. The majority of us back benchers are in close touch with our constituencies, but I doubt very much whether Ministers are in the same close touch with their constituents.

Lately, I have tried to ascertain the reactions of the people of the country, particularly in my own Division, and I can assure the House that public opinion is fiercely critical of the Government as it is at present constituted. Even of this House they are fiercely critical over our military failures. Speaking for myself, the greatest responsibility upon a Member of this House in these times is to be honest, to speak his mind and, if necessary, to vote accordingly. I have heard suggestions of the existence of a clique against the Prime Minister. If there is such a thing, founded, as it has been suggested, on prejudice, it is trivial, it is unimportant and I can only regard that suggestion as an attempt to distract us from the question that really matters: Is the direction of the war efficient, and are the men directing it at the top the the best men for the job? I am opposed to any such clique, if it exists at all. The only thing I am concerned about is winning the war with all possible efficiency and speed. In the pursuit of that aim I do not care anything for party and personalities if they stand in the way. This is the third occasion on which the issue of a Vote of Confidence in the Government has been raised in Debate in this House. On the first two occasions the Government demanded a Vote of Confidence and obtained it handsomely, but on this occasion the initial challenge comes from back benchers, and I know the significance of that will not only not be lost upon the Government but will not be lost upon the country.

I want to try and trace, briefly, the course of events which have brought myself and public opinion to this point. I am not an expert on the waging of war. Very few Members in this House are experts on this matter, but it is not necessary to be an expert in order to mark the significance of the events which have reverberated around the world and to relate assurances to realities and promises to performances. When the war broke out, or shortly afterwards, we were told that time was on our side and that Hitler had missed the bus. I know this observation cannot be laid at the door of the present Government, but it is worth while recalling it in order to complete the chain of events that have led up to the present position and to this Motion. When Germany invaded Norway, it was hailed by my right hon. Friend as a great strategic blunder, but it has given great advantages to Germany in her long-term strategy. When Germany invaded the Low Countries, we were told that it was expected and that we and the French were ready to deal with it. When Japan took Indo-China, and thus made the first major move in her operations against our positions in the Far East, we were told that Siam was all right and would see that the Japanese intentions were frustrated. The reverse was the case, and our Intelligence was badly at fault. Shortly before Malaya was invaded, we were given the most comforting words about our defences there in an authoritative broadcast from the Governor of Singapore. When Burma was menaced, it was said that Rangoon, the gateway for the supplies to China, could be, and would be, held resolutely. When Greece was subjugated we expected to be able to hold Crete, with the aid of which the enemy now dominates the Eastern Mediterranean and threatens Egypt and North African from the rear with paratroops. When General Wavell concluded his magnificent operations against the Italians in North Africa, we were told that the safety of Egypt was assured. When Rommel appeared on the scene, and was driven back, we were led to expect the complete destruction of his forces. When he survived and struck again a few weeks ago, the optimism of the Government, the assurance that this time of all times we faced the enemy at least with equality in fighting power, justified the expectation that the task of freeing North Africa would at last be accomplished. Instead, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Ward-law-Milne) said the other day, we found ourselves out-gunned and out-tanked.

Through all this dismal catalogue has run the stream of soothing syrup, of foolish optimism, which has persisted—I say this to the Minister of Information—despite every setback. For months and months we have been experiencing that hope deferred which maketh not, in this case, the heart sick, but which certainly makes it beat fast in righteous anger. We seem to have thought that words were deeds and speeches victories. The enemy has planned ahead of us, especially in equipment, and this has been brought home to us with a shock in Egypt. Our production direction, which has been talked up so much of late, has certainly not given us the tanks we need, nor the guns we need, in Libya. On balance, the enemy is, or was, superior in both these important respects. In all the juggling with production direction, I ask, Upon whose shoulders rests the primary responsibility for the tank inadequacy in Libya? It is important that the House should know, so that the incompetents can be identified, for the war effort has suffered quite enough, and too much, at their hands. I believe that the House and the country have not yet begun to appreciate the consequences of our totally unexpected defeat in Libya. Much depends upon the speed and completeness of our recovery there. But there are two evils that look us starkly in the face now. Our hold upon the Mediterranean has been considerably weakened; Malta's peril has been greatly increased. The calls upon our dwindling shipping resources, which the smashing of Rommel would have eased, are now intensified for the Middle East, because we must make good our losses there and build up a new and more powerful striking force. And unfortunately, this has to take place at the very time when the United Nations are planning further operations, requiring vast shipping, designed to relieve Russia.

On the general question of production, Libya prompts these questions: Are we producing now the types of weapons we need and shall need? Are we producing them in sufficient quantities? We are apparently still deficient in two all-important arms—adequately armoured and gunned tanks and dive bombers. Again I ask, Who, or what committee, is charged with the responsibility of seeing that production is not only quantitative but qualitative, and that we are not going to be caught napping again by better armour than we ourselves can muster at the decisive time and point? The speed with which the enemy made decisions and acted upon them in Libya and the comparative slowness of our reactions prompt another question. Are the commanders in the field restricted in any way by the necessity of obtaining instructions from Downing Street? Are they hindered by any preconceived strategic plan imposed upon them from London? Were any representations made by them about the type and power of the armour sent to them in Libya, and, if so, with what result? I hope sincerely that we shall have some answers to these questions. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Information laughs; he thinks it is a huge joke.

Mr. Bracken

I was not laughing. I was studying the countenances of hon. Members opposite, and had my back to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Levy

I heard the hilarity. Of all people who should consider it a laughing matter, I should have thought the last in the world was the person at the Ministry of "No" Information. In conclusion, I want to express this personal view and interpretation of the Motion as it concerns the Prime Minister. I will say quite honestly that I should regret exceedingly to see him go. By experience and temperament he is well qualified to lead the national effort for victory, although, if I may say so with great respect, I think he exhibits the defects of his qualities in taking too much upon himself. He is doubtless encouraged to do so, and, indeed, may feel obliged to do so because of the relative poverty of some of the Ministers he has around him. There are some of the Ministers for whom no words of praise can be too high, but there are others who are not only incapable but incompetent, who have not been chosen on their merits, but simply on a political party basis. What the people demand are Ministers who have been chosen on their merits and for their abilities. The country will then recognise that they have the right men at the right spot to lead the nation to victory. They feel that under this crowd of nincompoops and incompetents we are going from disaster to disaster. I do not include the Prime Minister in the expression of "No confidence in the central direction of the war." I give the phrase a selective interpretation, and I ask my right hon. Friend, whatever the outcome of this Debate may be, to continue to give his services and place his services at the disposal of the Government. I want emphatically to suggest that he should be good enough to make such changes in his personnel——

Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)

Send him your card. [Laughter.]

Mr. Levy

I am astonished that some hon. Members can find room for hilarity in a serious Debate of this kind, and at the most serious moment in the history of the country and the war. I do not profess to be as good an orator as the majority of Members of his House, but I try to do the best I can. I will not give way to anyone with regard to my honesty and sincerity in trying to win the war and putting personalities and party loyalty on one side, and, if any efforts of mine can bring changes to bear which will ultimately be to the benefit of the war effort, then, despite the hilarity, I shall not have spoken in vain.

Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)

I do not wish to follow what has been said by the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy). I could not. In the course of the speech of the Minister of Production an hon. Member sitting behind me leaned forward and observed that there appeared to be one qualification at least for becoming excited, and expressing strong opinions, upon technical military matters—to have been a conscientious objector or non-combatant in the last war, or a pacifist between the wars. Before coming to the few remarks I want to make, there are one or two interruptions to that speech to which I should like to refer. The first concerns the question of dive bombers, which keeps cropping up. The people most concerned are those who would have to use dive bombers—the airmen—and, as far as I have been able to find out both in the higher ranks of the Army and in the Air Staff, the view is held that in the circumstances of the German light flak the dive bomber cannot be profitably used by us, at least on land. I do not say it is useless in all circumstances, but that it could do no very useful work. Experience goes to show that the dive bomber has been enormously overrated. It makes an appeal to imagination, but, in fact, it is nothing like as effective as some people seem to believe. Its use by us in this war could not have produced the occasional results which it has produced for the enemy. I hope that this red herring of the dive bomber is not going to be cited too much.

The second interjection was made by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), on the question of air superiority. There is nothing new about this argument. It is a very old problem, which worried us just as much in the last war. I think it was in May, 1918, that there was issued, down to battalions, an S.S. publication—I believe the number was 138—which explained to the troops the limitation of the words "air superiority"—what they meant, and what they involved. Superiority did and does not mean supremacy, and, if this House and the public are misled at this stage by communiqués referring, quite truthfully, to superiority when the House thinks it means supremacy, that is not the fault of the Air Staff. I speak with feeling, because as a matter of fact I wrote that publication.

Personally, I am glad that this Debate has had to take place, because I think it will dispel a certain amount of anxiety and uncertainty. I regret, however, that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) should move the Motion. By moving it he has vitiated his utility, for he has left a wicket where he was doing very well for a wicket which he does not understand very clearly. There are complaints and criticisms which, however, he might have made against the Government with great force. He might have charged the Government with laxity in certain directions—failure, having rightly controlled profits and capital, to stabilise wages. He might have referred with great force to the slacking minorities who are handicapping our war effort, and on those grounds he would have met with great support.

He might have referred to the pernicious, damaging and crooked dealings of Lord Beaverbrook. I do not know how far I am allowed to go in that respect. I will only say that there are times when it is very difficult to believe that Lord Beaverbrook is not a deliberate Fifth Columnist. I was very glad when an hon. Member referred to the procedure of impeachment. It is a legal procedure which has only fallen into disuse by this House since 1805, but has been used as recently as 1868 in America—a proceeding particularly appropriate to Lord Beaverbrook. Another criticism he might have made relates to the activities of Professor Lindeman. If the Prime Minister's estimate of Lord Cherwell is correct, the opinion of every scientist and industrial or business man I have ever met is wrong, and thus there is a strong prima facie case that the Prime Minister is not right in this respect.

The Motion states that the Mover "has no confidence in the central direction of the war." That must mean the direction of the war in the politico-military sense by the Prime Minister as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. We had a Debate a few weeks ago in which the central organisation of War Planning was exhaustively discussed, but one point was not made which, I submit, is of sufficient importance to justify my saying a word upon it. If the Prime Minister interfered improperly it would be with the strategic direction of the war. The word "strategy" is used far too loosely. Strategy has three distinct levels. First of all, there is grand strategy, and of grand strategy the Prime Minister must have direction as leader of the War Cabinet. On that level, the Chiefs of Staff can have no more weight in their opinions than other Departments involved, say, the Foreign Office, Supply, Transport, Shipping and so forth. It is a War Cabinet matter, and on the level of grand strategy the Prime Minister must finally direct. The second level is quite distinct—the level of combined strategy. On this level the three Chiefs of Staff must be the technical advisers to the Minister of Defence. There is a third level, Service strategy, which is quite distinct. That is the level on which each Chief of Staff, responsible to his own Minister, carries out the decisions of combined strategy within the plan of grand strategy. The difficulty is that Chiefs of Staff must appear in slightly different roles on each level. There is a suspicion in the House and the country that the Prime Minister interferes with details of strategy, but, having approached the question with considerable suspicion during the last year since I have been back in England, I have not found any evidence that the Prime Minister has interfered at the second or third level, and I do not believe that evidence could be produced to convict him of interfering where he does not have to.

Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman explain what he means by the Prime Minister interfering? Does he mean altering the decision of the Chiefs of Staff, or merely acting in an advisory capacity?

Wing-Commander James

I tried to make my argument plain by a little homily on the meaning of the word "strategy." Having had my ear reasonably close to the ground, I have not heard any confirmation to justify the suspicion.

Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South-East)

Supposing the Prime Minister had given a direct order that Tobruk was to be held. Would my hon. and gallant Friend consider that that was interference with strategy or would that have been on a lower level?

Wing-Commander James

That would obviously be interference at the second or third level and, if the case was established, I should be proved wrong, but I am asserting that since my return to England I have heard no evidence of interference, though I have been expecting and looking for it. But that does not mean that the machine is necessarily perfect. I believe that a certain progressive evolution is desirable. It may well be that on the second level, combined strategy, the executive position of the Chiefs of Staff may require some strengthening, and equally it may be that on the third level, that of Service strategy, some further devolution of responsibility for the very heavy work of the Chiefs of Staff may be desirable, but there is nothing whatever in the present machine that excludes those reforms without any change in the White Paper policy. Decentralisation is very much a matter for individuals. One man can decentralise, another cannot. To be unable to decentralise is a great disadvantage. In the case of at least one Service Staff decentralisation is effective.

There is just one small qualification which I should like to be allowed to make to my general assertion that the charge against the Prime Minister of interference cannot be sustained. It may be that in the case of one of the Services the character of the Minister and the character of the Chiefs of Staff rather tend to invite some measure of over-interest. The fault does not lie only with the Prime Minister but with that Department. But it ill becomes any of us who do not bear a fraction of the burden that the Chiefs of Staff are bearing, to be unduly critical of people who may have become somewhat tired by the terrific weight that they are bearing. I do not believe that the prime charge of the Mover of the Motion against the Government has been supported, and, believing that the Prime Minister has certain qualities of inspiration and courage which no one else possesses, I shall have no difficulty of conscience in voting against the Motion.

Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)

I think that the Government cannot be altogether too satisfied with the way in which many of the speakers have handled them in the course of to-day's Debate. Those Balaams whom we thought were coming to bless, actually, if they have not cursed, have damned with faint praise. I wish to ex- plain my position. Originally I put my name down to the Motion, but when I did that the war situation in Libya was not as grave and serious as it is now. I fully realise the gravity of causing a wrong impression abroad, particularly in America, of Divisions in this House. I feel that the situation now is much graver than it was a week ago, and that must be reflected in one's attitude towards this Motion. If our hold in the Middle East is threatened and our position in Egypt is in grave danger, it must be reflected in one's attitude to this matter. If, therefore, the Government will explain to the House in greater detail and with more conviction than the Minister for Production did—although I do not deny that his speech was extremely interesting so far as it went—why guns, equipment and tanks were not there, and if they will offer to make the most searching inquiry into this whole matter, and the Prime Minister in particular is not defiant, I will reconsider ray position and will not go into the Division Lobby against the Government. On the other hand if there is a note of defiance—and I am not the only one who feels like this—I shall reconsider my position.

During the week-end I took care to consult my constituents and talked to the average man whom I try to come across, and the general feeling was a mixture of anger and alarm. The public is talking as our Allies are talking, and it is a grave disservice to maintain an artificial agreement when none really exists. Therefore, I feel that a Debate like this, even if I do not go into the Division Lobby against the Government, is essential to clear the air. The workers in some of the factories are saying, "What is the use of our producing guns and tanks if they are not any use?" Young men in my constituency are being killed and wounded, not because they are not braver than the Germans, but because they have not the right instruments to use against them. I should be false to my position in this House if I did not feel extremely strongly on this matter. The Minister of Production has given us some reasons for the delay, but they do not altogether satisfy me. After our defeat last November in Libya, when we thought we had Rommel, the whole thing happens again. We knew then that we had not the correct equipment to knock out his tanks, or sufficiently heavy tanks to go forward.

I admit that there are difficulties. We are working on exterior lines and the Germans on interior. We have a huge expanse of ocean to cover, and our plans and designs started much later. That does not explain the whole position. It does not justify or excuse the ridiculous wave of optimism, which was encouraged from the Government side, as a result of the naval victory off Midway Island and the bombing of Cologne, which we had only just got over a fortnight ago. I heard a remark just now between the Minister of Information and an hon. Member in which he said that he was not a Goebbels and could not control public opinion. I do not want him to be a Goebbels, but if he is doing his duty, he must see that public opinion is kept on the rails, I am sure that he can. He has the capacity and the ability to do so, and it is his job to see that the public does not suffer from these violent waves of optimism on the one hand, followed by pessimism and deep depression on the other.

In taking a wider survey than that of just Libya and North Africa, it seems to me that so much that has happened in this war makes one feel that it is being run by stunt and ballyhoo. Last autumn we were told that the Royal Air Force would now really start knocking Germany out of the war, that long-distance bombing was coming and that Germany would be squealing for peace. Then we were told that unprecedentedly bad weather was interfering with the operations of the Air Force during the winter. I am a farmer and have to keep my eye on the weather glass and the sky. I know fairly well what the weather conditions were like, and I know that last winter was not so very exceptional in the weather. We had a long period of frost, but I do not remember for years a winter when there was less fog. Therefore, that excuse will not cut any ice with me. The truth is that the emphasis on the long-distance bombing of Germany has resulted in weaknesses elsewhere, particularly at sea. I would refer to the letter to "The Times" by Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond a few days ago, sounding a note of warning, as he has often done before. He is doubtful whether Germany can be bombed to submission from the air and that we are following a mirage if we do so.

The loss of command at sea is not a mirage but a very serious thing for this country, because we can only hope to win the war if we can keep the seas open and support our expeditions abroad by constant reinforcements of new equipment. In spite of the difficulties, we ought to be able to do that. According to my information, the Admiralty are now not in possession of all the necessary aircraft to enable them to hunt the submarine as they would like, because everything has to go to the long-distance bombing of Germany. I do not deny that long-distance bombing of Germany is important. Preparations for landing on the Continent are important, but I wish the business of knocking Germany out from the air could be dropped once and for all. The Russians ask for a second front in Western Europe, and for that bombing is necessary as a preparation. I think, however, that our Russian friends and Allies must also see that if we are beaten and our Armies are rolled up in the Middle East, it would expose their left flank. Where would they be then? That is a second front no less important than a possible third front in Western Europe. That opens the whole question of cooperation between our General Staff and the Russian General Staff.

I put a Question to-day to the Minister of Production on this matter, I got an answer which seemed to indicate that there was some contact, but it was not very satisfactory. I do not say that the fault is entirely on our side, but one does hope, now that we have this political agreement for 20 years ahead with the great republic in the East, that at least we shall be able to see that translated not only into political terms but into greater co-operation between the military, naval and air staffs here and there. While I am about it, is it not possible for us to make use of that great French general, General De Gaulle, the only man who has shown real ability in the handling of tanks in Western Europe? He is here, in exile from his native land, apparently not doing much, kicking his heels about here and surrounded by many people who are not of the best. One wonders whether we could not make use of General De Gaulle and his specialised knowledge. I understand he was the only man who beat the Germans in tank fighting in France at two specific points and that had he had such support in other sections the story of the French army might have been different.

To pass to one other point, those who criticise the Prime Minister are not doing so out of any personal feeling against him, but the country does feel, and it has been reflected in articles in the Press and I have heard it from some of my constituents, that the Prime Minister has "got too much on his plate," that he cannot be the political head of our side of this great alliance and at the same time deal with the detailed aspects of the war. A Minister of Defence must deal in greater detail with things pertaining to the war effort than the Prime Minister can possibly do. I am inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing Commander James) that the Prime Minister must have a say in the strategy at the top, but contrary to what he has apparently heard I hear that he has been interfering too much down below, if not directly interfering himself, indirectly through those whom he sometimes appoints—not always the best and most qualified people. War is a very complex science, and I say it is necessary to have an expert body of designers, scientists and strategists who will be independent of the big spending Departments and able to advise him and the War Cabinet as to the proper thing to do. We have got scientists, experts and designers, but unfortunately they are too much in the Departments, and if anything goes wrong, then the Department's prestige and dignity come in, and those scientists have their mouths shut. We want something like what the United States of America has, I believe it is called the Scientific Equipment Board, independent of the big War Departments, sitting in Washington and advising the President directly. Something like that is wanted and not a certain scientist who was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member who up to now has had a sort of roving commission to go about interfering in the various Departments. That is not the way to run a modem war.

Therefore, I feel that more criticism of this nature is absolutely necessary at a time like this, and that the Prime Minister must not take it amiss. We want him to be the political head of our side of the great alliance, but he must call in to his aid the very best opinion in the world of science and design. This hour is a heavy one, heavy with evil tidings, but victory may still be snatched from defeat. Over 2,000 years ago, at the height of the Peloponnesian war, the great Athenian statesman Pericles encouraged his countrymen. The land of Athens at that time was being ravaged and the armies of Athens were racked with plague and disease. In that tragic hour Pericles said these words: The hand of heaven must be borne with resignation: That of the enemy with fortitude. That is the way of Athens. If our country has the greatest name in all the world it is because she has never bent before disaster.

Major Thorneycroft (Stafford)

I intervene in this Debate with some diffidence, as it is nearly two years since I spoke in this House, and therefore I feel I must almost ask for the indulgence of this assembly. I find my position doubly difficult, because, like many other Members, though I am not in the inner secrets of the Cabinet, I find it almost as hard to concentrate on what not to say as on what it is right to say in this Debate. I welcomed the opportunity of this discussion in so far as it would enable me to hear an account by the Prime Minister of the recent battle in Libya. I welcomed it as an opportunity for making suggestions which I hoped would be helpful to the Government for the future prosecution of the war. But I am bound to say that the manner in which it has come before the House is, to say the least of it, unfortunate. To my mind, criticism, if it is to be useful criticism, must be devoid of the atmosphere of bitterness which is inseparable from a Vote of Censure. It is not an easy Debate in which to speak.

Having watched other hon. Members, I now realise that the correct way to start is to attack the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) and to say how one would have made his speech for him. One would say that one could have made it much better and introduced all the points one wants to make and to draw them to the attention of the Government. I do not want to do it in that way. If I may be allowed to say so, I think he made his speech, with one exception, extremely well. I agree very much with the hon. and gallant Member who followed him and whose chief point appeared to be that the greatest disaster we could suffer would be the loss of the Prime Minister at this juncture. There is, to my mind, a very great danger in making ill-advised criticisms at the present time, because what hon. Members say in this House is used not only in the Press of this country but in the Dominions, in India and in the United States of America, and someone who saw even my remarks repeated in the Press of America might attach to them considerably more importance than is their real due. Therefore, one has to be extremely cautious how one approaches these matters.

The immediate occasion of this Debate is the loss of a battle in Libya. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say "No." It is true the form of the Motion refers to the central direction of the war, but the occasion of the Debate is the loss of a battle in Libya. It is clearly out of the question to deal with any of the matters which we hear about from that country. One reads rumours in the Press, one hears stories of this, that and the other, but I say frankly that before I put forward any criticism of the Libyan battle I should require to know far more than I have been told already by the Government about the equipment which is in fact there, about the strength of the opposing armies, about the plans of the commander, and about various other difficulties. I know nothing about those things, and I think very few other critics know about them either. Therefore, I do not propose to speak about the battle of Libya. I think it would be a pity if we established it as a precedent that every time we lost a battle we lost a general too. I am not going too much into detail, but, after all, General Rommel himself has lost battles, and if he had been thrown out by the German army, we might have done much better than we are doing at the moment. I would also remind the House that our troops in Libya, who at this moment are fighting a very gallant action against great odds, have already defeated two great armies of the Axis in that country, and to criticise them or attempt to criticise them in the hour of momentary defeat would be, to say the least of it, unfortunate.

The Motion refers to the higher direction of the war, and I should like to make a few remarks about that. If the Prime Minister finds that the machinery which he now has enables him to get what he wants done well and done quickly, I would suggest to him that he should keep that machinery. I would say that were I Prime Minister of England it would not be the machinery which I would adopt, but it is perhaps rather fortunate for this country that I am not Prime Minister. I am one of the few hon. Members who have never been tipped by anyone for inclusion in the War Cabinet, so one is quite safe on that score. But if the Prime Minister should find that the present machinery does not appear to work altogether smoothly I would suggest that he would find it helpful if he appointed some professional head of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, whereby their deliberations could be co-ordinated and presented to him in, shall I say, a somewhat more digestible form. That is on the higher level. On the lower I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that we should get more value if officers from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force attended the Army staff schools in far greater numbers than they do; and naturally it should work the other way round as well, and Army officers should attend the staff schools of the other two Services. That is not being done at present, and until it is done I do not see how adequate cooperation can really take place.

I leave the higher direction of the war, a matter on which I am not really competent to speak at any great length, and turn to some matters which I think are more germane to the present situation, and that is the handling of our armoured divisions. The House can set its mind at rest. I am not going to say anything that is not already well known to the enemy. I do not know how many hon. Members know what an armoured division looks like as it approaches the battlefield. I think it is common knowledge that our British armoured divisions are spread over many miles of roadway or many square miles of desert, and the result is that when the commander makes a decision and wants to get it translated into action it is a matter not of minutes but of hours before that action takes place. The German armoured division, on the other hand, is always highly concentrated, and the decisions of the German commander are more quickly translated into action. The reason for our methods of approaching battle in that dispersed formation is not the enemy ground forces but his air forces. The German armoured division has much more light anti-aircraft artillery than we have, much more. The Germans have perfected their machinery for calling for fighter cover and they are adepts in the use of the dive bomber. In all these respects we are not on the same level, and the result is that generals who are commanding our armoured divisions suffer a heavy handicap as opposed to their German adversaries.

I do not want to enter into a long discussion on matters connected with the Air Ministry, and I hope that my hon. Friend on the front bench will compose himself while he hears a soldier say a few things about air superiority. The first thing I would say is that air superiority does not mean possessing more aeroplanes than the other side. That has very little to do with it. It does not mean even knocking out of the sky a few more of the enemy machines than he knocks of ours. It is the ability to produce the right type of machine in overwhelming numbers at the right place at the right time. I cannot help feeling that in some respects my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air has not bent his great ability to solving this problem as he might have done. I do not want to get into the old dive bomber question that was raised and threshed out many times in this House, except to say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), who says they are not much good, "Then why has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State ordered them?"

There seems to be some great mystery about this matter, and I think it ought to be cleared up. The only other thing I want to say about the dive bombers is that they were asked for, and they were not delivered. It seems to a humble soldier that the whole matter was treated with very much more complacency than it would have been had it been a request for a few heavy bombers to help in the bombing policy. I would ask my right hon. Friend not to take amiss my criticisms on this point, but to realise that they are intended as an honest contribution to a solution of an important problem of the moment.

I will now turn from these matters to say a few words on the question of propaganda about the present situation. The impression which was held in this country up to a few weeks ago can be summed up as follows: that very few ships could cross the Mediterranean to supply Rommel without running a grave risk of being sunk by the British Navy; secondly, that an Army superior in numbers and equipment was waiting to eat Rommel up the moment he put his neck out; and, thirdly, that any vehicle that Rommel sent for-ward with supplies would be riddled with bullets by some aircraft from the R.A.F. I know that that was untrue, and no doubt a lot of it was unjustified, but by some means or another, by statements from Ministers and by articles in the Press, that feeling has been built up. And when the battle is then lost, obviously the reaction is very serious. We should therefore give our minds to seeing how that can be avoided in the future. One of the reasons for this bad publicity is the rival publicity departments of the three Services. If they were private firms selling silk stockings in a closed market, there could be no possible exception to this particular form of advertisement, but to have three great Service Ministries all clamouring for the advertising columns of the British Press is, to say the least of it, undesirable. The fact that what I understand are known as the boys in blue came in an easy winner in this race should not, I think, be counted too heavily against them. It is due as much to their own superhuman courage as to the sense of the dramatic which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air certainly possesses. But it is not the way to fight a war, and it is certainly not the way to write about a war.

I do not want to say very much more, except this. Only a few days ago some very determined and very weary men were fighting their last action on the beaches of Tobruk. They had the German panzer divisions in front of them and German paratroops behind them, and there was no possibility of their survival. I do not suppose that in those last moments they stopped to criticise the tactics of General Ritchie or the strategy of General Auchinleck, or even the higher direction of the war by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Instead of that, they turned to the very much sterner task which lay ready to their hand. I think, perhaps, when this Debate is finished and the Motion of Censure is defeated, that we could not do better than follow their example.

Mr. Kendall (Grantham)

I have listened with a great deal of interest to this Debate so far, and I would like to comment on the courageous statement made by the Minister of Production. He dealt with three points, strategy, production and design, past, present and future; and it was obvious, at least to my mind, that he did not know anything about any of these three subjects. Now, on production, of which I claim to have some knowledge—I know nothing of strategy, and therefore I am not going to discuss it—we are faced, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir. J. Wardlaw-Milne) has said, with a Director of Tank Design and Development at the Ministry of Supply, who manufactured in peace-time a headlamp and accessories for cars. Headlamps were the biggest thing he made. I state most sincerely and seriously that the people of this country, whom I have had the privilege of meeting and some of whom I represent, are greatly disturbed with this type of appointment. Also in the same Ministry there is a Director of Armoured Vehicles, who manufactured bicycles in peace-time. In the same Ministry there are people appointed to Royal Ordnance filling factories who know nothing about shell production or the filling of shells. I know of many cases and many instances, and I know that we are not getting production from those factories, I also know that our production to-day is at a maximum of 50 per cent. of what it might be. I insist, at a maximum. It is a true statement of fact, and I think the Production Engineers Society of this country will bear me out. Further than that, we have at the Ministry of Aircraft Production men of a similar type, who again do not know their job. I refer to production, design and development.

I say, with full knowledge of my facts, that the people of this country are definitely unhappy about the appointments which are being made in the various Ministries, having men appointed to production desks who know nothing about either planning or production. That is why I am compelled to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.

Major Peto (Birmingham, King's Norton)

What I have to say will not, I am afraid, be very original, but with the utmost respect to this House, this is not a very original Debate; but at least I can promise to be extremely brief. On 13th May, 1940, this country was beaten to her knees, and on that day a Mr. Low published one of his brilliant cartoons in the "Evening Standard." This depicted the Prime Minister rolling up his shirt sleeves and advancing Upon his superhuman task with the customary expression on his face and backed up by all Ministers and members of the Government. The caption underneath it read like this: "All behind you, Winston." The vote asking him to lead the nation had been passed in this House only the day before by 381 to none. We have gone a long way since then. From a defeated nation shorn of its Allies and with one defeated Army shorn of its equipment, we are now in a position to supply our Allies, both foreign and Dominion, with immense masses of material every month. Where in those days we numbered divisions, we can now count armies. All this and more we have achieved in the period of two years. If we have made mistakes, we have made miracles as well. I think that perhaps only my own countrymen—and I do not refer to hon. Members in particular, but to a wider gathering than that—could overlook such a colossal achievement or the leadership which made it possible.

We have gone a long way in this House as well, and the direction has been away from that Parliamentary unity which was epitomised by the vote I have just mentioned. As the imminence of direct attack on this country grew fainter, so the voice of the critics grew louder; as the danger of attack from without receded little by little, so the attack from within drew closer. Speaking as one who took part in the Battle of Britain from the coast of Kent, I saw then the nakedness of our defences, and I sense a lack of appreciation of the advance we have made since that time, an advance built up and led throughout that period by the Prime Minister. If we succeed in any direction, praise is given to any and every influence outside ourselves, but never to ourselves. Let no man or woman tell me, after this war is over, that if it had not been for this or that nation, we should have lost the war; the only reason we have not lost and will not lose the war is ourselves, because we stood alone and undismayed, every man, woman and child of us, during our year of agony after Dunkirk. It is for that reason, and that alone, that friends rallied to us and were able to rally.

Before our Fighting Forces recapture Tobruk I suggest, with the utmost respect, that our talking forces must recapture the spirit of Dunkirk, and that was not a spirit of carping or contentious criticism but of collective co-operation. I think profoundly significant the point made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Colonel Colville), that this House and the country should consider with the utmost gravity the effect upon our enemies of a defeat of the Government in this Debate. There will be plenty of material during these two days to supply the hell-brew that Dr. Goebbels passes off as news, but if the Government and its leader were to fall, the effect upon the people of the Axis would be as beneficial as the fall of Moscow. To use a colloquialism, it would put their tails so high that the German army would positively enjoy the next winter in Russia. Not long ago the constituents of King's Norton elected me by an overwhelming majority to support the Prime Minister, and I should be false to them and to myself if I did not say what I have said at this time and place. And this is my last word. Battles cannot be won by debating societies, but they can be lost by them.

Sir George Schuster (Walsall)

My hon. and gallant Friend behind me has drawn the Debate back to what I understood to be the main subject—the position of the Prime Minister. That is how I, at least, read the Motion which we are debating. I must at the outset express the feeling that it was a most disastrous thing that such a Motion should be tabled for discussion just now. I feel it for two reasons. First, we are at one of the most critical periods of the war when all our Ministers, particularly the Prime Minister, ought to be left free to deal with the problems which he before them, and the unknown situation with which they may have to cope. I think it is a crime to take them away from that task and make them attend a Debate of this kind to-day. Secondly, I feel that the occasion of, the Debate is ill-chosen—for although the hon. Member who moved the Motion said he did not intend to discuss events in Libya, the occasion of his asking for the Debate was what had happened in Libya, and on that we are still without any full information. But there was one thing I welcomed when I read the Motion on the Paper. I thought that we should, at last, have a clear issue. I confess that I have listened with considerable distaste to some of the speeches that have been made in recent Debates which I might describe as a sort of inverted "Mark Antony" speeches, in which hon. Members professed that they had come to praise the Prime Minister, and then did their best to bury him. My attitude is precisely the opposite. I should like to give him life and encouragement, though I retain for myself the fullest liberty, not to criticise, but to put forward what I consider to be helpful suggestions for improvement in the way in which we are carrying on our national task.

There is another matter that arises in my mind out of the Debate and the way in which it has been carried on. It may be an impertinence for me, a comparatively new Member, to put it to hon. Members, but when we turn to criticise the Government, I ask are we quite certain that all of us have done our own task as Members as well as it could be done? The state of opinion in the country now, is curious. People are ready to listen-to rumours, to pay attention to superstitious beliefs, and I feel that it is our duty here to give guidance to the public—analyse the problems, probe the issues and put them in their right proportions. I do not think that things have been put in their right proportions in past Debates, nor do I think they have been put entirely in their right proportions to-day. I wish to bring up certain things later in regard to which I think there is room for improvement; but if we face realities, is it not misleading the public to suggest to them that by changing any men or by changes in organisation, we could at once make everything right? Ought we not rather to face the truth of the inherent difficulties with which this country is now faced, difficulties resulting from the collapse of France and the disaster at Pearl Harbour coming on top of our own complete lack of preparation to meet countries which had prepared for war for seven years? In fact we have been all the time struggling against desperate difficulties, and—let us be frank—we are short of good leaders, particularly in what I call the middle field of our organisation. These disadvantages we can overcome only by each of us doing his own job as well as he possibly can, and all pulling together.

The time has come to take stock of certain realities. There are two most important points on which we require to take stock. They are, how Parliament is to play its proper role in total war, and how our existing Government organisation, departmental methods, and financial control can give us the flexible administration that we require for total war. We cannot discuss the latter to-day, but we ought to realise the real problem. It is no use blaming men: we have seen many changes of men, but the same thing goes on. As regards Parliament, I say, with great deference, particularly when I see the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), who has been sitting in the House for 37 years—and who, I am sure, will disagree with me—that in time of war we should sit together as a Council of State, that there ought to be no political partisan Debate, that we ought all to be as brief as possible and to make constructive suggestions.

Earl Winterton

The hon. Member has criticised me. If there is a Council of State, are the Members precluded, as would appear from the hon. Member's speech, from saying quite frankly, "We are not satisfied with the chairman," or have they always to agree with what he says?

Sir G. Schuster

I certainly was not criticising the Noble Lord. I was just coming to the point on which I thought he would disagree with me. I was going to say that I feel that for this kind of discussion there is a great place for Secret Sessions, if Secret Sessions are properly utilised. For instance, to-day—and I want to say more about this later—a discussion which started on a Vote of Confidence in the Prime Minister has turned mainly on the question of equipment. Can anyone say that we have had a really useful properly focussed discussion of these equipment problems? Are we not capable of something better? Anybody who listened to the exchanges between various hon. Members about what the Minister of Production said about the 4.5 howitzer gun can hardly feel that the House was worthily performing its role. I want to remind hon. Members that a Committee of this House has been going into many of these production matters very carefully, and has issued a number of Reports. None of these Reports has ever been considered seriously by the House, or debated by this House. If we are going to debate types of armament and production there should be careful study of the position; and then Members could speak from their own knowledge, and make valuable contributions. Has the House ever really made proper use of its opportunities to do that?

I turn now to the main issue of the Debate. On that I will only say this: We have heard, a great deal of talk between hon. Members who have been in and out of various Governments as to the responsibilities at various stages. I have had no connection with any Government. I was not one of the 40 Members who voted against the Government in the Norway Debate and were instrumental in making the right, hon. Gentleman Prime Minister. I can therefore claim no right to shine in the light of his sun, nor do I want to ask anything from him. I may also say—and I hope my own leader, whom I see beside me, will not mind my saying it—that I do not worry very much about Whips. I think therefore that I can claim to approach this issue with an open mind and I have given very serious thought—because this is of the most serious issues that have been put to the House—to considering what is the right course to take on this occasion.

My answer is clear. I feel that I, as a citizen of this country owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Prime Minister and I do not think that that debt of gratitude has been recognised properly in the Debate which has gone on in the House to-day. To my mind he is really the true representation of this country to-day. Some hon. Members speaking to-day in his support have mentioned some of the achievements in his record as Prime Minister. But what I regard as the biggest thing of all has not been mentioned, I mean the realisation of the immense need of promoting a good understanding with the United States, so that if Japan decided to make war on us she would have to make war on the United States as well. I see immense significance in his adventurous flights and personal visits to the United States. He has created an entirely new spirit in Anglo-American relations, and not only that, an entirely new conception of how international co-operation can be interpreted. That is an achievement on a scale that will stand out—if I may borrow his own language—in a thousand years. It outweighs many other things. On these grounds I shall go into the Lobby against this Motion not because I am afraid of the harm that may be done abroad—though these are things which must be taken into account—not because I am persuaded that I ought to back my own party, but because I am profoundly convinced that this country needs the leadership of the Prime Minister to-day; and for that reason I feel that it is our duty to give all the heartening encouragement that we can.

I wish now to say only a few words on some of the subjects which have been mentioned in criticism. There are three main points on which criticism has fastened to-day and about which the public is concerned. The first is misleading information. There has been something very wrong there. Many misleading impressions have been created. I do not know who was responsible for creating the idea early this year that we would be fighting the next campaign in Libya fully equipped with 6-pounder guns, not only mounted on field mountings, but on tanks. That impression was certainly created by a speech already mentioned to-day—when everyone must have known that it was quite impossible. The public was told too that Tobruk would be held. There have been many other cases. The public wants to know the truth. The Prime Minister has never been more admired in the country and has never had the country more behind him than when he promised us nothing but blood, sweat, toil and tears. We need not have the tears, because this country enjoys facing fearful odds, but it is a long step yet before we shall have passed beyond the stage of blood and sweat and toil. I hope sincerely that the right hon. Gentleman, in winding up, will give the public a true review and tell them the facts however black. The people are ready to face the truth. They will not be upset by the prospect of a desperate straggle.

The second question which has exercised people's minds is that of generalship. My right hon. Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham will, I believe, agree with me that there is one thing which is better in the present war than in the last. With our present Prime Minister, there never has been any sort of question of the politician against the soldier. He is unswervingly loyal to his Service Chiefs and Commanders—even too loyal perhaps at times, some of us may think. I will only add that I agree with those who have said that we must be fair to our commanders in the field, and remember how little chance they have had to get operational training such as the enemy has had. Nevertheless, I myself believe that we have some fighting generals to-day better than any we had in the last war.

I come lastly to the question of equipment, which is a much more appropriate subject for us to Debate. One point has not been made at all. I want to say that my own attitude to this matter would be entirely different if certain steps had not been taken during the last four months. We on the Select Committee for National Expenditure have gone very carefully into this question of war production and in our Eighth Report, issued in March, we called attention to the fact that our inquiries convinced us that no-enough had been done to see that our Fighting Forces got the right kind of weapons at the right time. We did not attempt to apportion blame as to whether the Fighting Services were at fault in not formulating their demands with sufficient clarity, or whether the production people had been slow to pick up their needs. But we reported the definite impression that that was the position, and we recommended the Government to treat as a matter of most extreme urgency the creation of new arrangements for ensuring better contact between users and producers. Just at that time the Minister of Production took on his office and made his own first statement on the position. In that he put into the forefront of what he regarded as his urgent tasks the achievement of just that closer linking which we had recommended, and he told us how for their purpose there was to be set up a Joint General Staff of Production to be assisted by a Joint General Planning Staff.

Following on that we had the statement by the Secretary of State for War a short while ago telling us of his new appointment of a Deputy Chief of the Imperial. General Staff who was to be a Member of the Army Council and especially responsible for supervising this work. Everybody who knows General Weeks, the new D.C.I.G.S., both in the Service and in manufacturing industry, seems to regard him as a man in whom confidence can be placed. But I want to put it to the Minister of Production that organisation alone will not do what is wanted. It is men that count and we shall want to see how all this works out. In fact in our committee we shall make it our business to keep closely on his tracks in this matter. I, personally, have great faith in him and in his determination to get on with this.

What I want to put to the Minister is whether he is satisfied that the new set-up will fulfil what is wanted. There are various classes of work to be considered. There is the stage when the definite need is known and it has to be converted into the best possible production job. There, is the necessity for looking ahead to next year's production to meet what you know the enemy has got and there is, beyond that, the need to look on still further ahead. All the time we want to be sure that the very best scientific brains, the best brains for practical mechanical problems of production and the best brains on the military side are working together in this matter. If we have not the right kind of brains in our Army—because I think the Army should take a lead—then let us get them from somewhere else. The need is for fighting knowledge, mechanical knowledge and scientific vision all combined. I wonder whether it might not be advisable to get a man like General McNaughton of the Canadian Forces and put him at the head of the Ministry's Joint Production Staff. Possibly Canadian production could be worked in with ours. The combination ought to give him a big enough job.

I suggest that that is something worthy of serious consideration. There is no more vital question before us to-day than that we should get the users of weapons in close touch with their producers. Anyhow, I regard the proposals of the Minister of Production and the Secretary of State for War in this matter as of great importance and offering a real hope for better achievement. Indeed, I should feel almost inclined to vote with those who support the Motion if I did not feel that now we are really tackling this job in a proper way. That is one of the things which should give us confidence and encouragement and which will, I hope, enable this Debate to end, not merely with a paper vote, but with a general feeling of confidence—a conviction that we must support the Prime Minister, that he is the man we can trust, and that he is going to carry this country through.

Mr. Gledhill (Halifax)

Although the Debate has lasted a long time and much has already been said, I think it desirable that those hon. Members who put their names to the Motion should express their views, especially as there have been so many derogatory statements in the Press, attempting to make out that they are of no importance and represent no group or party. I do not know how my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) takes that, but I take it as a compliment. I have had the honour of sitting in the House for just over 10 years, and I have never claimed to represent anything or anybody except my constituency and the people who live in it. I think I can say I have been a loyal supporter of the Government, which I was elected to support, and that only on a very few occasions have I exercised a Member's prerogative of voting against the Government, but this is one of those occasions.

For some time I have felt very grave unrest about the conduct of the war, and in the past few days I discovered that my feelings were confirmed by many of my constituents. In a number of conversations and letters, I have been told that I am doing the right thing on this occasion. On former occasions when a Vote of Confidence has been forced upon us, the Prime Minister has said that if any blame was to be given, he would take it. If he intends to adopt that attitude this time, I am perfectly convinced that he is shielding someone, and although that may have been necessary in the past, I am certain it is no longer necessary, for the issues to-day are far greater than the reputation of any one man, even of the Prime Minister himself.

A great deal has been said about our previous failures. I will not go into that matter, except to say that they have always been explained away as being due to a lack of air superiority, a shortage of tanks, a shortage of guns, or even a shortage of men. We cannot accept that excuse in the case of Libya. When the campaign started, we were led to understand that we had plenty of tanks that were as good as, if not better than, the German tanks, that we had bigger guns, and that we had air superiority. We heard on the wireless and we read in the newspapers glowing reports from Cairo about the whole campaign, even—may I remind the House?—when Tobruk was falling. If those statements and reports were true, how is it that, in a few short days, not only were we pushed right out of Libya, but pushed well into Egypt? People are very concerned about this matter and feel that they have been misled, and being rather intelligent, they dislike being fooled. They will not be satisfied on this occasion until the full truth is told, and therefore, I express the hope that when the Prime Minister replies to the Debate, he will take the House and the country fully into his confidence.

We want to know whether the debacle in Libya is a question of generalship. It may be that that question has been answered already by the removal of General Ritchie. But I would like to ask why some of the younger tank brigadiers could not have been promoted to take charge of that campaign. After all, they have had experience and training in tanks and in desert warfare, whereas the present heads do not appear to have had that experience. With regard to the tanks themselves, the Minister of Production has already admitted that we have been producing tanks of the wrong type, or that our tanks were not big enough and not heavily enough armed. I want to know exactly whose fault that is. Is it the fault of the Ministry of Supply or of the War Office? Surely we can be told where the fault lies, and we can then ensure that some action is taken? On the question of air superiority, the Minister of Production gave us a rather new slant. He says that air superiority is not so useful in the desert, but surely some of that air superiority could have been used to prevent Rommel's supplies coming across the water, and, if the enemy succeeded in landing the supplies, in destroying them before they could be brought forward to the battle area? Could we not have taken more bombers from this country for that purpose, even if we had to reduce the strength of the long-range bombing attacks on Germany?

Another question I should like to ask is, why, when Rommel got through our minefield, our counter-attack was aimed at the spearhead, or, in other words, at the strongest point? Why did we not learn from the Germans and execute a pincer movement to cut off his supplies? I do not think it needed a military genius to discover that. With regard to the central direction of the war, we understand that the control of the Libyan campaign is at the Cairo headquarters, and that Cairo is under the domination of Whitehall, and Whitehall is subject to decisions of the Minister of Defence. I should like to know who is responsible when the Prime Minister, as Minister of Defence, goes to America. We all agree that that visit was desirable, and that he should discuss things with President Roosevelt, but surely it should be possible to appoint someone to carry on the work in his absence?

The newspaper articles, to which I have already referred, say that this Motion is a personal attack on the Prime Minister. So far as I am concerned, that is completely untrue, and I pay my tribute to his great efforts since he took over the position he occupies to-day. As the last speaker said, he promised us nothing but blood, sweat and tears, but I would remind him that when he took on his office, he asked the nation for a 100 per cent. war effort, and that, with few exceptions, he got it. These people are now asking what has happened to all the equipment they have been producing, and whether the efforts they are putting in are in the right direction. I feel that glib excuses are no longer satisfying. It is not enough to say that we are sending all the help we can to Russia. I agree we should help Russia in her magnificent fight against the Germans, but not at the expense of Egypt. I support the Prime Minister in his efforts for the fullest prosecution of the war, but I do not believe in his retention of the office of Minister of Defence. Those duties are too much for any one man, and, if he continues to hold that office, I, for one, shall vote against him by supporting this Motion.

Major Gluckstein (Nottingham, East)

When I saw this Motion on the Paper I asked myself two questions, first, was the Motion timely and, second, was it justifiable? When it was put down it was pretty clear that we had suffered a very serious defeat and that we did not know a half or even a tenth of the facts, and were not likely to know them, when it came to be debated. Therefore, it seemed clear then that it was most untimely, and I suggest that nothing has happened since to make it more timely. Whether the Motion is justifiable or not I hope to show in the course of my remarks. Can anyone, then, fail to be struck with the unreality of the whole Debate? Has not anyone the imagination to cast his mind to Libya, where the real battle is going on, where our thoughts, our hopes and our fears really are, and then come back to this sham fight, in the House, where before the Seconder of the Motion had finished his speech, he had given the whole case away by saying that the last thing in the world that he wanted was the removal of the Prime Minister? Can anyone have any doubt about that, if the Motion were carried, only one result would follow, that the Prime Minister and the whole of his Government would have to resign? Looking around, and having regard to the second eleven which has obtruded itself as a shadow Cabinet, I must borrow the phrase that, whatever the effect may be on the enemy, they terrify me. I prefer the present Administration to what I can see in the offing. [Interruption.] That may very well be. I am considering the alternative Government which must be formed if the Motion is carried, and I prefer the present Administration to what I see lurking in ambush. I think it unlikely that the House would dethrone Charles to make James king.

The result of the battle now being fought cannot possibly be affected by the Vote to-morrow, but the effect on our friends and our Allies, and our enemies, may be very serious. Of course, everyone is disappointed, and possibly depressed, at the recent defeats which have taken place in Libya and Egypt, They were unexpected, because the prospects seemed good and the news was not unfavourable. On that point I do not subscribe to the view that we have been lulled by false communiqués. I have read them with great care and in the last battle they have been extremely guarded. Obviously something very seriously went wrong about the middle of June, and that is the reason for our present retreat and difficulty. I do not suppose we shall be told, I do not supppose the Government yet knows, the whole of the story, but it is not unreasonable to remind hon. Members who may feel depressed at this stage, that in April, 1918, if anyone had prophesied that the enemy would be beaten to his knees by November he would have been regarded as a lunatic. Yet that is what actually happened. Of course, our difficulties are going to be increased, and the war may be prolonged because of the recent defeat; we shall have additional troubles and perils in Malta and, of course, if the advance goes on in Egypt, even more serious possibilities to the Suez Canal and other most vital positions.

What ought our functions to be in the face of these events? I am not advocating any abdication of our responsibility and I am not suggesting that we should turn overselves into rubber stamps for the Government. That is not our function here and it does not seem to have been a very marked characteristic of the House under this all-party scheme. We ought not, however, to be fair weather friends of the Government and, when things go wrong, turn on them and look for scapegoats and demand that people should be thrown to the wolves. We want to aid them and not to make things more difficult for them by bringing them here in large numbers to consider Votes of Censure. There was a period of time on Sunday and Monday last week, when adequate leadership might very easily have made all the difference in the world. The Prime Minister, unfortunately, was away, and although I do not want to criticise the Deputy Prime Minister in his absence, I am bound to say that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman handled the situation as well as he might have done. Most of the critics in the House, who have no practical experience of fighting in the field in this war, are really quite ignorant of problems like those of Army supply and administration and even of some of the aspects of modern strategy. In those conditions of ignorance and irresponsibility they and the Press on Monday and Tuesday agitated the public mind by statements which the Government at the time could not, I think, in the public interest, deal with adequately.

That, I think, is the genesis of this Debate. There was—I use the word because I cannot think of any other—a sort of hysteria in the House and the Press last Tuesday. Everyone was upset; there was no question about it, it was an unpleasant defeat, but it was a moment when a leader giving a call of "steady" might have kept public opinion ready to wait until a full explanation could be given. Unfortunately that bugle call of "steady" was not sounded, and the result was that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) jumped in—I fancy he will regret that he did it so prematurely—on that day, and here we have the Motion of Censure. In my opinion we have now reached a stage in the war when we cannot lose it except by allowing the campaign to be controlled by Fleet Street or from Trafalgar Square or by clamour in this House. We cannot lose it in any other way. I take, for example, the clamour about the second front, which, at best, might be thought to be premature. It certainly cannot be strategically sound if we do not want to inform the enemy of exactly what we are going to do.

We have very special duties in this House. We must set an example at all times. However worried we may be, however depressed or dispirited we may feel inside ourselves, we have to set an example to our constituents, to the nation and to our Allies. If we do not, the situation is bound to deteriorate much more. Have the critics in this case really considered the effect of their speeches on the morale of the troops? When I say the critics, I mean not only those in this House but those in the Press. Do they really think that it is advantageous to talk as they do about the heroism and endurance of the Armed Forces of the Crown and then follow that up by a criticism of the war leaders of those troops? It is idle to say there has not been such criticism. One knows quite well that generals and others have been thoroughly criticised for losing a battle.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made such serious statements that it would be wise in his own interests if he told the House what speaker to-day has made criticisms of the General Staff.

Major Gluckstein

The hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby) certainly made reference to the fact, and another hon. and gallant Member who mentioned that he had not spoken here for some time said the right way to approach this Motion was to say that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) ought to have made his speech in quite a different way and then to trot out all your hobby horses and ride them round and show the Government how badly they were doing.

Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South-East)

I do not quite follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Is he making the general proposition that it would be always wrong during the war if one had any reason to do so to make any reflection, shall we say, upon the discipline or operations of our troops, however wrong it may be at this particular moment?

Major Gluckstein

Of course I am not saying anything so stupid. If there is a campaign in which you tell all the officers up, say, to a platoon commander that they are the salt of the earth and magnificent fighting fellows, and that the only thing that is wrong is that their leaders let them down—that is the sort of thing which is said in the "Daily Mirror" and in papers of that kind—what is the effect going to be on the morale of the troops? It is quite clear that they would not think they had got very good leadership, and I feel that the effect on the leaders themselves would be not to make them more efficient and full of initiative but to leave them wondering whether every time they blundered they were not going to be sacrificed.

Major Braithwaite (Buckrose)

Will the hon. and gallant Member point to any speech made during this Debate in which any reflection of that sort has been made by an hon. Member?

Major Gluckstein

I am not saying that it was said by Members of this House. What I am saying is that there has been in the Press consistently a belittling of the leaders of the men. I have mentioned the "Daily Mirror," and hon. Members can look it up for themselves if they wish. Perhaps hon. Members do not read the "Daily Mirror." I think the Home Secretary does. Lastly, what will be the effect of criticisms of that kind and criticisms such as we have heard in the House to-day on the direction of the war, criticism which is not founded on established facts but on conjecture? What will be its effect on the minds of the unfortunate relatives of men now fighting in the Middle East? It must be, of course, to fill them with greater anxiety and leave them wondering whether the sacrifices their sons and husbands are making are being made in vain. These are serious matters, and I must refer to them because they appear in the Press, and I think they appear in the speeches of some hon. Members. Let us by all means have inquiries into defeats at the appropriate moment. Next week, when this battle will, I think, have been finished, would have been a perfectly reasonable time to have a Debate of this kind. The Government would have more information in their possession next week. [Interruption.] Well, the week after, if you like, but let us get this battle over, and when it is over let us discuss what has happened and see whether we cannot do better next time.

Has the criticism to which we have been listening to-day been justified on the facts? I feel, myself, that most people would say that the reason why we do not do better is because we undertook a task beyond our strength. We are not a strong nation numerically, and we have not yet got the advantage of very adequate equipment, and we are fighting an enemy who have been preparing for many years and is numerically much stronger, and really we are taking on more than we can adequately manage at this moment. Of course, it will come right presently when the American strength comes in on our side, but at the moment we are trying to sustain fronts everywhere and it cannot be done. I had hoped that some reference would have been made by the critics to the despatch of very considerable armoured forces to Russia and the possibility that that might have had an effect on the campaign in Libya. I am not quarrelling with that decision.

Mr. Davidson

Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that he is contradicting the statement of the Prime Minister, who said that in Libya we were on equal terms with the enemy, if not on better terms?

Major Gluckstein

No general that I have ever heard of would refuse to have more equipment and more fighters if he could get them, and I do not think our superiority was such that we did not need the tanks sent to Russia. Strategically, I expect it was perfectly right to send the stuff to Russia, but if it was there, it could not be in Libya, and we need it there now and have not got it. That is a fact. I should like to ask the Government whether they could not help the House on this point, because I feel it might have some bearing on the question: I have no doubt that the tanks that have gone to Russia are being used in Russia. Can the Government tell us whether the report of the Russian Government on those tanks is satisfactory?

The Lord Privy Seal (Sir Stafford Cripps)

indicated assent.

Major Gluckstein

I see that my right hon. and learned Friend nods his head, and so I suppose the report is satisfactory. It is gratifying to hear that, because I think it ought to, dispose of some of the criticism of their inadequacy in meeting presumably similar German tanks in North Africa. They may not be entirely fit for warfare in the desert, but at any rate they are not worse than those which the Russians are getting and which are proving satisfactory. There is one other point on which the Government might tell us something, because it is a little disturbing to people whose relatives are in tank units. Is it a fact that the Germans have air conditioning in their tanks such as we have not in ours? If that is so, I hope the remedy will be applied as soon as possible so as to put our men on an equality with the Germans.

Is the purpose of this Debate really to get rid of the Prime Minister and the Government? I do not think that the movers of this Motion expect to achieve that, or want to achieve it. They do not want to get rid of the Prime Minister at all. Quito rightly, they do not want to, because he does represent embattled Britain in the eyes of the world and of our Allies; he is the one man to whom they look to carry us through. After all, I find it very difficult to understand the logic which proclaims in one breath that the Prime Minister is our chosen leader and in the next breath tells him that he really is not fit to choose his own colleagues and carry on his own business but must be controlled in the exercise of that discretion which ought to be inherent in any leader. I do not think that any self-respecting person could continue in office under those conditions.

It has been mentioned already, but I think it ought to be stressed over and over again, that the right way to redress the balance against us in North Africa is the incessant bombing of the supply lines of the enemy. If it is necessary to take bombers from home in large numbers and fly them to North Africa to make sure of achieving that purpose, they are available; if we have to stop our bombing attack on Germany for the time being, we must do so. It would be unfortunate, but the other is more important. As one who has been himself dive-bombed in this war, I think it is a great mistake to attach too much importance to dive bombers. Their real value is when they are used with a proper fighter cover. Dive bombers without proper fighter cover are money for jam, and any fighter pilot will tell you that it is his idea of heaven on earth to be able to deal with dive bombers not properly protected. We should not have been able to use dive bombers in any event until quite recently, because we should not have had the air superiority to enable us to do it. Now we have it, and I hope we are going to receive delivery of the dive bombers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I understood so, from what the right hon. Gentleman said to-day. I personally feel that I owe a debt to the Prime Minister for what he did in 1940 for this nation. I think I represent a great many of my constituents, and people outside my own constituency, in feeling that a moment like this, when he needs support and encouragement, would not be the right moment for me to go into the Lobby and vote against him, and I therefore propose to oppose this Motion.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

The Mover of this Motion has for a considerable period displayed a certain calm and poise in this House, and he has tried to create an impression of supporting the Prime Minister, while, in the most cunning manner, he has sought to undermine and knock away the props from underneath him. But the blow that was struck at our defences in Libya was a terrible blow at the poise of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). Away went the camouflage. In a moment of panic here last week, he exposed himself to this House and to the country, not as a friend, but as an enemy of the Prime Minister, determined to use whatever forces he could to bring him down. Whatever the merits or demerits of the Prime Minister may be, there is not a Member of this House, there is no one in the country but will readily agree that it would be a complete disaster if in place of the Prime Minister and the Government we had the hon. Member for Kidderminster and the tatterdemalion group that gather around him.

But it is not this group that is the danger. Behind this group, not of it, but watching it and encouraging it, ready at any moment to seize whatever opportunity may be forthcoming, are very dangerous and sinister forces. Yes, they have a long record in this country. They were the open friends of Hitler before the war, and they are the hidden friends of Hitler to-day. They supported every development of Fascism in Germany and Italy. They supported Hitler and Mussolini in Spain. They encouraged and supported the rape of Austria and Czechoslovakia. They never cease; they are at it all the time. What is the aim of this attack, not necessarily from those who are supporting this Motion? Listen to the, whispering campaign that is going on around these Lobbies, outside in Fleet Street and in every part of the country. What is the meaning of this attack, which is a political attack on the Prime Minister? What is the use of trying to dodge that question? It is the Prime Minister who is being attacked, not the generals in the field, not the men in the Army, not the Ministers on the Front Bench; it is a political attack directed against the Prime Minister. What has been the Prime Minister's greatest offence? At a critical moment he stood forward as a great statesman, and linked the fate of this country with the fate of the people of the Soviet Union. What has saved this country from annihilation? Is it not the magnificent resistance of the Red Army and the Soviet people? Who linked the fate of this country with the Soviet Union?

Mr. Silverman


Mr. Gallacher

That is the sort of cheap twaddle you get from those who are not capable of serious political thinking. If there had been a weaker Prime Minister at that time, we could have been faced with an absolutely fatal situation. Behind this campaign is the desire to prevent a second front in Europe, the only way of bringing this war to an early end. Behind this campaign is an attempt to weaken our Alliance with the Soviet Union. Have we not sinister forces in the country intent on doing that, vicious towards the Prime Minister because of the strength he has given to the Alliance and also concerned in an attempt to prevent the flow of supplies going to the Soviet Union? All these things are involved in what is going on here. It is this which is the meaning of the phrase— … no confidence in the central direction of the war"— because the question of the central direction of the war cannot be decided simply on the question of Libya. America has been mentioned, but we must mention also the Soviet Union. The situation on other fronts is all part of the central direction of the war, and you cannot talk about the disasters in Libya without discussing the developments on other fronts, and the part which has been played by the central direction in connection with the other fronts.

The disaster in Libya has been a serious setback, but we have certain people who seem to take an actual pleasure in it. They are ready to seize on it, not for the purpose of learning lessons, but for the purpose of carrying on a particularly undesirable political campaign. In the fight against Fascism there have been disasters, one disaster after another, terrible defeats in Spain, in China. In the Soviet Union there have been great losses of territory and the sacrifice of the great Dneiper Dam. All this has not been made into a business of somebody getting into a panic, and demanding that the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union should cease to be the Defence Minister. Could there be anything more nonsensical? The hon. Member for Kidderminster says that what we want is a strong man who will give his whole time and energy to the winning of the war. Where is the Prime Minister in that event? If such a man is to win the war, he must have control of everything. You do not need a Prime Minister apart from that. What would the Prime Minister do with a strong man giving his whole time and energy to winning the war? It would mean that the Prime Minister would simply become a rubber stamp. I have never heard such nonsense.

Defeats and disasters in the Soviet Union and China were not made the means of this sort of thing. Careful study was made of them to find out where the mistakes had been made, and how ad- vantage could be taken of the lessons drawn from them. If there is a weakness in the Government, it is a weakness in relation to the forces behind them on the other side of the House. If the Government had not capitulated to the 1922 Committee on fuel rationing; if members of the Government would not come and whisper to me, "We cannot lift the ban from the 'Daily Worker'; it would annoy the 1922 Committee; if the Labour party conference had not passed that resolution, we might have been able to lift the ban, but now the 1922 Committee would be up in arms and do all sorts of things"; if the Government would make a stand against the 1922 Committee, and against these sinister forces, it would be much better for the Government and for the country as a whole. In this Debate we must use the opportunity to see that everything is done in this House and subsequently in the country to expose those who are trying by any means to disrupt the Alliance between this country and the Soviet Union and to prepare the way for a deal of some kind or other with Hitler.

The next few weeks will be very critical, and there will be need for the sharpest criticism; but not for political manœuvring or intrigues. There will be need for the fullest information on what has taken place, and what is taking place. I am a trade unionist and a co-operator. Every week-end I speak at two or more meetings, to masses of workers. At every meeting there are numbers of soldiers and shop stewards, and they speak to me after the meetings. I have discussed questions affecting production, affecting the Government, affecting the war, with shop stewards in every part of the country,; and I am prepared to stand here and speak for the shop stewards in general. I say, in the name of the shop stewards throughout the country, that there is no lack of confidence in the Prime Minister. The same is true of the rank and file of the Army. But—there seems to be a feeling here that nobody should mention the higher command of the Army—there is in the, country, in the factories, and among the rank and file of the Army, a lack of confidence, not in the Prime Minister, but in the higher command of the Army. I am meeting shop stewards in Glasgow on Saturday, and any Member who cares to come with me can discuss the matter with them.

Is it because officers are incapable of understanding or of developing the arts of war? No, it is because of the backward methods, that have never been overcome, in the general military outlook and training in this country. The other week I was watching some lads being trained. A big sergeant-major was shouting at them in the way I used to hear when I saw sergeant-majors being lampooned in the music halls. The men had to slope arms, and to stand with every bayonet in line. A commissioned officer came along and examined their boots and their buttons in front, and then examined them again at the rear. If anything was out of place, the man had to take two steps backwards and put it right. These lads were commandos. A fortnight later I read about the commandos landing in France, and that a seargeant was there with his house slippers on. What would the sergeant-major have said about that? This training had no relation to the work they would have to do. But when I speak of this to hon. Members I am told that this sort of thing is necessary in order to ensure discipline. That is the central idea—discipline. Discipline, however, is not the quality that is wanted for modern warfare; what is wanted is initiative. Small groups are so often isolated, and have to fight by themselves. I was speaking last Wednesday to one of the lads in the Lobby. He said, "Cannot we get some of these young fellows from the Red Army to lead our Forces?"

We have the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) talking about getting someone from Canada to lead the Forces. I said to the lad in the Lobby, "No, that's wrong. We have any number of fine young lads in our own Army. That is where we have to get them." We want young lads, with new ideas about methods of warfare. Take the case of Ted Willis and Mick Bennett. They are fine, strapping, go-ahead lads, keen, enthusiastic, with lots of initative. They were thrown out of the Army, and their commanding officer gave them a character that would get them into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This sort of thing should stop. We ought to have learnt lessons from the Spanish war and from the tanks and antitank squadrons that were out there. We have to insist on the effective supply of dive bombers. Let us face the fact that in Libya we were obviously at certain disadvantages from the point of view of tanks and guns, but that was not the decisive thing. There is the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster that we were sending obsolete tanks and guns to Libya. How dare he get up in this House and make such a suggestion?

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

The answer is very simple. I did not say that the tanks were obsolete, but that a great many of the tanks in Libya to-day were not capable of standing against German tanks now there, which is a very different statement.

Mr. Gallacher

I was very careful to say that the hon. Member for Kidderminster suggested that they were obsolete and incapable of standing up against the German tanks. That was not true. There were certain disadvantages, but that did not explain why these tanks of ours got into a tank trap. The fact remains that in the Soviet Union the same kind of tanks and guns are being used with the greatest effect. I was speaking to one of the officials who was over there, and he told me that he had never seen material put into use so rapidly or that was of such great value as the British tanks and British guns. The Russians have paid tribute to the British tanks and the British guns that have been sent out there, and it was the same sort of stuff that was sent to Libya, so that, while there were certain disadvantages, they were not the decisive thing, which, in my opinion, is that in this country the higher command has never get to the stage where it has completely reorganised the old methods of military manoeuvre and training.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

The hon. Member had better take care, or he will be voting against the Government.

Mr. Gallacher

I know what I am doing. This is something which has been going on for generations, and it is not an easy matter to overcome it. I would never dream of putting down a Vote of Censure against a Government because at a critical moment we realised how a method of warfare which had been considered suitable a generation ago was out of date and had to be completely reorganised.

Another thing is this. We must ask the Government what they are doing about their Intelligence Service. More of our Intelligence personnel are, used to spy on Communists in this country than to spy upon Hitler and Mussolini. Take the case of Ivor Montague. He is called up for the Navy and gets his stuff packed. Half an hour before he leaves home to get a train he gets a message saying, "We do not want you." He goes to the Employment Exchange next morning and asks why he has been stopped, and the manager says, "I know nothing about it; it is M.I.5." The manager tried to cover up this statement, but he had already given it away. Here is the story of a member of the Young Communist League, Walter J. Ferguson, who was awarded the D.F.M. What would have happened if M.I.5 had discovered him? Then there is the Chief Constable of Swansea area, the man who was responsible for the arrest of old Tom Mann and Harry Pollitt a few years ago. This Chief Constable placed a dictaphone in a room which was to be used by Communists. What sort of melodramatic game is this? Why does not this Chief Constable make application to go to Germany to join the Gestapo? At Holyhead some friends of mine were going to Dublin. They were known to be sympathetic to the Communist movement. When they got to Holyhead they were asked, "Were you at a Communist demonstration in Trafalgar Square on a certain date?" and, "When did you see Hairy Pollitt last?"

Mr. Magnay (Gateshead)

On a point of Order. It is very interesting to hear from the hon. Member what happened in Ireland, but I think it is as far from the Motion as anything can be.

Mr. Gallacher

I am not talking about what happened in Ireland; I am talking about what happened at Holyhead. Behind it all is M.I.5, and I want the Government to use members of this Department not for spying upon Communists but for obtaining information about the activity of the enemy that will contribute towards the winning of the war. As I have said, there is great need for overhauling our military machine. It is not a question of the rank and file of the Army. Recently the Prime Minister spoke on the radio about the glory of Russia, but Britain, too, has written a page of glory. Our lads who swept the skies by day and night and our lads at sea in the Navy and the Merchant Service have created a page of glory which cannot be surpassed. Our lads who are in the Army are the same type as those who are, in the Air Force or sailing in the Merchant Service. They are the same type as the lads in the Chinese and Red Armies—brave, tough and tenacious—but it is necessary to have a complete overhaul and change of the whole character of our military training and leadership. I would like to say to the Prime Minister, if he cares to read my speech—and although I express my confidence in him I am certain he will not express much confidence in me—that he should place less reliance on those behind him in the House and more in the people of the country. At the time of Dunkirk, it was said that the Prime Minister saved the morale of this country. I question that. The people of this country have a long history, they can take the most terrific blows, and make the most rapid recovery. But I will say that at the time of Dunkirk the Prime Minister saved the Tory party. It might have been better if he had torpedoed it, but he saved it; and it is a leading Tory Back-Bencher who now tries to stab him in the back. I say to the Prime Minister—let him have the same confidence in the people of this country as the people of this country have shown in him. What a difference that would make.

Let us, in voting on this Motion, realise that Hitler and Goebbels and the Nazi gang have always made advances where there was division. Division is the greatest aid to the Nazis. They want division, and they are watching for it incessantly. Above all things, they want division between this country and the Soviet Union, and they want division within this country itself. We have heard it whispered often that Russia may make a separate peace; not only has it been whispered, it has been shouted. But the treaty that was made the other week has exploded that attempt to make division between this country and the Soviet Union. There is no more any question about the fact that the fate of the people of this country and the fate of the people of the Soviet Union are bound together with the fate of the Americans, the Chinese and the other United Nations, and that co-operation between this country and the Soviet Union is one of the essential factors for victory.

Libya does not lessen, but strengthens the need for a second front while Hitler is heavily engaged on the Eastern front against Russia. There are some who say that if we had sent munitions here and there instead of sending them to Russia, we could have saved the Empire. Those who say that are dangerous enemies of the people of this country. They want to take attention away from this country and from Europe. But nobody can question the correctness of the strategy of the Prime Minister. To attempt to save the Empire and leave Europe to Hitler would mean that this country would be at the mercy of Hitler and Fascism. If we can save Europe and free the peoples of Europe, this country will be free and safe. Whatever happens in Libya, whatever happens in Egypt, whatever happens in the Caucasus, sooner or later the issue will have to be faced—capitulate or fight, here or on the Continent. Whatever may be the sacrifices caused by making a second front on the Continent, they will be as nothing compared with the sacrifices there will be if we wait until the second front is set up in this country. Libya has not done away with the need for a second front, or weakened the necessity for a second front in Europe. While Hitler is heavily engaged in Russia, a second front in Europe would mean the greatest possible aid to those who are carrying on the struggle in Egypt.

One of the greatest weaknesses is the fact that our main Forces are not effectively engaged. Therefore, I want to ask the Prime Minister to take the people into the most complete confidence, and to base his policy and his hopes upon the courage and determination of the people of the country. If we can get that combination—a Prime Minister in whom the people have confidence, and who in return has confidence in the people—I am certain we shall be able to perform deeds which will parallel the British page of glory with the page of glory which has been written by the people of the Soviet Union and the people of China.

I want to make an appeal to the Labour Members in the Government. They have a very great responsibility for bringing about the basic unity in this country which can provide national unity around the Government. The Deputy Prime Minister said at the Labour party conference at the Central Hall that there was a diverse number of nations grouped together. We had the extreme of Communism, he said, in Soviet Russia, and the extreme of individualism in America, with Britain somewhere in between. He said we had found it necessary to sink our political differences and unite on, a common platform to save civilisation. There is the principle laid, down by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour party. He drew attention to the fact that the Atlantic Charter laid down principles and that these principles had to be applied. When he was at the Bar, he said, there were robbery, theft and larceny—all kinds of names for different offences, but all coming under the one principle, "Thou shalt not steal." Get the principle, he said, and then apply it. He supplied the principle when he said we must sink our political differences and unite on a common platform.

That is the principle, and I ask, the Deputy Prime Minister if he and his colleagues will apply it. I say that the Minister of Labour would face anything rather than go with me to Glasgow and along with me address a shop stewards' meeting. He could not face up to it. And yet it would be important. But, before the war, when we were advocating a people's front or a popular front to prevent war, the Minister of Labour was prepared to die rather than go on the same platform as the present Prime Minister, and the same applies to the Deputy Prime Minister and other Labour Members. They have got over that. They are now united with the Prime Minister, although it was the main argument against us before the war, that we wanted them to associate with the Prime Minister. I make an appeal to them, they have a great duty and a great responsibility in the face of the terrible situation which confronts us for uniting and arousing the people of this country. Let them take responsibility for that task. Let them cease to be afraid, and to march with us out among the masses of the people. We can arouse the people to a fervour, to an enthusiasm and to a spirit of determination which will overcome every obstacle which can be placed against them.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson (Hastings)

The hon. and gallant Member for East Nottingham (Major Gluckstein) raised a point of some importance which was not chal- lenged by the Mover of the Motion or any of his supporters. He said that in his view the Mover did not wish to unseat the Prime Minister. I think, owing to the fact that that was unchallenged, it is right to press the point further and to ask the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) just what was his purpose in moving the Motion. Was it to embarrass the Prime Minister? Did he think it would be helpful to the Prime Minister, when he, was in America, to move such a Motion?

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

If the hon. Member is addressing me, may I ask him to put his question in a courteous way and not to attribute things to me which are quite contrary to what I have said.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I can only say that, if the hon. Gentleman thought his action was helpful to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister might well reply, You may have been right to dissemble your love, But why did you kick me downstairs? I have asked the hon. Gentleman what could have been his purpose in moving the Motion.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

I think the hon. Member could not have been here. If he was, it must be entirely my fault that in a speech of half an hour I failed to convince him of what I intended, but I have not had any complaint from any other Member who failed to understand the object of the Motion, which I tried to explain, though no doubt very badly.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I listened with some care, but at the end of his speech I was in some doubt as to what his real purpose could have been. I have listened to the greater part of the Debate, and it seems to me that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Croydon (Mr. Willink) lifted the Debate back to its proper level, namely, the viewing of the whole war in its major aspects against the background of its history, not only the history of the three years of war itself, but also of the 10 or 15 years preceding it. Of course, this is only the first day of the Debate. It is on the second day that we shall hear from the Prime Minister the answer to the main questions that have been raised. Among those major aspects of the war there is one of which there has been very little mention—my hon. Friend did not mention it himself—the fact that England had been left alone for a very long time to carry on the battle of civilisation; and, when my noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), comparing this war with the last, says we have had a series of disasters quite unparalleled in our history, the wonder, when one considers for how long we were fighting the war alone, is that we have survived at all. There was too the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieut. Boothby) that, if anything, the Government have been trying to do too much, or rather that they have had too much to do. Another point to which reference has been made occasionally is the optimistic quality of Press reports and leading articles during the past few months. I do not think we ought to blame the Press because we have perhaps attributed to it too much infallibility. That surely is our own fault.

It is difficult to find words adequate to express how strong is the disapproval of, many of my hon. Friends and myself that this Motion should have been brought forward at the present time. I am not in any way daring to question the right of hon. Members to bring forward a Motion of No Confidence. I am questioning the time they have chosen for making use of that right. Many of my hon. Friends and I believe that it was contrary to the national interest to do so, and also to the interests of Parliament whose position in the high esteem of the public all of us would wish to maintain. I thought earlier in the week that it would be a good thing that the hon. Member should be asked to withdraw his Motion, but as I thought it over it seemed to me that the mischief had already been done, that all the harm that it was possible to do to the public interest had already been done, and that it was right that the Government should meet the Vote of No Confidence squarely and at once get from the House of Commons a resounding vote of support which would be carried all over the world. We are quite accustomed to the frequent and regular discharges of the hon. Member for Kidderminster against the Government. I see that he has left his place.

Major Lyons (Leicester, East)

Is it not the first time——

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I am not complaining, for the hon. Member has been most courteous in his attendance. I am merely noticing his absence.

Major Lyons

Is not this the first time he has opposed the Government?

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

It is not the first time; he has spoken against the Government several times. There is a series of his speeches against the Government on record in the last few months. In fact with such frequency and regularity has he spoken that he has come to be regarded in the minds of many people as some sort of political pom-pom.

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Something like the Prime Minister was before he joined the Government.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I do not know how far the comparison will carry. Pompoms certainly have their uses in the right time and place, though their penetrating power is not very great nor is their range. We all share the anxieties to which the hon. Member has given voice. Most of all does the Prime Minister share them because he knows much more closely than many of us the full foundation for those anxieties and their implications. We feel with regard to the Libyan campaign in particular that we have been out-gunned, out-tanked, and, it may be, to some extent out-generalled. There is no question that some mistakes have been made in the past. I do not see how any one can undertake so enormous a proposition as the re-orientation of this nation from a peace to a war basis without there being a considerable number of mistakes in the process.

There was one useful by-product of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production when he pointed to the length of time it takes to bring any decision in connection with production and supply into actual operation. Anyone who has had experience of manufacturing, of transport and of the designing of complicated instruments of war would know that without being told, but I think that there is a failure on the part of the public generally to appreciate the immense time lag involved in operations of this kind. How long, for instance, does it take to rectify a mistake in the design of a gun? The mistake has to be found out first and then has to be rectified. Does it take one or two years before the right kind of gun can be in production? How long does it take to rectify a mistake in the design of a tank? Two or four years? I hardly think we can blame our own military authorities for not having worked out the whole business of tank warfare when for years we starved them of the opportunity for doing so. I think that possibly we may hear something which would be useful from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) if he should join in this Debate at a later stage, because he must have been in the War Office during the period when discussions were taking place as to designs of tanks, and he must know exactly why it is that in 1939 we hardly had any heavy tanks at all. Again, how long does it take to clear up the after-effects of a mistake in the choice of a highly placed executive? How long does it take, after a decision has been reached to send reinforcements to Libya or to Singapore or to the Far East, for those reinforcements to arrive? How long does it take to train a general? Can we blame our soldiers if they are not practised in the military art?

Here is a mistake which I do not feel inclined to lay at the door of the Government. It is one which I feel much more inclined to lay at my own door, a mistake which I made with my vote in the 10 or 15 years preceding the outbreak of war, at a time when such money as I earned I preferred to spend upon myself. I preferred to maintain freedom of business, freedom of contract. I preferred to give my vote to, or to be taken in by demands for, collective security. I preferred to vote for social security—anything rather than that form of security which alone could give real security, namely, the building of guns and tanks and ships and aeroplanes and the training of soldiers. All that was my fault for a long time. I share in that responsibility. What was ray right hon. Friend the Prime Minister doing all the time I was doing foolish things with my vote? He was telling me to build guns and tanks and ships and aeroplanes and to train soldiers, sailors and airmen. Now, to-day, I am asked to say that I have no confidence in the central direction of the war, for which my right hon. Friend is supremely responsible.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

No doubt the hon. Gentleman heard the speech of the Minister of Production to-day. Can he explain why it was that the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence had failed to do anything to produce the right guns and tanks?

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I do not think there is any evidence that the Prime Minister did fail to do anything.

Mr. Stokes

The Minister of Production said so.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

The hon. Member himself is a manufacturer and would have some idea of how long it would take to produce the right kind of tank even assuming that the decision had been reached by the military authorities as to just what was the right kind of tank.

Major Lyons

May I too ask a question? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied from the speech to-day of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production that anything at all has been done recently to get the right sort of tank?

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

I should say we are not yet in any sense satisfied with the present output of the right sort of tank.

Major Lyons

Or the direction which secures it.

Mr. Hely-Hutchinson

That I cannot agree with, because of the time involved. If a thing is wrong now it is due to a decision, or a failure to take a decision, as much as three or five years ago, and that is something about which I am not prepared to blame the present Government. No, Sir, I find great difficulty in believing that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who all those years before the war foresaw our chiefest need, is now the man that I am not to trust in the central direction of the war.

I should like to come back to the actual Vote of No Confidence. I should never put my own name to a Vote of Censure of the Government, a Vote of No Confidence, unless I was prepared to take the logical consequences of my action and unless I was prepared to share responsibility for that action, unless I was prepared to share in the Government which might issue from that Vote of Censure if the House of Commons accepted it. From that point of view I have looked at the list of supporters of this Motion. Lord Baldwin has told us that we should take all things seriously but nothing tragically, and I therefore seriously examined the list of supporters of this Motion to try to determine whether not only I but the House generally would have a greater feeling of confidence in the Government if any considerable number of the supporters of that Motion were translated to Government office, I am unable to feel that this House would feel any greater confidence in the Government if the supporters, or any number of the supporters, of this Motion were added to it. I feel very strongly that it is a very unfortunate thing that this Motion of No Confidence was brought forward at the present time. The hon. Member for Kidderminster has chosen to withhold confidence from the central direction of the war at the very time when this country needs confidence above all things. Confidence is a matter on which I have had to ponder a good deal in the course of my life, because, as may be appreciated, a banker makes his living by trusting people and by learning whom to trust.

It is something which is not done by any golden rule, but by the wholesome method of trial and error. I have noticed too, and this applies particularly in business, that it is not possible for any man to give his confidence to another unless he first has confidence in himself. Once a man has confidence in himself, he is free to give his confidence to others, and by that confidence to strengthen them, and from that point of view I freely give my confidence to the Prime Minister, and I say to him, "Good luck go with thine honour, and thy right hand shall show thee terrible things."

Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I think that this is the first occasion, so far as I can remember, on which I have ventured to take part in a major Debate upon the conduct of the war. I do not know whether that entitles me to claim the indulgence of the House, but I will promise not to detain it too long. It seems to me that this is a question not perhaps easy to decide but simple enough in its terms. The question that the House is being asked to answer is whether or not it has confidence in the central direction of the war, and that must mean by the Government. For myself I can only answer that question in one way, and being able to answer it in that one way only, whatever the consequences of answering honestly, I shall go into the Division Lobby in support of the Motion.

I have listened, I think, to the whole of this Debate, and the surprising thing to me is that not one single speaker, including the right hon. Gentleman who first spoke for the Government, displayed very much more confidence in the Government than I have. Not one single whole-hearted supporter of the Government have we heard. There was the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby), who made a most striking and effective speech which he said was a speech in support of the Government. As far as I could understand him, he said this: "I have so much confidence in the central direction of the war by this Government that I think it is a miracle we have survived at all." He said too that the main responsibility for such disasters as have occurred resided not with this Government but with its predecessor, and he said that the Ministers in that previous Government who were really responsible, and not this Government, instead of being promoted ought to have been imprisoned. But most of them are still members of the Government, and we are presumably to deduce from his speech that Ministers who ought to be in prison are the Government he intends to vote for.

Then there was my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton). He said that he would not vote at all, if I understood his speech correctly, and his reason was, "I cannot support this Vote of No Confidence in the Government because it is not quite true that I have no confidence. There is remaining just that scintilla of confidence that prevents me from voting for this Vote of Censure." And then a variety of other hon. Members have spoken and have said that they will support the Government because they cannot see any alternative. What a fall from greatness is that. This superman, this great leader, this giant of a figure, will get votes in the Division, heaven knows how many, not—confessedly—on his own merits or on the merits of the Government, but faute de mieux, anything else might be worse. I do not suppose that I am ever likely to be a Prime Minister; I have no ambitions; but if ever I were, I would rather resign than retain my office on the kind of confidence that many of the supporters of the Government have offered to the Government to-day.

I thought I was going to be disappointed; there came a time when my hon. Friend—and I hope I may still call him so—the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) took part in the Debate. I am sorry he has not found it possible to remain, and he will forgive me, I am sure, for saying what I have to say in his absence, for which I am not responsible. I did think when he began his speech that at last we had found a whole-hearted, enthusiastic supporter of the Government, with no qualifications, no doubts, no hesitations, no misgivings and no suspicions, and I thought what an ironic thing it was that the only party in this House which was giving undivided support to the Prime Minister was the only party not represented in the Government. But I was not to have that pleasure after all, because my hon. Friend proceeded to deliver what I venture to think was the most damning indictment of the central direction of the war delivered in the whole of this Debate.

He did give his support to the Prime Minister, and he thought it was essential that we should do that. I think he cannot complain if one were to ask him precisely when he reached that view. I remember a whole series of controversies, pamphlets, issues of the "Daily Worker," meetings, demonstrations, national conventions, the People's Convention, I think they called it. And what was it all about? First of all, a condemnation of this party; for doing what? For supporting the Prime Minister at a time when this country was standing alone against almost the whole of Europe. I am not saying that he is not entitled to change his mind. Of course he is. I agree entirely with those people who say that in war everybody must be prepared to revise his opinions from day to day. But it is hardly right for an hon. Member and for a party in this country which devoted the whole of its energies during the most critical phase of the war to saying that we in this party were wrong to support the Government, now to be blaming us at a very different period in the war for taking a view which he no longer shares. I almost wonder whether there was some idea that if only he was enthusiastic enough in his support of the Prime Minister the ban on the "Daily Worker" might be lifted. I remember being asked at a meeting once when I thought the ban on the "Daily Worker" would be lifted, and I replied that I thought I could answer that quite easily, that it would be when the Communist party ceased to support the Government.

He proceeded from that moment in his speech, to do what? To condemn production in this country, to condemn the political attitude of the Government to a variety of matters, to condemn the whole organisation of the Army, to advocate instead of the time-honoured, professional, generation-old system in the Army, a new system, a revolutionary system, a revolutionary method of war. If all that, with which I entirely agree, is not an attack upon the central direction of the war, what in the world is it? Leaving that, it seems to me that the real question for this House to decide is how soon it proposes to bring itself into alignment with feeling in the country. We may debate a Vote of Censure in this House, and a Vote of Censure it is, in my opinion. I shall vote for it as such. There will be a Vote in this House at the conclusion of this Debate, and the Government will get an overwhelming majority, I have not the faintest doubt. And when they have got it, and the more they get it, and the more enormous their majority is, the more will the people of this country be frustrated, and the more will this House be brought into contempt.

For the truth is, whether it is a palatable truth or not, that in the country confidence in this Government has already disappeared. For proof of it, go to the series of by-elections in the last few months. I certainly do not, and would not willingly, say that I regard a series of Independent victories as a satisfactory thing; it is a highly dangerous thing. But satisfactory or dangerous, it is a fact that in by-election after by-election, Government candidates have been supported by every political party in this country, including the party represented by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and—[Interruption]—and mine—I said every political party in this country. In the latest of them the candidate officially supported by every political party in this country was defeated by a two-to-one vote. What a situation, when the combined political organisations of this country from one extreme to the other, unitedly behind a single candidate in what I think used to be a safe Tory seat, cannot secure for the Government more than half the votes of the successful candidate. If that does not mean a loss of confidence in the Government by the electors who have been given an opportunity to vote, what does it mean?

It is no good pretending that confidence is something that can be established by debates and votes in this House. If a Vote of Censure represents nothing in the public mind, it does not matter how many votes are secured for it here: it will make no difference to the Government, to our Allies, to our enemies, to anybody. Similarly, if a Vote of Confidence, recorded by an overwhelming majority in this House, does not correspond to what is felt by the mass of the people outside, it is of no value at all. I rather resent the lecturing, hectoring, sermonising tone in which speaker after speaker has said what he thinks it right for other Members to do. There is only one thing which it is right for a Member of this House to do in a crisis of this kind; that is, to make up his mind honestly and conscientiously on what he believes, and then to vote for it. That is what we have endeavoured to do. Some of my hon. Friends have said that in putting my name to this Motion I am in queer company. I hope that those associated with me will not mind if I say that I confess it. I am sure some of them would say the same of me, so they will not mind in the least. It is equally true of all those who oppose the Motion. Here we find my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife speaking on the same side as the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Hely-Hutchinson), in support of a Motion of Confidence in the Home Secretary. He said something about fighting Fascism: he is on the same side as the gentleman who used to be the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth. In times like this, we cannot avoid unusual political alignments. They do not matter in the least.

What we want is real national unity, independent of political parties; but you cannot get that by imposing some kind of uniform rule, some unreal policy, some method of so intimidating people in this House as to produce what looks on paper something like a Vote of Confidence in the Government when that confidence is not shared by the people of this country. I do not propose to argue the matter: confidence is not a matter of argument; it is the slow result of experience. I can see nothing in the record of this Government during the last two years that leads me to suppose that they understand either the technical or the political meaning of this war.

They are reactionary in both respects, both in the technical aspect of it and in the political meaning of it, too. Unless this is a social revolution going on all over the world, a kind of international civil war, it is nothing at all. The other side realise it. They know on which side they are. That is why they are winning. Our difficulty is that even yet we have not made up our minds in this country on which side we are in the social cataclysm that is going on throughout the world. That is my own reason for having no confidence whatever in the direction of a war which must ultimately depend upon political considerations, and on the next Sitting Day I shall have no hesitation whatever in going into the Lobby in support of the Motion. I am sure that, if it were to succeed and the Government were to fall, so far from doing our cause any harm, all the freedom-loving peoples of the world would be relieved and say that at last the people of Great Britain had woken up.

Major Gates (Middleton and Prestwich)

The Minister of Production had no hesitation in prefacing his remarks by saying that he was confused. I have listened to every speech except one in this Debate, and I am still confused. I was confused by the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who gave me to understand—I do not know whether he gave other hon. Members the same impression—that if we vote against the Motion before the House at the moment we shall be giving an unqualified Vote of Confidence in the Government. I cannot read that into this Motion. I would like, in reply to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), to say straight away that not only am I still fully confident in the Government but my confidence has been strengthened from the most unexpected quarters. I wish to pay him the courtesy of taking up two points in his speech. He has said—and every hon. Member must agree with him—that it is our bounden duty to vote according to our consciences, having considered this matter gravely and carefully, and also that he was sure that the "Noes" would have an overwhelming majority. Is he suggesting that the overwhelming majority of the Members of this House do not and will not vote according to their consciences?

Mr. Silverman

Of course not. I am suggesting that this House, by the effluxion of time and other causes, has ceased to be representative of the people of this country, if it ever was.

Major Gates

I think I am still qualified to speak on this point, because I was actually the first candidate of the Churchill Government in this House, and I was elected at the end of May, 1940. I still cannot see the contention of the hon. Member, but I will pass on to the other point that he made, that it is extremely difficult for anybody at any time to give a resumé of a Debate in this House, to convey to the outside world a true impression of what is really felt and said in this House. It has been my experience after these two brief but very full years in this House—during which I have occupied the time of Members very little—that we understand each other very well indeed. But I think a paramount feeling in the breast of every Member, when this Motion was tabled, was worry as to what would be the impression on the outside world. I think we know that this Debate has been harmless, but I cannot reassure myself, nor, I am sure, can other Members, that the effect of this Debate on our own people and on our friends in the outside world has not been regrettable. I have sat on this back bench for two years, and I have listened in silence and friendliness to the usual fun which has been poked from the other side against those who sit here. Frequently we have been likened to sheep, even sheep with gilded horns, with no minds of our own at all. The hon. Member suggested that we should act like sheep, but then he drew the attention of the House to the fact that Government supporters on these benches have not hesitated to be critical in this Debate. I started my remarks by saying that my confidence in the Government and the Prime Minister is undiminished, but I shall still retain my freedom of conscience, my right to criticise and offer suggestions if I feel so inclined, and I can assure the hon. Member that while I have the privilege to sit in this House that will always be my attitude, and I do not care how many Whips are here now. That remark, I have no doubt, will be noted, but I stand by it.

I intended, however, to intervene for a slightly different purpose. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby) mentioned the Amendment tabled by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Major C. J. Taylor) and myself, and I would like to point out for a moment our motives for doing that. When we tabled the Amendment we were not activated at all by panic or hysteria. We have watched several of these war Debates, and they rather tend to take a set course, a course containing a certain amount of recrimination, and their constructive results have frequently been negligible. My hon. and gallant Friend and I have sincere convictions on a certain subject, and we saw an opportunity if, as we suspected and as has been the case, this Debate devolved into the usual form of war Debate. Therefore, we ventured to table an Amendment which we thought, if it ever was considered, would be a valuable constructive addition to the deliberations of this House.

Put briefly, it is my experience, having served in the Armed Forces of the Crown since September, 1939, that there is a growing feeling in the Army that, brave as it may be, high in morale as it certainly is, and capable of tremendous feats of endurance, it is not fair to the Army to ask it to confront an enemy, which has been slavishly preparing for war for over seven years, without having at least equality in equipment. If one goes back through the whole history of warfare, it must be quite evident to everybody that the aeroplane has changed the whole conception of war as we have ever known it, including the Great War of 1914–1918. It is a great pity that this country, which first realised the potentialities of the aeroplane, first appreciated aeroplanes and put them into action, has unfortunately, for reasons which have been well stated in the Debate, left it to the enemy to carry on from the point where we left off. Every country which is in the war, or preparing for it, is developing the air weapon along much the same lines as our chief enemy, with the exception of this country. Probably I do not have to inform hon. Members that divisions are still leaving this country for various battlefields deficient in training in co-operation with the air weapon. [Interruption.] I hear an hon. Member ask, "Who is criticising now?" I was very careful to explain that, as an occupant of this Back Bench and a complete supporter of the Government, I reserve my right to offer suggestions or criticisms. Divisions are still leaving this country deficient in training in co-operation with the air weapon. Every hon. Member knows the close cooperation which the Boche practises. For the last 18 months, it has been my task in the Army to instruct in mobile warfare. I would like to assure the House that although I could give an exhaustive and exhausting treatise on the subject, I shall not do so, but I would like to summarise the matter by saying that I could make out a very nearly unanswerable case for what would amount to an Army air arm, in effect, if not in name.

I would like now to put to hon. Members one or two very brief questions. It is my opinion that when the House, in 1939—I was not then a Member—passed the Conscription Bill, it undertook an enormous responsibility which I believe it has never fully discharged. Having pitchforked our fellow men into the Fighting Forces, it must be our bounden duty to keep a very close eye on their subsequent fate and fortunes. This House has admittedly concerned itself with the subject known as Army welfare, and my hon. and gallant Friend and I were very glad to receive again the other day the Government's assurance that the subject of pay and allowances will very shortly come under review. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] My hon. and gallant Friend received an assurance from the Leader of the House, when he put a Question on Business for the Session, that the Government had that subject in mind.

Major Lyons

When my hon. and gallant Friend has been in the House a little longer, he will realise what a little that means.

Major Gates

The hon. and gallant Member forgets that I still have complete confidence in the Government. I wonder how many hon. Members have knowledge of the details of the life led by a citizen when drafted into the Army. What kind of weapon training does he receive, and how much, and how do his weapons compare technically with those used by the enemy? What type of instructions does he receive in battle tactics, what opportunity does he have to put various theories and methods to the test, and how well has he learned these lessons before he is sent overseas to engage enemies who have been feverishly slaving at the art of modern warfare for many years? It is obvious that such tactics as those which are rehearsed by the Home Guard in English country and fields, in closed country, will be subject to tremendous modifications when used in the wide open spaces of the desert. In that connection, were the divisions which were sent to reinforce Burma and Malaya chosen because of their special training in the art of jungle warfare? Do hon. Members know whether, in fact, any training is given in this country in the art of jungle warfare? I have asked these questions to see whether I can get any reactions from Members, and to see what is their knowledge of the present-day Army.

Dr. Haden Guest

Does not the hon. and gallant Member realise that one of the reasons for asking for this Debate is the fact that we have been refused practically all information about the campaigns in Malaya and Burma? It is precisely these questions which we want to ask the Government which the hon. and gallant Member supports.

Major Gates

The point I am making is that it is not necessary for the Government to instruct or inform us on these questions. We can go out and take an interest in our fellow men while they are training to serve us overseas. I know that a great many hon. Members in this House can answer these questions fully, but I also know there are many who cannot, and I wonder, therefore, as some of us have not taken the trouble to inform ourselves fully on these subjects, whether we have not some sort of beam to pluck out of our own eyes before we search for motes in the eyes of others. I do not wish to get away from my main point, that our fellow men are being sent overseas to engage the enemy hand to hand and face to face, and that the enemy has at his immediate disposal a fully qualified air force, and our fellow men not only do not have this tremendously powerful weapon at their hands and at their command, but have not even been trained in its use, supposing the weapon was ever made available to them. I do not want to give hon. Members the impression that I am attacking the Royal Air Force.

Major Lyons

The hon. and gallant Member is attacking the Government.

Major Gates

Possibly the hon. and gallant Member does not think my criticisms are constructive, but I can assure him that they are made in that spirit, and not as an attack on the Government. If every suggestion which is to be offered in this House is an attack on the Government, this House loses its functions. I have been hoping for some time past that the Secretary of State for Air would take an early opportunity to refresh the memory of the House as to the tremendous part that the Royal Air Force is playing in the war. A lot of people have the impression that the Air Force reached its peak when it won the Battle of Britain, but there is much more to the story than that. The Air Force is the only weapon at the moment, with the exception of a few Commando raids, with which we are carrying the war to the enemy in Western Europe, and a case could be made out to show that it saved Australia from the horrors of invasion. But the story would come far better from the Secretary of State for Air.

I am certainly not attacking the Air Force. My case is simply that the Army must have air components under its immediate command, and these air components must be an integral part of the Army, having grown up and gone up to school with it. The Army must train the arms concerned in military methods and practice, and simultaneously the Army must be trained in the proper use of an air weapon. As to whether this Army air service shall be created out of existing personnel and machines of the R.A.F., or whether the Army shall take a leaf out of the Navy's book and form its own Air Arm, is a question of ways and means for the House to decide and I am not concerned with it at all. But if my remarks have persuaded any hon. Members, and certainly the Government, that, possibly the ideas of the House on the employment of the air weapon, this tremendous weapon of the war, are in need of overhaul, and it may be revision, I think the Debate will, after all, have been beneficial to the Allied cause.

Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)

It may be that, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman has had a little more experience of the House, he will find that it is a great advantage to him to read the Motion before the House and study it and see what its meaning is. He has offered constructive criticisms. How long docs he think he must go on offering constructive criticisms, and getting them refused from day to day, before he will begin to lose confidence in the persons to whom he is tendering them?

Major Gates

I assure my hon. and learned Friend that I have read the Motion, and I am sure that the constructive reforms which I have been advocating will be carried into effect very soon. I must admit however that there was an arrière pensée in my remarks, because I think that in certain spheres of the war effort there are individuals in the Forces—shell-backs, including air marshals, generals, admirals, lieutenant-commanders, squadron leaders and majors—who are obstructing the need for reform, and I think ventilation in the House will have the desired effect.

Mr. Davies

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member. These remain in office because they are under the central direction. If they are giving bad advice which is leading to disasters, and the hon. and gallant Member knows it, and he tenders good advice which is rejected, how many more disasters will have to occur before the hon. and gallant Member says that the time has come for him to cease doing so? If he goes on tendering advice and he says, "If they pay no attention to me it cannot be helped," he does not realise why he was returned to this House. The House has a long honourable reputation of eight centuries and more, and a deep responsibility is put upon Members of the House. The greater the occasion, the greater the responsibility, and there comes a time when a Member must not only measure his words but measure his actions. I was surprised when the hon. and gallant Member for East Nottingham (Major Gluckstein) said that this Debate was a sham fight and that the real fight was going on in Libya. May I point out to the hon. and gallant Member that men are dying in Libya and Egypt while we go on discussing these matters? It is precisely because we are afraid that they have not been properly equipped or properly directed that we are having this Debate.

Major Gluckstein

The hon. and learned Member must not misinterpret me. What I said was that it was a sham fight because the Seconder of the Motion indicated that he hoped the Prime Minister would not go and that it was the last thing he wanted to see.

Mr. Davies

The question before the House is whether we have confidence in the central direction of the war. That is the only question we are really debating. It is because of the events that have occurred that we have raised this issue and the Government have not only given the opportunity but welcomed the opportunity for discussing it. Many suggestions have been made that this is not the proper time to raise this issue and that it is inopportune to raise it. I have often heard that before. It is said that damage may be done by words that are used in this House. Do the words used by hon. Members bear any comparison whatever with the actual facts to which they refer? Which is likely to do damage in America or among the Dominions or in Russia—the fact that we refer to this disaster at Tobruk, or the actual disaster itself at Tobruk, where 28,000 people, according to the enemy, have been captured? Let us face realities and not all the time refer to the smaller matters. They have become almost shibboleths for many hon. Members, having no reality or any relation to the actual facts of the case. Then we are told, the moment the battle is going on, "Don't challenge the Government." References have already been made to the challenge that came in 1940.

As has already been mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeen (Flight Lieutenant Boothby), I played some small part in bringing about that Debate of May, 1940. What was the position at that time? War had been declared on the 3rd September, 1939. To the consternation of everybody nothing happened, and as week after week went by we heard the talk of "phoney war," and one member of His Majesty's Government, who is to-day a member of the War Cabinet, although he is Ambassador in the United States of America, was so convinced that the position was satisfactory, so satisfied with all the preparations that had been made, that in February, 1940, he went to Leeds and delivered a speech of an hour and a half, the point of which was that Hitler had already lost the war because he had not struck on 3rd September, 1939. That was a speech to lead us all into a complacent mood. We had only to refer to our past, our great ancestors, our traditions, and Hitler would fall to the ground.

We went on in that way until suddenly there was the dash into Norway, and then we heard from that Box, from the then First Lord of the Admiralty, that Hitler at that time made the greatest mistake that had been made by any man in history, that he had been delivered into our hands. We should no longer have to guard the coast of Norway, as we had been doing for months—and he described, as only he can, the sufferings of the crews of torpedo boats and other small craft watching those coasts. He said, "Not a vessel will go into the Skagerak or the Kattegat without being sunk," That is the mood of complacency into which we were being led. Then came our failure in Norway, and then it was that hon. Members of the Labour party, and some of us, and some who were Members of the then Conservative Government, joined together and demanded a Debate. The tragedy of Norway was in front of us. The tragedy that was about to begin was threatening, and some of us knew it. The Debate took place on the Tuesday and Wednesday. The vote was taken on the Wednesday night. On the Thursday, when the House met, it was proposed that we should adjourn for a whole fortnight. I, with the support of a great number of other Members, suggested that we should meet on the Monday, because of the threatening situation in Holland. It was on that very Thursday night that the storm burst upon Holland and upon Belgium and France. On the Friday the Prime Minister was changed. Although Holland had been invaded, Belgium was being overrun, the whole situation was uncertain, did anyone at that time say it was wrong to change the then Prime Minister?

When is the time to discuss these matters? Months after the event? Sometimes we have been asking what is to happen before the event takes place. Time and again the Deputy Prime Minister has replied to us, "Don't ask us now, the time is not yet." When the thing is in operation we are told, "Don't ask us now, you will interfere with us when our minds are upon this." When the whole thing is over we are told, "Don't hold inquests, don't indulge in recriminations, don't search for scapegoats." I have listened to speech after speech in this House ever since the war began and I have never heard a critic ask for a scapegoat. May I remind those who use that word that they had better look at a dictionary, even if they have never looked at the Bible to see what a scapegoat is. The scapegoat was the innocent, poor, wretched goat that was offered in sacrifice for the sins of others. We have never asked for a scapegoat. What we have asked for is that the actual person or persons responsible for the disaster should be brought to the bar of public opinion and put to the test of his future, because he has had in his hands while he was in power the future and the lives of the young men of this country. That is the position. Therefore, I can see no reason why this Motion should not be debated to-day, nor did the Prime Minister see any reason why it should not be debated.

The question is, What of the direction of the war? Let us consider it. The immediate cause of the Debate is Libya—and now Egypt. Our losses there may be due to bad leadership on the field, they may be due to poor equipment, they may be due to an insufficiency of men. With regard to the last named, we know that the Prime Minister has told us and the world that for something over 15 months three-quarters of a million men have been available, and when the battle began with some success last November, and when we succeeded in capturing 61,000 of the enemy, it was his proud boast, and right boast, that that had been accomplished by an Army of 45,000 men only. So it is not men. With regard to leadership in the field, there may be something in it, but I know nothing. All I know is that the appointments are under the control of the Prime Minister, under the direct control of the Prime Minister. They could not have been satisfactory. To us who know little about those things General Wavell has been held out as one of the great geniuses, but he was sacked.

The next one was General Cunningham, and he was hailed as a great leader. A day or two afterwards came the dread news that he was suffering from a break down, although he appeared to be perfectly healthy when he arrived in this country. He was followed by the young General Ritchie. There was great praise again for him, but five days after the event the Prime Minister comes down to the House and tells us that he has been replaced and that General Auchinleck is in command. It may be that there is poor leadership. We know now that one or the other walked into a trap and lost a very considerable part—I am told as much as half—of his strength in tanks. Traps have been part of military strategy since the dark ages; Hannibal defeated Rome by such traps as that. It may be that there was something wrong with regard to the generals, but in the main it now turns out to be what we have all along suspected, namely equipment.

Mr. Stokes

And interference.

Mr. Davies

Equipment, tanks, guns and so on. I thought that the speech that should have been made from this side of the House in support of this Motion was the speech made by the Minister of Production. Never during my period in this House have I heard anything so tragic, so terribly tragic, as the confessions which were made in that speech. There was a time, a little while ago, when the right hon. Gentleman thought he was hitting me rather hard by describing me as a Jeremiah. He could not have paid me a greater compliment. I doubt very much whether he has read the great Book of Jeremiah, and I do not suppose that he now has the time to spare to read it, but I would recommend him to read the very short account which is given in the "Encyclopædia Britannica." It will be enough for his purpose, and if I am a Jeremiah, I hope the parallel will not come true, because Jeremiah was warning the people of his time with regard to their equipment, their faith and their acts while two great nations of those days were crouching for the spring, and his own king and his own people were carried away in bondage. I do not mind being referred to as, a Jeremiah; I would prefer to bear that character rather than that of Ethelred the Unready, which is a title obviously applicable to him.

Look at what he admitted to-day. With regard to this 6-pounder gun, he said that it was realised before the war how ill- prepared we were and how necessary it was to get this heavier gun. The orders were given for it in September, 1940. When were the first deliveries made? In November, 1941. Thirteen months, during which we were begging, praying and imploring for a better organisation of production in this country—which has not yet been forthcoming. We were begging for a Minister of Production from December, 1939. One was appointed in January, 1942, and in February, 1942, the right hon. Gentleman himself was appointed. He came down to the House in March with a great discovery. Now that he had been made Minister of Production the right thing would be central planning. He would see the whole picture. Then, of coarse, from the centre he could not do the executive work and therefore it was necessary to have regional boards. He was appointed in February, he came down here in March to make the great announcement, and he stood at that Box yesterday, at the end of June, to say that at last, five months afterwards, he had appointed 11 men to begin his boards. That is the tempo—the tempo we heard of in the past—"Time is on our side."

We are getting towards the end of the third year of the war and the sixth year of threat. Often I myself have called attention in this House to the preparations being made by Germany. They began in 1933 and went on up to 1939. I have given figures of the 6,000,000,000 marks spent in preparation, but may I also remind the House that we began in 1936 as well? A question was then before this House which worried a great number of us, because we were departing from a principle which we had treasured—the principle of the complete disarmament of the world, but knowing the danger that was coming we voted for the increase of our armaments in 1936 and 1937. In 1938 war nearly broke out; it was on a razor edge, and in 1939 it did break out. Where were the preparations made during all this long period, when full Parliamentary powers were available the whole time?

Now, since the advent of this Government to power, not only have full Parliamentary powers been available, but full dictatorial powers were given to them on 22nd May by this House to govern everything, property and people, and to order them as they would for one purpose, the winning of the war. How they have used those powers we have heard from that Bench. Another figure also was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. They have suddenly realised that the dive bomber was necessary. The Prime Minister himself said that it was necessary. When was that? In June, 1940; France had not yet completely collapsed, when the order was given by Lord Beaverbrook to the United States of America. In 1942, we hear at last that some of them have reached a theatre of war. I cannot for the life of me believe that that theatre of war was the place in Libya where our men were standing against the horrors of Germany, unprotected because of the feckless-ness of and the wrong direction of the war by the Government. What have we been asking for all these years?

Then it is suggested that we should tender them advice, constructive advice. Before the right hon. Gentleman came into this House, we asked, in the very earliest days of the war, for a small War Cabinet, having what so many Members have now been asking for, a Minister of Defence under that War Cabinet. If it were possible to dissociate the personality of the Prime Minister from occupying the position of Prime Minister and that of Minister of Defence also, there is not a Member who would not vote for it. We were asking at that time for a small War Cabinet with a Minister of Defence under that War Cabinet, responsible to it. The Prime Minister as Minister of Defence is responsible to-day to no one. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. To whom is he responsible? [Interruption.] Let me take them in turn. Is he responsible to the House? What is the answer when we are asking what has happened in Libya, what happened in Singapore, in Malaya and in Burma? It is that it is not in the public interest to give the information. Would the right hon. Gentleman judge any man on no evidence? Is that in accordance with legal principle? No evidence at all is given to the judgment; the evidence is refused on the ground that it is not in the public interest to tell.

How can he be responsible to the House? We have raised this. We raised it on Greece, on Narvik, some of us have raised it with regard to Dunkirk. To-day, for the first time, we hear about the poverty of the preparations that were made for the defence of those lads who went over to France. Lord Gort referred to them. We have asked for a Debate upon that; we have never had it. We have asked for an inquiry into the charges which were made by Lord Gort. It remains for another reverse in Libya for us to learn the truth. Is the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence responsible to the War Cabinet? Very well; he appoints them—and he dismisses them. Before he enters the War Cabinet he has seen his Chiefs of Staff, and has made up his mind, with regard to what is required. If something goes wrong, and there is a meeting of the War Cabinet, is there one of them who will then stand up and say, "Look here, I am not talking to you as Prime Minister but as Minister of Defence. You have gone wrong with regard to these things, and you cannot go on any further. We would like you to lead as Prime Minister, but you are sacked as Minister of Defence"? I imagine he would step forward as Prime Minister and say, "If you are dissatisfied with me, I will accept your resignation." Where is his responsibility? For that very reason we were asking that the Minister of Defence should be under the War Cabinet, who could cross-examine him. We asked in December, 1939, for a Minister of Production. We got one in January, 1942. Would the right hon. Member have been as patient as I was, tendering constructive advice the whole time and getting the reply from the Prime Minister that such a thing as I suggested was impossible, that there was not a superman to be found? He found two supermen in a month, and then sacked one completely in another three weeks. We have seen the performance of the second superman to-day. It does not require a superman to co-ordinate these methods. How long are we to go on like this?

Need I remind the House of the record? It is a grim one. There is, of course, the wonderful defence of Britain by those gallant lads. Very rightly, someone has pointed out to-day that the planes used were provided before the advent of this Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "By Swinton; give him the credit."] It was Swinton. After four years' work, he has now been sent to Nigeria. We have had Norway, Dunkirk, Greece, Crete, North Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and Burma. How long will it be before the facts come home to the people in this House, as they have come home to the people of the country, that there is no confidence in a Government so close to the realities of the case that they live in an atmosphere of romance which they themselves have created? I have no hesitation about the course that I shall take in the Division. Every man must judge for himself, on his own conscience, but if there is one man in this country who, on a two years' record of that kind, can say, "I have complete confidence in that Government," I am sorry for that man.

Mr. Spens (Ashford)

This is the second time since the commencement of the war that I have attempted to take part in a Debate on the general conduct of the war and on strategy. That diffidence arises from the fact that experience has taught me that in order to make a useful contribution, either in an offensive speech or in a defensive speech, the speaker needs two advantages. He must have all the relevant facts, and he must be free to use all those facts in his speech. My view has been that these general Debates on the conduct of the war are entirely illusory, for two reasons: first, because while a member of the War Cabinet may well be supposed to know all the relevant facts, he is practically never free to use them in his speech, for obvious reasons of national interest; and, secondly, because even the most eminent and respected and eloquent and learned Members outside the War Cabinet are necessarily extremely limited in their knowledge. I, for one, felt when I spoke last, after the Norway disaster, that the Debate that followed then was unreal, of no value to the country; and, after listening to this Debate, I am convinced more than ever that it has served no useful purpose towards the winning of the war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then why do you take part in it?"] I am breaking my rule in order to express this view, and because I have some knowledge to enable me to contradict some of the things which have been said to-day. Two speakers have asseverated that the country has lost confidence in this Government, and in the Prime Minister in particular. They have instanced a run of by-elections. One of them did not know the result of the last one.

Mr. Stokes

It was not very good.

Mr. Spens

Nevertheless it was untrue to say that the latest by-election had resulted in 4,000 or 5,000 votes being given against the Prime Minister. That was a statement two hours ago in this House of a result about mid-day. It is true that when the last Vote of Censure or a Motion in the nature of a Vote of Censure at a great crisis in the history of the country was moved, after Norway, there was one advantage to be gained from it and from the resignation of the Government. That was that the country would secure a greater degree of national unity, and it would be claimed undoubtedly that that was the immediate result. A Government was formed under the present Prime Minister which brought in elements which had been outside the Government up to that date, and it was hoped that thereafter the war would be conducted with the general approval of the great majority of people in this House and in the country.

What happened? Within a comparatively short time a certain number of individuals in this House turned themselves into a sort of club of critics, and they have continued to criticise ever since. At the end of two years of the Government they have grown to the number of 21 admitted ones. They have now put down for the first time a Vote of Censure, and I personally am terribly sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) should have associated himself with it. [HON. MEMBERS: "He put it down."] I ask myself, and everybody in this House has to ask himself, what greater measure of national unity at this crisis in our history would be secured if that Vote were carried, or if it were not carried, and a substantial number voted against it, or if a substantial number of Members abstained. That, to my mind, in this crisis in our history, is the only thing that matters at all. It is no good my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), with his great gift of eloquence, getting up and making a critical speech of the Government. What effect does he think a speech like that will have upon our Allies throughout the world at the present time? Has he no imagination whatever to realise that he has criticised a man who, at the present time, is regarded in the countries of our greatest Allies as their leader as well as ours? Does he realise that his criticism of the Minister of Production, who has just come back from America, after negotiating an agreement which is going to be of the greatest use in the winning of the war cannot be helpful?

Mr. C. Davies

May I remind the hon. and learned Member that I did my best to make him Prime Minister. The hon. and learned Member did his best to stop him.

Mr. Spens

I, personally, at moments of crisis in our history would far rather be known as a supporter of the Government in power than one of a band which tries to oust them.

Mr. Cocks (Broxstowe)

We do not want to hear from the hon. and learned Member any more.

Mr. Spens

I hope the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. I am certain that the views I hold will be justified over and over again during the course of this Debate. However, the things I have been saying with heat to my hon. and learned Friend will do no good whatever towards the winning of this war. There have been interchanges from one side to the other, and this Debate has been completely ill-timed. To debate a Vote of Censure on the Government at the present moment is absolutely lamentable, and I believe that a great majority of the people of this country will have exactly the same view at the end of the next 48 hours.

On the other hand, I want to deal with the central point of the Motion of Censure—the central direction of the war. What has been criticised is the general strategy of the war since the Prime Minister took control at this time two years ago, that is to say, his strategy and the strategy of those under him. Now we know what was the situation when he took control, and I do not believe there is anybody who will say one word of criticism for what was done in order to try and save the situation in France and still less for what was done in the months following the French collapse when my right hon. Friend was the sole inspiration of the nation during those critical months. What was the next major event that happened? As I see it, it was the attack on Russia by Germany. The Prime Minister and the Government realised the absolute necessity of supporting the Russian forces in the field and of keeping Russia fighting. Is he to be condemned for that? The next major thing that happened, as we ail know, was the disaster at Pearl Harbour, in December of last year. Thereupon, such protection as was relied upon to be forthcoming at once from our Allies had to be made good by measures taken at once to try and save the situation. Are my right hon. Friend arid the Government to be condemned because they tried to save the situation at Singapore when, having regard to their resources, they never expected to have to do what they had to do in the way that it had to be done? That is war.

Finally, when we come to Libya, we have the situation in which forces and material which might have been there have necessarily been diverted to the support of Russia. I do not believe my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery, if he had been Prime Minister, Would have adopted any other general strategy of the war, nor have I heard any other person in this House or outside condemn the strategy adopted by His Majesty's Government during the last few years. There were difficult conditions existing at the start of the war, and other difficulties have arisen during the last two years, and they have been met by the Government in a way which ought to have received for them credit, and not condemnation, front this House and the country.

Let me now turn to the other question which has been stressed by my hon. and learned Friend and other hon. Members—that of material. It is true that a lack of material has been a handicap in Libya the whole way through. That must necessarily be the case when we turn from a country that had only a few hundred thousand soldiers to a country that has to arm millions of men of all sorts and kinds, and not only to arm its own people, but also to arm its Allies of all sorts and kinds, to send very large amounts of arms to Russia, to send arms to China, and to the other Allies who come to our support. Of course, we are short of material, and obviously, all the Way through, the Government have been trying to make a limited amount of material, a limited number of men and a limited quantity of fighting vehicles do work for which far greater quantities of material and numbers of men than were available were needed. Those have been our difficulties. On the other hand, what has the Minister of Production told us in his speech? As far as I am concerned, he has not solved all the problems that arise about material. I accept that position. No Member of the War Cabinet could ever tell us in open Session the whole of the facts about such a thing as the supply of materials. If that is what the House wants to know, the, Debate ought to have been in Secret Session, but even then, I do not believe such things could be told. My own view is that it is not worth taking part in any Secret Session in war-time, because even in Secret Session the Government cannot tell the whole of the facts during the course of the war. There are 615 Members of the House, and it is quite impossible for a Member of the War Cabinet to disclose to the House our proposed strategy or to give full details as to the programme for materials.

Mr. Cocks rose——

Mr. Spens

The Minister of Production——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

It is not in Order for two hon. Members to be on their feet at once.

Mr. Cocks

I thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had given way.

Mr. Spens

For the reason I have given, the Minister of Production has not told us the whole story as regards material, but what he has told us was extremely important. He told us that the type of tank about which many of us had the greatest fears concerning its possible utility was in fact available for operations, in theatres outside Libya, in large quantities. That is something which must comfort all those who live in certain parts of this Kingdom.

Mr. Hammersley

Who said that?

Mr. Spens

The Minister of Production said it. As I understood him, he said that what is known as the Churchill tank is now in use and is capable of operating, but is limited in distance to half the distance that a really good tank could go without repair. That is what the Minister of Production says, and I want the House to realise what it means. It means that the distance which a tank has to travel to return to a workshop for repair in Libya is a very great distance indeed, and it has to be. In this country a tank that can travel half that distance has a mileage which, without going back to a workshop, will take it well beyond from end to end of these Islands. That is what the Minister of Production told us, and it is of the greatest value from the point of view of the situation here and in Western Europe.

Mr. Bellenger

Where is this tank?

Mr. Spens

The other thing which is worrying us is the production of the 6-pounder gun. The Minister told us that whatever the delays were in starting the 6-pounder gun, it is now in good production and is being delivered to our Forces in the Middle East. I say that it is a great advantage to know three points—firstly, that this tank is of military value; secondly, that the 6-pounder gun is being delivered; and, thirdly, that arrangements have been made and are being made to produce a tank capable of dealing with the German tank. That is the duty of the central organisation, but, my goodness, because they have done it and tackled it, and because the Minister has been instrumental in doing it, hon. Members get up and condemn the Government and the Minister of Production. In my view, with great respect to hon. Members, it does not make sense. You can bewail the fact that we did not have this material months and months ago, and no one does that more than myself, but to condemn the Government now in this month of July, 1942, for the measures they have taken to get our material right, which is a matter which will encourage and not discourage our troops in Libya, is an attitude on the part of the hon. Members who are going to support this Vote of Censure on this point which I cannot understand. To my mind, this Debate has been regrettable. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Major Lyons) put a perfectly good question when he asked when a Debate of this sort was opportune, and in my view the time is very rarely opportune; certainly it is not opportune until the series of operations, such as are going on in the Middle East, have been concluded, and the facts have come home and can be disclosed to the House. Then, if someone has blundered, and if someone has been remiss, the matter can be dealt with.

Major Lyons

What about Singapore?

Mr. Spens

You cannot deal with Singapore, or with Burma. The situation in Burma involves all sorts of Imperial considerations. I am surprised that my hon. and gallant Friend, who usually has a good imagination, does not realise that from the point of view of the Government the whole story cannot be told until operations are over. Troops are still on the borders of Burma, and may be about to meet the Japanese. To tell the story of Burma in an open Session at the present time obviously cannot be in the national interest. In my view, not only are a Vote of Censure and a Debate of this kind ill-advised and ill-opportune, but will do no good to reassure our troops who are fighting in the field, and I, personally, shall have the greatest pleasure in voting against the Motion.

Major Markham (Nottingham, South)

I have listened to a good many speeches from time to time, but never to such a "Yes"-man's speech all the years that I have been in the House. I should never have thought that any Member elected to represent a constituency would come before the House and say, "I totally surrender my judgment because, whenever a crisis comes up, right or wrong, I will stick by the Government and, when a crisis does not come up, no Vote of Censure will be moved." That is such a surrender of the rights, duties and privileges of the House that I am amazed to be in the same company with the hon. and learned Gentleman. As for myself, I find no such easy way of making up my mind. This Motion disturbs me right to the foundations of my being. It is not easy to find an answer, and I shall find it extremely difficult to know which way to vote, and I am listening to every speech with the greatest attention.

In approaching this question, I cannot help but approach it from a somewhat military point of view. As one who went through the last war and suffered as the troops suffered, a continuous barrage of enemy activity, I must say that so far we have not from a military point of view been severely engaged in any field. In no single field has the strength of the nation been deployed from an Army point of view. Nowhere have we yet produced the organisation capable of producing even a tithe of our strength in any given field.

In listening to the great story of defeats and reverses which have been mentioned in the last hours, one is tempted to com-pare them with the roll of victories put up by Members speaking for the Government. The so-called victories that we have had in Syria, Madagascar, Eritrea, and so on, are not victories in the real sense. Most of them were against men who had been our Allies, and a great many of them were at heart on our side before the fighting began. In Eritrea the Italian troops were few, and a great many of the Abyssinians were, like the French, at heart with us. In the history of the two years since the Prime Minister took over, we have not, from a purely military point of view, won a single battle which redounds to our credit. Of not a single feat of arms on any field of arms can we say that the British Armies reached the lustre and the glory that they reached in the last war. Why is this? Have we in these last years of social legislation so sapped the courage and initiative of the men that they cannot stand up to the better trained German infantrymen or men of the Panzer divisions? Is it that in the process of educating our Army, Navy and Air Force leaders from a narrow, restricted class we have chosen our leaders from so small a minority of the nation that we have not been able to find even a spark of genius? Or is it because over the men of the Force, and over the generals, we have a central direction of the war which is incompetent, timorous and vacillating? These are the questions that I put to myself, and they are all difficult questions to answer, with the exception of the first. The quality of the fighting men is second to none, and I have served with them now in a great many different capacities. The material of which the British Army is made to-day, and the Air Force and the Navy, is second to none. Give these men the leaders they ought to have; the equipment they ought to have and the mass—and mass is important—then they will produce the victory.

I want to devote a few words to the question of the generals that we have, and I want to be very outspoken. I have not spoken in the House for 18 months, and therefore the House will forgive me if I devote a few minutes to what is a delicate question. There is not, as far as my knowledge goes, in the Army one officer over the rank of brigadier who is not a Regular, that is, apart from the non-fighting men. There is a major-general in charge of grave registration and com- parable services such as publicity, but so far as military appointments go, they are all military officers who have gone through the usual run of Sandhurst, the Staff College and so on. These officers are perhaps second to none in patriotism, in keenness for their profession and in determination to serve, but a spark of genius is so rare among them that I wonder whether the time has not come to do as Germany and Russia have done and go outside the professional corps of Regular officers and find the genius elsewhere. Being in the position of having no senior officers who are not Regulars, we are in the position in which the Prime Minister would have been when he was reconstituting his Cabinet if he was only able to choose his Cabinet Ministers from among Members of 20 years' experience. No Prime Minister would assent to that.

There is no question of the personal courage or devotion to duty of these Regular officers, but most of them are behind the times in their training. Even at the Staff College until quite recently the training was still out of date, and even now we have not in the British Empire a co-ordinating college in which highly placed officers can learn the technique of co-ordinating the Army, Navy and Air Forces. We are not producing those generals which General Wavell indicated five or six years ago would be absolutely essential if we were to do anything in the next war. Not only are the generals not being produced under the extraordinary system that has prevailed at the War Office, but we are not even producing the junior staff officers, the G.2s and G.1s, who are being trained in the art of the co-ordination of the Services. My knowledge is not so accurate of the Navy and the Air Force, but I believe that the same is true there. Co-ordination may be all right at the top. The Chiefs of Staff may know each other intimately, but the moment we get down to the brigadier and air commodore level, co-operation is beginning to disappear. When we get down to captains, majors and lieutenants, it is non-existent.

Co-operation between the three Services is non-existent. We cannot win wars if we have three arms of the Service going their own sweet way. The past has shown, and the Debate to-day has proved, how each arm in turn suffers from lack of knowledge and appreciation of how the other arms are trained and what they are doing. The one general who did see this and advised the nation upon it with all the strength at his command is General Wavell, and I do not understand why this most far-sighted of all our military leaders was exiled to a minor job. We need not only his brain as a general but his genius and his knowledge as an integrator of the Services at the centre of things, where he should have been. What is wrong to-day with the Army is in the general leadership. I seriously suggest to the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet that it is a criminal error, a great injury to this nation, to keep men of the calibre of General Wavell in a subsidiary theatre of war when we have not at the centre and the control of things here a man of his great gifts and genius.

This brings me back to my third point. My first point was the quality of the men, and the second the quality and character and genius of the generals. The third point is the direction above all that, if you like to call it so, the War Cabinet direction. Let us consider briefly what the War Cabinet could have done before we consider what they have done. From the time when the present Prime Minister took over we can divide the period roughly, first, into the year when we stood practically alone against the whole of Europe, because although Europe was not definitely all German, it was under German orders; the whole of European industry, broadly speaking, was at Germany's beck and call. We had not then the strength, and I do not see how we could have had the strength then, to engage those great mighty forces with any great chance of success. The most we could hope for was to hold our ground, to hold on until, on the diplomatic side, we could build up the equivalent of Mr. Pitt's Coalition. The Coalition has been built up, but let not the War Cabinet take any credit for it.

Of the Allies we have gained during this last year Russia was gained to us not by any genius of the War Cabinet. Russia was gained by the mistake of Germany. The United States was gained to us not by the genius of our diplomacy but by the mistake of Japan. The effect when those two great nations came on to our side was to tip the balance. From December of last year we could say, "As the position is, we can see that if we organise properly the United Nations we have a superiority of three to one in picked fighting men, we have three to one in the air, we have three to one on the economic side, we have three to one wherever you look." I think it was Napoleon who said that in order to make absolutely certain of victory in war you had to bring a decisive strength of three to one against the enemy, and that is true to-day. We now have that force of three to one. How is it being organised? How is it being adapted to the immediate battles in front of us? This situation developed not from last month or the month before but from last December. It was then that the United States came in, and then we should have began long planning. We should have said to the United States that if Russia could hold—and there was every indication that Russia would—and while we could count upon Germany being weak on the Western Front, we must open a Western Front with the maximum possible speed, and that date should have been April—not August or October or next January or next March or the end of 1943.

The question is: Could it have been done; had we the men, the material, the equipment? This House does not know. This House is kept in abysmal darkness upon that. In connection with any of the campaigns or post-mortems into the military campaigns—or the Battle of the Atlantic—we have never had the facts and figures on which to base a sober judgment at any time during the last six months. In regard to Singapore, the Prime Minister, only a day or two ago, said that under no circumstances would he consider publishing to this House the information at his disposal. I say this House has an absolute right to know—it may be in Secret Session—what did happen at Singapore. We had there 60,000 troops. Some of them, we know, were well trained and most efficient and others, though quite fresh, should have been extremely good. What happened? I get letters every week from the mothers and wives of men in regiments like the 1st Sherwood Foresters asking whether there is any information. I write to the War Office asking and what I get in reply is a little slip done by some deputy junior typist in the War Office saying that my letter has been received. The last attempt I made was when I wrote to the Under-Secretary of State for War, and then I got a printed information slip with the date 28th April printed on it; and there had been apparently nothing new since. We know that at least one major-general escaped—if that is the right word: do major-generals escape?—or made a strategic retirement—from Singapore, and his information has been made available to to the Australian Government. His knowledge should have been put at our disposal. This House has a right to the fullest possible information, so that we can judge whether this Government is really doing its job. The. Government have no right to turn round to hon. Members and say, "We are the best judges as to what you should have on which to base a judgment of whether we are fit and proper persons to carry on the war."

My final point is this: I supported the Prime Minister in the days when he was probably the most unpopular Member in this House, and that was from the end of 1937, when I first became conscious of the German menace. As a result of my support of the Prime Minister then, the party Whips did things to me which are beyond telling now. Frankly, I had no idea that humanity could descend to such low political levels. The point I want to make is that when I come now before the House and say on this great question whether this Government have the confidence of this House what answer I should give—well, I do not know, for I have not been given sufficient information on which to base a sound judgment. I want the House to know that that is said in the fullest possible sincerity. I look around and wonder who could replace the Prime Minister. Frankly, I do not know, yet I know that there are better fish in the sea than ever came out of it. I look at the First Lord of the Admiralty and wonder who could do better, and I do not know the answer. I then look at some other Ministers, and, frankly, you could take a name out of a hat and get a better man. I will stop there, because time is going on. In short, I approach this Motion with this attitude: I am not sure that this Government has my confidence; it has not given us the facts to go on, and I think my best line is to abstain from voting and to do everything I can to get the Government to give us the fullest possible facts.

Lieut.-Colonel Rayner (Totnes)

It is so late that I will not make the speech I intended to make, but I would just like to take up two points made by the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken. As regards the question of leadership in the Army, I cannot help feeling that perhaps in the civilian Army that we have to-day some of the rank and file might possibly have a say in picking out their leaders. We have an Army of all talents, professions, and classes, and there is no doubt that very often the opinions of those serving below an officer are more penetrating than the opinion of those whom he salutes and obeys. While two or three such opinions would not be of any use coloured as they might be by likes or dislikes, or by gratitude or grievance, if you found a great many opinions running in one single stream, they would be of value. I think that the War Office might consider the plan of officers reporting anonymously and periodically on those one or two grades above them. If that system were tried, we might be able to pick up with the net of selection a few inspired leaders who would otherwise be missed.

The only other point I would like to mention is the question of inquiries. Would it be possible for the Government to appoint some big man, not a commission or a committee, as a chief inquirer or coroner-in-chief to make immediate investigations into setbacks? We hobble from reverse, to reverse, with chips and chunks flying off the Empire, and there is no doubt that the public feel that there is some tendency on the part of the Government to turf over each successive disaster in order to save somebody from censure. It might possibly save the Government embarrassing demands for inquiries each time something goes wrong and give the public some confidence that we intended to learn our lessons immediately, if there were somebody responsible, perhaps even the Lord Chancellor himself, for holding these investigations, delayed as they might be by the exigencies of war.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)

I would very much like to follow the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for South Nottingham (Major Markham), with much of which I am in agreement, but time is drawing on, and I have certain views to represent to the House. May I say at the outset that I support the Government as at present constituted, and in the present circumstances, in the central and general direction of the war, because I think we are not really concerned—or should not be concerned—with a change of personalities at Westminster, but rather with a quickening of the tempo throughout the country and with the construction of new machinery in the Departments of State to push forward with the business of fighting the war. We must bring imagination and up-to-date knowledge into our inner councils. We must cut out delay and get ride of the habit-forming mind. Changes may have to be made in the personnel of civil and Service Departments, and perhaps also in industry, but not here at this time. This is a comparatively new Administration, and it has yet to be proved, to me at any rate, that it is tired and lacking in imagination. I am confident that it can probe into the causes of our failures and take the necessary remedial measures.

I desire chiefly, and very briefly, to offer some observations on what I think is one of the reasons for our collapse in Libya, and to do that from my experience in the Army during the last three years. I refer to co-operation between the Army and the Air Force, a subject which has been much mentioned to-day. I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not in his place, not that I really expected him to be here, but because he cannot hear what I have to say. I single him out because he is the only member of the War Cabinet who has had recent experience in the War Office. In addition to that, he has had a great deal of military experience, both in the last war and in the months before the beginning of this war in the Territorial Army. Again, he has been Secretary of State for War recently. He delivered a most interesting speech, the second, I think, which he made in this House, as long ago as March, 1924. May I quote just a very short passage from that speech? He was speaking of the system of seconding military and naval officers to the Air Force, and he said: We all know the difficulties of that system and that neither the Admiralty nor the War Office is very fond of it. But at the same time I suggest that those difficulties are minor difficulties compared with the all-important necessity of securing a more vital co-ordination between the various arms of the Services. This is, I think, the point in which our national defence is weak. We have all to realise that in the next war co-ordination will be even more vital than it was in the last war, and unless I am mistaken it is the Air Force itself that will prove the pivot point in this coordination."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1924; col. 730, Vol. 171.] Those were prophetic words. While the tight hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for War he replied to a Question by the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère) on 12th November, 1940. He said: Detailed and comprehensive arrangements for R.A.F. co-operation have been arrived at. These have been the subject of discussion between the Air Ministry and the War Office for the last few months, and the machinery to be set up is something far in advance of what we have had up till now. Much has been done during the summer and autumn, but the means of co-operation now decided upon will be fully operative by 1st December."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1940; col. 1563. Vol. 365.] These two quotations serve to show the right hon. Gentleman's interest in the subject, and his intention at various points of time. We can legitimately ask: Do his views prevail in the War Cabinet to-day? Are we working towards coordination, and at how great a pace? The present Secretary of State for War said yesterday that discussion between Departments is in a very advanced stage, almost the same phraseology as that used two years ago. To-day the Germans have an air corps to every army corps, I understand. They allow a corps in the air for a corps on the ground. Are our discussions on this subject proceeding on that basis? For what are the facts? We have not got co-ordination or anything like it. We are assured that we have close co-operation in Libya. The Minister of Production referred to that in his speech to-day, but I do not think that what he said was entirely satisfactory. We have read accounts of bombers being switched from Benghazi to bomb enemy supply columns. We have heard of fighters being switched from the skies to the strafing of ground troops. But these may be changes which take place as the result of simple directions from the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, covering the general conditions under which the aircraft operate. It is not necessarily the tactical use of aircraft to aid the forward battle. Have squadrons of light bombers and cannon fighters been put under the direct command of brigadiers in forward areas? Was there direct wireless communication between them and brigade headquarters, so that their efforts could be directed to the vital spot in the fleeting moments when those aircraft were overhead? These are some of the questions that ought to be answered before it can be said that we had co-ordination in the Middle East. We certainly have not got co-ordination in this country: we have only the rudiments of co-operation, and this country is the training ground for action overseas.

It is amazing to me that, after 25 years of thought on this subject, the art of generalship still lies so largely on the two-dimensional plane, and that this element of the air has not been brought into military calculations to the extent that army officers and men, down to the most junior ranks, regard air support in the same manner as they do the other weapons with which they are provided. The Foreign Secretary, in the same speech 18 years ago, urged that every infantry officer should have had actual experience with the Air Force. How far we are to-day from that ideal! Liaison between the Army and the R.A.F. is at a very low ebb; or, perhaps I should say at the very beginning of a flood tide, because efforts are being made to improve it. We must hope that those efforts will continue. The War Cabinet must overcome a certain shyness which exists between the Army and the R.A.F. It is uphill work, at the lower level, to improve liaison, and I have had direct experience of that in the last few months. We, need a wand to be waved from above. There is supposed to be a sort of wand in the hands of an organisation called Army Co-operation Command. But it is no use there at present. The War Cabinet must take it out of their hands, and wave it vigorously over the sister Services, and then perhaps we shall get that close co-operation, that co-ordination, that partnership, which is necessary for satisfactory working.

I am well aware that the policy of mass air raids on Germany has been approved by the War Cabinet, and I would not advocate for a moment its discontinuance in present circumstances. But I think we should have an endorsement by the Prime Minister, if possible, in this Debate of the estimates made and the figures given recently by the Commander-in-Chief Bomber Command and broadcast in the Press and presented to cinema audiences throughout the country. I am aware that strategic bombing suits our geographical situation and fits in well with the magnificent land efforts of the Russian Army; but we have an enormous Air Force, a great variety of types of equipment, and steadily-mounting production. Surely some part of this could have been diverted by now to supply some of the needs of the Army. I do not know bow strongly the generals are pressing and I do not presume to speak for them, but I do claim to speak for the more junior officers and men, who cry out in hunger for this essential arm, who cannot justify the efforts being expended on their training without it, who cannot prove the quality that is in them without it, who cannot turn defeat into victory without this vital and necessary adjunct to their equipment. It is a situation fraught with dire consequences. The great traditions and the rigid code of rules, in the Army which have compensating advantages, nevertheless, carry many disabilities. One is that it is extremely difficult for the ideas of forward looking and scientifically-minded brigadiers and grade I staff officers to win their way through to the top. It is not the same in the Royal Air Force, according to my information. The Royal Air Force has a freer, a fresher and a more adventurous outlook. It gives expression to the views of newcomers. It embraces more whole-heartedly the many technological developments of civil industry. It is not tied to outworn techniques. It does not tend to base its conceptions of the future on the glories of the past. Progress in the Royal Air Force leaps forward upborne with indefatigable wings, whereas in the Army it takes place at a measured tread. Thus we have a dual purpose in asking for closer co-ordination between the Services, to produce a new weapon for the troops and to bring new ideas and new methods to bear on the art of land warfare.

It is easy to stand here and discourse on the ideal, but how much more difficult it is to attain to it in the conditions existing in the field. Whatever was wrong in the battles in Libya and in Egypt has its root cause here at home. First, a too distant connection between the factory and the field. The Secretary of State for War is putting that right, and we must congratulate him on the appointment of the new Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Secondly, the secondary role which is played to-day by our scientists and technologists, and thirdly, too few opportunities for training higher formation commanders and staffs in exercises with troops. Here we should praise the Minister of Agriculture and the farmers for the forbearance they are showing as the Army gets into its stride. And fourthly and finally, the still too independent spirit which exists between the Army and the Royal Air Force. This House will be doing its duty to the nation if it continues to press for closer working arrangements.

Major Milner (Leeds, South East)

I do not propose to follow the Noble Lord who raised a number of questions of great interest, but at this late hour I only intend to raise two questions, both of which are in the rather dangerous realm of strategy and tactics. I would like to ask the Government how it is that we have, in fact, lost, as I think is undoubtedly the case, the control of the Mediterranean? Is it not because we have neglected one of the most elementary principles of successful warfare—that is, concentration of our available resources in that area at the decisive point at the right time instead of dispersing them to the four corners of the globe? Why is it that in 1941 we did not take steps finally to dispose of the Italian Fleet which at present convoys Rommel's troops across to North Africa? At that time, in 1941, prior to Japan coming in, it would have been comparatively easy to have followed up Taranto and bombed Italian ports, naval establishments and ships and to have entirely prevented the sequence of events which has recently taken place.

How is it that we did not adopt that course? It was because the Government—certainly the Air Ministry and the Air Minister—have bound themselves, hand, and foot, to the policy of bombing Germany and have retained our bombers here in vast numbers instead of sending them to the Middle East. What does it profit us if we bomb Cologne and lose Cairo? Would all the raids on the Ruhr compensate us for the loss of the Suez Canal, our entire expulsion from the Mediterranean and the complete shattering of our position in the Middle East? If Hitler forgot the Russian winter have not the Government forgotten European weather? Is it not a fact that in winter the weather in Europe is frequently too bad for successful bombing and that in the summer the nights are too short and hence our not bombing Berlin to-day? Is it not a fact that from 18th November, 1941, to about the last week in April, 1942, there was no large scale successful raid on Germany? AH the time these hundreds of bombers were remaining inactive in this country when in the Middle East, Indian Ocean and the Pacific long-range bombers can be operated successfully for months on end. This is not a new thesis. It was first put forward many months ago by Mr. Frederick Holsinger and printed in an excellent article in the May number of "The Nineteenth Century," which I commend to hon. Members but which I will not quote at this late hour.

It is not too late to adopt the bombing policy I have suggested and to bring bombers from England, India and elsewhere to the Middle East, and I do not think it can be denied that if half the bombs dropped on Germany had been concentrated on the Middle East, on naval establishments and the Italian Fleet and German airfields we should not be in our present difficulty. Are the Government prepared to change their policy? To do so now would revolutionise the present situation. It is the plain duty of the Government, in present circumstances, to leave part-time and fair weather bombing of Germany and to send all the long-range bombers which can be transported, especially all those which could go by air, to the Middle East. By doing that we would have a number of advantages. It is quite obvious that if our vast fleet of bombers can devastate huge areas in Germany then that same vast fleet can destroy ports and airfields in Italy and North Africa and wipe out Rommel's army even at this stage of his advance. Such a course would also create the mobile strategic reserve which we ought to have had according to the principles of successful warfare and which apparently we did not have in the Middle East.

That is the only practical course in present circumstances which will bring almost immediate results. What will these results be? If these bombers are sent in large numbers to the Middle East at the present juncture they would be able to destroy Rommel's lines of communication. As we all know, our lines of communication are something like 10 or more times longer than Rommel's and we should be able to break his line of communication. We should also be able, if necessary, to reinforce the Russians in the Caucasus and defend the Mosul oil wells, Persia and Syria, and it would be a reserve for India and the Far East. If the task of stopping Rommel's communications and obtaining command at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean were successful, clearly we could also relieve Malta and again establish our lifeline through the Mediterranean. I need hardly point out to hon. Members that this would save immense quantities of shipping, strengthen our present weak position with Turkey and with the Arabs and the French, and retrieve the Empire, which, by the policy of dispersal of our forces hitherto adopted by the Government, is being lost piecemeal. As soon as we had sufficient bombers in the Middle East, we should strengthen the Navy in the Mediterranean, even though that meant some risks elsewhere. We should also at once set about organising the man-power of India and the man-power of the Colonies, whether white or coloured, and recruit a Jewish Army in Palestine. If we now took those steps, which have so far been neglected, we should be really on the high road to victory.

The other question with which I want to deal is a rather more delicate one, and one on which, admittedly, it is not possible to come to a final decision. But it appears to me that the tactics of our tank commanders in the field have not been what one would have expected, following the usual principles of warfare, and have not been the principles adopted so successfully by Rommel. I think the Prime Minister has some responsibility—or at any rate his Chiefs of Staff or those who have to advise him have some responsibility—in this matter of tactics, because on 20th November, 1941, the Prime Minister said that the object of our forces in Libya was primarily the destruction of the armoured forces of the enemy. Therefore, following upon that dictum of the Prime Minister, we have, according to reports, rushed our tanks forward against opposing tanks at every opportunity, only to have our tanks decimated, not by the opposing tanks, but by artillery and antitank guns operated by the enemy's mobile infantry. Repeatedly, Rommel has feinted a flight of his tanks. General Ritchie, according to the newspapers—one has only to look at "The Times," for example, of 21st June—has rushed forward, brought his tanks within the range of. German artillery and anti-tank guns waiting for him, and, of course, our tanks have suffered tremendous losses. The principle which was enunciated by the Prime Minister in November, and which has apparently been carried out in Libya, is, I submit, utterly wrong. Never should tanks alone be pitted against tanks, if that can be avoided. To do that means to have a mere slogging match which leads nowhere. All the arms should be used in combination under one command. That is quite clearly what Rommel has done.

We, on the other hand, have let our artillery be in the background, occupying a sort of Maginot position. Tanks are a kind of cavalry, and they have very definite uses, but alone they cannot win battles, and that is what we have been trying to do with them. It seems to me that our leaders in the field—I regret to have to say so—have adopted tactics which were done away with hundreds of years ago. One remembers the Mamelukes, masters of Egypt in Napoleon's time. They believed in their magnificent cavalry, just as our people believe in tanks, and relegated infantry to a subordinate role. They thought they could win battles with them, but what did Napoleon do? He formed his infantry into squares, just as we did at Waterloo against Napoleon's cuirassiers, and he decimated the cavalry of the enemy when they dashed upon his men. In my judgment that is precisely what happened in Libya, at least on one occasion, on 13th June, when the infantry of the Germans, together with anti-tank guns and artillery, were waiting for General Ritchie's advance. He was lured on, and immediately the German anti-tank guns and artillery opened fire, with disastrous results indeed to our tanks. That is an extremely serious matter, and, if I am right, it would appear to indicate that our tactics were wrong, as they are based apparently on the dictum of the Prime Minister, which is contrary to all the well-established principles of war It was not General Ritchie alone who was wrong, because at the very time he was driving his tanks into an ambush General Auchinleck sent a message to him to carry on the pursuit up to the hilt, and drove him on more and more into the ambush into which Rommel had lured him.

I urge upon the Government the necessity of what I have said in regard to both the strategical and the tactical questions I have raised. The reconquest of the Mediterranean must be undertaken. I would remind the House that a second front can be set up just as well there as in Northern France. We must destroy the Italian Fleet, which we could have done at any time during the last two years by taking our bombers over there, and driving them out to sea instead of leaving our bombers practically useless in this country. When we have done that, we can re-establish our life-lines and a second front. There is one other matter which is incomprehensible to many of us who served in the last war. First we had the surrender at Dunkirk for which there were perhaps good reasons, then at Singapore, and then at Tobruk. Thousands and thousands of our officers and men and their equipment have been lost, and we have had no explanation. I believe that the hon. Member who spoke from below the Gangway was right when he said that the fault is not with the rank and file. It is a matter which the Government should probe or invite the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) to probe to the bottom without delay. Inquiry must take place and the result must be reported to the House. We have had early disasters in previous campaigns, though never so many or so serious, and we have won through. I cannot myself doubt that we still have those qualities of skill and courage and resolution which, if we are quick to learn and to act, will pull us through again.

Major Heilgers (Bury St. Edmunds)

There is one point in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Leeds (Major Milner) to which I want to refer. He criticised the tactics of our generals in Libya. I do not think it fair at this juncture to criticise tactics in Libya before we know the facts. Amateur strategy is one of the most dangerous of the arts. I have listened to the speeches of those who have put their names to the Motion. I realise that they represent a much larger section of the population than the number of 21 Members would represent. All the same I must deprecate the fact that they put down this Vote of Censure. It seems to me that in a case like this, where great secrets are involved, it would be far better to have the Debate in Secret Session, and I think this action has already had this result, that the Minister of Production has been forced to give facts to the world which are highly undesirable to be disclosed. I would remind them that the tables turn very quickly indeed in war. On 9th May, 1918, there was a Vote of Censure moved on the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who pleaded with the House not to press the Motion at a time when the fate of the country was in the balance and would be for a few weeks to come. By November the tables had turned so completely that we had won the war. I am not going to prophesy that we shall win this war in November, 1942, but we are likely to see such a stream of production coming from the Western world, and such a stream of men coming oversea to help us from the shores of America, that there is little doubt in my mind that we have every chance of winning the war when we come to November, 1943.

The reason why I give my support to the Government is that I think they have pursued unswervingly one strategical conception, and that strategical conception, I believe, is absolutely right. They have throughout made assistance to Russia the first consideration. If we had not helped Russia, where would Russia be to-day? It is a grim fact, but one we have to face up to, that if Russia collapses, we are beaten as well. If Russia was beaten and German armies were released, how should we be able to put forward a second front? Should we be able to land on the shores of the Continent when there was a vast German army spread all over the Continent? So long as the German army remains locked in the coils of Russia, so long does the second front remain open to us. Suppose we had adopted the other policy and had not reinforced Russia, but had sent the supplies to Libya, what would have been the position? We might have held Gazala or got to Benghazi, but equally the Russian front might have given way. What avail would it have been to us to hold Benghazi if the German army had been ready to be transported across the Mediterranean? I say, therefore, that the Government have done the right and courageous thing in continuing their supplies to the Russian front to keep it going.

If I say that the Government have been right in supporting the Russian front, and, if I support them in their general policy, I should like to ask them a few questions on the advice that has been tendered to the Government by the Service Ministers. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate pointed out that no general, admiral or air marshal had resigned. I thought that was an unfair thing to say. It is true that Sir Frederick Maurice resigned in 1918, and in doing so practically ruined his career. It is a difficult thing for an admiral or general to resign as a politician can, and get back to office in a few months or years. The soldier who resigns is done for, for ever. We can take it, however, that, as there have been no resignations by senior officers of any of the Services, in general the leaders of the Services have felt that the Government have accepted their advice.

There are certain matters in which I think that that advice has been wrong. I am sure that the advice to keep the Air Force entirely separate from the Army has been wrong. I never recollect seeing any Air Force officer except a liaison officer at any Army units. I never remember any infantry officers being sent to Air Force Stations to see what the Air Force was doing. There is no complete liaison between the two Services. I do not see why it cannot be done, I have seen something of the American forces which have arrived in this country. This Army and Air Force are one. They rank as one, under the same commanding general, and they know much more about each other than one formation of the British Army knows about another formation. I hope that the advice which has been tendered by the Secretary of State for Air will be altered after this Debate.

I revert to the point that has been made about the bombing of Germany. If we had had 200 or 300 bombers flown three months ago to Libya, we might have had a 700 or a 600 bomber offensive—almost equally satisfactory—in Germany. We should then have been able to bomb Benghazi and every port in the Mediterranean area. I believe, judging from the time when Malta was attacked by the Ger-man forces, that if we had only taken the bull by the horns in the spring, we could have prevented all the reinforcements getting to Rommel.

I am sorry that no representative of the Air Ministry is here, because I should like to know how many sorties have been made each day by our Air Forces in the Libyan campaign. If the figures were disclosed they would show a very poor and surprising result. What about all the sweeps that have taken place over France? Are we to believe that they have succeeded in their objective? What was their objective? Presumably to draw off the German Air Forces from Russia. Can the Secretary of State for Air say that one single German aircraft has come back to France as the result of those sweeps, carried out, very often, at great loss to our own Forces?

We have had from the Minister of Production an explanation of the tank position and the anti-tank gun position in Libya. Both have been disclosed to be very unsatisfactory. I am not sure now whether the trouble in Libya has been all equipment trouble. What is not always realised is that large reinforcements have come in in the course of the battle. I have no proof of that, but I think it is obvious from what has happened. We held the enemy in Libya for three weeks or more and then suddenly things went wrong and that was because, I am sure, further reinforcements were sent to Rommel. How easy it is for the Germans to send reinforcements.

The Minister of Production also said that so many anti-tank guns had been allocated to Libya or the Middle East. What does he mean by "allocated"? It is an important point. It is a question whether the information laid before the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet is correct or if they understand what allocated means. Does it mean allocated in this country? Does it mean that the antitank guns or other equipment had been put on board ship and had actually left this country, or does it mean that the weapons were in the hands of the fighting troops? If by "allocated" is meant that the reinforcing weapons have left this country, although they have not reached the fighting troops, you can put a happy and rosy picture before anyone you wish. Then, is the Ministry of Supply giving balanced production? Have we produced too much of the less vital equipment and not enough of the essential? Then there is a point which needs the attention of the Secretary of State for War. Are we over-insured in this country? Have we great stores of vehicles and other equipment in reserve in the Ordnance Depots which will remain more or less in those depots until the end of the war? Could more of our equipment be sent abroad? Could we not lower the margin of safety to a much greater degree?

I do not think it is fair to blame the generals. I do not think that has been done in many speeches to-day, but on occasions I have heard blame imputed to the generals. I cannot see that we should be justified in doing that until we are in possession of the full facts. But there is one fact in connection with the Libyan campaign on which I should like some assurance. The most optimistic communiqués have come from Cairo. G.H.Q. was in Cairo at one time, I do not know whether it is still there, but if it is there, remote from the fighting troops, it is a very grave mistake.

In the last war I fought in the Palestine campaign. Then we had G.H.Q. in Cairo and our general ventured up to within 50 miles of the battle front in an armoured train the night before the battle. The Government appointed General Allenby to the command. Within 10 days he had swept G.H.Q. out of Cairo and sent them to within 14 miles of the front line, out in the desert, where they were able to give their full attention to the war. In Cairo in this war, I believe, as it was in the last war, there is far too much distraction, far too many kindly ladies who want to find husbands giving dances for lonely soldiers. There is no city in the world that provides more distractions than Cairo, and the sooner the central direction of the Middle East Expeditionary Force is removed from Cairo the better.

I come to my last point. We shall see sooner or later a second front. [Interruption.] I do not want to see a third, fourth or fifth front. I want to see all efforts concentrated on one second front. We are told by General Marshall of the American Army that the Americans will come to our assistance with the second front. It is essential that we do not hurry the initiation of that second front. Nothing could be more fatal than to do it too soon. We must give time to the American Army to develop its strength, we must give time for them to bring their men over here, we must also give time to the Minister of Labour to withdraw the young men from the munition factories. We shall want those men to make the reserves for our forces when they go overseas. As long as the Russian front holds, there is no hurry for the second front. Off the production lines in America there is coming to-day an ever-increasing stream which is fast becoming an avalanche. If we have the ships to get it over, and I think we have, provided our operations are carefully planned and the Government continue to stick to their strategical conception of supplying Russia and keeping the Germans fully occupied there, I cannot think that when we come to launch that second front the German armies, fully locked in the grip of Russia, will "ever be able to stand up to the united "power of Great Britain and America.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)

No war has ever been won by a series of inquests, but wars have been lost because the lessons taught by mistakes have been neglected. I have listened, I think, to every speech made in the House to-day except two. If democracy means anything then it means that the political leadership of this country should be criticisable. If once we subscribe to the doctrine that to criticise that leadership is sin unforgivable, then we have surrendered the last vestige of those democratic liberties to preserve which this war is being waged. It is high time that the country understood the position. For more than two years we have gone from military disaster to military disaster, relieved only by the magnificent work which has been done by the Royal Navy, which has met every call made upon it; by the magnificent work which has been done by the officers, pilots and crews of the Royal Air Force; relieved too by the work which has been done by the Army, the heroism which has been displayed when the Army has been asked to carry out tasks for which it has been ill-equipped, by the spirit and tenacity of the people and by the work which has been done in factory and in field and on all the home fronts. There is nothing wrong with the fighting forces of the country, nor with the civil defence forces, nor with the people.

What is wrong, in my opinion, is our war strategy and the direction of the war. Either the strategy is right or it is wrong. If it is right, one may be pardoned for, asking how it is that we continue to have a series of reverses. If it is wrong, then until something is done to alter it, to change it in some way, we shall continue to head for disaster. For a long time past it has seemed to me that the people have been indulging in a sort of wishful think- ing. There has grown up a spirit of acquiescence in disaster, I see signs, however, that the public are beginning to be disturbed, and I thank God for it. They are beginning to be a little tired of continually giving blank cheques on the future. They see that mistakes have been made, and not unnaturally they want to know why they have been made and by whom they have been made. I have no desire to recapitulate the long and melancholy series of reverses which have been our unhappy fate during the last two years. The disasters will continue to occur if the root cause of disaster remains, and unless the lessons taught by the disasters are taken to heart.

First of all, the Government must have known that war with Japan was inevitable. Indeed, the attempted appeasement of Japan by closing the Burma Road made it perfectly evident that the Government knew that war with Japan would come. Obviously, there was one place in the East which had to be held at all costs, and that was Singapore. The security of that base meant the preservation not only of our own Empire in the East but the preservation of those raw materials which it is vital for the Allies to possess. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken referred to the Russian front. Russia is short of rubber because we have lost so much rubber by losing control of the East. Singapore was the only place from which sea-power—and by sea-power I mean sea plus air-power—could be exercised. The full effects of the loss of Singapore are not yet apparent. Burma has gone, and through the loss of Burma China is hard put to it to continue the struggle against Japan. Because of that, many of China's aerodromes from which we could have bombed Japan have now passed into the hands of the Japanese. Therefore our ability to strike at Japan has been diminished by the loss of Singapore.

India is threatened. I do not suppose that outside the British Isles there are any two more important places in, the world at the present time than Ceylon and Madagascar. On them depends the preservation of the vital line of communication with our Armies in the Near and Middle East. What is happening in Madagascar? I asked a Question in the House a few days ago which was for some reason transferred to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who replied politely that there was no news. I think the country is entitled to know what is happening in Madagascar. Is fighting still going on there, or have we come to an agreement with the French Government? It is idle to suggest that because we hold a precarious grip on Diego Suarez we have achieved our object in Madagascar. If other and vital portions of this enormous island are liable to come under the control of the Axis, then our position in Madagascar may be precarious indeed.

I venture to remind the House that at this juncture of the war we cannot afford to have another Crete. Singapore is the biggest defeat which the British Empire has ever sustained. It has profoundly affected the whole course of the war. Is it any wonder, therefore, that there is in the country an insistent demand for an inquiry into the conditions precedent to, and attendant upon, the loss and eclipse of our position in the Far East? I suggest that the British Empire has a right to know who is to blame for the fact that this greatest and most important naval base fell before the onslaught of the Japanese. After Singapore, Libya. And, once again the melancholy tale of lost men and equipment mounts. I would call the attention of the House to this, that every time we have a military reverse of this kind we lose ships, depleting out already too slender store of sea-power. Every time it is depleted that makes the possibility of a successful amphibious military operation in the future more remote.

We have frittered away the one thing that really matters, that is, our sea-power. Now, as recent events have shown, the passage of a convoy through the Mediterranean is almost impossible. When the Deputy Prime Minister gave, on the 23rd of this month, an account of the convoy action in the Mediterranean, he said that the enemy's force included two battleships, and that Admiral Vian, perhaps one of the most gallant and successful naval commanders which this war has produced, had to take what he called avoiding action. What does that mean? Where were our battleships? Is it that we have no capital ships in the Mediterranean? If that is so, now we are reaping the bitter fruits of the loss of those two important capital ships off Malaya in circumstances which have never, as yet, been satisfactorily explained. Further, the vital significance of the escape of the German heavy ships from Brest now becomes only too tragically apparent. Is it still contended by the Government that the escape of those ships from Brest was really to our advantage, because that was what was said at the time?

By speeches and by references in the Press the public have all along been led to believe that each time a campaign in Libya has been opened we have at least been equal to the enemy in men and material, and even superior in the type of weapons we were using. Can we blame lesser men, in view of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself? He made a statement on 11th December, 1941, and after seeking to justify the optimistic utterances made by the official spokesman in Cairo, went on to say this: When all is said and done, on 18th November General Auchinleck set out to destroy the entire armed forces of the Germans and Italians in Cyrenaica and now, on nth December, I am bound to say that it seems very probable he will do so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1941; col. 1688, Vol. 376.] Not long after that he paid a visit to the United States of America, and on 26th December he made a speech to the American Congress, in which he boasted that our Armies in the East, so weak and ill-equipped at the moment of French desertion, now controlled all the regions from Teheran to Benghazi, and from Aleppo and Cyprus to the shores of the Nile. What remains of that boast to-day? He went on to say: Had we diverted and dispersed our gradually growing resources between Libya and Malaya we should have been found wanting in both spheres. Those were grimly prophetic words. We have been found wanting in both spheres and now we must pay the terrible price which our failure demands. The people of this country were entitled to conclude, from those utterances, that, at long last, our armies in the Near East were possessed of the latest and most overwhelming equipment. I do not make these quotations with any desire of personally attacking the Prime Minister, but only to show that all along claims have been made, by everybody, which have proved unjustified. And those claims are still being made. On Wednesday, 24th June, the Prime Minister met the leaders of the United States Congress. Mr. Rayburn, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, said subsequently that the Prime Minister had indicated that there was no danger of losing Egypt, and Renter's correspondent, in a cable to this country, said that the Prime Minister had satisfied everyone regarding the capture of Tobruk, which he described as a temporary setback, not affecting the ultimate outcome of the Battle of Egypt. But it must affect the outcome of the Battle of Egypt. To say that Egypt is in no danger at the present moment is surely wide of the mark. Still I hope that on this occasion the Prime Minister will turn out a true prophet.

Why have we not had the right material in Libya? Germany in France, Japan in the East, Germany in Crete, and again in Russia, have shown the overwhelming value of the dive bomber. Why have we no dive bombers? Why has the Navy got no dive bombers? I understand that some 80 of our destroyers have been destroyed by enemy action, at least half of them by air attack. I do not know of one German destroyer which has been destroyed by air attack by our Forces. Dive bombers blasted the Russians out of Kersch. As I sat here, an hon. Member told me that there was bad news from Sebastopol. The Germans blasted the Russians from Sebastopol. I understood from the Press that they blasted the Free French out of Bir Hacheim. Still our men are denied this vital weapon.

What is the good of mass raids on Germany, useful as they may be in the destruction of German war factories, useful as they may be for spreading terror among the German people, when because of our neglect to build the right type of aircraft to work with the Navy and the Army, our ships are being sunk and our armies are losing battles? When will it be realised that it is essential and inevitable that the complete operational control of the aircraft used in Naval and Military operations shall come under the Navy and the Army? Not only must there be operational control, but they must belong to the two Services. For long-distance bombing, no doubt a separate Air Force is the right thing, but, whether we like it or not, and whether it is palatable or not in certain quarters, in the end we shall have to admit that machines working with the Army must belong to the Army and that machines working with the Navy must belong to the Navy. That is no reflection on the pilots and the crews of the aircraft.

It is no fault of theirs that the course of events during this war has proved that in war-time a separate Air Force so far as naval and military operations are concerned is a source of weakness and not a source of strength. It is useless to win battles in the air so long as we continue to lose battles at sea and on land. Our soldiers and sailors have been massacred in numerous tactical defeats, while the Navy and the Merchant Navy has been reduced to a dangerously low level, because of our faulty air strategy. The idea that we can win the war by long-distance bombing of Germany is a complete fallacy.

Now we realise that our reverses in Libya are due to shortage of the right kind of material. We were told that Singapore was lost because we could not equip it and at the same time have supplies for Libya and maintain our promised supplies to Russia. If through shortage of supplies at Singapore we lost command of the sea and air in the East, and if through shortage of supplies in Libya, we are driven out of the Mediterranean, we have done Russia the greatest disservice we could do to her, since it is vital that we should regain and maintain command of the sea and air in order that Russia may continue to be fed with all those items of war equipment which it is essential that her magnificent and heroic armies should have.

All through the last two years Ministers have spoken and articles have appeared in the Press describing the swelling output of material and munitions both here and in America. First we were told that we were meeting the German Army in Libya on terms of equality in men and weapons. Then we suffer a reverse and are told that the Germans have a bigger gun than we have and a better tank. Our tanks, although we shouted aloud their glory and their wonderful efficiency, we now find are inferior to what the Germans have produced. We have had just as much time as Germany in which to produce the overwhelming gun and the overwhelming tank. Is it not really the quality of our equipment which is short and not the quantity? We have the finest inventors, the finest designers and the finest workpeople in the world. They could beat anything which Germany or any other country can produce. I believe that the only reason they do not do so is because they are strangled by red tape, They are hampered by the multitude of committees and sub-committees, controls and sub-controls, with which the whole of our war effort is now being cluttered up and choked. I believe that in Government Departments too much attention is paid to the rising curve of production, and too little attention to the quality of what is being produced.

In Libya this stark fact remains and no excuse by the Government will obscure it. We have been out-gunned and out-tanked, and we have failed to achieve that overwhelming mastery of the air which the lessons of this war from the very beginning have taught us to be essential if we are to achieve victory. Tens of thousands of men are now prisoners in Libya and we have lost vast quantities of material. The people of the Empire have a right to know why these things have happened. Hon. Members have said that this Debate taking place at the present time might injure in some way the morale of the British Army. I have a higher opinion of the morale of the British Army. I beg the House to believe me when I say that I sometimes say to myself, when I read the news of these continued defeats in Libya, "How much of that is my fault?" I have known that the tank was not right or the gun was not right and that the planes were not right, and I believe that the strategy was not right. I say to myself, "Those men out there are pointing at me and saying, 'You knew it.' What did you do about it?'" People say that we should not raise these matters in the House. Are we to wait until it happens again? Is it then to be on our conscience that once again we have sat quiet knowing that all was not well? The necessity for winning this war is greater than the reputation of one man or any hundreds of men. There is no question of a personal attack at all, but it is essential that there should be a change in the direction and strategy of the war. I believe that neither this House nor the people in their present temper will tolerate a refusal of the demand that at the due time, and not before—it is not possible before the battle is over—there shall be an inquiry into the circumstances precedent to and attendant upon our major disaster in Libya.

I saw in a paper—in fact it was also mentioned in the House to-day—a statement that some Members were trying to find a scapegoat. Well, I confess I am not among them, all the more so because I understand that it is the duty of a scapegoat to bear the sins of others. I say it is my duty as a Member of this House bearing as I do my share of the responsibility for the way this war is being conducted, to demand that the blame—if blame there be—should rest upon the shoulders of those on whom it ought to rest. I should be failing in my duty if I did not make it plain that the reverses which we have suffered have not been due to the changes and chances of a campaign—such reverses must always be expected in the course of a war—but to faulty equipment, to a failure to profit by the lessons of the past and to departure from that fundamental war strategy which alone can bring us victory—the strategy of sea plus air power.

Now I want to refer especially to our merchant shipping position. I apologise to the House for referring to a speech which I made in the House on 4th December, 1940. In that speech I tried to point out that one really vulnerable spot for us was our merchant shipping. I said that a week before we had lost 90,000 tons of merchant shipping and I ventured to suggest that the tale of sinkings was going up and that if our people only realised how it was rising, they would be degply concerned. Since then, the position has gone from bad to worse, in spite of the assurances of the Lord President of the Council who wound up the Debate on 4th December, 1940. This is what he said: I do want to assure the House that the vital importance of this matter has not been underestimated by His Majesty's Government. These and connected problems are among the main preoccupations of the Defence Committee over which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister presides. I know that the Prime Minister himself, with his unrivalled experience in these matters, is giving constant consideration to the question of enemy attack from under the sea and from the air upon our ships in convoy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December. 1940; col. 628, Vol. 367.] I ask the House to mark the effect that announcement had upon the Press. Possibly the inspiration was not entirely spon- taneous but one London newspaper had a heading: Shipping Losses. Be Confident. Britain Will Find the Answer. And then in enormous letters: Churchill Takes Command of U-Boat War. Personally Supervising Plans to Beat Them. I say that was most unfair to the Prime Minister. That was 18 months ago. What has happened since then? The tide of sinkings has continued to rise. Quite properly, we are not told the toll we are taking of Axis submarines——

Mr. Stokes

Why not?

Sir A. Southby

Obviously, it would not be in the public interest that they should get out. Naturally, the entry of Japan into the war caused the rate of sinkings to rise but it is not Japanese submarines that are sinking ships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is German and Italian submarines. Maybe the Government are wise to withhold from the country the, full gravity of the situation, although I doubt it. Tell the people of this country any news however bad and they will not be unduly depressed thereby; tell them news, however good, and they will not be unduly elated but if you are wise you will not leave them in ignorance and without news at all. Ignorance breeds rumour, doubt, surmise, and mistrust. In this case all the more so since they read and hear the figures given out in the Press and on the wireless from Germany and Italy and, in fact, from our Allies, the United States.

Let me give an example: On 15th May this year there was an official German announcement that 21 Allied merchant ships, totalling 113,000 tons, had been sunk within a few days. On the 10th of this month, Germany announced that in May alone, 924,000 tons of Allied merchant shipping had been sunk, and that in the first five months of this year she had sunk 3,081,300 tons. It may well be said that these figures are exaggerated. I hope and trust they are. But even if they are exaggerated by one-half or by one-third, the situation remains grimly serious. Everything depends, first, upon the rate of sinking of German submarines and Germany's rate of replacement of submarines; and secondly—most important of all—upon the rate at which the Allies can build merchant ships to replace lost tonnage. It is true to say—and the sooner the whole country realises it the better—that upon the merchant navies of the Allies rests our hope of victory and the hope of salvation for all those who are now enslaved under the Axis. The world will never be able to repay the debt it owes to the officers and men of the Merchant Navy. Let it be borne in mind, too, that the rate of sinkings depends to a large extent upon our ability to guard our convoys, and that, in its turn, depends upon the amount of sea power which is available. If, then, through foolish strategy we suffer reverse after reverse which not only involve us in military defeats, but dissipate the sea power upon which the whole of our war effort is built, we render impossible the fulfilment of the task of guarding those merchant ships upon which we all depend.

I wanted to say something about the second front. I will only say very briefly that the second front entirely depends upon the merchant shipping available, and the decision whether it is possible, or whether it is strategically desirable, must be left to the technical advisers of the Government, and the final decision must, of course, rest with the Prime Minister. It is idle for people outside to press for a second front when they cannot know whether it is possible or desirable, or where it should take place.

I was sorry to hear my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) say that he had never heard any hon. Member suggest that the war strategy was wrong. I thought I had wearied a very kindly House by reiterating that I thought the war strategy was wrong, and has been wrong for two years at least, and that it should be based upon sea power plus air power. If my hon. and learned Friend reads the OFFICIAL REPORT of this Debate, he will realise that that is my view. I have in the past been a critic of this Government. It might therefore have been expected that I would have put my name to the Motion which, was so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), to whom I pay my tribute for his public spirit, his courage and his obvious sincerity, and whose views I share to a very large extent. I did not put my name to the Motion because I believed that before any such Motion was moved, it was only fair and proper that we should hear what the Prime Minister had to say. Rightly or wrongly, that was my view.

It has become abundantly clear that, with all his preoccupations the Prime Minister cannot adequately discharge at the same time the functions of Prime Minister and the functions of Minister of Defence. He cannot, of course, divest himself of the responsibility for final decision, which quite rightly and properly belongs to him, but that the present system has led us to failures and reverses no man can deny. The circumstances make it plain that there must be a change both as regards our strategy and as regards our conduct of the war, and unless this change is made, we shall be heading for disaster. Having said that, I affirm with Abraham Lincoln, whose courage and tenacity and never-failing faith during dark and tragic days remains an inspiration to all, in something he said on 17th June, 1858, at Illinois: Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it but sooner or later, victory is sure to come.

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

I have listened to this Debate for nearly the whole of its eleven-and-one-half hours, and I feel that such a story has been unfolded of disasters in relation to shortage of equipment that the Prime Minister must feel like the persecuted Jew on the Continent, who in dire distress appealed to God and said, "Oh God, you have made us your chosen race for the last 3,000 years. Please now choose another." I have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby). I have heard him on many occasions, and have admired his persistence and the principles which have moved him on all these occasions in the House. Although I disagree politically and fundamentally with him, I have always admired the persistence with which he puts his questions before the House, and the views he holds very strongly in regard to the Service of this country. He delivered a very well-informed speech indeed, and certainly it could never be claimed that he has not failed to point out to the people the dangers and perils which were involved from this point of view. I do not know whether the Government realise it or not, but they are living in a fools' paradise. There are consternation and anger, such as I have never seen since the beginning of the war, being shown at meetings I have attended, and I firmly believe that we are at the start of a great political crisis. This Government would not last a week but for the fact that Labour trade union Members are in the Cabinet. They are the people who are protecting the Government from being overthrown, and they are the people who, when we suffered the comparatively small reverse in Norway, said foul and vile things about the Chamberlain Administration and overthrew the Government. I am amazed to find the complacent attitude they have adopted, and the way they are maintaining secrecy in what is regarded as the nation's great peril.

Major Lyons

They are in the Government now.

Mr. McGovern

I realise that. People are starting to ask things about which Members cannot inform them. I have to ask people how they can judge the position of this country when even Members of Parliament do not know. The Government are concealing the facts with regard to the reverses, and the reports from people on the spot on those reverses, for the purpose of protecting themselves as a Government and maintaining themselves on the front Bench. That is the growing opinion of the people. They are asking what Members of Parliament are doing in these circumstances. I have been opposed to the war but I realise that, if the country is behind the war effort and believes that it has to conduct a war effort to destroy Hitler or Hitlerism, the country expects that the job will be done in a reasonable time and that every disaster that takes place is adding to the peril of the people and of their sons. The Government took mighty powers to win the war. They have conscripted men and women. They have turned men out of good positions. They have taken them from their wives and families and sent them to every comer of the earth. The people in these family surroundings are anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones. They are not prepared to back an incompetent Government which does not see any prospect of military victory and an ending of the war within a reasonable period. It may be against my own point of view, but I must admit that the people of the country have been very generous to the Government in regard to the suffering they have endured. You have imprisoned men and girls for failing to turn up to their work, for being late, for absenting themselves or for refusing to go to certain occupations to which they were ordered. Every sacrifice has been demanded from the common people, but the Government have concealed every item of news which would give the people an opportunity to decide the position in relation to the War.

The Motion was put down by a number of Members who have a perfect right to put down a Motion criticising and condemning the Government, or moving a Vote of Censure, if they feel that the country is in danger, or the war is in danger of being lost, because they believe in winning the war. The technique is remarkable. No sooner had the Motion been put on the Paper or been talked of than there began to be the usual technique of propaganda by the Press lords to suggest that a number of people who put their names had put them down under the impression that no sooner had they put them down than they wanted to take them off. The Whips began to get busy and to threaten Members. To me a most amazing thing is that men who claim to be men are frightened by the power of Whips in any political party. I cannot imagine a human being being terrorised into submission by a Whip. They go on to the public platform and make promises to the people. They should say to the people before they come here, "I pledge my word to do this if the Whips will allow me." I have always believed that the Whips should be given three or four hundred votes, or that Members should send them postcards. That technique began to take away certain Members and prevent others from being added in order to increase the antagonism to the Government. In my estimation that is so obvious that it should destroy the power of the Whips to create a division among those who are opposed to the Government.

The hon. Member who moved the Motion made out a good case for a Vote of No Confidence in the Government, but he destroyed the whole of his case when he suggested that we wanted a strong man as Commander-in-Chief and that we should have the Duke of Gloucester. I said to myself, "Good heavens! Is it as bad as that?" I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman what was the basis of that suggestion, because it did not seem to me mentally suitable to the individual who suggested it.

Mr. Stokes

The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) said that his suggestion that the Duke of Gloucester should be Commander-in-Chief of the Army was nothing to do with the administration of the Army. He would be only the nominal head.

Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

Is it in Order to discuss members of the Royal Family?

Mr. McGovern

There is no point in the interruption of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). The suggestion was that the Duke should be Commander-in-Chief. It is well known that as a Socialist I am not in favour of Royalty, but I am not introducing this point because of that. I am replying to the Debate in a reasonable manner. That suggestion seemed to me to be the product of an infantile mentality. It is true that the Duke of Gloucester might have had more toy soldiers in his youth than the average child, and might have displayed certain abilities there, but at the present time he displays no abilities in military matters. I happen to know a little of him. He is wearing medals for battles he has never fought in, and I know how he is placed.

Major Petherick

He was an extremely good cavalry officer, and his regiment very much wanted him in command.

Mr. McGovern

I know all these things——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

It would be a great mistake to pursue the matter in this Debate.

Mr. McGovern

I am not endeavouring to go into the inner history of the Royal family, but am only replying to what has been suggested. The hon. Member could not have put it worse if he had suggested that the Home Secretary should be Commander-in-Chief; the suggestion was so ridiculous. I was very wrapped up in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but he destroyed the whole value of it by this stupid suggestion.

A number of Members have made fairly reasonable speeches in connection with the Motion, but those who have defended the Government seem to have done it with their tongues in their cheeks. I have heard only two all-out defenders of the Government. One was the Deputy-Chairman of the 1922 Committee, and the other was the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). The Prime Minister had better, in replying to the Debate, deal with the insinuations that are going round the country that he is vetoing and interfering with almost every naval, military and Air Force action that is taking place. If that is a lie, the Prime Minister will be well advised to nail it down, because it is being spread round the country. The Prime Minister has enormous powers in connection with the war. He has been pointed to as being something in the nature of a Fuehrer. The Prime Minister has great capabilities as an orator, and I think a false assessment has been made of his other abilities because of his oratorical powers.

He has the power to put a case, to destroy criticism and to minimise the points made by his opponents; but let it be remembered, because this is not said by a political opponent who is anxious to destroy him or one who is anxious to get into his good graces, that the feeling is growing in the country that the Prime Minister is exercising not only a military dictatorship but a political dictatorship. Everybody believes that when he is not present in this House no decision can be made, no answers can be given and no Minister has power to reply to any point on any question because of the overbearing attitude of the Prime Minister.

We are suffering from a considerable number of reverses, and we do not want to see more reverses in which our men are destroyed or decimated. To me the dangers seem tremendous. I believe, and said it at the time, that Members went too lightly into the war, believing it would be an easy task. I took a serious view of the country going into the war. I have been accused time and time again, especially by my Communist friends, of being a great backer of the Prime Minister at the time of Munich. Apart from the fact that I have opposed war at every stage, I say it was a godsend to this country that the Prime Minister did not put us into war then. Bad as things are to-day, then there would have been sudden and swift disaster for this country. We had a year's breathing space in which to prepare if we wished to prepare. At this time, when the country is passing through a period of military defeats, we are told that the Prime Minister is in the nature of a gambler. I should be sorry to, see this country trying to retrieve itself in the military field at a period of disaster by gambling on something that might prove very disastrous indeed. Even to the point of boring the House, I would return to the demand for a second front. That demand may compel the Government. They may be blackmailed and driven into a second front before the country is prepared for it. Tremendous disaster might take place, and we might find a tremendous overturning of opinion in this country as a result.

Regarding the disaster in Libya, I do not take the view taken by a large number of Members. I have been prepared to see military defeats, because a large number of the commanders and the men in this country were not trained in the art of this special type of warfare. The Germans had specialised, they had their schools. In various industrial establishments in Germany I saw boys who in the forenoon were being taught military exercises and in the afternoon were being trained in the practical side of engineering. We must expect tremendous ability in a nation where that has been going on in every workshop and factory. General Rommel in Libya has had the advantage of the experience of dive bombing in Poland, Russia, France, Holland and Belgium. Further, our enemies were practising dive bombing to a large extent in Spain when Members of the Government here were lying about the operations of the Italians and Germans in Spain, when even Mussolini's sons were assisting in Spain. It was looked upon as splendid practice for the greater struggle that was to come later. Therefore, if commanders in this country are taken by surprise or are out-manoeuvred, one may expect it. I say also that in Malaya, Singapore, Burma, India, throughout the whole of the Pacific, the dice have been loaded against this country by the fact that we have had almost a dozen or more fronts to defend.

They had to send forces not only to all those places but, with the tremendous concentration of the enemy at a short distance, they had to be ready to send a mobile force from one position to another. Therefore one might expect that to happen. Without getting to grips with the question of whether we ought to have an Empire or not, I say that the price of Empire is that you must of necessity be at a disadvantage as compared with an enemy with mobile forces within striking distance, and therefore you will lose territory.

I was staggered by a statement made when the Prime Minister came home from America. It was to the effect that the position never looked so well for victory, or something of that description, as it did at the present time. It depends on how you look at it. If you lose Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Burma, Libya, and parts of Africa, and if you are driven out of, the Continent, I suppose that if you retire behind the frontiers of this country and concentrate all your resources there, things will look well for victory, because there is nothing more to lose and the prospects of maintaining yourselves in this country would be definitely good. But was not that statement part of the Prime Minister's technique of misleading the population? My great claim against the Government is that they are sitting just now on the top of a volcano. The public of this country know they are being misled. They are growing angry, they are getting tired of the orthodox political parties. The domination of Transport House, the Carlton Club and the headquarters of the Tory party, is sickening the people, and there is a throw-up in the by-elections of Independent candidates. All the weight of the Conservative and Liberal parties, the trade unions and the Communist party cannot keep the people down. They are finding a means of expression, and do not imagine that it is temporary. If there is a conspiracy on that Front Bench to keep the people from knowing the truth, they will break out in a new form of expression, and, although it is against my own point of view on the war, I can foresee the development of that new political organism which is in being at the moment. Some people say that Lord Beaverbrook is financing it. I do not know whether it is true or not, but it is being said around this city very persistently, and they always say that where there is smoke there is fire. I would rather say that where there is smoke there must be brass.

Therefore, if there is a throw-up of a new political movement, before these orthodox party leaders who are speaking in the name of the population go very far they will feel a sudden burst underneath them, and they will awaken one day to a realisation of what is taking place. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who is Leader of the House made a fundamental mistake when he came back from Russia and took a position in the Government instead of in the Opposition. He has been misled, and whether he realises it or not there is a grave danger that he will go down with the Government. And the Government are going down, make no mistake about it: they are going down because the people of this country are getting just about to the end of their tether in connection with being denied knowledge of what is going on.

The shipping position was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom. The "Daily Express" on Monday told us that 335 ships had been sunk off the coast of America since 29th January of this year. Is that true or is it false? The Americans say it, and then Beaverbrook tells us what the American have said, what the Germans say about the sinkings is reported as well, and then speeches are made in this House such as those of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), saying that the grave shipping position will be known one of these days, and then the people will get a tremendous shock. People ask questions. They learn that I was reported to the Committee of Privileges for saying that we had lost 800,000 tons of shipping in two months. The people wonder what is being hidden from them. Their sons have died, they have been refused pensions, their families are being transported all over the country, they are being penalised and asked to undergo hardships and suffering, to make sacrifices and endure mental and physical torture, yet they are denied the knowledge of what is happening, when we can get it from all the front pages of America, and when it is being bandied about in clubs and among people who know.

A spate of rumours is going about now. I met a man two or three weeks ago, not of my political persuasion, who said he was prepared to gamble on the war being over and the victory won before the end of the year. I said, "You and I must live in different worlds." I did not understand the basis of the enthusiasm, but I found out. I could quote an enormous number of cuttings, but I will only mention one of the reports which engendered that feeling, This is it: The boundless confidence of the troops is best illustrated, says Reuter, by the remark of a tank sergeant from Birmingham, a veteran of desert war, as his tank moved off to the attack. 'This Rommel legend has been exploded in the last few days. I have been in four separate tank battles, and every time we knocked them harder than they hit us. If he is not careful Mr. Rommel is due for a bowler hat this time.' That was on 7th June in the "Sunday Express." A large number of these prophecies of early victory and crushing defeat for Rommel in the desert were published in the Press of this country, in the "Sunday Times," the "Manchester Guardian," by "The Times" military correspondent, in the "Sunday Express," the "Daily Herald," and the "News Chronicle."

When the public see Rommel striking on for Alexandria they are staggered. What are they saying? On Sunday night I was questioned. I do not agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). He too is living in a fool's paradise if he thinks that the people of this country are accepting the hooey he is putting over at the present time. The people of this country were never more alive than at this moment. They are asking me, "What kind of an assembly is the House of Commons? They are accepting all these defeats and the silence of Ministers and making no demand to know what is going on." Members on the Front Bench will probably not admit it, but it is a fact that the Prime Minister is exercising a tremendous dictatorship. I have seen him in the House—and supported him to get a hearing—when he has been howled down in the House before he entered the Government. From my own experience he is the most arrogant and intolerant Member of this House. He walked out when the Noble Lord was speaking. The Noble Lord said he hoped that he was not going out, as he had one or two things to say. He never even turned his head; he marched off. I say that that is the attitude of a man with a dictatorial mind, and so far as I am concerned if I had to choose between Hitler and the Prime Minister, I should not know exactly on which the choice had to fall.

It must be remembered that Hitler's policy, as carried out through the Gestapo chiefs, has only been developed as time has gone on, and if this House does not assert itself, it is going also in the struggle that may lie ahead.

The people of this country have borne a great deal, and they are commenting on Members of Parliament, who are saying, "This is not the time to criticise, this is not an opportune time for Votes of Censure." At the time the late Prime Minister was being unseated, I sat one night, and my blood boiled at the foul things that were hurled at him. During that Debate he was one of the most pathetic figures I have ever seen. I almost thought at times that he would collapse. Every person who had a foul thing to say had a job in the Government afterwards. That was the reward of their attacks. I am not going to say that there was no justification for attack from my angle, but if there was justification for attack from those who made them, there is much greater justification for attack now than there was then because of that long line of disasters, with no information given.

I do not know what happened at Singapore. One can only guess. There are rumours and so forth, and they are the worst kind of information one can get. I have heard it said by people who claim to know that men arrived in divisions and handed over the whole of their equipment without a shot being fired, and that in some ships going out men said, "We are going to fight for Burma oil and rubber. That is not what we enlisted for; it was to fight Hitler." Those are the kinds of rumours that are circulating. Members in this House who feel strongly the belief that the war will achieve something for which they stand are entitled to criticise if they want to win the war. I would say that Hitler would be dismayed if he saw this Government overthrown. The Government have been the greatest friend Hitler ever had. They know neither how to keep peace nor how to make war. We now have a vested interest in the Government of this country, in a coalition of all the leaders. What annoys me is to hear these people claiming to speak for the workers. They do not. There is a vested interest in the Labour and trade union movement. The leaders have got themselves comfortable jobs, they have got their friends packed in, and the Departments are saturated with their adherents. In every Government Department they are thinking only of how to maintain themselves there, and fearing that if the public get to know what is happening they, will have to go. The public are developing a sense of anger. I had never seen so much anger as I saw at a meeting on Sunday night, where there were women who had had sons in the Middle East, in Singapore, and in Malaya. I am not blaming the War Office for not giving information about prisoners of war, when they cannot get the lists. But these people are suffering anguish. They were willing to undergo that anguish because they thought it would achieve something decent. That was never my point of view; I do not believe that anything is gained by war.

I warn the Government. They will get their Vote of Confidence, but it means nothing. They may hoodwink themselves that, by a vote of 350 to 25 or something of that kind, they have scored a great success; but they will have scored no success. Anger and bitterness are developing in the country, and the people realise that they are being hoodwinked. The Government have pinned their faith to winning the war, if all other means fail, by large-scale bombing raids, of tremendous intensity, on Germany. But Germany can switch all her Air Force over to bombing this country. There is no end to this bombing campaign; you gain no decision by it. In the military field it may be different, but you are only on the fringe of the war yet; you have not started to fight Hitler. The fighting of a few thousand troops in Libya is not fighting the German army. It is true that Germany and Russia have been all out in this struggle, but this country is only on the fringe of the war. The setback in Libya is now admitted by all to have lengthened the war. This week-end speeches by Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries have sickened the people of this country; the broadcasts of the Prime Minister, with their lurid language against the Nazis, have carried the Government nowhere. The people are asking for action.

They are beginning to look for the end of the war and to the return of their loved ones and to wonder whether they are safe in the keeping of the Government of this country, and whether they have the ability. People are asking, "Is it the material? Is it the Government? Is it the Generals who are responsible?" I say to the hon. Gentleman who has moved this Motion, as a detached observer who could either abstain or vote for the Motion —there is nothing in the Motion that would prevent me from supporting it—that if he does not go into the Lobby, he will discover that he himself will be placed in the dock by the public of this country, because whether the Government realise it or not, he is expressing in the Motion what the public are thinking, and that is growing on them.

Mr. Tinker

Oh, no.

Mr. McGovern

I keep my nose close to the ground in the country, and I know public opinion. They are beginning to make demands. There is going to be a first-class political upheaval in this country, and I make this prophecy, that the Government cannot last another six months. There is going to be a change. They realise that the Prime Minister has put into the Government, not all, but a large number of his friends and supporters and people who can be guaranteed to say nothing distasteful about him. It was rumoured at one stage that he was going to make Vic Oliver Archbishop of Canterbury. The public are beginning to realise all the things which have happened in this war and to be antagonistic, and the Prime Minister is not nearly so popular as those who have been speaking on this Motion and against it think. They remember the Prime Minister's record before the war. We had from almost every labour platform and newspaper in this country bitter attacks upon the Prime Minister as one of the most reactionary forces. Some of those who attacked him for years are now in the Government. They have around them a number of conscientious objectors of the last war who have become strong patriots in this war when they are over military age. I do not wish the Government to come to disaster, but I would warn them, if they do not realise it, that there is a growing feeling of antagonism that will develop into anger in a very short period unless changes are made. I warn them that they are living in a fool's paradise. In my humble estimation there is brewing in this country a first-class political crisis which will make very insistent demands on the Government of this country.

Major Braithwaite (Buckrose)

I desire to speak on the lines of the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) and other hon. Members, not because I do not think that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) has not supplied a public need, because I think he has. I feel that his Motion has shown that the country required and still requires several explanations from the Government that have not yet been given, but I do not associate myself with it for one particular reason, that I am sure that it would not be the desire of any Member of this House to weaken the Prime Minister in the eyes of our Allies or our enemies. Every other person who speaks for the United Nations, Mr. Stalin in Russia, Mr. Roosevelt in America and Chiang Kai-shek in China, all occupy the supreme position in their respective countries. They control every form of public life and the activities of the armies, navies and air forces of those different countries and it would be invidious indeed if our Prime Minister was not able to meet them on equal terms at any conference which may take place.

If this Motion, by any stretch of the imagination, were carried by this House what do hon. Members suppose would be the reaction in the United States of America? They have sent large numbers of troops over here but if it were disclosed to the world that our military direction of the war was to be out of the absolute control of this Government, would they send one more soldier over here? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Well, supposing Russia to-morrow passed a resolution making it clear that the military direction of their war effort was out of control, and was quite unbalanced, do you think we would send one more tank or another gun there? Of course not. Let us face realities. We are up against the toughest proposition any nation has ever faced and what we desire is a little more support for one another in every walk of life and a little less criticism.

There may be certain things which have not been explained to the people of this country in connection with some of the disasters which have occurred but, after all, if you put a man like the Prime Minister in control of the country at a time like this you have to trust him to make decisions as to certain things the disclosure of which might be to the danger of this country. If you accept him only under conditions which you want to vary from time to time, then you have no right to put him in that position at all. I tell the House quite frankly that there is no other man in the British Empire who can take the right hon. Gentleman's place to-day. His leadership of the country is not disputed by the people who have put down the Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Maybe, one or two do, but certainly not my right hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, who made it perfectly clear that the Prime Minister's main defect was that he was trying to do too much and that in every other respect he accepted him as the natural leader of this country at the present time. If that be the case surely this House of Commons will give the Prime Minister the encouragement he deserves. If I could hope that this Motion would not be pressed to a Division it would please me even more. To-day we want solidarity and confidence if we are to win through in the grim struggle that lies ahead of us.

A great deal has been said about the disasters which have occurred and I will not go into their military aspect. Every one of us deeply deplores what has happened in Libya. But if we face this situation honestly we must realise that we have not been beaten by better machines and tanks; we have been beaten by better tactics. We have been beaten because there was better generalship on the other side, and in a war of these dimensions, we have got to accept that position. But I think the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. McGovern) was correct when he said that the war has not yet started for this country. What bulk of our people has been engaged? We have not yet really started. The great Army which we have to-day has had to be built up from absolutely nothing in two years. It is now getting to a stage when people can talk about starting an offensive on a reasonable scale, and if that position has been reached, do not let the House do anything to damage the possibilities of that attack being launched under the most favourable circumstances. If it is launched with the military direction of the war in question, it will be launched with the certainty of absolute failure; if it is launched with that complete optimism and solidarity that we should show, there will be a reasonable chance of success. I am absolutely certain that nobody need have the slightest misgivings as to how the war will finish—it will be won, and won quicker than most people imagine.

We have an example of what the machines that our people have made are doing in Russia. The resistance of that country to the onslaughts of the Germans is one of the marvels of this age, and a great deal of that is due to the fact that we have sacrificed so much from the British Army to allow them to have the tools to carry on that grim struggle in which they are engaged. Can any hon. Member question the fact that if we had sent to Libya the tools that we have sent to Russia, we could have swept Rommel into the sea months ago? It is quite evident that we could have done so. But it is more important for us to sustain the Russians even than to sustain the Libyan front. That fact is not recognised by a great many people. With the first measure of defeat, there is general criticism of the whole of the war policy. There are very few people—I doubt if there are any people—outside the Cabinet and the Chiefs of Staff who know the major strategy of the war. The people who are placed in charge must be given the full confidence of the House.

What is important is that we should stand together at this critical hour in our Empire's history and solidly support the Government and every section of the community in building up our resources and our strength, so that this nation and the Empire can put forward with full vigour the great effort that will be needed from us. Many times before in our history we have been faced with disasters, but we have always come through them, and we shall come through this one. But let us give the man who is in command the confidence and authority which his position demands. I do not want to see our Prime Minister in any inferior position to that of any of the other leaders of the four great Allied Powers who are conducting this great war. I want him to meet them with full authority, so that he can make decisions without question. Let hon. Members imagine the position in Washington last week if the Prime Minister had had to come back here to talk to somebody in charge of the Army here before being able to take a decision. I am certain that the Prime Minister must be charged with such powers from the House of Commons that he can exercise absolute and undeniable control over the operations in conducting the war which will give the quickest and best results.

On the other side of the Atlantic there are 20,000,000 people in the United States who are not at all in agreement with the opening of a second front in Europe. At this moment there is no national Government in America as we have in this country, although their Administration under President Roosevelt is undoubtedly favourable and is working in the closest co-operation with our Government. There are many more difficulties than we have to face. Do not let us make these difficulties greater for our Government and for our Prime Minister by passing Motions of this sort or even getting substantial support for them. I know that there is no more loyal and no more patriotic person than my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster. This House owes him a great debt of gratitude for all he has done in the many spheres of Parliamentary work he has undertaken since the war started, but if he presses this Motion to a Division he will be doing the country a disservice. I beg him and his supporters, having ventilated the matter, to let the matter go, to enable us to close our ranks and get on with fighting the war.

Mr. Hammersley (Willesden, East)

As I listened to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite) I found he placed himself in a dilemma. He explained it was not the lack of equipment which was responsible for the defeat of our tanks in Libya and he then went on to say that if we had only allowed the equipment which went to Russia to go to Libya, Rommel would have been overwhelmed. In that respect his argument was a little contradictory.

Major Braithwaite

I was taking the Prime Minister's own words that we started the battle in Libya with equality of arms and that it was the first time we had engaged the enemy with equality.

Mr. Stokes

It was not true.

Major Lyons

That statement was not borne out by what the Minister of Production said.

Mr. Hammersley

I do not want to prolong that aspect of the matter; I think it, is better to plunge straight away into the subject upon which I wish to address the House, namely, tanks. I have spoken before on this subject, but seldom, of course, in Open Session. I want to restrict what I have to say to the very limited sphere of the design, production and use of tanks and guns realising that this has a vital effect oh the wider issues with which the whole country is concerned, I should like to begin by saying that anything I have to say can only be of value if it leads to balanced judgment, helps us to eradicate weaknesses, and assists in improving the organisation which the organisation can be shown to have failed. This is no time for discursive criticisms but for careful analysis and for determination to introduce alterations where alterations are shown to be necessary without consideration of persons or parties. Those individuals who, like myself, have some special knowledge of these armaments have a dual duty. On the one hand, they should be careful to do nothing which will reveal facts of value to the enemy and on the other not to shrink from disclosures, however unpleasant it may be, which would aid in the removal of cardinal evils which are felt to persist.

The question that disturbs the country probably more than any other is the question, How is it that our Army still lags behind the Germans in design? To obtain good design you have to have a clear and complete knowledge of the purpose for which the armament is intended and the way in which it is proposed to be used, and to combine that knowledge with complete co-operation between the user and the producer. Given those fundamentals, you can set your technicians to work, development work can be carried on and design can be perfected. In our present organisation those fundamentals are lacking. The Army knows vaguely and inaccurately what it wants. It cannot know accurately and with precision because it has not a technical staff which would enable it to lay down precise details of a problem the essentials of which are not immediate needs but anticipated requirements based on technical knowledge. Therefore the Army are wise, in present circumstances, to restrict their specifications to the performance. They invariably make a mistake when they make their specification in precise and detailed technical form.

The Ministry of Supply design and produce the armament which in their opinion the Army requires. They do that to the best of their limited ability—limited ability because of the absence of person- nel with Service knowledge. It is only natural that in these circumstances that the Ministry of Supply stresses to the Army the good points of the armament it proposes to make and slurs over the bad ones. The background against which tank production is supplied to the Army, or orginal designs are shown to the Army can be described as being rather to motor car salesmanship than the impartial, objective scientific atmosphere which is necessary. The result must be harmful and it may be disastrous. It means that the Army is invariably over-confident and it is left to the Germans to discover technical weaknesses and for the British Army to find out those defects as the battle proceeds. Examples from the last Libyan campaign and others will readily occur to hon. Members. Those experiences can in many respects be traced in their origin to this sales atmosphere. First, when the armament is shown, the good points are impressed on the higher command, the highest responsible officer in the Army, and then the sales talk is handed down, rank by rank until finally the whole arm of the Service is permeated with this view. That this can be a very real danger needs no emphasis from me. The House may think it is a danger which may be exaggerated. They may take the view that it is a danger which only existed in the past and does not exist to-day, but it is not so. The danger exists at present.

I will make my position clear by giving an example of something that is happening at present. At the beginning of June this year a demonstration was arranged for all the high-up people responsible in the Army and the Ministry of Supply. I should not be surprised if certain senior members of the Government were present. They were shown a new tank. The performance of that tank was good. But how many of the spectators of its performance knew that in the planned production of the tank only one out of 18 was to have engines similar to the tank that was demonstrated? If they did, how many of them realised that the bulk of the production which was planned was for a tank which was in many respects similar but which would have an engine less than half the horse-power of the particular example which was demonstrated? I suggest that they would have been very Surprised if, instead of seeing the prototype of the small quantity of production they had seen the prototype of the large quantity of production and had learned that that prototype could not be run for three successive days without breaking down. I suggest that those people who saw that demonstration came away with a quite erroneous impression, and if that impression is not corrected we are now sowing the seeds for future defeats.

Dr. Haden Guest

This appears to be, definitely, fraud. Was it a fraud staged by the War Office or by the Ministry of Supply?

Mr. Hammersley

I am not alleging that it is fraud.

Dr. Guest

I am alleging that it is fraud. Was it the War Office or the Ministry of Supply?

Mr. Hammersley

I am not alleging it is fraud. I am merely saying——

Dr. Guest

Who staged the demonstration?

Mr. Hammersley

The Ministry of Supply. The atmosphere in which these vehicles are shown is not an impartial, objective atmosphere which we all want. It is an atmosphere in which good points are exaggerated and bad points are concealed. It was so last year, and the Minister of Production has given us the facts. It is so this year, and it is important that the House should not tolerate the continuance of such a procedure. It goes without saying that if we, are to obtain a correct tactical use of these armaments the characteristics of the armaments must be thoroughly understood. If we are to do that, we can only do it by understanding the bad points as well as the good points of the armament that we propose to use.

It is necessary to neutralise this atmosphere of salesmanship, and that can best be done by setting up a qualified, scientific, technical staff above the Ministry of Supply and the War Office, so that they can watch not merely that the Ministry of Supply give the right weapons, but that when circumstances necessitate inadequate weapons being supplied, the users know all the attributes of the weapons they are called upon to use. I understand that a body of that kind is being set up, and I welcome the steps that are being taken in the War Office in connection with the scientific director.

The case for a body of this kind has been ably put by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill), and I do not propose to elaborate it. I support it. If hon. Members have any lingering doubts as to the desirability of an impartial body of this kind, let them reflect on this fact, which I believe was revealed by the Minister of Production, that as long ago as the middle of 1940 it was proposed to fit a 6-pounder to the A.12, the tank we call the Matilda, but the General Staff protested, and the project was abandoned. I am not suggesting that at that time the Army was averse to having a 6-pounder in any circumstances, but they had so many other preoccupations that they were not prepared to consider a 6-pounder in the light of the fact that they were pressing so much for 2-pounders. In fact at that time the Army was not interested.

Major G. S. Taylor

Would my hon. Friend give the reason why the Army at that time preferred to have large numbers of 2-pounders rather than a small number of 6-pounders?

Mr. Hammersley

That is not the point I am making. There ought not to have been a situation in which the Army was faced with having either one or the other. It ought to have been a situation in which the 6-pounder could have been developed while the production of the 2-pounder was going on. That could have been done if the impartial scientific body I am suggesting had been operating. I do not want to be unfair to anybody, and I think I have not presented the case in that kind of way.

The defects of the Ministry of Supply are not limited to this matter of the rather misleading presentation of the tanks which they make for the Army. In addition, organisation is faulty. I criticised the organisation of the tank department of the Ministry of Supply in a speech I made in January. It was a speech made under considerable difficulties, but I have reread it, and there is little I desire to alter or modify. But I can do now what I could not do then, and that is illustrate the shortcomings by reference to what then was our latest tank but is no longer our latest, the Mark IV. It has been revealed that by the exigencies of the situation in 1940 we had to entrust the production of this tank to a firm that had little previous experience in tank production. It did in fact go into large scale production. I wish to illustrate the weakness of the organisation. There was in existence at that time a Tank Board which was responsible for the production and design of tanks. The point was realised that the Mark IV showed very considerable problems and possible weaknesses, and they were anxious to see that this tank did not go into very large-scale production without having been proved completely battle-worthy. In spite of the desire of the Tank Board to examine this matter and to see that the works of the country were not completely filled with the production of a model which might or might not prove battleworthy, in the end the whole matter was taken out of their hands and large-scale production was continued and indeed increased. To make the situation worse, just when production was coming into full flood there was a change of Ministers at the Ministry of Supply, and a change in the heads of departments.

The new personnel were all out for production. Quantity was first, and quality was second. The people who understood the technical problems had no power. The people who were in power were not interested in technical problems or in Service problems.

Dr. Haden Guest

Was this Lord Beaverbrook?

Mr. Hammersley

The Minister who took the place of the Minister in office then was Lord Beaverbrook. I am just trying to illustrate the relationship between the defective organisation and this production complex. It can be illustrated by one very simple item. I would like the attention of the Secretary of State for War because I wish to tell him that the organisation responsible for passing tanks accepted by the Army is an organisation which should be examined. The individuals who accept or reject tanks are supervised by a hierarchy which in turn is headed by a major-general who is concerned only with production. That is the point. The head of the organisation which has to deal with the passing of the tanks, as to whether they are fit for the Army, is concerned only with production, and in my view that set-up is faulty.

I made a confidential statement to the 1922 Committee in December, 1941, and in the observations which I then made I very severely criticised the Mark IV tank. I asked, as will be within the recollection of many hon. Members here, that the allegations I then made should be probed to the bottom. They were so probed, and the Minister admitted that the allegations were justified. There were two Ministers present, and it was the Minister of Supply who replied; he said that the Departments knew the facts and that he had received from his officers complete assurances that matters were being put right. With those assurances the deputation was perforce content. I later received personal assurances from the Director-General of Design and Development to say that he was quite satisfied personally that everything would be all right. I would like to say quite specifically that to-day the Mark IV tank is greatly improved from the Mark IV as it was in the days when I criticised it in 1941. In spite of that, it is generally realised that the tank will have to play a very limited role, and if we are to find a victory weapon we shall have to look for something new.

It might be asked by hon. Members why it is that this tank has been accepted by the Army in such big numbers. The answer is that it has not been normally accepted by the inspection department at all. It has been passed under an indemnity which has been provided by the War Office.

Mr. C. Davies

What does that mean?

Mr. Hammersley

It means that the normal standard of serviceability has been disregarded and that the War Office have put in a different standard of serviceability and have accepted the responsibility.

Mr. Davies

It was already being produced at the end of 1941?

The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)

I do not know what the hon. Member is talking about.

Mr. Hammersley

I would put it to the House that it is no use exaggerating, though we must not ignore, the diminution in the effective tank-striking power which has been caused by the production of this particular model. It is too late to deplore it now. If the inquiry had taken place in January, something might have been done. I do not know. It might have made a difference. There is no point in trying to kill the Mark IV tank; it is dying a natural death.

Our concern is for the future. We have to profit by the mistakes made in the past. I have said something, I think, to show the House that the scientific, objective control by the Minister of Supply is inadequate, and I would like to make just one or two concluding observations concerning the Design Department. The Department of Design, D.T.D. in the Ministry of Supply, is not and is not intended to be a Department to design tanks. It is intended to be a Department to help in the design of tanks; it should be a storehouse of information, it should be a kind of university of tank design. The duties which D.T.D. should perform should consist of giving decisions on design. That is what is required, and in order to get those decisions we must have men of the highest possible technical attainments. In the absence of men of those technical and scientific attainments, we do not so much get wrong decisions as no decisions at all, and that, of course, is one of the causes which may be and quite probably are an explanation of the large delays that take place in between the prototype being first shown and its getting into production.

I give the House one or two examples, because I want them to be corrected as quickly as possible in the interests of the country. We have two large-scale manufacturers of armoured cars. Many months ago these two manufacturers got together to design an armoured car that would have all the good qualities of both, and indeed a better armoured car than either firm had ever yet produced. They did produce a very good prototype. It went to the Design Department. They played about with it, increased its weight by 30 per cent., increased the number of pieces of armour three times, and in spite of the fact that the War Office is crying out for these vehicles it is not yet in production. I think that is a typical case to illustrate the importance of quick decisions from the Design Department. Then we have got a hydraulic tank transmission. There is no secret about this.

Mr. Speaker

The words of the Motion are, "That this House has no confidence in the central direction of the war." The hon. Member is making a speech which would be more appropriate in a discus- sion on production, not on the central direction of the war.

Mr. Hammersley

I thought, in the serious situation in which we find ourselves, that in this Debate, it was the duty of Members to bring forward such contributions as would enable us to overcome difficulties and it was for that purpose that I was making these observations. I do not wish to place myself out of Order, but I did think it my duty to make such a contribution as would assist in enabling us to deal with the difficulties which, if brought into the light of day, may be remedied, but which, if not brought into the light of day, may persist, and it is from that point of view that I am making these observations. I do not wish to incur either your displeasure, Mr. Speaker or to go outside the Rules of Order. I will leave any example which you think will in any way be of such a character as to endanger the national effort.

Mr. Speaker

The Motion refers to the central direction of the war. The hon. Member is dealing almost entirely with the production of particular arms, which is quite a different thing.

Dr. Haden Guest

With all respect, Mr. Speaker, is it not a fact that the hon. Member's remarks are directed to the fact that there is no scientific control of the processes of production in respect of military equipment as advocated, for instance, by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill) in an admirable letter in "The Times" of yesterday's date? Is not that very much the central direction of the war, and the lack of scientific direction one of the chief difficulties?

Mr. Hammersley

I will try to keep within your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I will only say on that point that, considering the Design Department as being responsible for centrally directing a good deal of our armament production——

Mr. Speaker

Again, the hon. Member is dealing entirely with the point of production. That is not the central control of the war but a different thing altogether.

Mr. Hummersely

I will come back to tanks. I do not think that an argument which is directed to suggesting that because of certain reasons we have not been able to wage the war as successfully as we should in Libya could be considered to be out of Order.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must not argue with the Chair, and I must ask him to resume his seat if he does not obey my Ruling.

Mr. Hammersley

I must apologise, Mr. Speaker. I have no intention of disobeying your Ruling. The Prime Minister likened the battle in Libya to a sea battle. I think that the analogy was a very good one. I suggest to those responsible that we might obtain information, which would perhaps be helpful, from the Admiralty. I should imagine that the problem of controlling and directing light naval guns is very similar to the control of heavy guns in tanks. I wonder whether we get any information and co-operation from the Admiralty on that technical subject. If that is so, I am very glad, but up to now I have not been able to find that particular kind of cooperation. To end my observations, I do not want to be too gloomy, though it seems to me that this is not the time for a very cheerful speech. I am satisfied that, provided we can get a better central technical organisation to deal with these problems of production, we can very quickly get a very large improvement, particularly if we do away with what I might call rather the atmosphere of salesmanship in the Ministry of Supply. I think that that ought to be dealt with. It cannot be contradicted that our existing set-up is not producing the results which we ought to get.

I think we ought to make changes. I am aware that what I have said bears only on a very small part of the problem, but it is a grave problem. I do not pretend that everything I have said completely evaluates even a small part of the problem I have dealt with; but I have only one object in view, to try to help the introduction of changes which may improve the organisation and be helpful to the country in its difficulties.

Captain Plugge (Chatham)

I cannot pursue the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley), as he has been speaking on a subject on which I do not pretend to have the required information to supplement my knowledge. But I might ask whether he has any details of a 1,000-ton tank being submitted in 1938 to the Ministry of Supply, a tank which might have been an unsinkable battleship? I want to congratulate the Mover of the Motion on the sincerity with which he put forward his points. I was sorry to hear an hon. Member accuse him of stabbing the Prime Minister in the back. On the contrary, this Motion should be regarded as helpful to the Prime Minister. This view was borne out by the hon. Member for Glasgow, who spoke for the Independent Labour party. He said that the Prime Minister had welcomed this Motion. May I recall the way this Government was formed? Hon. Members will recollect that a few days before the war the Prime Minister was sitting on the lower bench below the Gangway in opposition, and very much a critic of the Government. To his great astonishment, when war broke out the late Prime Minister called him into the Government. At that moment he could only say, "These Members whom I have so much criticised have now called me into the Government. I cannot ever go against them again." It was impossible for him at any subsequent time to dismiss any of those Ministers who had formed the Government who had called him in. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because he felt he owed a certain loyalty to them. For this reason the present Government cannot be called a true Churchill Administration. We can compare it—as tanks have been mentioned—to a tank which is obsolete, and which has undergone a great number of repairs and replacements, although it has a splendid driver. We could consider the Prime Minister as the driver of this tank, and the caterpillars mighty well be represented by the numerous Parliamentary Private Secretaries. The gasoline tank would be there in the person of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Petrol Board, and the rear gunner and the assistant driver places would be occupied by the Leader of the House and the Deputy Prime Minister.

But let us suppose for a moment that this Motion were to cause the Government to fall, and the Prime Minister were then called upon by His Majesty the King to form a new Government. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could for the first time include in his Government all those Members who would be his real choice, and leave out those whom he feels compelled to include at present because they were members of the original Chamberlain Government which called him in, a Government which was already a modified Baldwin administration.

I agree with the Mover of the Motion that we have been misled. The Prime Minister was misled when he stated that in Libya our troops were in possession of equipment equal to that of the enemy. The events we have just witnessed prove very conclusively that that was not the case. The Germans have now advanced into Egypt more than 220 miles in six days—a distance greater than that from the nearest point in Germany to the Straits of Dover. If we had equipment equivalent to that of the enemy, we certainly did not have this also for our reserves. Do the Government realise that the Battle of Egypt is really the Battle of the Near, Middle and Far East? What will happen if we lose Egypt? We should certainly lose the Arab world; we might well lose India, and give to the enemy possession of the Caucasus oil and the great Indian mineral and manufactured wealth, and that might lead to the linking-up of Germany and Japan. This might affect the fate of both Russia and China, and we might be faced with the end of all fighting on land, and war might continue for years and years, limited only by intermittent combats in the air and on the seas. This world would thus be divided into two great Bastions, which I might call the Oriental Bastion and the Occidental Bastion, formed by America on the one hand and the full Axis group on the other hand. England would simply be tacked on to the Occidental Bastion.

An hon. Member pointed out that if we had not sent supplies to Russia they might not have continued the fight. What effect would the loss of Egypt have on Russia carrying with it the linking up of the European Axis with Japan in the East? I would like to ask the Prime Minister who is responsible for our not continuing towards a successful conclusion the several Libyan offensives. Is it by order of the central direction in London or through the C.-in-C. on the spot? In Libya on two occasions in the middle of our powerful offensive we changed the direction of the war. On the first occasion we went to Greece and the second time we diverted our supplies to Russia and in both cases we had to stop instead of going right through to Tripoli. I would ask the Government also the reason for the surrender of Tobruk? Who ordered Tobruk to be held and who ordered it to be surrendered? Did that order come from London? Did it come from Washington, or was it on the direct order of the general in the field?

How also is it that we have not put forward any policy to try, after the collapse of Metropolitan France, to induce on our side the North African French colonies which would have provided a second front against the Axis?

I put forward in two speeches on July 3rd, 1941, and February 17th, 1942, concrete suggestions on that line of action but no attempt has been made in the past two years to secure the coming on to our side of this important French continent. What a great help to us would a second front in Libya have been. The battle of Libya has proved beyond doubt the necessity of a separate Army Air Corps. It is not only a question of dive bombers but of other special types of aircraft to be used in co-operation with Army operations. In the last war, in addition to dive bombers, the Royal Flying Corps had low-flying armoured aeroplanes that could machine gun troops in trenches. There are many other types of aeroplanes in existence and designed to be used in conjunction with the Army and unless we have an Army Air Corps these types cannot be created, developed, or experimented with and finally placed in operation. The same remarks apply to the Fleet Air Arm, which at present is not allowed to have operational land bases. The great range of action of torpedo-carrying bombers can be utilised much more actively from land bases. We sent an Aircraft Carrier with small planes and small torpedoes to destroy the "Tirpitz." Although the "Tirpitz" was navigating in daylight in the North Sea for over 18 hours we did not sink her. She could have been sunk if the Fleet Air Arm had had land bases for land-borne torpedo-carrying aircraft. During the last war the Royal Naval Air Service in which I had the honour to serve was given the means and did carry out numerous operations from their own land bases. Why should we send our boys to fight these battles if we are not in a position to give them the equipment required?

The real crux of the situation is why should the British soldier be denied the services of an Army Air Corps? Why should our sailors be denied the use of aircraft specially designed, ordered and constructed exclusively by the Admiralty like it was in the Royal Naval Air Service days? No second front will be opened by the American forces until they have their own Army Air Corps over here to protect their soldiers. They will not allow their soldiers to fight in battle unless their own Army Air Corps is there to fight with them with all their scale of specialised army aircraft. Modern armies cannot fight successfully, not even British armies, without the support of an Army Air Corps. Is it because our men are always willing to offer their naked breasts to the armour of the enemy that we consider they should not be looked after and properly protected by their own Army Air Corps and by an overwhelming amount of equipment? I consider that is the crux of the whole matter and I call upon the Government to remedy this state of affairs without any further delay.

Major Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)

I have listened to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge) with some interest and a large measure of agreement. I had hoped, if I had been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, earlier, to have confined my remarks to a few minutes. The passage of time, attrition, advancing age and fatigue have somewhat fogged my mind, but I shall try, nevertheless, to get through them as quickly as I can. I am one of those who do not wholly share the views of some hon. Members that this Debate has been unwise and a mistake, but I do think that a Motion of Censure was a mistaken view on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). It seems to me that whatever happens a considerable amount of damage will have been done. Supposing the Government gets a large majority and those who go into the Lobby to support the Motion of no confidence are very few, the impression may be conveyed to the Government and to the world that the House of Commons has greater confidence, possibly, in the Government than, in fact, it has. The Government may feel that everything in the garden is lovely whereas anybody who has listened to the Debate will know that many hon. Members, in fact all Members from the Prime Minister downwards, are extremely anxious, from various points of view, about the conduct of the war. If, on the other hand, there should be a large vote against the Government, then it would have an extremely bad effect abroad and would undermine the confi- dence which, at the present time, it is very important to maintain.

However, as it has happened, the Debate which is taking place is useful in many respects. A number of things which I intended to say, I will leave out because there is one main proposal which I wish to put forward. Before I do so, however, I would like to make one or two smaller points. I think there has been far too much changing of personnel in the Higher Command of the Army since the war broke out. It is almost impossible to get continuity of policy and administration in the Army if there is constant changing of commanders. We have had four different Chiefs of the Imperial General Staff since the war started, four commanders-in-chief in India and four commanders-in-chief of the Home Forces. Now the unfortunate General Ritchie, who was a battalion commander when the war broke out, has been relieved of his command by General Auchinleck. I do not believe in this head hunting. I remember speaking to some officers when General Gamelin and some other French officers were relieved of their commands at the beginning of the war as a result of the blitz attack through the Ardenne, which caused the collapse of France. It is extremely doubtful whether the changing of horses while crossing a steam is a wise thing to do, unless you are quite certain you will get the right horses. I think far too much optimism has been shown in the Press and in the Government inspired announcements which have been made from time to time.

One of them was a result of the Prime Minister's visit to America. This has a bad effect on the country, because it leads people to believe that everything is getting better. Only a month ago there was a deplorable idea running through the country, which was complete nonsense, to the effect that the war would be won this year. As a result, the recent débacle in Egypt, coming on top of such optimism, has had a far worse effect than it would have had if the optimism had never occurred.

Coming to the main proposal which I have to make, I would like to say something about the massive personality of the Prime Minister. I believe the the excessive adulation of the Prime Minister by his most ardent supporters has perhaps done him and through him the national cause as much damage as the carping criticism of his enemies, who profess to regard him as an idol with feet of clay. We have to keep a balanced view, not only about the personality of the Prime Minister, but about everything else. This war is not a one-man show, and the impression should not be given, as is done in many quarters, that it is a one-man show. I wonder how strong the Prime Minister's colleagues are, and whether there is in the War Cabinet one or more of his colleagues who, when the Prime Minister indulges in the habit which so many great men have of trying to clear his mind by talking, will say to him, if they think the thesis he is puttting forward is profoundly wrong, "That is wrong," and whether they will be so bold as to stand by their opinion. That is something I do not know. Personally, I do not believe in super-men. Hitler, for instance, has been to a large extent superseded by the German general staff, because war nowadays is so vast that it is essential that the central conduct of the war should be in commission.

I venture to put forward a proposal for a change in the structure of the organisation responsible for the central conduct of the war. Hon. Members may recollect that a few weeks ago there was a Debate on the White Paper which dealt with the Ministry of Defence, the Defence Committee, the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the War Cabinet. The Debate was somewhat inconclusive, but I come back to it again, because I believe that unless we get the central structure right, it will be very difficult to bring in various other reforms to which hon. Members have referred in this Debate. In doing so, I would like to make two premises. The first is that I always maintain that the original Ministry for the Co-ordination of Defence was wrong, and that its child—an illegitimate child possibly—the Defence Committee, is an unnecessary buffer between the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the War Cabinet. The second premise is that when we are engaged in a war of any kind, and certainly in a war of this magnitude, it is absolutely absurd to have the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and the First Lord of the Admiralty, who are responsible for the operational conduct of the war, outside the War Cabinet—in the position, if you like, of senior prefects who are sent for to be interviewed by and possibly to advise the housemaster. There is one obvious objection to the Secretaries of State being in the War Cabinet. It has been put forward forcibly by the Prime Minister, namely, that they have so much to do with their Departmental work that they could not do justice to their War Cabinet work.

I suggest that the War Cabinet be reformed, and that it consist of the Prime Minister as Chairman, as he is to-day, with the three Secretaries of State for the Service Departments, the Minister of Production; one Minister responsible for the home front, and one responsible for the Dominions. I have not included the Foreign Secretary, because there are not many foreign countries at the present time with which to conduct foreign affairs, and because we do not wish to increase the size of the War Cabinet unnecessarily. Under that proposal we should have, as now, only seven members. In order to deal with the very valid objection that the Secretaries of State have their Departmental work to do, I suggest, instead of having Parliamentary Secretaries as seconds-in-command for each Service Department, that they should be up-graded, or new Ministers should be introduced into the Ministries. If I may give an analogy, I would point to the Diplomatic Service. In the ordinary Embassies the second-in-command is a Counsellor, and in bigger Embassies such as in Washington, the second-in-command is a Minister with prestige, knowledge and status. I suggest that in the case of the three Ministries a Minister could well take the work of the Department off the shoulders of the Secretary of State, and deal with Questions, and such things as the Service Estimates. I believe that that proposal might well be worthy of consideration. The advantages are obvious. You would thus eliminate the Defence Committee, which is an unnecessary and cumbrous buffer, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland (Colonel Stanley) pointed out. We should be able to speed up the machinery to a considerable extent, and I also maintain that the proposal is constitutionally sound. It would be very difficult to take exception to it, and, furthermore, those who are responsible for the three Services would be in the War Cabinet. Hon. Members may say the proposal is interesting, but what about the persons concerned? It is not my busi- ness as a back bench Member to suggest persons to fill the posts. I have certain names in mind, which, if disclosed, would, I think, command the general confidence of the country. Some of them are serving soldiers, sailors and airmen, some administrators, and some politicians in important posts. I think it would be a great mistake to vitiate the proposal by the introduction of personalities, because criticism is all too easy to make on any given personality one may propose. I have discussed the proposal with a number of friends, mostly in the House whom I look upon as rather wise people, and they found it an interesting one.

I will not say more than that. I have not the least doubt as to the way I shall vote. I think a Motion of Censure was a grave mistake. I can well understand Members who feel as keenly perhaps as I do that all is not well-wishing to support it, but at present it is an unwise move and, whatever may be the result of the Division, I think it is essential that, however anxious we may feel, however doubtful we may be about some of the personalities at present in the Government, we should support the Vote of Confidence.

Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)

There is no doubt in my mind that the Motion has cleared the air and, in doing so, has certainly shown its very great value. It has brought the House of Commons back to the ordinary realities of Parliamentary government, and it has done something which no other representations have been able to do. It has gained a very definite and detailed reply on a matter of immediate concern about Libya from the Minister of Production, the kind of reply we should be very glad indeed to get about Singapore and Burma, and which has been refused before. Clearly the way to get replies is to take the proper Parliamentary course, put down a Motion of No Confidence, and let the Government justify their position if they can. I am very glad this has happened, because I believe the central direction of the war should come back to the House of Commons. It has been too long away. We have been in grave danger of sliding into the condition of a totalitarian assembly, a number of speeches suggesting that there is something wrong about criticism, that we must be loyal to the Prime Minister, that we must be a united nation. This is the only Parliament in the Empire which is conducted by a Coalition Government. All the others are conducted by party Governments, with an Opposition, and it would be very much healthier if this Government were a party Government and there was a party Opposition, for that is the foundation of our Parliamentary institutions, the interplay of Government on the one side and Opposition on the other, and in that way you get a free ventilation of opinion with proper discussion, and a selection of matters for debate on Supply days which is really a selection for the purpose of discussion, and not the shadowy pretence of our present organisation. You would get away from the serious danger of Parliament losing its authority.

I am sure that this Motion and the discussion are what the people want. In the last few weeks I have gone largely about the country, addressing large meetings, and there is no doubt that the people want the Government to express its opinion and to show its authority. They are impatient of the Prime Minister's claims to direct this, that and the other. They want Parliament to speak for them as representative of the people. Certain hon. Members have talked about Debates in the House undermining the morale of the Army. The direct contrary is the case. I remember being in Arras at General Headquarters of the Army during May, 1940, and was actually in the town on the day when the bombing started Hitler's offensive. I went as a civilian and was in contact with General Headquarters and a large number of officers of all services. At that time they impressed on me that what they wanted above all things—and they were under no illusions about the great emergency that was coming—was to get Parliament and the Government changed. If we were able to collect the voices of the men left in Tobruk or those who have been removed to some other destination, or the opinion of the Armies in various other fields of battle overseas, we would find that what they wanted to give them confidence was a Government which they could trust to give them equipment, to back them up and really to support them in the way they feel they ought to be supported, instead of leading them up the garden path as they have been led. The people of the country, especially the mothers of those who have relatives abroad, are feeling a fierce resentment. That feeling is a rising tide against the Government which the Government must do something to allay.

One point which has come up in the Debate is the question of the scientific research direction of the war. I referred just now in an interjection to the hon. Member who was dealing with the tank question to the question of the appointment of a scientific adviser, which was raised in a letter to "The Times" yesterday by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Professor Hill). It is most important that there should be a scientific adviser at the level of the Chiefs of Staff Committee really to control scientific research and direction. That is all the more necessary because I learned the day before yesterday to my astonishment that the Prime Minister, either in his capacity of Prime Minister or as Minister of Defence, assisted by his personal assistant, Lord Charnwood, has been conducting a series of experiments of a scientific character, of a most amazing character, investigating some new weapon, and that a large sum has been spent. I do not know whether it is £10,000,000, £20,000,000 or £30,000,000. I hope the Leader of the House will inform the Prime Minister that I have made this statement and ask him to let the House know what authority there is for his conducting experiments of that kind and spending that amount of money without Parliament knowing anything about it. If I am wrong, I will withdraw, but I have every reason to believe, because I have the information from the highest authority, that I am right, and it is a thing about which the country ought to be informed. This strikes me as an abuse of the Prime Minister's powers and authority to do that kind of thing which his training does not equip him to do.

At the present time, with the way in which the war has been conducted, we are very likely to have the whole world, or most of the continental masses of the world, with the exception of the Americas, made into a series of strong points, and the whole world an area of defence in depth which, when applied on a comparatively small front, we see in the case of the front between Russia and Germany. In order that the war may be successfully conducted, on that front, on the basis that we may possibly lose Egypt, that India may be cut off, and that China is now cut off, we should need enormous reinforcements of men to enable them to carry on the war. I suggest that we should send out to the peoples of India and China and all the democracies an appeal in the words used by the President of the United States, by the Vice-President of the United States and by Mr. Winant, the Ambassador, in terms which he gave recently to the Durham miners, emphasising that the object of this war is to bring into existence a world in which all men shall be free, in which there shall be no distinctions of class, colour or race and in which the Atlantic Charter shall be extended to cover the whole world. I believe that if an appeal were sent out from a Government in this country to the democracies of the world and to the peoples of the East and of Africa, we should then rally to our cause the large numbers of men we shall require to bring this war to a successful conclusion.

It was said to-day by some hon. Member opposite that we are now only on the fringe of the war. I think we are a good deal more than that, but I do not think we have felt the severity of the war as I fear we may feel it very much in the next few months and during the next year, and in order to enable us to come through this war, which is becoming more than a war and more every day like a world convulsion, we do require the help not only of our Russian Allies, whose splendid courage we all admire so intensely, whose organisation we ought to admire intensely and whose strategic ability is so outstanding, but the help also of the Chinese and the Indians. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal made a gallant effort to solve the Indian problem, and he had the sympathy and the good wishes of everyone in the House. He failed. Another attempt should be made and an attempt which shall be successful, because he knows better than most people, having recently visited the country, of the grave condition there is in that country and the grave necessity there is for us to approach them with a friendly gesture and get their cordial and friendly co-operation, as I believe could be done We must approach the other nations, and the nations of Africa, in the same way. Why do the Government not do these things? Suggestions have been made before about widening the support for our war effort from other nations.

I feel, and I hope the House will feel, that the tabling of this Motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster has been a service of outstanding value to the nation, that it has been something which will give this House the opportunity not only of the Debate which we have had, but the opportunity of demonstrating that it is determined that it shall be Parliament which is the master and no Government, and that however great a Government or a Prime Minister can be, they are all men who can be replaced if necessary, and that we are not going to allow ourselves by default to give up our historic privileges of criticism and free and frank statement, and that we are going to claim those Parliamentary privileges and reassert the authority of Parliament to control the destinies of this country and to speak in this House for the people and express their will.

Commander Bower (Cleveland)

I will try to keep my remarks rather closer to the Motion than many of the last dozen or so of speakers have done. As one of the original signatories and drafters of the Motion, I feel that is a duty. I should like also to recapture if possible a sense of urgency which should be in the minds of us all at this, perhaps the gravest crisis this country has ever found itself in. It is not defeatism to say that. Defeatists are not those who know a danger when they see one. Defeatists are those who engineer defeat. The terms of this Motion are clear enough even for the hon. and learned member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) to understand. If he had been here, I should have had something to say about his speech. The terms are clear and unequivocal, and there is no reason why any hon. Member should not understand them. I have been very surprised to hear from a number of Members, not only those I call the "new boys" but hon. Members who have been in this House for many years, suggestions that there is something improper, something almost indecent, in putting down such a Motion of Censure. I am astonished to think that experienced Members can take up such a ridiculous attitude. I am inclined to attribute it to the fact that for about ten years since 1931 there has really been no effective Opposition in this House, and I think the House has been all the worse for it. There is no effective Opposition now, and I wish there was one. The result is that the House has lost the technique not only of Opposition but of Parliamentary procedure. Consequently, you get quite experienced Members adopting the attitude that there is something wrong in putting forward, in a proper constitutional manner, a Vote of Censure on the Government.

We are also told, again by some quite experienced Members, that we must be very careful what we do. "What will America think, what will China think, what will the Cham of Tartary think?" and all the rest of it. I do not know why they do not mention the Grand Lama of Tibet. Have we any reason to go hat in hand to the United States of America or to anybody else? For Heaven's sake let us drop this inferiority complex and realise that we, the Mother of Parliaments, invented democracy, that democracy, wherever it exists, is derived from us. Surely we can carry out our ordinary democratic procedure without having to worry what Americans or anyone else think about it. Nobody in this country has more regard for the Americans than I have, and no decent American will think the worse of us for what we are doing today. It is merely a time-worn trick of the Government to try and discourage people from doing their duty.

This Motion covers widely the higher direction of the war, and I wish to stick to my last and deal mostly with strategy. I want to emphasise that in dealing with matters of strategy, whether grand strategy or any other type, one's attitude must be entirely dispassionate and unemotional. We are dealing with facts and with mathematical probabilities, nothing else, and I cannot help feeling that in the higher direction of this war, where we have so often gone wrong is in the overweighting of purely strategical considerations by political and emotional considerations. Let us take Singapore. In that connection there are many things which still require to be explained, very many things, because after all the whole of our position in the Far East depended upon Singapore.

To a large extent our commodity position in the near future depends, or will depend, upon what happened at Singapore. There is no doubt whatever that there was a very serious misappreciation of the situation in Malaya, Singapore and the Far East in general on the part of His Majesty's Government, a misappreciation here in London. I have said this before, and I make no apology whatever for saying it again. Our Intelligence was bad, our appreciation was bad. We had plenty of warning, five months, and it went unheeded. Disaster inevitably followed. Then His Majesty's Government turned round to us and said that we could not have an inquiry, it would be unfair to the people on the spot. I agree, but what about what happened here in London? Why not have an inquiry about what happened in Whitehall. Who decided to send the 18th Division to land and walk straight off the ships into a Japanese internment camp? Questions like that should be answered.

Another aspect of Singapore: To-day, all over the country, there are survivors; men from the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse," men who were in Singapore and Malaya up to within a few days of the Japanese occupation. They are all coming back with their stories. Those stories are going round the country; they are being garbled, and the whole country is being fed on a mass of very unpleasant rumour.

Mr. Stokes

And lies.

Commander Bower

Why should we not be told the truth, even a modicum of the truth? We have had no statement whatever, and yet this great country and Parliament are expected to accept this, the greatest disaster in our history since 1066, without any kind of inquiry, and above all without any kind of guarantee that steps have been taken to remove the men who were responsible or to alter the machine which was responsible. We are not in a position to say who was responsible, but we are in a position to say that something was very wrong, and in a position to demand, as we should do, that steps should be taken to make sure that this does not happen again. No such steps have been taken.

I now come to the question of Libya. That, to my mind, is merely another symptom, and here I hope the House will forgive me if I strike a personal note for one moment, because my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said in his very striking speech that some of us have been at this for a very long time. One Member after another has said to-day that this attack of ours, for it is an attack, on the Government is something new, unfair and unexpected, and so on. May I point out that some of us have been hammering away, by every possible expedient inside and outside Parliament, for 18 months or two years, trying to drill it into the Government that things are wrong? Everybody knows what the Prime Minister is like. He is an emotional person. When he is up in the clouds he is up in the clouds, and nothing will impress him. When he is down below it is quite a different matter, but just now he is not down below. Everybody knows the Prime Minister will not listen; it has been suggested that a deputation should go to him, but have not deputations been tried? Of course they have, time and again. What notice has been taken of them? I could give hon. Members instances of a dozen deputations and a dozen representations by statesmen of the highest standing, and not the faintest notice has been taken.

We have had Debates in this House on the Adjournment, we have had carefully engineered Debates such as that which took place after Crete. That was a great tactical Parliamentary victory for the Prime Minister; personally, I do not think it reflected much credit on him or the Government. The House will remember that a Debate was sprung on the House immediately after the Recess, before we had time to consult with one another and before the facts were known. We were not treated to a Government statement, and in reply to protests the Prime Minister merely said, of course, that there had been a general demand for the Debate—he did not say where the demand had come from—and that, consequently, it must take place at once. That was a great Parliamentary victory but it did not help us much in winning the war. After that Crete Debate some of my friends and I began to think rather hard about how things were going. As a result I made a speech which attracted a good deal of attention, in the country, last September. I hope the House will permit me to quote a sentence or two to show that this is nothing new and that this Motion is the last resort. I said, referring to the mistakes of our High Command that I seemed to detect the hand of the amateur strategist; that I had an uncomfortable feeling that in the sphere of strategy the Germans were our masters both in conception and execution, and that our high direction of the war was not working as smoothly as it should. I said I was inclined to think that the Prime Minister's triple office as Prime Minister, Chairman of the Defence Committee and Minister of Defence was largely the cause of the trouble.

The speech was, of course, designed for an audience in the country. It was simplifying the problem. I merely quote it to show that I and many others had been thinking in those terms long before the disasters in the Far East or the disasters in Libya fell upon us. We saw it coming. Therefore I think that those hon. Members who suggest that, m some way, we are taking an unfair advantage, or putting this Motion forward at the wrong time, are not being quite just to those of us who have had a little more vision than others I could name. One of the things about which I frankly quarrel with the Prime Minister is this extraordinary game of musical chairs in which he indulges when Parliament gets so troublesome that he feels he has to make a change. Once you reach a certain stage in the hierarchy of this country, you never get the sack. People like my friend and colleague Sir Alan Cunningham, and General Ritchie go; they have not quite got to the rank where you are safe. Get into the higher hierarchy and you are all right. I cannot help recalling a sentence or two that I was reading the other night in the Prime Mniister's very readable book of short biographies entitled "Great Contemporaries." Referring to the late Lord Asquith he said: In affairs he had that ruthless side without which great matters cannot be handled. When offering me Cabinet office in his Government in 1908 he repeated to me Mr. Gladstone's saying 'The first essential for a Prime Minister is to be a good butcher,' and he added, 'There are several who must be pole-axed now.' They were. Loyal as he was to his colleagues, he never shrank, when the time came and public need required it, from putting them aside—once and for all. Personal friendship might survive if it would. Political association was finished. But how else can States be governed? That was Mr. Asquith—but my right hon. Friend has journeyed far since he wrote those words—"That ruthless side without which great matters cannot be handled"—"But how else can States be governed?" Mark the words. How does he do it to-day? In "The Times" of Saturday last there appeared a remark- able leading article from which this is an extract: There have been too many symptoms, above all, of a reluctance to subordinate personal predilections or established interests to the urgent need for bringing fresh blood and fresh ideas to the conduct of the war. That sentence is a masterpiece of presumably deliberate obscurity, but if you read its real meaning, it packs a punch like the kick of a mule. It simply means that the Prime Minister, unlike Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Asquith, allows his personal friendship for men who have failed to prevent him from wielding the poleaxe. Every Member of this House knows that to be true, and the country is beginning to know it to be true. I utter that as a warning.

I wish to turn away from this question of strategy. The country and the House know that there is something very wrong with the strategic control of the war. Here is another example, from an entirely different sphere—the question of inventions. A few months ago an inventor got in touch with me. He is a well-known man, Mr. Constantinesco, who invented the interrupter gear, which allowed machine-guns to fire through the propellers of aeroplanes in the last war. Mr. Constantinesco is, undoubtedly a man of genius, but opinions differ about him. Some hon. Members have come up to me and said, "He is no good." Others take a different view. Mr. Constantinesco designed a certain type of water craft. I asked questions about it, and was careful not to specify what type of thing it was, but the Civil Lord revealed, in his answers, that it was a water craft. I will now go a little further, and say that Mr. Constantinesco, when he observed certain experiments being carried out by Sir Malcolm Campbell on speedboats some years ago, came to certain conclusions, and designed a very remarkable type of speedboat, with a speed four times as great, he claims, as the speed of those now used by the Admiralty; and he claims that that speed can be maintained in rough weather. That claim may be absolutely untrue, but I suggest that inventors of his standing ought to have Government officials besieging their doorsteps, trying to find out what they have got; instead of which, every obstacle has been put in the way of this man, for one reason. The Prime Minister, when First Lord of the Admiralty, sent him a letter, asking whether he would reveal the principle of his invention to Lord Cherwell. I am not acquainted with Lord Cherwell. From what I hear of him, he is a most admirable citizen, and a loyal and devoted servant of this country. I make no attack whatever oh him. But Mr. Constantinesco takes a different view. He has produced for me a dossier—it is not in the least incriminating and it is open to anybody to find out the information in it, which proves that Lord Cherwell is of German origin, and so on. I say again that Lord Cherwell is a great servant of this country. Mr. Constantinesco is a Rumanian. He has, incidentally, been let down very badly once by the Admiralty; and he is quite justified in being careful about revealing the whole principle of his invention to Lord Cherwell. Is that any reason why the investigation of this invention should be suspended for over two years?

That is one example of the kind of mentality which has actuated the Government in dealing with these problems. Whether it is the Civil Service, whether it is the top, I do not know; but right through Production, in every sphere of the national activity, you get this delay. We are learning, to our cost, to-day in Libya, from Rommel, the one general in this war who has realised it, that the three things which matter are time, time and time again. That is a thing that this Government have never yet even begun to realise. The result of all this is that to-day we stand in a most desperate position—and it is a desperate position. We have lost not only the outposts of the Empire, but far more than that. We have lost to a great extent the respect of subject races and of our Allies. Only those who know the Far East can tell what it means in China and in India. Why are we not allowed to know what the American Press is saying about us? Do hon. Members think that the people of this country cannot stand it? Ten days ago I was in Lancashire making speeches in the War Savings Campaign, and it shocked me, among those tens of thousands of workers, whose whole outlook was coloured by their personal circumstances, to see their complacency. There they were, getting good wages, with comfortable transport to and from their work, wonderful canteens, E.N.S.A. concert parties, military bands and all the rest of the circus to play for them, and all their outlook on the war was coloured by those surroundings. And here we are with an Empire crashing in ruins round our ears. The news tomorrow is going to be very bad, and the next day it will probably be worse. It is not defeatist to say that: it is realist.

Mr. Tinker

What would the hon. and gallant Gentleman expect from the workers? Would he not give them the best conditions possible? I do not see what point this has.

Commander Bower

May I say to the hon. Member that, like so many of his party, he is always suspiciously looking for trouble. I never said these people should not have good conditions. God bless them, let them have more, if possible. All I was saying, which is the solid human fact, was that the outlook of these human beings on the war was coloured by their personal circumstances and they believed that everything in the garden was lovely. They are ignorant. Why are they ignorant? Because the Government tell them nothing. The Government should tell them the truth, and this country should be told that we are in a pretty desperate position. In my view, His Majesty's Government will be called to account by this House to explain how they have got us, through so many avoidable mistakes, into this position.

I want to return to the question of whether this Motion is justified or not. Of course it is justified. Any Member who has any knowledge of Parliamentary procedure or of history must agree with that view. But when we put down this Motion we realised that it had not the slightest hope of being carried. Why? Because there are about 120 Ministers, Under-Secretaries, Whips, Personal Private Secretaries, and other hangers on. There are about 80 new Members, most of whom can he expected to support the Government through thick and thin. There is also the fact that every Member of the party opposite has to sign a declaration that he will, in no circumstances, vote against the decision of his party. I presume the decision of that party will be against us, and only a few brave independent men will support us. Therefore, the Government are bound to prevail, but I beseech the Government and the Prime Minister not to think that the strength of the vote will indicate the strength of feeling either in this House or in the country.

I would say to my fellow Members, and perhaps some will read my words, that I would like to see in the Lobby some of those 400 Members who agree with us outside in the smoking rooms and libraries and yet are not prepared to carry their convictions to a vote in the House, which is the place where it should be expressed. There is far too much political business going on among the 1922 Committee and the Labour party caucus and little gangs and groups in the corridors, libraries and other places in this House. The floor of the House of Commons is the place where this thing should be threshed out and voted upon and if people have not the courage to take their votes into the Lobby then they ought to make room for better men. I hope those who have voiced their concern as to what has happened lately, and have voiced opinions which conform closely to the terms of our Motion, will help us to show the world the truth. Why should we want to persuade America or anybody else that there is national unity when everybody knows it does not exist? Everyone knows there is a great deal of concern. It is our business as elected representatives to express that concern in the vote and I hope every Member of this House will vote according to his conscience. If he does, we shall get a substantial number of people into our Lobby.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

I shall vote according to my, conscience, but it will be against this Motion of Censure. I regret that this Debate should have taken place on a Motion of Censure which I do not think is justified. The whole task of this House of Commons is to see that the King's Government and the war is carried on to a successful conclusion. Whatever mistakes and shortcomings the Government may have made, unless we are able to see an alternative Government which is likely to be more efficient we should not be justified in voting against it.

This Motion of Censure is especially directed against the central direction of the war and, as has been made plain, against the Prime Minister. Many of us feel that so far as the strategy of the war is concerned it has, with one or two exceptions, been run generally on sound lines. As was pointed out by Scrutator in the last "Sunday Times," "Unless the weapons and tactics at his disposal are at least not unequal to his opponent's, a strategist of genius fights in vain. The great commanders of history were nearly always able to rely on troops who, when the, clash came, could strike a harder blow than their antagonists." [Scrutator, 28th June, 1942.]

The defeats that we have suffered upon land have been due, as has been pointed out, to faulty execution in the field, defects of leadership, equipment and deficiency of man-power.

I want to put a question with regard to dive bombers. There was a letter in "The Times" two days ago from Mr. Westbrook, who was manager of Vickers Aviation and who was responsible for the production of the Wellington bomber and Spitfire. He was sent to Libya with the rank of major-general to supervise the salvage and maintenance of tanks and motor transport and has now been made responsible for the production of the Stirling bomber. He speaks with authority and with knowledge, and, with regard to dive bombers, he says: In the early days of the Ministry of Aircraft Production, it was impossible to Order dive bombers as, first, the British programme was full and production was poor, and, secondly, the Royal Air Force did not want them. Both Lord Beaverbrook and I thought they were necessary, so he obtained a request from Mr. Eden, then at the War Office, and a quantity to a new design were ordered from America in the summer of 1940. These are now in production. There were, however, deliberate delays, as the British Air Commission in America were never allowed to give them any form of priority. That is a very serious statement made by a man who was at that time holding a responsible position in the Ministry of Aircraft Production. We are constantly told by the Air Force that dive bombers are no good. Clearly the Germans and the Japanese are of a contrary opinion, and so far, on their achievements, their views are entitled to respect. Apparently the Ministry of Aircraft Production, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for War, decided to order these dive bombers, about which so many questions have been asked and about which so little information has been given, and now we learn that the reason why, two years after they were ordered, they have still not been delivered is that the British Air Commission in America were never allowed to give them any form of priority. Are we to understand that although the Ministry of Aircraft Production ordered these aircraft with the concurrence of the War Office, the Air Ministry were able subse- quently to prevent that order from receiving any priority?

It is quite apparent that not only has the Army in Libya been deprived of that close co-operation which they could have had if there had been dive bombers available, but also they have not had that support in the use of the heavy bombers which would have been of such value in North Africa if it had been directed against Rommel's convoys. In connection with the operations in Libya, I hope we may be given some information as to whether there was an adequate quantity of light anti-aircraft guns available in the front line. We hear from newspaper reporters that the fall of Bir Hacheim was largely due to attacks by dive bombers. Some doubt has been thrown upon that from the Treasury Bench in this Debate. It was reported that although 20 or 30 dive bombers had been consistently attacking Bir Hacheim, only some four or five of them had been shot down by British fighters. If that is so, one naturally is disposed to ask these questions: Was it the case that there was not, in fact, an adequate supply of British fighters in the neighbourhood of Bir Hacheim, or is it perhaps the case that the fighters were not as effective as we had hoped they might be in shooting down the dive bombers?

I had intended to say something about the obvious inadequacy of the tanks, but my hon. Friend the Member for East Willesden (Mr. Hammersley) put a number of very searching questions upon that subject before he was ruled out of Order, and I will say nothing more on the subject. In the same letter to "The Times," we learn that Mr. Westbrook, when he was in Libya, recognised the need for 6-pounder guns on a mobile carriage if we were to be successful against the German tanks. He stated in this letter: So impressed was I by the necessity for a new mobile 6-pounder unit, that I got those responsible to review a full size mock-up of an idea, which, if proved satisfactory, would certainly have avoided the present situation. It has been seen by many, but no one has had enough in them to say yea or nay. That is one further example of what has been the complaint from all quarters of the House—the difficulty under the present system of getting a final decision from any Government Department. The perpetual multiplication of committees is such that time is frittered away and no decision is taken. At Question Time today we heard the announcement made of the membership of the Tank Board, and it was easy to see why that Board meets so seldom. As the Board consists of members who are high officers, discharging many different duties, it is obviously impossible for them to meet and discuss some particular matter with regard to tank de-sign. Generally speaking, you will get much better and more effective committees if they are composed of officers who have not a number of other distracting duties to perform at the same time.

It appears, from all the reports from Libya, that there have also been defects in leadership. As has been pointed out, there have been, in the case of the Army, consistent changes in leadership all through the war. That is in striking contrast to the Navy, where we still have the same First Sea Lord who was responsible before the war. If we look back into history, it is, of course, true that this country has produced a larger number of highly competent admirals than generals. It does naturally call into question whether the leadership of the Army in this war has been as satisfactory as the leadership of the Navy. From a certain despatch from Libya two days ago, I gather that—I am not sure of these facts—whereas the German Headquarters are in the desert, the Headquarters of the 8th Army are in Cairo. I had, of course, always understood that General Auchinleck had his headquarters at Cairo, but it came as a surprise and a shock to me to gather that General Ritchie had his headquarters there also. [Interruption.] I said the implication of the despatch that I read in one of the newspapers was that the headquarters of the Eighth Army were at Cairo, and I should like to get confirmation if that is not so.

In the two and a half years that I was in the Army I was appalled at the general atmosphere, especially on the staff, the red tape and the administrative procedure, which seemed to crush all initiative and enterprise. The general policy was on each occasion to cover oneself and, as far as possible, to pass the buck. On the divisional staff that I was on, the vast majority of us felt that if only a great deal of the procedure could be cut out, if only a good many fewer returns were asked for, it would have been possible to do away with a great many of our jobs, and we should have welcomed it. As an example of the centralisation which still exists, if a battle dress blouse has been issued to a soldier against repayment, at the price of 7s. 6d., and if his original battle dress blouse is subsequently discovered, the authority of the Commander-in-Chief is required before the soldier can be re-imbursed 7s. 6d. There used to be dozens of us who spent the whole of our long days on hard work dealing with pettifogging details of that kind. From nowhere has more detail and more obstruction come than from the War Office itself. I have a feeling that, if the leadership of the Army in this war has been unsatisfactory, it has been largely because our leaders have been brought up for many years in this deadening atmosphere of red tape.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I must point out that we are not dealing with the question of the War Office but with the central direction of the war, which is a bigger matter.

Mr. Molson

I think I shall be within your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I take the point that was going to arise out of that. The appointment of the new Secretary of State for War is obviously of a peculiar kind. No one would have expected a Permanent Under-Secretary to be appointed Secretary of State, and it appears to me that it must have been because the Prime Minister took the view that the general routine of the Army has been such as to deaden initiative and enterprise in the Army that he chose to make this special appointment. I can well understand that if the Prime Minister wished to have the Army given a greater degree of freedom, initiative and enterprise, and if he felt that the somewhat costive organisation of the War Office had had a deadening and depressing effect upon it, he would wish to appoint as Secretary of State a man of drive and enterprise who had also a detailed knowledge of that procedure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will try to breathe a new spirit of urgency into the whole administration of the Army. He has already grasped the vital need for having at the highest direction of the Army an officer, and a staff under him, who are familiar with the scientific and industrial side of weapons, the scientific use of the weapons and their design, and the problems of their development. I hope that as a result of the appointment of General Weeks as Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff, there will be a closer co-ordination between the views of the Army, which uses the weapons, and the Ministry of Supply, which produces them.

The defeats which we have sustained must clearly be attributed in large measure to our lack of man-power for dealing with so many campaigns in so many parts of the world. I hope that we shall have some explanation from the Prime Minister on what happened in Burma. There it was not a case of shortage of equipment as in the other campaigns. On the contrary. General Alexander said that the Mechanical Trans-port with which he was provided was in large measure a handicap to him, but he said that in his campaign he had only two under-strength divisions amounting to about 20,000 men. When we consider that the attack upon Burma was only made after the occupation of Malaya, Singapore and Java, and that it was not equipment but men, and men trained in jungle warfare, who were required for that campaign, it appears extraordinary that it should not have been possible to obtain adequate forces for India. The loss of Burma must clearly be regarded as one of the greatest of our strategic defeats during the war. The entry of the United States into the war in December last meant that there would ultimately be available an unlimited supply of modern military equipment; and the fact that we had upon our side China meant that there were available unlimited resources of experienced man-power. As long as it was possible to bring the modern western equipment of the United States to the vast man-power of China, the defeat of Japan was ultimately inevitable, but once the wedge had been driven into Burma the resources of America and China were completely separated.

We shall have in the near future to look for more man-power to replace the heavy casualties that we have sustained in Libya and elsewhere. I hope that the Government will not try to call up many more men from industry. That will merely reduce still further our supplies of the equipment that is required. I hope, on the contrary, that the Armed Forces, the Air Force and the Army, especially the Air Defence of Great Britain, will be called upon to make further economies even at the risk of reducing our prepared- ness against aerial attack, in order to make more effective use of many of the men who are there. I have ventured to ask some questions of the Government because it is manifest that the country as a whole wants an explanation of how it is that defeat succeeds defeat in apparently unvarying regularity. But that does not mean that I have any hesitation in how I shall cast my vote, and I trust that the Vote of Censure will be defeated by a large majority.

Major C. S. Taylor (Eastbourne)

During the course of this Debate a great many suggestions and a great many criticisms have been made against the Government and I for one would not want the story of this Debate to go out to the country and give the impression to the people that all the criticism and all the suggestions that have been put forward have been of a hostile nature. I wish that the Press would perhaps draw a distinction between what on the one hand I would refer to as the professional critics, those whose every action is hostile to the present Government and has been so for many months past, and on the other hand those people who wish to put forward some suggestion which may perhaps receive consideration from the Government in a friendly spirit. Whatever may be said by those Members who support the. Motion, there is only one real motive which promotes them to pursue their suggestion of no confidence in the central direction of the war, and that is to get rid of the Prime Minister. There may be Members like the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) who do not appreciate that that is the real motive behind the Motion, and there may be others who are led astray but in my opinion the fall of the Prime Minister would be greeted with a far greater fanfare of trumpets, far greater acclamation, among the powers of darkness than the fall of Tobruk and many other similar German victories.

I have confidence in the Government and I have confidence in their strategic handling of the war. I am not saying that the Government is a perfect one. No Government in history has ever been perfect. I believe Ruskm said that no perfect thing was ever beautiful. There is one matter to which I shall refer and which I regard as vital, using that word in its strongest sense, to the winning of the war. I had intended to try to keep my remarks to 15 minutes, but as hon. Members have shown the same endurance as I have myself in sitting through this Debate, I am not going to cut my remarks, so that they may lose their effect.

For many months I have been serving with the Army and I am proud to say that for several years before the war I was a Territorial officer, and so I feel that I can speak with a certain amount of confidence and a certain amount of knowledge of the administration of the Army and its organisation.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present.

House counted; and, 40 Members not being present, the House was adjourned at 2.40 A.M. till the next Sitting Day.