§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
I beg to move, with the leave of the House,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.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
I beg to second the Motion.
The Hon. Members who put their names to this Motion and I were rebuked yesterday by hon. Members in some parts of the House for having done so. They rebuked us on two grounds—one, that a Motion of this nature moved at this time would have a bad effect upon the morale of the troops; and the other that it would have a bad effect upon the morale of the country. I want to reply to these two charges at the beginning. I believe it would have been a very bad thing indeed for the reputation of the House of Commons if this Motion had not been moved. It is the duty, as I understand it, of Members of Parliament to try and reproduce in the House of Commons the psychology which exists in the country, and there can be no doubt that the country is deeply disturbed by the movement of events at the present time. Having put the Motion on the Order Paper, it would have been a great disservice to the country if we had withdrawn it. I do not know whether hon. Members have received many letters in the last few days, but if they have they will have realised that there are far more people supporting the Motion outside the House than are represented by the names on the Order Paper.
With regard to the morale of the troops, my hon. Friends and I would be loath indeed to do anything here which might have the effect of undermining the courage and resolution of our troops in battle. It is not, however, what we say in this House, it is not the speeches we make that bring home to the soldiers the defects in the direction of the war; it is what they experience themselves in battle. It would be a serious thing if the soldiers in the field could not hear any voices raised in their behalf in the House of Commons. I believe that nothing would more nerve our Forces to greater efforts and arouse their enthusiasm than the knowledge that 528 their representatives in the House of Commons were doing their best to see that they are given the right weapons with which to fight. It will never be possible for us, in this war, to move a Vote of Censure on the Government at a time when no battle is in progress. Battles are going to be continuous throughout the war, and, therefore, we must take the opportunity, when we think it is proper, to move a Vote of Censure upon the Government, although it may happen that at that very moment a series of grave battles is in progress.
The Prime Minister has decided to wind up the Debate, and I understand he proposes to talk for something like an hour and a half. I am bound to point but to the House that I think a very serious disservice is being done to the House and the country by the fact that the Prime Minister did not see fit to open the Debate. He has the right to choose when he will speak. Of course he has, but the Prime Minister is also Minister of Defence, and the House had the right to be put in possession of the facts of the case, so that the Debate might have proceeded upon an examination of those facts. I know that it is better debating tactics for the Prime Minister to wind up the Debate. In that way, he will win the Debate. But the country is now more concerned with the Prime Minister winning the war than with his winning a Debate in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister wins Debate after Debate and loses battle after battle. The country is beginning to say that he fights Debates like a war and the war like a Debate. It would have been much more dignified for the Prime Minister and of much greater service to the House, if he had opened the Debate yesterday and allowed one of his Ministers to wind up. Indeed, the Prime Minister could have opened the Debate and wound it up as well. He has done so before. But that would have been undignified for other Members of the Government, because it would give the impression once more to the world that there was only one man in the Government.
So, because of that situation, the House of Commons is in the difficulty of having to await the Prime Minister's reply before it is able to consider the merits of the Government's case. Furthermore, yesterday we were at a disadvantage in having 529 had a speech from the Minister of Production. Rather it was the Government's disadvantage, not ours. I have heard some members of the Government complain about the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I do not see why they should complain, because, had the right hon. Gentleman made himself more clear, the Government's case would have suffered more damage. What, in fact, did the right hon. Gentleman say? What was the main case made by him? It was that we had had no time in which to produce new weapons and that, therefore, our troops in Libya had to fight with weapons which were designed before the war. That was his main case—that we could not change the designs in time, that there are new designs in production, but that they could not be put on the battlefield because we had to continue with the old types. What then becomes of the Prime Minister's statement last December that at last we were meeting the enemy on equal terms with modern weapons?
I would also refer to a speech which was made yesterday in another place. Ministers are all concerned to prove that they were right and that they made no mistakes when in office. I recommend hon. Members to read the speech made in another place, because that is another answer to the Government. Ministers are trying to absolve themselves by putting the blame somewhere else. I hope to show that the blame rests squarely upon the Government's own shoulders. I, therefore, believe that it is the duty of hon. Members to state their minds clearly and independently upon this matter. The House may not agree with me, but when I sit down, there should be no misunderstanding about what I think.
It seems to me that there are three things wrong. First, the main strategy of the war has been wrong; second, the wrong weapons have been produced; and third, those weapons are being managed by men who are not trained in the use of them and who have not studied the use of modern weapons. As I understand it, it is strategy that dictates the weapon and tactics that dictate the use of the weapon. The Government have conceived the war wrongly from the very beginning, and no one has more misconceived it than the Prime Minister himself. The nature of the weapons used by the 530 enemy has not been understood by the Prime Minister ever since the beginning of the war. I will read to the House what the right hon. Gentleman said on 19th May, 1940:It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the situation. It would be still more foolish to lose heart or courage, or to suppose that well-trained, well-equipped armies, numbering 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of men, can be overcome in the space of a few weeks or even months, by a super-raid of mechanised vehicles, however formidable.That is precisely what did happen in a few weeks. No one was more Maginotminded that the Prime Minister himself. I have read all his speeches very carefully, and I say that no one has thought of this war in terms of the last war more than the Prime Minister himself. That is contained in the statement to which I refer. He also said:We may look forward with confidence to the stabilisation of the front in France——Fancy, after Poland and in the opening weeks of the Battle of France, speaking about stabilisation of the front in France. No Russian general, no German general speaks about the stabilisation of the front. The front cannot be stabilised in modern war, and Rommel is proving it to-day. The Prime Minister went on to say:——and to the general engagement of the masses which will enable the qualities of the French and British soldiers to be matched squarely against those of their adversaries: For myself, I have invincible confidence in the French Army and its leaders.
§ Mr. Bevan
It is a case of what the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have said. He ought not to have used language which, on the face of it, reveals quite clearly that the Prime Minister had not penetrated to the heart of the methods that were being used by the Germans or were going to be used in this war. It is that primary misconception of the war which has been responsible for the wrong strategy of the Government, and, the strategy being wrong, the wrong weapons were produced. The chief evidence of that is the case of the dive-bomber. The second chief evidence of that is the complete failure to equip the British Army with transport planes. Take the situation in Libya. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production yesterday said that according to modern methods of warfare "islands" of troops had been made in the desert 531 behind fortifications. We had one in Bir Hacheim, fought with distinguished gallantry by the Free French. This has been one of the most heroic episodes in the whole war, and I am informed that they had not even two-pounder guns in Bir Hacheim. Having seen for more than two years that we should be fighting a desert war in Libya, we still have not provided any transport planes, and had to send a tank brigade through with supplies, whereas the Germans have supplied strong points and islands of resistance in Russia right throughout the winter by transport planes.
I say that if the war had been properly conceived, if the Prime Minister had understood it, we should have had both dive-bombers and transport planes, so that wherever we organised a strong point, whether in the desert or elsewhere, transport plans would have been available to supply our troops. Further, had we produced transport planes in any quantity, we should have been able right through the campaign there to use them for carrying a great deal of material instead of having to send all supplies 14,000 miles by sea. I ask the House seriously whether that condition of affairs reveals any deep penetration by the Government into the nature of the war we have to fight. A lot has been said about dive-bombers. Even now the Government have not made up their minds upon them. The Secretary of State for War says that discussions are proceeding. I would remind hon. Members of a letter, from Mr. Westbrook which they have probably read for themselves, which was published in "The Times." He was at the Ministry of Aircraft Production and went out to the Near East in charge of supplies, or at least as one of the higher officials, and he came home from the Near East for reasons that it is not politic to state in public. He says:Just lately many confusing and conflicting statements have been made about the lack of dive-bombers. The true facts are that the Air Ministry decided before the war against the use of them.Against the use of them before the war. Where was our Intelligence Service? For the last five or six years I have heard the Prime Minister making eloquent speeches about the German military preparations. His reputation to this day rests upon those speeches. The affectionate regard 532 the country still has for him arises out of gratitude because he warned the country at that time. But he warned the country about them quantitatively; the qualitative position he, left aside. He gave us the figures, but there was no insight behind the figures. He has been in charge of this war really for three years. He must have known the nature of the weapons that the Germans were making. Dive-bombers were not a secret. The Czechs knew of them and had prepared to resist them. Czech-military strategy was based upon the use of the dive-bomber. The letter from Mr. Westbrook goes on:Probably this was correct until we had the mastery of the air or sufficient capacity to enable their production without detriment to the more important types.There, of course, is the official defending his decisions. The fact remains that a prototype was never developed, that the Government could not even make up their mind then, because they fell between two stools. Mr. Westbrook says further: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, delivery delays, as the British Air Commission in America were never allowed to give them any form of priority.That is a most serious statement. We have no- right to complain against America. If America did not want to give them priority, why should America do so when we ourselves said they were no use? We did not ask for priority for them. The result is that after three years of war the British army is not equipped with dive-bombers. I say that at once reveals that the Prime Minister and his Government have not gone to the heart of this modern, war-making, and I say that it is disgraceful that the lives of British soldiers should be lost because of the absence of this elementary knowledge at the top.
We ourselves, here, must accept responsibility for it. After all, the Government are responsible to us, and if the House of Commons refuses to exercise its independence against the Government, the House of Commons must accept responsibility for the result. It is we, not party machines, not secret meetings upstairs of Members on any side of the 533 House, but we in this House who are responsible for sending British soldiers on to the battlefield with improper weapons, and hon. Members, when they go back to their constituencies, should not hide behind any formality of Parliamentary debate but face squarely up to the facts. When the mothers and fathers of British soldiers ask why their boys go into battle worse equipped than the enemy, for heaven's sake say, "We are responsible, and nobody else."
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
The hon. Member was for seven years. He always voted against any increase in armaments for seven years.
§ Mr. Bevan
I will face the issue squarely. I do not run away from it. This House of Commons gave the Government unlimited power to rearm this country in 1935, and Ministers still in this Government were responsible at that time. The right hon. Gentleman has picked them for his Government. Do not throw the jeer back at me; it belongs over there. It is the Prime Minister who has cast the mantle of his benediction on the shoulders of those guilty Ministers. They are still there sitting on that front Bench, so do not throw the jeer at me. In any case, even if the rearmament of Britain before the war was quantitatively lacking, there is no excuse for its having been qualitatively inefficient. There may be an excuse for a lack of will, but not for a lack of brains, and our brains were wrong and the brains are still wrong.
I will not talk about guns, because they were exploded yesterday—almost all day. We know the situation as regards guns. We know that the guns supplied to our troops did not answer the Prime Minister's description. They were not modern weapons. The Spanish Republicans were using an 8-pounder anti-tank gun in 1936. The Germans learned the lesson in Spain and made the gun immediately afterwards in Germany. We were rearming then, we were supposed to be rearming. We had two White Papers on rearmament. But, of course, the Government of that day were too much occupied in trying to destroy the Republican Government in Spain to learn any military lessons from 534 the campaign in Spain. That was the situation. I shall not deal further with that aspect of it, because I am going on to another matter.
Why is the strategy wrong? I say, first, that it is because the Prime Minister, although possessing many other qualities, sometimes conceives of the war, it seems to me, in medieval terms, because he talks of it as if it were a tourney. But the strategy is wrong because the Prime Minister has a wrong instrument of government. We have been at war for three years. Over and over again I have heard the Prime Minister speak most eloquently about the defects of the machinery of Government. Look at it for a moment. There is a War Cabinet of seven. One of them I rule out, the Lord President of the Council. I do not want to be offensive, he is a most distinguished man, but I have always looked upon him rather as a Civil servant than as a politician. So I rule him out. I do not believe that the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman on matters of high political principle differs from that he would get from any Government Department. Then there is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, burdened by a complicated office. There is the Minister of Labour, with a most distinguished career, a most dynamic personality. He has a most complicated Department, a huge Department with a large staff. Also, he speaks every week-end. How can he master documents about the war? I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has ever claimed to understand much about war—this is a serious matter—and in any case he has not got the time.
There is the Minister of Production. He is a member of the War Cabinet. The Minister of Production was, I understand, a business man of distinction, but he has no political experience worth speaking about, as was revealed yesterday. I say with all respect that in his own sphere he is a most eminent man. [AN HON. MEMBER: "And a soldier."] This place is full of soldiers. Stalin was not a soldier, but he is a very good general. The Minister of Production is at the head of the most vital Department of all. He has no time to attend to matters of strategy, so he is no use in the War Cabinet for this purpose. Then there is the Deputy Prime Minister. We had a Debate the other day. There was no Vote of Censure then. The Government had an overwhelming Vote 535 of Confidence. Every newspaper in the country, every critic in the House of Commons, including men of long standing such as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), all advised that we should have a small War Cabinet of six Ministers without Portfolio. The Prime Minister made a few changes. He threw out the only Minister in the War Cabinet who did not have a portfolio, and gave a portfolio to the Deputy-Prime Minister. Before then the Deputy-Prime Minister did riot have a Department. Now he has one.
That foolish instrument exaggerates all the natural weaknesses which are the accompaniments of the Prime Minister's strategy. The Prime Minister has qualities of greatness—everybody knows that—but the trouble is that he has too much to do. He has not around him colleagues to whom he can delegate any of this matter concerning the central direction of the war. The result is that all these defects which he possesses are made dangerous, because the Prime Minister, among all his other qualities, has a gift of expression which is exceedingly dangerous. He very often mistakes verbal felicities for verbal inspiration. The Prime Minister will, in the course of an evening, produce a whole series of brilliant improvisations, but he has not the machinery to carry them through.
It is the absence of support as much as anything else which is responsible for the situation. I seriously suggest to the House that whatever they may do about this Motion, they should for Heaven's sake insist, at this grave hour, that the Prime Minister be kept under the clamp of strong men who have got no Departmental interests. The House knows that that is the correct thing to do, the country knows it, and every responsible man in public affairs in this country outside the Government knows that it is the right thing to do. Why does not the House of Commons exert its dignity and force the Prime Minister to do it? Even an inadequate man giving his full attention is better than a clever man who cannot give any attention. It would be a most improper thing for me to suggest that the members of the War Cabinet are men of no stature. But in this matter the country is entitled to their full services in the central direction of the war, and I suggest that we should insist upon that being done.
536 Under the War Cabinet I suggest that you must have a far better co-ordination between the Services than now exists. There must be a central staff, presided over by one man who can have immediate access to the War Cabinet and who can ultimately be responsible for central strategy. I do not disagree with the Prime Minister having no Minister of De fence; I do not see how on earth, in war-time, the Prime Minister could delegate responsibility for the war to anybody else. He could not do that, but what he could do would be to have around him a number of Ministers who could assist him in that matter, and the War Cabinet as a whole could see the Chiefs of Staff instead of the Prime Minister——
§ Mr. Bevan
I am sorry, but the right hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity of correcting me later. It is the strategy that is wrong, and the production of weapons. Again, I should like to remind hon. Members that this is not a new story; we have been saying this for two years. All over the country the working classes have been deeply disturbed by the failures of production. Talk about not being able to change over to new types—even now there are aircraft factories idle in this country, changing over to new long-range bombers which may be available in two years' time. The country is bored with hearing of the production of long-range bombers. They know very well that the long-range bomber is not a decisive weapon of war, whatever else it may be. Therefore it is foolish at this moment to be changing to new types of long-range bombers which may not be available at the decisive moment.
On Tuesday the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production told us the that he had now appointed regional controllers. The Trades Union Congress, the trade unions of Britain separately, the Production Engineers Institute arid this House of Commons asked for regional boards over two years ago. We have been trying to get the decentralisation of production controls for over two years, and the Prime 537 Minister fought a successful rearguard action against us. He has been fighting rearguard actions against the House of Commons all the time, making concessions all the while to buy off the political situation, not to create a machine for war-making.
So much for production. Then there is the actual use of the weapons in the field. I speak in this matter without authority at all; I have never fought in a battle, I do not know what it is to use weapons in the field, so I have to speak with diffidence in this. Nevertheless, we are responsible, we have to make up our minds. We are as responsible as the Government. I am informed—the Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that even to-day the staff colleges of the Army have no textbook on the coordination of air and land forces. Even to-day, our Chiefs of Staff and our war captains are not being educated in the co-ordination of those two weapons. I do not know what hon. Members think of that, but it frightens me. It frightens me to think that after three years of war there is no textbook in our staff colleges on this most urgent and important matter. Why, even the small nations of Europe had it years ago, and we have not got it yet.
We have in this country five or six generals, members of other nations, Czechs, Poles and French, all of them trained in the use of these German weapons and this German technique. I know it is hurtful to our pride, but would it not be possible to put some of those men temporarily in charge in the field, until we can produce trained men of our own? Is there anything wrong in sending out these men, of equal rank with General Ritchie? Why should we not put them in the field in charge of our troops? They know how to fight this war; our people do not, and I say that it is far better to win battles and save British soldiers' lives under the leadership of other members of the United Nations than to lose them under our own inefficient officers. The Prime Minister must realise that in this country there is a taunt, on everyone's lips, that if Rommel had been in the British Army, he would still have been a sergeant. Is that not so? It is a taunt right through the Army. There is a man in the British Army—and this shows how we are using our trained men—who flung 150,000 men 538 across the Ebro in Spain, Michael Dunbar. He is at present a sergeant in an armoured brigade in this country. He was chief of staff in Spain; he won the battle of the Ebro, and he is a sergeant in the British Army. The fact of the matter is that the British Army is ridden by class prejudice. You have got to change it, and you will have to change it. If the House of Commons has not the guts to make the Government change it, events will. Although the House may not take any notice of me to-day, you will be doing it next week; remember my words next Monday and Tuesday. It is events which are criticising the Government. All that we are doing is giving them a voice, inadequately perhaps, but we are trying to do it.
Therefore, you have to change that business; you have to purge the Army at the top. It will have to be a drastic purge, because the spirit of the British Army has to be regained. I have spoken to men from other nations who have been around the British Army, and they say that never in the history of Great Britain has better human material been provided in the British Army. But it is badly led, not by men without courage—there is no lack of courage in the British Army at any point, at the top or at the bottom—but it is not trained, or is wrongly trained. Therefore, if you are going to give the new weapons which the Minister of Production talked about yesterday, you must give them into the hands of men who know how to use them and who believe in them. You must do that with the dive-bombers; if you have dive-bombers, you must purge from the Air Ministry those men who do not believe in dive-bombers, because the man who does not believe in his own weapon cannot use it. So you will have to purge them.
Furthermore—and I said I was going to be quite frank—if the Prime Minister wants to restore confidence in the British Army, he will have to change his Secretary of State for War. Why on earth he appointed him I do not know. I am not trying to be offensive; the right hon. Gentleman has been in the War Office for five years, and lie is picked out of a respectable obscurity and is pushed into an office. Nobody, no soldier in the British Army knows him. All they know is that he has been at the War Office for five years, and they have no confidence in 539 the War Office. They do not believe in the War Office, and the Prime Minister's political sagacity is so great that he picks out an official from the War Office and makes him Secretary of State for War. I say that the Prime Minister has great qualities, but obviously picking men is not one of them, and he does not know what the reaction is to these men in the country as a whole.
Now I come to my conclusion. Here is our situation; how are we going to face it? If this Debate resulted in causing demoralisation in the country in the slightest degree, I would have preferred to cut my tongue out. We do not want to do that. I believe that there is only one way in which we can recover ourselves. Our weapons are not what they ought to be, but they are the weapons we have got, and Hitler is not going to call the war off until we produce better ones; the war is going on, and we shall have to fight with the weapons we have. This country can fight. If the Government think that there is any dismay in the country, they are wrong; there is anger in the country. This is a proud and brave race, and it is feeling humiliated. It cannot stand the holding out of Sebastopol for months and the collapse of Tobruk in 26 hours. It cannot stand the comparison between these lost battles, not lost by lack of courage, but by lack of vision at the top. It cannot stand this; it is a proud and valiant country, and it wants leadership. It is getting words, not leadership, at the moment from the Government. There is only one way: Fight the enemy in Libya, for Heaven's sake fight him, wherever you can get at him.
The country expects, and declarations have been made—I can speak freely about this, though I understand that the Prime Minister cannot—that in a very short time, at a time and place to be decided by the Government, we shall launch an attack upon the enemy in a theatre of war nearer to this country. I do beg and pray the Government, when they make that decision, to make it out of considerations of strategical propriety and not as a consequence of political propaganda. Nevertheless, we have to do it. We can not postpone it until next year. Stalin expects it; please do not misunderstand me, for Heaven's sake do not let us make 540 the mistake of betraying those lion-hearted Russians. Speeches have been made, the Russians believe them and have broken the champagne bottles on them. They believe that this country will act this year on what they call the second front. Molotov said so; they expect it and the British nation expects it. I say it is right, it is the correct thing to do, and the Government have practically said so. Do not on these high matters speak with a twisted tongue; do not use words with double, meanings; do not use sentences with hidden purposes. On these high matters, speak truthfully and simply, so that the people can understand and trust. Let the Government, for Heaven's sake, make their political dispositions. In the meantime, let them change the direction of the war. Purge the Army and the Air Force of the elements which are not trusted at the moment. Get at the enemy where he really is—21 miles away, not 14,000 miles away. Get him by the throat. If this country at this moment were down-hearted, it would be a very good thing. Send some politicians out. It. has been done before: it was done in the Afghanistan campaign. Send some of us out, and let us risk our lives. When the troops land in Europe, and you go to rouse Europe, as Europe can be roused, send some of us out with the landing troops.
§ Mr. Bevan
If, by the deaths of some of us, we can rouse the British nation, is it not worth while? Some went out to Spain untrained. Training is needed; but we have grand human material, and there is an opportunity in Europe for us. Let us get rid of this defeatist complex. This nation can win; but it must be properly led, it must be properly inspired, and it must have confidence in its military leadership. Give us that, and we can win the war, in a fashion which will surprise Hitler, and at the same time hearten our friends.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
We have at last heard the authentic voice of a Vote of Censure, the voice in which a Vote of Censure should be supported in such a Debate. Yesterday the Mover and the Seconder spoke in uncertain tones. Now an attack is launched with the will and intention of oversetting 541 the Government—because only in order to overset the Government is such a speech justified. It was a speech which obviously sounds the ring of the enormous enthusiasm which we always knew the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) possessed. It sounds, in a way, an encouraging note for the nation, because, if it is true, as he says, that in the blocks of opinion for which he has spoken in the past—blocks of opinion which in the past were spiritually opposed to war and battle—these humiliations of which he spoke have sunk down, and if they are willing to take the forward-looking path, both in the direction and the conduct of the war, which he suggested, we may get a fusion of many elements in the war which was not available in the past, and which may be of the greatest value in the future. But untrained enthusiasm is not enough. The hon. Member's own speech shows that. It was a powerful speech, a well-informed speech, and, especially at the end, a cogently-argued speech, but parts of it ran counter to what he has urged on the Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
But he said, "Do not act on political considerations." With that the House agreed. He said that decisions should be made on strategical considerations. That ran counter to other parts of his speech. Strategic decisions must not be influenced by other considerations. As the hon. Member said, nothing would be more fatal than to launch men on to the Continent in answer to some popular urge, and to find a greater Dunkirk. Think of the shame and humiliation, and of the responsibility of this House. As the hon. Member said, when soldiers go, it is at the bidding of this House: when they die, it is at the bidding of this House. It is our serious and grave responsibility to see that everything possible is done before we send these men.
I do not complain—none of us complains—about the Motion being brought forward or about its being supported in the bitter and astringent terms which the hon. Member used. A Vote of No Confidence must mean the overthrow of 542 the Government—although in part of the hon. Member's speech he was arguing for a change, not in the central direction, but in what I might call the peripheral direction, the inner circle, of the Army. Let him look at the inner history of past revolutions, and see how often they have to be guided and led by the enthusiasm of professional soldiers. Take the French Revolution. Time after time the French generals were men trained and inspired in not only the traditions but the technical skill of the old Army.
The Mover and the Seconder yesterday seemed to speak in terms which suggested that they did not wish to push the Motion of No Confidence to the Vote. The Seconder's professional record and personal qualities, and the gallant record in war both of himself and of his family, must be appreciated and respected in this House. His wish was not -to get rid of the central director of the war, the Prime Minister. He paid most glowing tributes to the Prime Minister. [An HON. MEMBER: "As Prime Minister."] Yes, as Prime Minister. The Mover, I am not sure in his speech, but certainly in an article in a Sunday paper, seemed to press strongly for the retention of the Prime Minister if the solution could be adopted of appointing another Minister of Defence.
But the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale rejected that solution altogether. He said, "How can you divorce the Prime Minister, who has the full responsibility, from the conduct of the war?" Indeed, I find it very difficult to see how that could be done. That was the solution Mr. Asquith rejected. If it was not good enough for Mr. Asquith, does anybody suppose that it would be good enough for the present Prime Minister? Correspondence passed between Mr. Asquith and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) about how a solution which would bring the Prime Minister out of the direction of the war could be adopted. Mr. Asquith said in a letter to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that the suggested arrangement was to the following effect:The Prime Minister to have supreme and effective control of war policy. The agenda of the War Committee will be submitted to him; its Chairman will report to him daily; he can direct it to consider particular topics or proposals, and all its conclusions will be subject to his approval or veto. He can, of course, 543 at his own discretion attend meetings of the Committee.He wrote that to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and that same afternoon he wrote:After, full consideration of the matter in all its aspects, I have come decidedly to the conclusion that it is not possible that such a Committee could become workable and effective without the Prime Minister as Chairman.My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) maintained his contention that a divorce of this kind could be effected. Yet under much more favourable circumstances a man with admittedly far less experience in war than the present Prime Minister, and a far more judicial frame of mind, in the space of time between a morning and afternoon turned down the solution which has been urged upon the House.
The fact is that this is not a true Vote of Censure. So far we have not heard that authentic note, not even, I think, in the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. That is what marks this Debate sharply off from the great Norway debate, when the Vote of Censure was put and gained the general acceptance of the House. No one could say that all the speeches showed a desire to retain the services of Mr. Chamberlain as Prime Minister—"Go, go, go," they shouted. That is far different from the attitude with which this Motion is approached at the present time. The House is still fundamentally and instinctively grateful to the Prime Minister, and desires to retain his services as Prime Minister; and I contend that while his services are retained as Prime Minister his services as Minister of Defence will have to be retained also. It is not only in this country that such a situation exists. In Russia Stalin has control of his Armies. Take the United States, where the President of the Republic is constitutionally Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that the President does not administer it. I am not sure how far he takes part in the day-to-day direction of the war, but the responsibility of actually being Commander-in-Chief is on his shoulders, and except by delegation he cannot move from that position.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough East)
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman deal with the point which has been 544 the main point? Did Stalin or Roosevelt tolerate failures without taking some action? I think that is the point.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That, if I may say so, is the administration of the war. Admittedly there is disquiet in the House on that. I think we all agree that changes should be made. The House does not know and has naturally a difficulty in recommending what those changes should be, but I contend that it stands for changes on the periphery and the inner circle and not at the centre, and it is the centre at which this Motion is directed. That is the reason why I shall vote against the Motion. We are in the midst of one of the most difficult of war tasks. We are attempting to run an Empire in a great war on a democratic basis, a task which the Greeks said was impossible. It will require all the energy and the resolution as well as the brains and ingenuity of this House before it can survive that fight. I do not wish to delay the House unduly, but I say that the essence of the position of Defence Minister is the right of access of the chief staff officers to the highest political authority, nor will it ever be possible to divorce that. The Defence Minister is the heir and successor of the Prime Minister in his position as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The essence of the Committee of Imperial Defence was that the technical chiefs sat in the room with, and had direct access to, the main director. In time of war the danger of intermediate Ministers is that they merely insert cogs in the wheel but do not shorten consideration of the problems under discussion. The solution which has been put forward of a Defence Minister is a solution which cannot and will not be adopted.
Then we have to say, "Are you satisfied with the central direction of the war, taking the war in its broadest sense?" Can we leave out when we are considering, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was considering, the presence of Departmental Ministers in the War Cabinet itself, the direction of the war in its political aspects? We cannot. In its home aspects you cannot. He spoke of the difficulties of production. On that we are all, of course, very greatly concerned. But can we leave out the achievement, let us say in the feeding of the nation, in the health of the nation, the great achievements in the rationing of the nation, the 545 bringing of equality into fields where otherwise it would have been utterly absent? The equalitarian feeling of rationing has a great effect in steadying the nerves of the nation. I remember in the last war somebody saying how wonderful it was that the Minister of Food himself could not get a quarter of an ounce of butter more than the speaker could. That is a very great and difficult thing to put through. It is part of the direction of the war.
When the Minister of Labour is blamed for not having prevented strikes, let us remember the tremendous power he has exercised, and has had to exercise, in the direction of labour. We all remember in the last war the leaving certificates, the trouble, the friction, the worry of these "things. All that falls on the shoulders of the Minister of Labour in the direction of the war, and in the central direction of the war one is bound to take into account the feeling of solidarity which the Government have been able to inspire. That is shown by the fact that this Motion is signed by seven Labour and seven Conservative Members. It is a very unusual thing when a Motion such as that gains equal support on both sides of the House, and that would not have been the case had not the Govt. by its central direction of the war inspired a feeling of solidarity in the nation.
The idea of a small War Cabinet which will be removed from all Departmental duties has advantages, but it has great disadvantages also, and one is certainly the loss of the day-to-day touch which only someone like the Minister of Labour coming hot from the problem can put to his colleagues. We all remember the mutiny at Invergordon. We all remember the small Cabinet at that time, from which the First Lord of the Admiralty was excluded, and when an uproar was caused in the whole Fleet by mere inadvertence. If the First Lord had been in the Cabinet and had had the chance of explaining these things to his colleagues round the table, that episode and the effect it had would have been avoided. I think that the War Cabinet has certainly to its credit great positive achievements in the conduct of the war which we should remember on occasions like this when a Vote of Censure is brought forward. We lost the Anglo-French War, and started a new war, Britain against the Axis. To 546 that great accessions of strength have come—Russia and America. They have been attacked by the Axis, but it was their truculent attitude towards the Axis which led the Axis to attack them, and that attitude was greatly inspired by the unflinching and stubborn stand which this country was making.
It is not enough to say that it was mere coincidence that the war against Russia should happen to break out at the same time as the war against Britain, or that the war against America should break out at the same time as the war of Britain against Germany. It was because the Axis Powers and dictators saw that the spirit of resistance to tyranny had been lit again in the world and that it would spread all over the world. It was lit while there was still time. If they had continued to pile up their resources and do nothing, it would have been too late. It was this country that nursed the flame, and it was the War Cabinet which was in charge of the flame in this country.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) on a previous occasion gave a very interesting account to the House of similar Debates which had taken place in previous Parliaments, when, over 100 years ago, we were faced with a great revolutionary force led by soldiers of genius sweeping over the Continent and doing great damage to the interests and to the prestige of this country. He quoted the remarkable fact that time after time the Younger Pitt succeeded in carrying tremendous weight in this House although he met with disaster in the field. I looked it up last night to see what the context really was, and it is not uninteresting especially in this Debate.Pitt was at the head of a nation engaged in a life-and-death struggle, a nation eminently distinguished by all the physical and mental qualities which make excellent soldiers. … But the fact is that after eight years of war, after a vast expenditure of life and an expenditure of wealth far exceeding the expenditure of the American war, of the Seven Years' War, of the war of the Austrian Succession and of the war of the Spanish Succession, united, the English Army under Pitt was the laughing-stock of all Europe. It could not boast of a single brilliant exploit. It had never shown itself on the Continent but to be beaten, chased, forced to re-embark, or forced to capitulate.That was the school in which the Peninsular Army that fought under Wellington was being hammered and forged. It is possible that the House of Commons at 547 that time knew quite as much about the circumstances about which Macaulay wrote in 1859, nearly half a century later. Then followed the passage quoted by the hon. Member for Seaham complaining thatthus, through a long and calamitous period, every disaster that happened without the walls of Parliament, was regularly followed by a triumph within them. At length he had no longer an opposition to encounter, and in the eventful year 1799 the largest minority that could be mustered to vote against the Government was 25.It is odd how history in some ways is repeated. It would be wrong to consider this Division as a complete absolution, or, to quote the inimitable phrase of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister himself on a previous occasion, as, a spontaneous ebullition of enthusiasm which can no longer be suppressed.
There are two points which make a sharp difference between the Napoleonic Wars and this war, and the first—and it is extraordinary that no reference is made to it in this Debate—is the need of that command of the sea. Here our position is much more like that of the earlier wars. There the loss of command of the sea led to the surrender of Yorktown and the loss of the American Colonies. The battle of the Atlantic remains the decisive battle of this war, for, if we retain the Western Ocean we win, and if we lose the Western Ocean we sink. Lose the Battle of the Atlantic, and we might hear far more of the priorities necessary for ships and shipbuilding. Balance this with tanks and dive-bombers. All these things have to be brought in. That the House of Commons should debate a war for two days without mention of sea-power is wrong. Sea-power remains, as always, decisive for our people. In the Mediterranean the Libyan position began to worsen when Rommel crossed the sea, and turned against us when the Navy could not interrupt his communications. When Admiral Vian was fighting battleships with light cruisers it was clear the Mediterranenan Command was gravely impaired. The worsening of the situation in Libya is very closely linked up with the establishment of that clear, rapid line of communication bringing the whole weight of Italy and of industrial Germany at short range on to the desert of North Africa.
548 On all these things, however, the country says, "We want more information. We want an inquiry. We want a report." May I make this positive suggestion to the Government? There is a means to deal with all that by the publication of despatches. The Service chiefs have always had the right to send despatches and to have those despatches published. This Government began, it is true after a long delay, to publish despatches. We must have some form of technical data upon which brilliant speakers and debaters such as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale can base their conclusions. Without some technical information from the Army in the field I do not believe it will be possible for that informed opinion to be produced. Documents dealing with Libya and the defence of Calais which have been put out by the publication departments are of great interest, but they do not have the quality of a despatch written by the Commander-in-Chief himself. These are documents which will be of the greatest value to this country, and sooner or later, in some form-or other, they ought to be produced.
The second aspect to which attention should be given is a point which has been stressed by almost every speaker in the Debate, and that is the aspect of engineering. This is an engineers' war. This is a point which the House could properly press upon the Government. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale complained of lack of co-operation between the Army and the Air Force, but the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby) mentioned yesterday that he thought that the co-operation at the top was good but that the co-operation in the lower ranks was where the deficiency arises. That takes time. It is part of the turnover of the thought of this country from peace to war, which is far more important than the turnover of the production of this country from peace to war. It was the spiritual attitude towards war which led to the real disarmament of this country during the last 20 years, and it is not until we are reorganised in spirit as well as in the provision of weapons that we shall really be formidable to protect Europe against tyranny. They are the people who will have to be brought more and more into the foreground both in the Forces and outside. The Army is 549 being milked, and has been milked in the past, for the Air Force, but surely we now see that that is all wrong. However important is the Air Force, the men who are standing up breast to breast against Rommel at this moment are as important as the men who are fighting his aeroplanes in the air. There is an old proverb in the cavalry which runs: "Make much of your horses." It enshrines the very profound truth that if you do not love a thing, you will not get the best out of it. If you say to the Army, "We will purge you, weed you out, pluck you and pick you," you will not get the best out of the Army, and none of us in this House has the conscience that we are yet getting the best out of the Army that can be obtained.
Some of the things said in the Debate yesterday were scarcely credible. It was said, for instance, that a tank turret was of such a size that a man could not get into it. I should have thought it would have been possible to make a wooden model. To take a thing from a drawing board is all very well, but surely it would have been a comparatively simple process to make a mock-up model of such a thing in order to see whether an ordinary man could operate it. It seems to me that the thought of the nation has not yet been concentrated upon this line. It will be necessary for us to obtain the thought of the nation if we are to get through our difficulties of to-day.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That is not the case, but these are things which do not mean much to the man whose mind is not imbued with the spirit of what he is trying to do. Until we get that spirit, I am sure we shall not get the satisfactory weapons we require. This is a war of iron and steel and electricity. Iron is on top. We are being pushed about by machines. That is what we feel to be the greatest humiliation we are suffering. I remember at the time of Narvik a cartoon by Low, a terribly biting cartoon, which pictured a man in an iron-ore quarry while nosing along the valley came a great tank which had been made from this iron and, overhead, were flying machines of steel. It further showed that the man had dropped his barrow and that fetters had been put on 550 him from behind. It was called "the Iron comes back." The domination of humanity by engines is the feeling we have now, and of which we must rid ourselves. This anger and humiliation we feel is healthy anger and a wholesome humiliation. It was through a valley of humiliation that another great hero came to a satisfactory end of his adventures, and I hope it may be so again. We want a transformation of the spirit of which the first flickers began to be evident in a quarter from which they had not been evident before—the speech and, still more, the thought, of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I am encouraged and hopeful and, therefore, although I shall go into the Lobby with the greatest satisfaction and do my best to vote down the Motion to which he has put his name, I rejoice in having been able to ring my lance against his shield and in being able to say, "Here is an adversary against whom anyone will be proud to tilt in the House of Commons."
§ Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris (St. Pancras, North)
I do not propose to talk in general terms of the Motion of Censure, but I wish to deal exclusively with the very vexed question of dive-bombers. There is a great deal of misunderstanding, not only in this House but throughout the country, about the use to which the dive-bomber can be put. There are several essentials which must be met before; the dive-bomber can be used with any degree of certainty and any degree of satisfaction to the Power which is using it. First of all, you must have fighter cover, good substantial fighter cover, for your dive-bombers. Secondly, there must not be substantial fighter opposition to them, because otherwise they will be put off and will not be able to do their work properly. Thirdly, their effectiveness will be greatly minimised if there is strong, light anti-aircraft opposition to them from the ground. The House will remember a well-known figure in the Air Force, Air Commodore Basil Embry, who has thrice won the D.S.O. Just after the war broke out, when he was a wing-commander, he escaped from a prison camp in occupied countries, and I met him here in company with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power. He said that he had had a conversation with a colonel in the Luftwaffe, who told him that the only reason why Germany did so well with dive-bombers 551 in France and the Low Countries was because British fighter opposition was too small to be effective and that our light "Ack Ack" was practically negligible, with the result that their dive-bombers did tremendous execution. Those were the words of the German Luftwaffe colonel. You say that it was propaganda, but at that time this wing-commander was a prisoner, and it could not have been much use putting over propaganda to him.
Let us see how much the Junkers 87 was used in the Battle of Britain. I have taken care to ascertain correct figures, and I find that on three days 96 dive bombers were shot down by our Fighter Command over our waters and this country. They were used for only a few more days. Afterwards the Germans ceased to use them simply because the cost was too great. Let us turn to the position in Libya. I cannot speak from practical knowledge of the desert itself, although I have served four months this year in Alexandria and have had an opportunity of speaking to those who took part in the battle which took place about Christmastime and the retreat which followed. We have heard a lot about the way in which Bir Hacheim was dive bombed. Well, I took the opportunity of checking this myself, and I can assure the House that the Free French there were not dive-bombed successfully. Junkers 87 machines were used against them, and all were shot down out of the sky. A certain number of Junkers 88 had to be sent for—very good general purpose bombers and reasonally good dive bombers—to help to do the job. But as a matter of fact dive bombing was not responsible for the fall of Bir Hacheim.
Let us look for a moment at Tobruk itself. I do not think anybody, even the Government, knows very much about those hours when Tobruk was in our hands, just before its fall, but I can well visualise what the position would be there, having previously been in the neighbourhood, as it were. Our Air Force were falling back from Gambut, Gazala, El Adem and other places to their rear landing grounds. I am quite sure that at that time they were not in a position to operate against the hostile aircraft which were attacking Tobruk. Consequently, the Army was at a very great 552 disadvantage, as the fighter protection which should have been there could not be forthcoming because the Air Force were not in a position to give assistance on that particular day for the reasons I have given.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Were the dive-bombers at Bir Hacheim shot down by anti-aircraft guns or by fighters?
§ Wing Commander Grant-Ferris
I think my hon. Friend will remember the message of the Free French at that time; it was "Merci pour le R.A.F." We have heard a good real about the Stormovik which is alleged to be a Russian dive bomber, but the Stormovik is not a dive bomber in the essential sense of the word. It is a general purposes bomber like the Ju.88, and not like the Ju.87. Therefore, it is no good saying that dive bombers qua dive bombers have had great success on the Russian front.
§ Wing-Commander Grant-Ferris
I will refer to that in a moment. The Minister of Production told us that the Government are, or very shortly will be, in possession of a considerable number of dive bombers. Although I cannot speak officially, because I do not know, I would mention, from what talk I have heard unofficially, that the dive bombers, as they are called, which we are getting are general purposes bombers, such as the Ju.88 or the Stormovik, which is really what we need, and not the dive bomber pure and simple, as we have seen in the past. One must not confuse dive bombers and dive bombing. One can dive bomb with a number of aircraft; one can dive bomb to perfection only with a slow type such as the Ju.87, Ju.87 cannot be used against reasonable opposition.
One word more. I was in Newcastle the other day, and I went to a news film on which I saw pictures of the Libyan battle, the fighting, the bombs dropping; and mention was made by the commentator about the way in which the French at Bir Hacheim had been dive-bombed, and he finished by saying, "Would to God we had more of these dive-bombers." That is the very worst propaganda to put out. It is absolutely 553 ridiculous to talk like that. There is a proper function for dive-bombing. It can be used only when a situation exists such as I have already described. And let it be remembered that the men who fly the dive-bombers are the cream of the men who are available, and it is not right to use them—it is very bad policy to use them—if their lives are to be thrown away. I ask the House and the country to keep clearly in mind the difference between dive-bombers, and dive-bombing, to remember that first of all there have to be the fighters to protect them, that there have to be bombers to do the long-distance bombing, that when one is happy about that situation, one can go in for dive-bombing, and then, let them be of a general purposes type of aircraft. But they must be second to everything else, because their use is severely limited.
§ Major Furness (Sunderland)
I have wondered whether I ought to speak in this Debate. In the first place, it is a long time since I have been in the House, and when one is absent one gets out of touch with the situation and the cross-currents of political opinion. But perhaps in a Debate of this sort, when we are concerned with very fundamental issues, it is advantageous to have a fresh mind. Secondly, I was reluctant to speak because I felt that when an hon. Member in uniform speaks in the House, he is exposed to one or two great dangers. The fact that he is in uniform probably gives to his utterances a weight which his real position in the Army and his knowledge of military affairs do not warrant. An hon. Member who wears uniform because he is, a member of a claims commission is no better informed on military matters—and indeed, probably is not as well informed, for he has not the time—than a member in civilian dress. On the other hand, if a Member in uniform has been lucky enough from time to time to have a job in which he serves under important men, he has to be very careful not to give away important secrets, or betray some confidence which has been imposed in him. In the Army I have had jobs of both sorts, and I shall try to avoid both those dangers.
I speak because I feel that these are extremely serious times. I have been quiet in the House since the outbreak of the war, and I feel that now, if in those three years of soldiering one has learned 554 anything, one must speak and say what one thinks. The appalling military record of the British Army in this war—it is a most melancholy thing to have to say, but after all, it is our bounden duty in the House to speak frankly—the appalling record of the British Army is that it has won successes, and striking successes, against the Italians, but has never won a single campaign against the German Army. In Norway, Belgium, France, Greece and Crete, and now in Libya, its record is one of failure. It is high time that we began to look into the matter and inquire why these failures arise. If in this House we say that failure is inevitable, the sooner we pull down the shutters and close, the better. We dare not say failure is inevitable, and we have the duty to try to find out what is wrong.
There are certain unavoidable causes for our present situation, and I will state them briefly. I speak merely as a wartime soldier, but it is definitely a fact—one sees it now, although I certainly did not realise it before—that in peace-time this country did not think much of its Army or spend much money on it. We are suffering for that now. When the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) rather sneers at professional soldiers, I would like to join issue with him. I am not a professional soldier, but I have met professional soldiers, and I must say that on the whole—of course, they are good, bad and indifferent, just as Members of Parliament are good, bad and indifferent—those I have met, and especially the staff officers, compare in ability with any Members of the House, and certainly they compare in devotion to duty. The Army to-day is an amateur army. In the battalion in which I served first, there was at the outbreak of the war only one Regular officer, and further back, at brigade headquarters, out of a staff of eight or ten, only two were Regular officers. As one goes further back and higher up, there are more and more Regular officers.
Generally speaking, even on the staffs of very big and important formations, there are to-day at least 50 per cent. who are war-time soldiers, and at staff colleges 50 per cent. of the students are war-time soldiers. That being so, it is bound to take time for amateurs like myself to learn. It is so easy to think that when 555 an intelligent person is put into uniform he becomes a soldier. I used to think that, but I realise now how much there is to learn, and, indeed, there are some things which can never be learned at my age. Even very high officers have had no experience before the war in handling armoured formations, armoured corps, and armies. It is a very different thing moving an army and moving a division. In those days, such was our position, and so much had we cut down, that we had to have wooden models to represent tanks and guns. That is the first reason. The second reason is, as I have said, that we fought alone for a year against two enemies, and then a third enemy sprang upon us. The third reason is in relation to command of the sea. Command of the seas is no longer in our power in the same way as it was in the old days. We have the most vulnerable Empire. It is scattered all over the world, and it can be attacked piece by piece. In the old days it was kept going on the basis of unchallenged sea power. These are the reasons why shortcomings are inevitable, but I do not think they are a sufficient explanation for what has happened.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) dealt very ably with the position of the Prime Minister in this matter. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is running the war, as far as supreme control and direction of strategy are concerned, and there is no doubt in my mind that, so long as he is Prime Minister, he will go on doing so, and that you have either to get rid of him or allow him, as Prime Minister, to be responsible for the Service Departments. I am somewhat of a neutral in this matter. Before the war I was a junior Minister when the Prime Minister was not in office, and since he has been in office I have been away from the House. I certainly have no hopes of favours to come, or gratitude for past services. Thinking the matter over, and having regard to the fact that he was the man who kept us going when we fought alone, that he is the man who put us right with Russia and jumped in when Russia came into the war and allied ourselves with her, and with the knowledge that he does well in his office now that we are linked with America, I think we should be most unwise to make a change. 556 If there is a desire to make a change, an alternative to his place must be brought forward. If an alternative is brought forward, I am willing to make my choice, but it seems to me that he is the only man, and that he must remain.
The fact that I am going to support him in the Lobby does not mean that I am satisfied with the conduct of the war. There are four points of criticism I wish to make in this respect. I have felt for some time, and I think one may say it is the general opinion held among officers of my standing in the Army, that our present bombing policy is entirely and fundamentally wrong. I think we are sacrificing our chances of winning this war by using the Air Force as an independent unit. The Germans have not bombed this country for quite a long time. Their bombing force has not been used against this country, but in Russia and in the Mediterranean. It is not because the Germans love our people—they would love to kill all our people—but that they are concentrating on one thing at a time and putting first things first. If in our offensive in Libya we had used our Air Force against Italy and stopped those supplies going to Rommel, we should now be in a very different position. When I read about certain air marshals saying we are going to try this experiment of heavy bombing, I say that we had better stop it now, because it has gone on too long, and we are sacrificing Army co-operation machines for heavy bombers. The sooner it is stopped the better, if we want to win the war.
My second criticism is in regard to equipment. The experience in the Army is that we delay so long in making new-equipment that the Germans come out with it before us or that we rush something out, producing it in enormous quantities, with figures of 500,000 or more, which rums out to be no good. Obviously I cannot give figures to the House, but that is why we send out tanks with turrets which men cannot get into, or delay in bringing out new guns which the Germans produce before us. I feel very unhappy about the way in which we seem to shut our men up in places like Singapore and Tobruk, and then the general hauls down his flag. It is causing enormous harm in the Army, and it also has a psychological effect. It is quite all right to give ground, because that does not 557 matter in war, but it seems the most appalling thing that 80,000 British soldiers at Singapore and 30,000 soldiers at Tobruk should go into captivity. It is something we cannot understand, and something which I implore the Government to think about, because of its psychological effect. I can assure the Government the psychological effects are bad for me, and I am certain it is worse in the case of the men serving in the ranks.
The last point I want to make is that we want some organisation in the Army where people have time to think. We have organisations for teaching, but what we want is some place in which you can shut up a certain number of intelligent people and say to them, "Study the best use of this, new war invention" or "Study the best use of this particular combination of armoured divisions or corps formations." At present we are learning by trial and error, but we should learn much more quickly if generals were unencumbered with details, as they are to-day, and could sit down and study these matters. Whatever may be wrong in this war, there are two sets of people who are not to blame. The first is the civilian population of the country. I think that ought to be said. They have delivered the goods, and, if the right goods have not been delivered, they are not the people at fault. It is not because our people have failed in blood, and toil, and sweat, but because the wrong goods have been ordered. The second class of people are the men in the ranks of the British Army. After being a Member of this House it has been a great experience to command a platoon. I know I may have failed, but these men have never failed, and I am sure, if properly led, they never will. If things go awry, it is our fault and our responsibility, and certainly it is not the responsibility of the people or the men we represent.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman on his most interesting and well informed speech. He has made a valuable contribution to the discussion, and I am very glad that he has made a new maiden speech in his new capacity as an officer in the Army.
Let us be frank with ourselves. This Motion is an attack on the Prime Minister. It may be camouflaged by its wording, "tine central direction of the war." but it 558 is an attempt to undermine his position and, it logically and necessarily follows, to displace him by some other leader. I have very great sympathy with independence. I was for many years a free lance. In the War Parliament, of which I was a member, I was one of those wicked people who not only attacked the Government but exercised their right of voting against them in a very critical Division. Incidentally, it was the cause of the loss of my seat when an election took place. I would not suggest that that should influence anyone. On the contrary, at a time like this every Member of the House has the responsibility to exercise his own judgment and to do what he thinks right arid proper for the successful prosecution of the war. I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) on his very courageous speech. He has been a critic of every Government as long as I can remember. He has always been a free lance. He has voted against every Government and spoken against every combination, whatever its political label, whether a Conservative, National, Coalition or Labour Government. He was equally fearless in his criticism when he had a Government of his own political label. I believe it is the duty of every man who is convinced that the direction of the Government is wrong and that the Prime Minister of the day is a bad Prime Minister to vote against the Government, provided always that he sees a better man to take his place.
I do not know if these critics have visualised the kind of combination which is to displace the present Government. When there was a similar Debate on Norway we were quite clear in our minds. We saw a possible alternative, and when we took the great responsibility of forcing a Division we saw a new Government and a new Cabinet and a new Prime Minister. I have never regretted that vote, and I believe that most Members feel the same. But to blame the Prime Minister for all the shortage of material and lack of preparation comes very badly from men like the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). I have a very vivid memory of my being responsible for putting on the Paper in September, 1938, an Amendment to the Address asking for the setting-up of a Ministry of Supply. We had a certain number of Members who exercised independent judgment. There 559 were the right hon. Gentleman, now Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Minister of Information and the Prime Minister. He made a very remarkable speech. He warned the country, he almost prophesied what would take place if we did not take drastic measures, and particularly if we did not set up a Ministry of Supply. He dealt with the problem of guns and tanks and the whole productive side of the war. It ill becomes those who then failed to exercise independence to attack him. After all, you cannot turn out guns like sausages from a machine. You cannot build tanks in a moment. If you change your mind in the light of experience, you have, to have the blue prints, the jigs and tools and the factories and all the organisation. You cannot change that suddenly.
I am very glad that the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) reminded the House that we have to thank the various Secretaries of State, and especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessor, who made the designs, prepared the blue prints and provided the factories and the necessary tools for the production of aeroplanes. The result was that it was possible to extend our supplies so rapidly that we won the Battle of Britain. But that did not apply to the War Ministry. It was the, failure then to set up a Ministry of Supply to make the necessary preparations for the provision of tanks and guns which was responsible for our failure—and it is a failure—to meet the Germans on equal terms. Just before the time when the Prime Minister was warning the House and the country of the necessity for rearming the nation in preparation for war, in 1937, Germany had one armoured division. In 1938 she had three armoured divisions. In 1939 it had increased to nine armoured divisions. In 1940, at the time of the failure of France, they had 10 armoured divisions. On the other hand, in October, 1939, we had only one. I understand that a former Secretary of State for War, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha), is to be the last speaker in support of the Motion. He is one of those who did nothing to support the proposal to set up a Ministry of Supply. The full responsibility was his for the rearming and the mechanisation of the Army, and 560 it will want a lot of explanation to prove that the responsibility was not his. In 1938 the present Prime Minister warned the whole nation, and followed it up by a vote against his own party, of the necessity for rearming. We can all criticise. We know there have been faults. I think we ought to pay special attention to the junior Member for the Cambridge University (Professor Hill) in his insistence on the proper use of the scientific and technical knowledge of the country. This country could hold its own scientifically and technically with any country in the world, and we have been pioneers in many branches of technical and scientific experiment.
I agree with my hon. Friend in what he said about the position of the officers. We are proud of the traditions of our Army. It is a magnificent service, and the training of our officers is good. I am not one of those who criticise either Sandhurst, Woolwich or the Staff College, but they attract a somewhat limited number of people. Only a limited section of the population adopt the Army as a profession. Only a percentage of the profession take it seriously, and the number of candidates for the staff colleges is very small. The competition is infinitesimal and, therefore, our choice is limited. In the last war we made proper use of our temporary officers. Many of them proved their ability in war and were promoted rapidly, not only to the rank of colonel but to commands in responsible positions. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berwick-on-Tweed (Captain Grey) reminds me that his father, who was an old Territorial officer, did distinguished service in Mesopotamia and rose to the rank of major-general. There is not one officer in high rank, except one who has just been promoted to the Army Council, who is either a temporary or a Territorial officer. There is something radically wrong in a war, which is a mechanical war and depends on industrial and scientific skill for its organisation, when that is the case, and I suggest that the Government might well inquire into the whole system of promotion and the use of the undoubted talent that is in the Army drawn from the scientific and practical sections of the population.
I was interested in the change at the War Office. We have had three or four changes there. When the present holder 561 of the office was promoted from being a civil servant to be made Secretary of State I was not one of the critics. I say, however, that a golden opportunity was lost to introduce new blood into the War Office. At one of the most critical periods in the last war there was a change in the War Office. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was brought in like a breath of fresh air into the whole Department. He brought a new spirit. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India had something to do with it, and he will bear me out in saying that the appearance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, with his new outlook and ideas, brought an entirety new spirit into the War Office. If we are to make the best use of the brains and ability of the country, we ought to introduce new men at the head and a new spirit right through the management of the Army. Nothing would do more to encourage those splendid men in the Army. I am talking with some knowledge when I say that they are the finest men we have ever had in the Army and compare most favourably with the men in the last war. Officers of experience confirm that. Nothing would encourage them more than to see some men who had risen from the ranks during the war in high commands and responsible positions. The generals in command of the Dominion troops are without exception amateur generals. The distinguished general in command of the Canadian Army in this country is in the ordinary way an amateur general, as also are the generals in charge of the Australian and South African Forces. In the last war one of the most successful generals was General Monash, who was in charge of the Australians and in peacetime, I believe, was a dentist.
I believe that we shall give the Prime Minister to-day a great Vote of Confidence. His leadership has never been more necessary than now. He has never failed us at any critical moment of the war. Whether it was at the time of Dunkirk, or at the time of the entry of Russia into the war, or when he was at Washington after America had become our Ally, he has never failed us. We are confident in his leadership. Let him inquire into some of the organisation of the War Office personally and see whether he can introduce there some of 562 that modern spirit that prevails in the Navy and Air Force-, but is singularly lacking in the Army.
§ Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)
I must say at the outset that, like the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), I do not share the view which has been expressed by some hon. Members that it is in some way blameworthy to have put this Motion upon the Order Paper. I do not think that it renders a disservice to the country, and I am not sure that in the long run it will render any disservice to the Government. It is true that the putting down of the Motion has caused a certain amount of excitement abroad, but no one who has had the opportunity of studying the foreign Press and broadcasts can have any doubt that there is something which has caused a great deal more excitement abroad than the putting down of this Motion. That is the events of the last few weeks. This Debate has run on for 18 or 19 hours. Like a great many hon. Members, I have sat here throughout that time, and it has struck me as being one of the strangest Debates I have ever heard in this House. We have had declared backers of the Motion of No Confidence making speeches supporting the Government, and we have had declared supporters of the Government making speeches supporting the Motion, if not in express terms, at any rate by implication.
So far as the decided attitude of my hon. Friends is concerned, it is clear and single-minded and can be expressed in one short sentence—"How can the happenings of the past be sifted ruthlessly and promptly and classified into lessons for the future?"
That being our position, we shall vote against this Motion. We need be under no misapprehension that the Motion actually means calling upon the Prime Minister to resign and to form a new Government—in what direction the Motion does not make clear. Confidence in the Government or in anybody else is a peculiar thing. When I read the Motion and noted the names attached to it, I could not help asking myself if these hon. Members who have no confidence in the Government have any confidence in one another. It is obvious to anyone who has been an attentive observer of the proceedings bf this House that those who signed the Motion consist of people of the 563 most diametrically opposed views on the fundamental issues of national policy. So far as the practical aspect of the matter is concerned, therefore, we can do no other than vote against the Motion. Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that the Prime Minister will not look upon to-day as an occasion for a Parliamentary triumph. During the course of the Debate some 150,000 words will be spoken. Much truth will be contained in them, and a great many errors and mistakes, and I am certain that it will be an easy task for the Prime Minister, by an over-refinement of the arguments, to discomfit all his critics, but if that should be the sole result, then it will be a barren consequence of our two days' proceedings.
As I am going to refer in a constructive way to the tactical handling of our Forces, which perhaps is the very spearhead of our war effort, I shall avoid as far as I can any reflection upon the skill of any individual general. We must all be grateful to our military leaders for their bravery and devotion, but it would surely be wrong to carry our loyalty to them to the point of disloyalty to our constituents and to our cause, I think that the most effective part of the speech made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was that in which he dealt briefly with the tactical handling of our troops. I hope the Prime Minister will not resent the speech made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. I have listened to him making many speeches in this House, and have always told him that I hardly ever agree with everything he says, but that there is always a great deal of truth in it, and there was a great deal of truth in his speech to-day. It was a healthy piece of Parliamentary criticism, and if the Prime Minister resents it, he will be making a mistake. It is not only the critics of the Government who have taken this view about the tactical handling of our troops. The Minister of Production put it with delicate irony in his speech yesterday when he said:In peace-time it was not thought that the military art was one of those activities to which the consideration of the human mind should be given.That is all too true, and I am not at all sure that it applies exclusively to Some Members of this House. I have a feeling that it applies also to a great deal of the military organisation at the War 564 Office for which we paid so expensively in pre-war years, because a mass of evidence leads to the conclusion that our greatest inferiority in relation to our enemies has been in the sphere of thought and planning. The hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Major Furness) said there was no single body throughout our war organisation, from the War Cabinet downwards, which was charged with the exclusive duty of thought upon the immediate strategical and tactical and equipment problems. I know that it is impossible to think in a vacuum, that there must be a certain link with the outside world, but there ought to be attached to the General Staff or to the Ministry of Defence some body whose sole duty should be to think and to plan in the realm of tactics and weapons for immediate and future needs.
We know what generally happens when a new committee is set up. It is what is known as the snowball system. It begins by taking a few more secretaries, a few more officers and in the end becomes buried beneath piles of papers and files. There is one aspect of our war effort which ought to be preserved and protected from that, and that is the part of our war effort in every sphere whose duty it is to think about our plans. The most important and direct necessity is in the realm of tactics and weapons. I would give such a body a name which would make it clear that its sole duty would be to think out these plans. I would call it something like the Joint Deliberative Staff for Tactics—and similarly for Equipment—and I would have one of those bodies in every theatre of the war. I should keep it free from operational and administrative duties. It seems to me wrong that the Chiefs of the General Staff, in addition to their enormous burden of thought and responsibility, should have at the same time heavy administrative duties. I know that they have been able to a certain extent to delegate them, but they all have heavy administrative duties in addition to those of thought and planning.
I do not propose to recapitulate what has been said about our guns—our 6-pounders and our 4.5 guns. I listened to a long controversy here yesterday about whether the 4.5 weapon was a gun or a howitzer when in fact there are a 4.5 gun, a 4.5 howitzer and a 4.5 anti-aircraft gun, 565 three entirely different weapons. I mention that only to illustrate how easy it is to become involved in a tangle of technicalities.
But I propose to recite briefly the reasons why I think that in the sphere of thought we have been beaten all along the line throughout this war, beginning with the Battle of France. I am only going to refer to examples and not going into details. There was the attack on the Belgian forts—entirely new methods, and the element of surprise. There was the attack through the Ardennes, which were thought to be impassable for tanks and mechanised armies. The German army turned the neglect of that supposedly impassable region to their own advantage. Air-borne attack—never thought of in this country, certainly not prepared for. The transport of troops by air—25,000 of them transported to Norway in a few days, a strategy which broke upon the world almost as a novelty. A simpler point, the sending of messages en clair. It was done in France and it is done in the desert. "All aircraft to Armentières"—or to Tobruk or to Bir Hacheim. Our messages are sent in code. While we are busy decoding these messages the tide of the battle is turning.
It was said that in the desert the heat at this season would be too great for pitched battles, but the German army took forethought for that and prepared measures to reduce the temperature in their tanks. We who are supposed to have "dominion over palm and pine" never saw that in the battle of the desert in summer an enormous advantage could be given to the troops which could reduce the temperature in their tanks by 10 or 15 degrees. Then there was the provison of this 88-mm. gun. We have heard it said, and I dare say the Prime Minister will claim, that the weapons with which we are now fighting are weapons which were designed long ago, but that does not apply to the 88-mm. gun. It is true that the gun itself, while I will not say it is stale, was designed a good many years ago, but. what matters about that gun is its mounting—its all-round traverse, its self-propelled vehicle, and its general adaptation to use as an anti-tank gun. We could have done precisely the same thing with our 3.7 anti-aircraft guns. There is no technical reason, I am informed, why, if the factor of thought had operated on the British General Staff as 566 well as it operated on the German General Staff, we should not have had a weapon corresponding to the 88-mm. gun even before the Germans had it.
It was the same with the Japanese advance. The jungle North of Malaya was impassable. The Japanese adapted their troops, gave them Plimsoll shoes and light weapons, and they turned the jungle from being an obstacle to being an advantage to their troops. We know also how the Russian Army, by a hundred stratagems, turned the Russian winter from an enemy into a friend. All those stratagems are in the sphere of Army operations. Oh reflection, and I have thought long about it, I have hardly been able to think of a single decisive stratagem which has sprung from the brains of our own General Staff, and I invite hon. Members who have not already done so, to submit themselves to the same test.
I can think of many stratagems which have been imitated, but imitation in many walks of life enables people to get through without failure, and even with a moderate amount of success, but in war imitation is no substitute for thought. It means invariably that you are one move behind the enemy, and sometimes more than one move, and also completely deprived of the element of surprise. Unfortunately, imitation is often the resource of men who are not able to think and who use it as a cover for their incapacity. Therefore, it is of vital importance that if that is a weakness in our war effort we should remedy it.
In the air war I want to say that our record has been very much better, and that I think the nation has good cause to be grateful to those who prepared our Royal Air Force on its technical side—I am not saying on the production side. The 8-gun fighter and our detection system in the Royal Observer Corps were the salvation of this country in the days of our greatest peril. Many people ask why we did not send 200 bombers to Libya. I have always been against the long-range-bomber policy. I think the aircraft is too specialised, takes up too many man-hours in relation to smaller and more versatile types; but it is only fair to say it was not a practical proposition to send 200 bombers to Libya during the course of the battle. It is true that at that time we were making heavy 567 attacks with 1,000 and more bombers on Cologne and other German cities, but it is not always remembered that if you send bombers you must also send bombs, and the bomb-lifting cranes and ammunition. The weight of bombs alone, to enable, them to operate for three weeks is about 100 tons per machine in the case of a long-range-bomber, and they use petrol every hour they are in the air equal to that which would be used by 200 10 h.p. motor-cars running all at the same time. Therefore, we must be fair to the administration of the Royal Air Force and say that it was not possible without prolonged preparation. Where the staff of the Royal Air Force were to blame, in my view, was in the original decision to concentrate so largely upon long-range bombers and thus to reduce the strategic mobility of a great part of their striking force.
I am bound to say there is one respect in which the Air Staff has failed, and that is in regard to the dive bomber. The story of the dive bomber provides a dreadful example of the kind of obstinacy which loses wars. There is an unanswerable case for the dive bomber, for everyone who approaches the matter with an impartial mind: France, Norway, Greece, Crete, Malaya, Bir Hacheim and Tobruk. We do not over-estimate the importance of the dive bomber. We do not say that it is an absolutely decisive weapon. If you take the pilots in the Royal Air Force, they say that they would not mind sitting down under the dive bomber, because they know what they can hit and what they cannot hit. They say that if people will only dig slit trenches and sit there until the machines have gone over they will be all right, but you cannot get that into the heads of the infantry, German or British, and it requires a prolonged period of training to bring them to that stage. We have never had dive bombers even to accustom them, under suitable conditions, to that sort of thing.
We heard the statement the day before yesterday of the Secretary of State for War. It was a pathetic statement; it indicated a complete failure in the instrument of decision. After all these years he admitted that discussions were still going on with the Air Ministry in relation to the adoption of the dive bomber. The 568 great mistake that the Air Ministry have made was to make misleading statements, and condemn the dive bomber on the basis of the original Stuka type, knowing all the time that immense technical improvements had been made in the performance of that weapon.
I will just give one more example of the lack of thought and decision. I am not going to say anything about the old controversy between generals, admirals and air marshals, though it is still going on. Admiral Cunningham, landing in the United States, said that it was too early yet to say that the battleship had been rendered obsolete by the aircraft. I really think it is time for the Government to come to some decision on that. The case of the "Scharnhorst" and the "Gneisenau" was a tremendous victory for the thinking power of the German staff. They accepted the certainty of discovery accompanied by air protection over those two battleships as against the chance of escape undiscovered with the certainty that there would be no air protection. That was a classic example of clarity of tactical thought, and I would like to know whether there is anybody exclusively engaged at the Admiralty on problems of that kind.
I want to conform to the desire of the House that speakers should be as brief as possible, and I am now going to say something very briefly about the central direction of the war. It is impossible, in my view, to separate the two offices, at any rate while one of them is held by the present Prime Minister, and further I think that for him to give up either of those two offices at the present time would be an abdication which would throw our war effort into confusion and disarray. Almost all his life has been a training for the responsibilities which rest upon him to-day. I do not believe that any job, however vast, is too big for one man. What restricts the capacity of any individual is not the size of the job but his capacity to delegate to a sufficient degree. I believe that it is in that direction that the Prime Minister has not hitherto succeeded. I believe that it is essential for him to divest himself of some of his duties. I do not say that with any sort of arrière pensée, or as any backdoor method of criticism. I mean it in all sincerity. He is doing too much. He appoints Ministers and public servants, 569 he visits the operations rooms, he presides over the War Cabinet, the Defence Committee and sometimes the General Staffs Committee, he reads to the House the Army news, the Navy news, and sometimes the Air news. I really think that it is astonishing that the Prime Minister, with the whole world horizon of the war before him, should think it necessary if one ship is sunk to come and read a statement to the House about it, to the exclusion of the departmental Minister concerned. He also discharges innumerable duties of a civic and military character which we know little about. In all these things the strain is continuous. There is no holiday for the Prime Minister in war-time. It is small wonder that, while he turns an unfaltering face of defiance to the enemy, he sometimes shows at home a little tenderness towards criticism and gratitude for praise.
But even assuming that the Prime Minister accurately divides up his precious time in answer to all the demands made upon him, who can tell how long the burden must be borne? I hope that he will not shrink from self-examination, and decide whether he is not trying to carry a burden which one day, despite all the Votes of Confidence, will unhappily bear him down, to the further damage of our war effort and our cause. I hope that the vivid writing on the wall, underlined by those of us who will support him in the Lobby, will not go unheeded or spurned. Frankly, we want and we need the Prime Minister and all that is best in his Government—that is our view—but we desire that he will accept the counsel of this House, for only by doing so can he retain its trust until the triumphant end.
§ Captain Profumo (Kettering)
I would like to thank the House for permitting me to intervene for a few minutes until such time as another right hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. I had hoped to speak at some length in this Debate, but I will confine myself to asking hon. Members to regard the matter in front of us at this moment from the angle from which I, as a soldier and a very junior Member of Parliament, am looking at it myself. In an hour or so we shall be asked to give a Vote either of confidence or of no confidence in the central direction of the war, which means, virtually: Are we satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman who is now our Prime 570 Minister or are we not? In so doing we must examine the alternatives. The critics who have spoken during this Debate have put their points of view most clearly and most strongly, but in my opinion have offered no possible alternative to the present constitution of our Government as it stands.
May I, as a serving officer, tell the House—and I can do so quite honestly—that there is great concern in the Forces about our present situation, but there is far greater concern about the habitual critics, who, after every reverse or setback, like lean and hungry dogs smell around for a bone to pick. Let us look at it a little closer. What effect has this Debate had, first, upon members of the Forces, and, secondly, upon the ordinary, uninformed public? Frankly, the effect must be to confuse them. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate put one point of view, and expressed opinions which were not always accurate. He told us at one moment that there were no tanks in Libya which had not been designed before the war. Strictly, that may be true, but every one of the tanks in Libya at the moment has got modifications and improvements which have been made since the war started. In comparison, there are no tanks in the German Army, in any of the Panzer divisions, which were not originally designed before the war. He then talked about the Tank Production Board and told us that it met only once a month. Is it fair for the public to get that picture of the Tank Production Board? Its members may-meet only once a month, but it is no only their meetings which constitute their work. It is delving into the ideas of tank users themselves in the armoured divisions up and down the country and in the arenas of war; so that statement is not very fair. The hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion yesterday disagreed with the Mover. Then we had other speeches in disagreement, and at one moment yesterday a considerable argument about a 4.5 gun which added to the confusion, because not a soul who was arguing about it knew what he was talking about.
How can you expect the average soldier, sailor or airman to train himself to fight with a will, when we, the Legislative Assembly, are sitting here on our benches behind the lines, wrangling and discussing 571 somewhat unimportant things like that? I do not want to give the House the impression that I am not in favour of criticism I most certainly am. This is the first speech I have made in the House, in which I have supported the Government. My first speech, and my very first vote, went against the Government of the day on the occasion of the Debate on Norway. Therefore, I am as keen a critic as any hon. or right hon. Member. But I do feel profoundly at this moment that it is vital that every hon. and right hon. Member should use his vote at the end of this Debate. I have heard hon. Members saying that they are going to abstain. That is not fair. The country and the Armed Forces demand, at this moment, supreme confidence in the direction of the war by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister We will disagree afterwards—possibly we may disagree in private, but certainly we will disagree—and I have a great many criticisms which I hope the House will allow me to put on another occasion. But this awful moment in our war should be the signal for greater co-operation and more concerted effort, for everybody to redouble their efforts and toe the line and pull together. How are we going to persuade the munition workers to make more guns when we have not decided whether they are of the right type or not; to make further aerodromes when we are debating whether the aeroplanes on them are the right ones; to go down the pits and produce the coal when we are arguing about it in Westminster? This is the moment for supreme unity.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
We are doing exactly the same thing as the hon. and gallant Member did when he voted against the Government over Narvik.
§ Captain Profumo
Certainly, but the time was different and there was an obvious alternative. There is one other point I want to make. A great deal of the criticism made in this Debate has been made by people who are not in full possession of the facts. It very often is the case, but when the criticism reaches the public it reaches them in a different form from that in which it is made in this Chamber. There was one moment when the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Production mentioned the Churchill tanks, and an hon. and 572 gallant Member opposite, who calls him self the voice of the Army, said "Where is the Churchill tank?" That is the voice of the Army. If he does not know where the Churchill tank is, then let the voice pipe down. That is the sort of thing that goes out to the public and causes confusion and lack of confidence.
Sir, my time is up; I wanted to say more, but I do feel strongly at this moment that it is time to shelve our own criticisms, large or small, and give the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister the confidence that is due to him for having taken us so far along the road to victory. This is going to be a long war like a boxing match. The boxer often has to take punishment. But if when he goes back to his corner, he is not fanned properly or given a sponge of vinegar to suck, that is not going to help him win. I ask all Members to vote in favour of the Government against this Motion, but in any case to use their votes so that they can go away confident that they have done their duty.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha (Devonport)
I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend who has spoken so sincerely wishes to number me among the habitual critics of the Government. I hope not, for if he would do me the honour of reading the speeches I have made, I think he would find they are balanced, and have not, in any way, been over-critical. This, he said, is a moment when we should all cooperate, and of course I agree with him. But it is above all a moment for wise action, and it is for that reason we are holding this Debate to-day. Confronted with a catastrophe neither the character of which nor the dimensions of which were anticipated even dimly by His Majesty's Government, what is the proper course of action for Parliament to take? It seems to me that there are three alternatives. One is that we should remain silent and impotent while these great events unfold themselves. The current of war, however, is continuous, it is swift, and it is becoming turbulent. For us to stand aside, at this moment would be a confession of impotence. Another suggestion which has been made is that we should discuss the matter in some general way and at large let us say upon the Adjournment. The time for indulgence in mere dialectics has passed. No Debate can be justified now unless it leads to a 573 conclusion. The Government might, of course, have put down a Vote of Confidence in their conduct of operations. From such an act of immodesty we have, at any rate, spared them. The counterpart of a Vote of Confidence is a Vote of Censure, the purpose of which is to bring a subject to a clear-cut issue, and this is a time in which issues should be clear-cut.
It is said that our deliberations will have a bad effect abroad. If the outside world is to retain its confidence in us, it will be most likely to do so if it sees us frankly facing our own difficulties, analysing them, and eradicating them. It is said that the soldiers will be disturbed. Where else are they to look but to this representative assembly? Surely it would depress their morale beyond bearing if we were to ignore the conditions in which they have been, and still are, fighting. Finally, it is said that we break the unity of the nation. The nation well understands the difference between unity and uniformity. We all have one common aim, and we shall all share in the fate of our country, whatever it may be. I seem to remember an occasion, in fact I do remember an occasion, on which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, standing below the Gangway, said:If only 50 Members of the Conservative party went into the Lobby to-night to vote for this Amendment, it would not affect the life of the Government, but it would make them act. It would make a forward movement of real power, of real energy." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th Nov., 1938; col. 1129, Vol. 341.]Well and deeply do I appreciate the feelings of those Members who imagine that if this Motion were carried to its logical conclusion we should add a political upheaval to a military disaster. I understand their point of view, and I share it, but I repeat that if only 50 Members were to go into the Lobby to-day to vote for this Motion it would not affect the life of the Government, but it would make them act. It would make a forward movement of real energy. What my hon. Friends and myself who are associated with this Motion desire is that we should acquire a new realisation of the character of this war, and impart a new impulse to its conduct. Why do we criticise, my hon. Friends and myself, the central direction of the war? Not because we attribute to the central direction of the war all the shortcomings and all the deficiencies; not at all. The good and the bad must be put into fair balance, and 574 we have no desire to do otherwise. Nor do we think that defeats should necessarily be made the cause of complaint, still less of Votes of Censure. We have had many defeats. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, or his colleagues, could complain of the tolerance of the House or of the country.
Every measure for which they have asked has been granted. On a number of occasions we have discussed the war in a friendly manner, as I hope we still are discussing it. But the suggestions that have been made over the last two days have been made before: the warnings that have been uttered have been uttered before. There must come a time when one should ask His Majesty's Government to act upon them. If defeats occur after reasonable risks have been taken, well and good: but if they are attributable to false appreciation, it is not well and good. If situations and prospects are consistently misjudged, neither the tactics nor the equipment can ever suffice to meet them. If you persist in under-estimating your enemy and in overestimating yourself, you are courting disaster.
What is the situation in which we now find ourselves, and how have we been led into it? We are fighting for our sea power, our historic asset. The Government are very much to be congratulated upon the fact that within two months of the fall of France, which we were powerless to avoid, we had complete sea command of the Eastern Mediterranean. That fact was announced on 20th August, 1940. It was repeated at various intervals, and on nth November last my right hon. Friend stated:Rather more than a year ago I announced to Parliament that we were sending a Battle Fleet back into the Mediterranean for the destruction of the German and Italian convoys. The passage of our supplies in many directions through the sea, the broken morale of the Italian Navy, all these show that we are still masters there.On 29th January my right hon. Friend said:This second front in the Western Desert afforded us the opportunity of fighting a campaign against Germany and Italy on terms, most costly to them. If there be any place where we can fight them with marked advantage, it is in the Western Desert and Libya because not only… have we managed to destroy two-thirds of their African Army and a great amount of its equipment and air power. 575 but also to take a formidable toll of all their reinforcements of men and materials, and, above all, of their limited shipping across the Mediterranean, by which they are forced to maintain their supplies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1942; cols. 1012–13, Vol. 377.]I see that Admiral Cunningham thinks we overestimated our success in that direction. He says that, in fact, the enemy got across rather more than we thought he did. We had then established command of the Eastern Mediterranean; and we held it until recently. But command of the Eastern Mediterranean depends upon Alexandria, the only major naval base East of Gibraltar which has been usable by the Fleet. I am going to ask my right hon. Friend, whether the German and Italian claims that the Germans have broken through our Alexandria defences are true? He might tell us when he comes to reply. I sincerely hope that it is not so. Upon Alexandria depends our position in the Eastern Mediterranean. He who holds Alexandria, holds Suez; and he who holds Suez holds the path to our Eastern Empire: he is astride Asia and Africa. Because we hold Suez, we have held our sway in those two Continents. We have acquired thereby our prestige among the Eastern peoples. Thereby also we have increased and multiplied our commerce. Indeed, our situation as a great Power, it would be no exaggeration to say, depends upon that fact. The Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of the Mediterranean are one; for, should we be ousted from the Mediterranean, the Italian naval units will be free to move into other waters. The Axis Powers could send their transports freely to Syria and Palestine, Where they could maintain armies, and they could penetrate to Iraq. The oil for which the panzers and the Luftwaffe are thirsting would be theirs in abundance. They could attack Russia on a second front South of the Caucasus, and break our lines of communication with Russia through the Persian Gulf. That is the situation with which we are confronted, at its worst; but it is better to look at matters at their worst. If the worst should happen, we should be forced back upon this island.
That is the pass to which, if things go badly, we may come. Only a quick and complete reversal of our fortunes can avoid these consequences. We, as comrades and fellow-Members, must face that situation. How did it arise? General 576 Wavell Was, at one time, master in North Africa., He advanced to Benghazi. His advance was there halted. The position was judged to be completely safe. A Governor of Cyrenaica was appointed. We were called upon to send two, if hot three, divisions to Greece. We had an obligation to Greece, which we were bound to honour. We were not bound to honour it in that way. The best service which we could have rendered to Greece, as I and other Members ventured to say at that time, would have been by smashing the Italian Empire completely and invading Southern Italy, rather than going into Northern Greece. Had General Wavell continued his advance from Benghazi, Rommel could never have entered North Africa. The decision was taken. We had a disaster in Greece. We had a worse disaster in Crete. It was held, despite all the experience of Norway, that Crete could withstand an invasion. We lost many ships from assault by shore-based aircraft. It was inevitable that we should. Our naval position was weakened. We lost 300,000 or 400,00o tons of shipping, and General Wavell lost all that he had gained in as many days as it had taken him weeks to acquire it.
When Rommel appeared in Africa his presence was discredited. It was stated that he was not there. Later it was said that he was there but was only in very small force. Either our Intelligence was at fault, as it had been in Norway, or the interpretation of it was inadequate. The Government, with great resolution, set themselves to retrieve this position. They gave priority in the war to Libya. They sent all the supplies possible to Suez and Alexandria. They were assisted by the Americans, who also despatched material, so much indeed, that we were told that the quay accommodation was insufficient. At length we were in a position to recover what we had lost, and on 20th November my right hon. Friend stated:The offensive has been long and elaborately prepared and we have waited for nearly five months in order that our Army should be well equipped with all those weapons which have made their mark in this, new war. … The object is the destruction of Rommel's Army. … The Desert Army is now favourably situated for a trial of strength.… It is far too soon to indulge in any exultation.As indeed it was, for the offensive had hardly begun—…This is the first time British troops have met the Germans at least equally well- 577 armed and equipped and realising the part which a British Victory in Libya will play upon the whole course of the war."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1942; cols. 474 and 475, Vol. 376.]It was on 20th November. There was an elaborately prepared offensive. We were going to meet the Germans at least on equal terms. On the same day a message was sent to all ranks of the Army. It was in these terms, and it was sent by the Prime Minister:I have command from the King to express to all ranks of the Army and the Royal Air Force in the Western Desert and to the Mediterranean Fleet His Majesty's confidence that they will do their duty with exemplary devotion in the supremely important battle which lies before them. For the first time British and Empire troops will meet the Germans with an ample equipment in modern weapons of all kinds. The battle itself will affect the whole course of the war. Now is the time to strike the hardest blow yet struck for final victory, home and freedom. The desert army may add a page to history which will rank with Blenheim and Waterloo. The eyes of all nations are upon you. May God defend the right!Although we were only beginning, the next day, throughout the 24 hours, in every European language the B.B.C. broadcast to the oppressed peoples in all the occupied countries that the Germans were now on the run in Libya and that Britain had smashed Rommel's panzer divisions. Never was an offensive initiated with so much panoply, with so much drum-beating and with so much bugle-sounding. Never were the expectations of the public roused to so high a pitch. On nth December, after a number of, as it seems, extravagant claims had been made by military spokesmen in Cairo, my right hon. Friend identified himself completely with them. He went on to say thatthe Libyan offensive did not take the course which its authors expected though it would reach the end at which they aimed.Having said that, he said later that he made it a rule never to prophesy.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"—he said to an incredulous House—I am bound to say that it seems very probable he will do so.Again:We had a superiority in armour and in the air. … Some of the German tanks carried, as we know, a 6-pounder gun, which though 578 it of course carries many fewer shots is sometimes more effective than the gun with which our tanks are mainly armed.Our tanks were mainly armed with a 2-pounder, which the right hon. Gentleman did not say at the time.However, we had a good superiority in the numbers of armoured vehicles. … Like other people concerned, I had hoped for a quick decision, but it may well be that this wearing down battle will be found in the end to have inflicted a deeper injury upon the enemy than if it had all been settled by manoeuvre and in a few days.He then explained that we could hit the enemy more decisively in this theatre than in any other because we had command of the sea, and could isolate the battlefield. He continued:The enemy, who has fought with the utmost stubbornness and enterprise, has paid the price of his valour, and it may well be that the second phase will gather more easily the fruits of the first. …That is what my right hon. Friend said. He went to America immediately afterwards, and he reiterated there the statement that we had superiority in equipment, and he also said that if he were asked to explain why our arms had proved insufficient in Malay, he could only point to the victories of General Auchinleck in Libya. Very shortly afterwards General Auchinleck, who, like General Wavell, had stopped on the Gulf of Sidra and had not pursued his offensive, was back on the Gazala line. We started then with an ample supply of equipment. It became equipment of equal quality, and it had now become in Washington of superior quality. At the same time it was said that Singapore would be held. In Ottawa immediately afterwards my right hon. Friend said:This fighting in Libya proves that when our men have equal weapons in their hands and proper support from the air, they are more than a match for the Nazi hordes.Again:The German Army is decisively beaten, but its power of resistance has not ceased.So that was the situation when my right hon. Friend was last in America. Did we in fact have equal equipment, or superior equipment, or anything like it? Every military correspondent concurs that we were out-gunned and that our armour was not as good as the armour of the German tanks. We chose to make this offensive, we initiated it. The hon. and learned Member for North Croydon 579 (Mr. Willink) asked me yesterday whether I was not in some way responsible for the qualitative inferiority of our tanks. Well, if I had been, that was a very long time ago, but I can give him an answer on that point which does not rest upon my opinion. I do not wish to refer to these matters, because they are completely irrelevant—we are dealing with statements of the Prime Minister that our equipment is superior—but if my hon. and learned Friend will look at the speech made by Lord Margesson on the last Army Estimates, he will see that our Noble Friend then stated:Before the war our tank and anti-tank gun, the 2-pounder, was, without doubt, the best in the world, and its worth was shown in the battles preceding the evacuation from Dunkirk.In a few sentences I think the sequence of that matter is this: We started the war with a 2-pounder gun which was the best in the world and which could penetrate the armour of the German tanks. This gun was captured in France, where we lost 750 tanks, and the Germans, who had a 37-mm. gun on their tanks—roughly the same calibre as ours—studied our guns, saw that they would penetrate their armour and thickened the armour of their own tanks. The armour of their later models had more resistance than their earlier tanks, and they also improved their anti-tank guns. We are still using Matildas and Valentines and Cruisers, doubtless with certain improvements, but this is roughly the position.
What great advancement in our equipment had been made to justify the Prime Minister making these repeated statements? He says we have a 6-pounder gun. Yes, but we did not have it in a tank. We sent Mr. Westbrook officially to report on equipment in Libya last summer, and he wrote:I reported home among other things—some done—that it was essential to have dive bombers and 6-pounder guns if we were to defeat the enemy. We started last autumn without either and then flew a number of guns out to the middle of the battle.He further said that his suggestionswere frustrated by the indecision and regulations framed by those who are far remote from the difficulties they cause.Well, that has never been unusual in dealing with Governments, either under my right hon. Friend or his predecessors. The 580 fact is that we had nothing to justify the statements that we had superiority of equipment. What I am concerned with is the morale of the Army. If you convince our Army that it has to undertake an offensive with superior, or even equal, armour and you prepare for five months to smash German panzer divisions, and then that Army is utterly routed, confidence is shaken. You have no right to put the Army in that position. To blame generals as you do by inference when you say that your equipment was superior is ungenerous, to blame the Army is unworthy. But to blame your predecessors is contemptible.
While we are on this subject of equipment, I would like to refer to a question which was asked of me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Flight-Lieutenant Boothby). He asked me why the Army had no dive bombers. I would point out that if this offensive, which was so much belauded by the Prime Minister, had turned out well, I do not think the House of Commons would have stopped to pass me a resolution of thanks for the equipment, but I will answer his question about dive bombers. He asked me whether I tried to get dive bombers when I was at the War Office. I would not deal with any subject concerning my term of office—and I never have—unless it had been made public elsewhere. An attack was made upon me in another place because I tried to get an Army Air Force before the war and because I repeated my efforts, of course, while I was in the Government during the war. I do not think I make any revelation when I say that. The Army has no dive bombers or any other planes—none at all. My whole case is that unless you give to a Service control over its own tactical instruments you will never get them properly developed. That is my case. I will proceed now to say a few words upon it, as I have done repeatedly during the last two years. What is the German view of this matter? The Germans continue to make Stukas. If they were guided by the Minister of Production, doubtless they would not do that——
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
My right hon. Friend said that Stukas were not responsible for the fall of Bir Hacheim or 581 Tobruk. Where then have they been used successfully? There is a reluctance to admit that the dive bomber is any good. However, I am not making any attack upon the Minister. I think he made the best of a difficult case yesterday. If he had these difficulties, as I am sure he had, and had come to the House of Commons and said he could not get this superiority of equipment, the House would have sympathised with him. Instead of that he made speeches, like other Members of the Government, saying that we were producing material at such a spate that it had almost become uncontrollable. While in America he said that that country produced every week munitions worth as much as the cost of building the Panama Canal——
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Every six months, then. That is the kind of astronomical picture that is being given to us. But I do not blame him, because I have great respect for him, and I wish him well. As to dive bombers, this is the German view, the view of the man who is actually in charge of these operations in the Mediterranean—Air Marshal Kesselring:The Luftwaffe could never have achieved its task in the recent campaigns of movement had it not constantly paid attention to one factor throughout its training and development, namely, to become part of the Wehrmacht and then to fit itself unconditionally, mentally and practically into the battles of the land forces.There is the great distinction between the German air force and our own. Unless you can get a land mentality, your Army will never have its needs supplied. The same applies to the Navy. The Japanese have developed the use of air power with their navy in the same way that the Germans have developed it with their army. If we had been as successful as the Japanese have been with this combination of air and sea power, we should not have lost the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse." We should have sunk the "Prinz Eugen," and our position in the Mediterranean would have been very different. Remember what Admiral Cunningham said: You cannot preserve your sea power without land-based aeroplanes and they should be given to the Navy forthwith. I want to ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to do anything in that direction before it is too late. The principal justification for a Ministry 582 of Defence, in my judgment, is that you should integrate these arms. If you allow these old differences to be perpetuated neither your Navy, your Air Force nor your Army can exert the influence upon which you rely. We have misjudged this situation, and we are in a serious plight. Even so, I should very much hesitate to press this Motion were not the process of misjudgment continuing. This is what Mr. Samuel Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives, said after the Prime Minister had addressed the leaders in the United States, in company with Mr. Roosevelt:Mr. Churchill indicated that Britain will hold and that there is no danger of losing Egypt.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Of course, I withdraw unconditionally at once. Then I will say that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has since said it, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has since said it.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
If my right hon. Friend denies that, I wall not press it at all. It is enough that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary should have said it. What I am saying is that we may lose Egypt or we may not lose Egypt—I pray God we may not—but when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who said that we would hold Singapore, that we would hold Crete, that we had smashed the German army in Libya, and further came down to the House to celebrate General Auchinleck's victory in the first phase, almost before it had begun—which gave me a quaver down my spine at the time, as it did many other hon. Members—when I read that he had said that we are going to hold Egypt, my anxieties became greater than they otherwise would have been. On his return to this country, a joint statement was issued by the Prime Minister and the President of the United States."There is no doubt," said this statement, "in our minds that the over-all picture is more favourable to victory than it was either in August or December of last year.I want to ask the Prime Minister what he meant by that. Last December we 583 had not lost Singapore, and my right hon. Friend did not anticipate we would lose it. Last December General Auchinleck was attacking and advancing, not retreating. What is meant by that statement? How can one place reliance in judgments that have so repeatedly turned out to be misguided? That is what the House of Commons has to decide. We are concerned less with the fate of the Government than with the fate of the country. It is not by over-confidence, not by boasting or arrogance or rhetoric, that we shall win this war. It is by a humble devotion to our task, with a knowledge of its magnitude and with a knowledge that if we fail, 1,000 years of British history are over. That is why my hon. Friends have put down this Motion. That is why they consider it unseemly that the peace-time practice of pressure or influence should be brought to bear on Members to tell them how to vote. Think what is at stake. In 100 days we lost our Empire in the Far East. What will happen in the next 100 days? Let every Member vote according to his conscience.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)
This long Debate has now reached its final stage. What a remarkable example it has been of the unbridled freedom of our Parliamentary institutions in time of war. Everything that could be thought of or raked up has been used to weaken confidence in the Government, has been used to prove that the Ministers are incompetent and to weaken their confidence in themselves, to make the Army distrust the backing it is getting from the civil power, to make the workmen lose condence in the weapons they are striving so hard to make, to represent the Government as a set of nonentities over whom the Prime Minister towers, and then to undermine him in his own heart and, if possible, before the eyes of the nation. All this poured out by cables and radio to all parts of the world, to the distress of all our friends and to the delight of all our foes. I am in favour of this freedom, which no other country would use, or dare to use, in times of mortal peril such as those through which we are passing. But the story must not end there, and I make now my appeal to the House of Commons to make sure that it does not end there.
584 Although I have done my best, my utmost, to prepare a full and considered statement for the House, I must confess that I have found it very difficult, even during the bitter animosity of the diatribe of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), with all its carefully aimed and calculated hostility, to concentrate my thoughts upon this Debate and to withdraw them from the tremendous and most critical battle now raging in Egypt. At any moment we may receive news of grave importance. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has devoted a large part of his speech, not to this immediate campaign and struggle in Egypt, but to the offensive started in Libya nearly eight months ago, and he, as did the Mover of the Motion of Censure, accused me of making misstatements in saying that, for the first time, our men met the Germans on equal terms in the matter of modern weapons. This offensive was not a failure. Our Armies took 40,000 prisoners. They drove the enemy back 400 miles. They took the great fortified positions on which he had rested so long. They drove him to the very edge of Cyrenaica, and it was only when his tanks had been reduced to 70 or perhaps 80 that, by a brilliant tactical resurgence, the German general set in motion a series of events which led to a retirement I think to a point 150 miles more to the West than that from which our offensive had started. Ten thousand Germans were taken prisoner among those in that fight. I am not at all prepared to regard it as anything but a highly creditable and highly profitable transaction for the Army of the Western Desert. I do not understand why this point should be made now, when, in all conscience, there are newer and far graver matters which fill bur minds.
The military misfortunes of the last fortnight in Cyrenaica and Egypt have completely transformed the situation, not only in that theatre, but throughout the Mediterranean. We have lost upwards of 50,000 men, by far the larger proportion of whom are prisoners, a great mass of material, and, in spite of carefully organised demolitions, large quantities of stores have fallen into the enemy's hands. Rommel has advanced nearly 400 miles through the desert, and is now approaching the fertile Delta of the Nile. The evil effects of these events in Turkey, in Spain, in France and in French North 585 Africa cannot yet be measured. We are at this moment in the presence of a recession of our hopes and prospects in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean unequalled since the fall of France. If there are any would-be profiteers of disaster who feel able to paint the picture in darker colours, they are certainly at liberty to do so.
A painful feature of this melancholy scene was its suddenness. The fall of Tobruk, with its garrison of about 25,000 men, in a single day was utterly unexpected. Not only was it unexpected by the House and the public at large, but by the War Cabinet, by the Chiefs of the Staff and by the General Staff of the Army. It was also unexpected by General Auchinleck and the High Command in the Middle East. On the night before its capture, we received a telegram from General Auchinleck that he had allotted what he believed to be an adequate garrison, that the defences were in good order, and that 90 days' supplies were available for the troops. It was hoped that we could hold the very strong frontier positions, which had been built up by the Germans and improved by ourselves, from Sollum to Halfaya Pass, from Capuzzo to Fort Maddalena. From this position our newly-built railroad ran backwards at right angles, and we were no longer formed to a flank—as the expression goes—with our backs to the sea, as we had been in the earlier stages of the new Libyan battle. General Auchinleck expected to maintain these positions until the powerful reinforcements which were approaching, and have in part arrived, enabled him to make a much stronger bid to seize the initiative for a counter-offensive.
The question of whether Tobruk could be held or not is difficult and disputable. It is one of those questions which are more easy to decide after the event than before it. It is one of those questions which could be decided only with full knowledge of the approaching reinforcements. The critics have a great advantage in these matters. As the racing saying goes, they "stand on velvet." If we had decided to evacuate the place, they could have gone into action on "the pusillanimous and cowardly scuttle from Tobruk," which would have made quite a promising line of advance. But those who are responsible for carrying on the war have no such easy options open. They 586 have to decide beforehand. The decision to hold Tobruk and the dispositions made for that purpose were taken by General Auchinleck, but I should like to say that we, the War Cabinet and our professional advisers, thoroughly agreed with General Auchinleck beforehand, and, although in tactical matters the Commander-in-Chief in any war theatre is supreme and his decision is final, we consider that, if he was wrong, we were wrong too, and I am very ready on behalf of His Majesty's Government to take my full share of responsibility. The hon Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) asked where the order for the capitulation of Tobruk came from. Did it come from the battlefield, from Cairo, from London or from Washington? In what a strange world of thought he is living, if he imagines I sent from Washington an order for the capitulation of Tobruk. The decision was taken to the best of my knowledge by the Commander of the Forces, and certainly it was most unexpected to the Higher Command in the Middle East.
When I left this country for the United States on the night of 17th June, the feeling which I had, which was fully shared by the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was that the struggle in the Western Desert had entered upon a wearing down phase, or a long battle of exhaustion, similar to that which took place in the autumn. Although I was disappointed that we had not been able to make a counter-stroke after the enemy's first onslaught had been, I will not say repulsed but rebuffed and largely broken, this was a situation with which we had no reason to be discontented. Our resources were much larger than those of the enemy, and so were our approaching reinforcements. This desert warfare proceeds among much confusion and interruption of communications, and it was only gradually that the very grievous and disproportionate losses which our armour sustained in the fighting around and south of Knightsbridge became apparent.
Here I will make a short digression on to a somewhat less serious plane. Complaint has been made that the newspapers have been full of information of a very rosy character. Several hon. Members have referred to that in the Debate, and that the Government have declared themselves less fully informed than newspapers. Surely this is very natural while a battle of this kind is going on? There 587 never has been in this war a battle in which so much liberty has been given to war correspondents. They have been allowed to roam all over the battlefield, taking their chance of getting killed, and sending home their very full messages whenever they can reach a telegraph office. This is what the Press have always asked for, and it is what they got. These war correspondents, moving about amid the troops and sharing their perils, have also shared their hopes and have been inspired by their buoyant spirit. They have sympathised with the fighting men whose deeds they have been recording, and they have, no doubt, been extremely anxious not to write anything which would spread discouragement or add to their burdens.
I have a second observation to make on this minor point. The war correspondents have nothing to do except to collect information, write their despatches and get them through the censor. On the other hand, the generals who are conducting the battle have other preoccupations. They have to fight the enemy. Although we have always asked that they should keep us informed as much as possible, our policy has been not to worry them but to leave them alone to do their job. Now and then I send messages of encouragement and sometimes a query or a suggestion, but it is absolutely impossible to fight battles from Westminster or Whitehall. The less one interferes the better, and certainly I do not want generals in close battle, and these desert battles are close, prolonged and often peculiarly indeterminate, to burden themselves by writing full stories on matters upon which, in the nature of things, the home Government is not called upon to give any decision. After all, there is nothing we can do about it here while it is going on, or only at very rare intervals. Therefore, the Government are more accurately, but less speedily, less fully and less colourfully informed than the newspapers. That is the explanation. It is not proposed to make any change in this procedure.
To return to my general theme; when on the morning of Sunday, the 21st, I went into the President's room I was greatly shocked to be confronted with a report that Tobruk had fallen. I found it difficult to believe, but a few minutes later my own telegram forwarded from 588 London, arrived. I hope the House will realise what a bitter pang this was to me. What made it worse was being on an important mission in the country of one of our great Allies. Some people assume too readily that, because a Government keeps cool and has steady nerves under reverses, its members do not feel the public misfortunes as keenly as do independent critics. On the contrary, I doubt whether anyone feels greater sorrow or pain than those who are responsible for the general conduct of our affairs. It was an aggravation in the days that followed to read distorted accounts of the feeling in Britain and in the House of Commons.
The House can have no idea how its proceedings are represented across the ocean. Questions are asked, comments are made by individual members or by independents who represent no organised grouping of political power, which are cabled verbatim, and often quite honestly taken to be the opinion of the House of Commons. Lobby gossip, echoes from the smoking room and talk in Fleet Street are worked up into serious articles seeming to represent that the whole basis of British political life is shaken, or is tottering. A flood of expectation and speculation is let loose. Thus I read streamer headlines like this: "Commons demand Churchill return face accusers," or "Churchill returns to supreme political crisis." Such an atmosphere is naturally injurious to a British representative engaged in negotiating great matters of State upon which the larger issues of the war depend. That these rumours coming from home did not prejudice the work I had to do was due solely to the fact that our American friends are not fair-weather friends. They never expected that this war would be short or easy, or that its course would not be chequered by lamentable misfortunes. On the contrary, I will admit that I believe in this particular case the bonds of comradeship between all the men at the top were actually strengthened. All the same, I must say I do not think any public man charged with a high mission from this country ever seemed to be barracked from his home land in his absence—unintentionally, I can well believe—to the extent that befell me while on this visit to the United States, and only my unshakable confidence in the ties which bind me to the mass of the British people upheld me through those days of trial.
589 I naturally explained to my hosts that those who were voluble in Parliament in no way represented the House of Commons, just as the small handful of correspondents who make it their business to pour out damaging tales about our affairs to the United States, and I must add to Australia, in no way represent the honourable profession of journalism. I also explained that all this would be put to the proof when I returned by the House of Commons as a whole expressing a responsible, measured and deliberate opinion, and that is what I am going to ask it to do to-day.
I noticed that it was stipulated that I should not be allowed to refer in any way in the statement I am now making, or in a statement about Libya, to the results of my mission in the United States. I suppose it was not wished that I should be able to plead any extenuating and correlative circumstances. But I must make it clear that I accept no fetters on my liberty of debate except those imposed by the rules of Order or by the public interest. I have a worthier reason, however, for not speaking at length about my American mission further than the published statement agreed upon between the President and me. Here is the reason. Our conversations were concerned with nothing, or almost nothing, but the movement of troops, ships, guns and aircraft and with the measures to be taken to combat the losses at sea and to replace, and more than replace, the sunken tonnage.
Here I will turn aside to meet a complaint which I have noticed that the Minister of Defence should have been in Washington when the disaster at Tobruk occurred. But Washington was the very place where he should have been. It was there that the most urgent future business of the war was being transacted, not only in regard to the general scene but also in regard to the particular matters that were passing. Almost everything I arranged in the United States with the President and his advisers is secret, in the sense that it must be kept from the enemy, and I have therefore nothing to tell about it, except this—that the two great English-speaking nations were never closer together and that there never was a more earnest desire between Allies to engage the enemy or a more whole-hearted resolve to run all risks and make all sacrifices in order to wage this hard war with vigour 590 and carry it to a successful conclusion. That assurance, at least, I can give the House.
I hope there will be no disparagement of the United States shipbuilding programme. We are making considerable shipbuilding efforts ourselves. We could only increase our output at the expense of other indispensable munitions and services. But the United States is building in the present calendar year about four times as much gross tonnage—not dead weight but gross tonnage—as we are building, and I am assured that she will launch between eight and 10 times as much as we are building in the calendar year 1943. Shipping losses have been very heavy lately, and the bulk has been upon the Eastern shores of America. The most strenuous measures are being taken to curtail this loss, and I do not doubt that they will be substantially reduced as the masses of escort vessels now under construction come into service and the convoy system and other methods of defence come into full and effective operation. These measures, combined with the great shipbuilding effort of the United States and the British Empire, should result in a substantial gain in tonnage at the end of 1943 over and above that which we now possess, even if, as I cannot believe, the rate of loss is not substantially reduced. This we shall owe largely to the prodigious exertions of the Government and people of the United States, who share with us, fully and freely, according to our respective needs and duties in this as in all other parts of our war programme.
I have not trespassed very long on the United States aspect, although that is the most vital sphere, and I return to the Desert and to the Nile. I hope the House will realise that I have a certain difficulty in defending His Majesty's Government from the various attacks which have been made upon them in respect of materials and preparation, because I do not want to say anything that can be shifted, even by the utmost ingenuity of malice, into a reflection upon our commanders in the field, still less upon the gallant men they lead. Yet I must say that one of the most painful parts of this battle is that in its opening stages we were defeated under conditions which gave a good and reasonable expectation of success. During the whole of the spring we had been desirous that the Army of the Western Desert should begin an offensive against the 591 enemy. The regathering and reinforcement of our Army was considered to be a necessary reason for delay, but of course this delay helped the enemy also. At the end of March and during the whole of April, he concentrated a very powerful air force in Sicily and delivered a tremendous attack upon Malta, of which the House was made aware at the time by me. This attack exposed the heroic garrison and inhabitants of Malta to an ordeal of extreme severity. For several weeks hundreds of German and Italian aircraft—it is estimated more than 600, of which the great majority were Germans—streamed over in endless waves in the hopes of overpowering the defences of the island fortress. There has never been any case in this war of a successful defence against a superior air power being made by aircraft which have only two or three airfields to work from. Malta is the first exception. At one time they were worn down to no more than a dozen fighters, yet, aided by their powerful batteries, by the ingenuity of the defence and by the fortitude of the people, they maintained an unbroken resistance. We continued to reinforce them from the Western Mediterranean as well as from Egypt by repeated operations of difficulty and hazard, and maintained a continuous stream of Spitfire aircraft in order to keep them alive, in spite of the enormous wastage, not only in the air but also in the limited airfields on the ground. As part of this, hundreds of fighter aircraft have been flown in from aircraft carriers by the Royal Navy, and we were assisted by the United States Navy, whose carrier "Wasp" rendered notable service on more than one occasion, enabling me to send them the message of thanks, "Who says a wasp cannot sting twice?" By all these exertions, Malta lived through this prodigious and prolonged bombardment, until at last, at the beginning of May, the bulk of the German aircraft, already weakened by most serious losses, had to be withdrawn for the belated German offensive on the Russian front.
Malta had come through its fearful ordeal triumphant and is now stronger in aircraft than ever before. But during the period when this assault was at its height, it was practically impossible for the fortress to do much to impede the reinforcements which were being sent to Tripoli and Benghazi. This, no doubt, 592 was part of the purpose, though not the whole purpose, of the extraordinary concentration of air power which the enemy had thought fit to devote to the attack. The enemy did not get Malta, but they got a lot of stuff across to Africa. Remember that it takes four months to send a weapon round the Cape and perhaps a week or even less to send it across the Mediterranean—provided it gets across. Remember also that the great number of these desertised Spitfires, if not involved in very severe fighting at Malta, would have been available to strengthen our Spitfire force in the battle which has been proceeding. Thus it may well be that we were relatively no better off in the middle of May than we had been in March or April.
However, the armies drew up in the Desert in the middle of May about 100,000 a side. We had 100,000 men, and the enemy 90,000, of whom 50,000 were Germans. We had a superiority in the numbers of tanks—I am coming to the question of quality later—of perhaps seven to five. We had a superiority in artillery of nearly eight to five. Included in our artillery were several regiments of the latest form of gun howitzer which throws a 55-pound shell 20,000 yards. There were other artillery weapons, of which I cannot speak, also available. It is not true, therefore, as I have seen it stated, that we had to face 50-pounder guns of the enemy with only 25-pounder guns. The 25-pounder, I may say, is one of the finest guns in Europe and a perfectly new weapon which has only begun to flow out since the war began. It is true that the enemy, by the tactical use which he made of his 88 mm. anti-aircraft guns, converting them to a different purpose, and his anti-tank weapons gained a decided advantage. But this became apparent only as the battle proceeded. Our Army enjoyed throughout the battle and enjoys to-day superiority in the air. The dive bombers of the enemy played a prominent part at Bir Hakeim and Tobruk, but it is not true that they should be regarded as a decisive or even as a massive factor in this battle. Lastly, we had better and shorter lines of communication than the enemy, our railway being already beyond Fort Capuzzo and a separate line of communications running by the sea to the well-supplied base and depot of Tobruk.
593 We were, therefore, entitled to feel good confidence in the result of an offensive undertaken by us, and this would have been undertaken in the early days of June if the enemy had not struck first. When his preparations for an offensive became plainly visible, it was decided, and I think rightly, to await the attack in our fortified positions and then to deliver a counter-stroke in the greatest possible strength.
Here, then, were these armies face to face in the most forbidding and desolate region in the world, under conditions of extreme artificiality, able to reach each other only through a peculiar use of the appliances of modern war. The enemy's army had come across a. disputed sea, paying a heavy toll to our submarines, and except for the period when Malta was neutralised, to the Malta Air Force. The Imperial Forces had almost all come 12,000 miles through submarines which beset the British shores, and round the Cape to Suez or from South Africa and India. One may say that the forces assembled on both sides in this extraordinary situation represented a war effort which in other theatres would have amounted to three or four times their numbers. Such was the position when, on 26th May, Rommel made his first onslaught.
It is not possible for me to give any final account of the battle. Events move with such rapidity that there is no time to disentangle the past: one tale is good till another is told. Any hasty judgment would be more exciting than true. The main features may however be discerned. Rommel had expected to take Tobruk in the first few days, but the reception which he got deranged his plan. Very heavy losses in armour were sustained by both sides. However he held tenaciously to the inroad he had made, and we were so mauled in the struggle that no effective counter-stroke could be delivered. On 4th June an attempt was made, but was repulsed by a counter-attack with heavy loss by artillery. The battle then centred upon Bir Hakeim, where the Free French resisted with the utmost gallantry. Around this the struggle surged for eight or nine days. Finally it was decided to withdraw the garrison, and this was successfully accomplished, though with heavy losses.
Here, no doubt, was a turning point in the battle. Whether anything more could 594 have been done we cannot tell. Certainly very large numbers of troops remained on fronts which were not engaged, and certainly Rommel and his. Germans punched on unflaggingly day after day. After the fall of Bir Hakeim another five days of fighting occurred round the Knightsbridge and Acroma positions. Up till 13th June the battle was equal. Our recovery process had worked well. Both sides lost, I will not say evenly, but proportionately, because our numbers were greater, and we could expect to lose more while keeping even. But on the 13th there came a change. On that morning we had about 300 tanks in action, and by nightfall no more than 70 remained, excluding the light Stuart tanks; and all this happened without any corresponding loss having been inflicted on the enemy. Sir, I do not know whit actually happened in the fighting of that day. I am only concerned to give the facts to the House, and it is for the House to decide whether these facts result from the faulty central direction of the war, for which of course I take responsibility, or whether they resulted from the terrible hazards and unforeseeable accidents of battle. With this disproportionate destruction of our armour Rommel became decisively the stronger. The battlefield passed into the hands of the enemy, and the enemy's wounded tanks could be repaired by his organisation while all our wounded tanks were lost to us.
Many evil consequences followed inevitably from this one day's fighting. There came the decision to withdrawn from the Gazala position. The South African Division was withdrawn into Tobruk, and moved through Tobruk further East, without heavy loss. The main part of the 50th English Division extricated itself by a 120-mile journey round the Southern flank of the enemy. In the desert, everything is mobile and mechanised, and when the troops move they can move enormous distances forward or back. The old conceptions and measurements of war do not apply at all. One hundred miles may be lost or won in a day or a night. There followed the decision to hold Tobruk together with the Halfaya-Sollum-Capuzzo-Maddalena line, which I have already mentioned, and then the fall of Tobruk after only one single day of fighting.
This entailed withdrawal from the Sollum-Halfaya line to the Mersa Matruh 595 position, which placed 125 miles of waterless desert between the 8th Array and its foes. Most authorities expected that 10 days or a fortnight would be gained by this. However, on the 5th day, on 26th June, Rommel presented himself with his armoured and motorised forces in front of this new position. Battle was joined on the 27th along the whole front, and for the first time I am glad to say our whole Army, which had been heavily reinforced with new and fresh troops, was engaged all together at one time. Although we consider we inflicted very heavy damage upon the enemy the advance of the German Light Division together with the remainder of the Panzer Corps, 100 to 150 heavily armed tanks, which is about what it amounted to—led to our further retirement owing to the destruction of our armour. Naturally, I am not in a position to tell the House about the reinforcements which have reached the Army or which are approaching, except that they are very considerable, and after the lecture I have been read by the right hon. Gentleman apparently it is wrong even to say that we shall hold Egypt. I suppose one ought to say we are going to lose Egypt. But I will go so far as to say that we do not regard the struggle as in any way decided.
Although I am not mentioning reinforcements, there is one reinforcement which has come, which has been in close contact with the enemy and which he knows all about. I mean the New Zealand Division. The Government of New Zealand, themselves under potential menace of invasion, authorised the fullest use being made of their troops, whom they have not withdrawn or weakened in any way. They have sent them into the battle, where, under the command of the heroic Freyberg, again wounded, they have acquitted themselves in a manner equal to all their former records. They are fighting hard at the moment.
Although the Army in Libya has been so far overpowered and driven back, I must make it clear, on behalf of the challenged central direction of the war, that this was not due to any conscious or wilful grudging of reinforcements in men or material. Of course, the emergency of the Japanese war had led to the removal of a part of the Australian Forces to defend their homeland, and very rightly. In fact, it was I who sug- 596 gested to them that they should not consider themselves bound in the matter, having regard to their own danger. Several important units of British troops had to go to India which, a little while ago, seemed threatened by invasion. Other Forces in India which were due to proceed to the Middle East had to be retained there. But extreme exertions have been made by the home Government for the last two years to strengthen and maintain the Armies in the Middle East. During that time, apart altogether from reinforcements to other theatres, there have gone to the Middle East from this country, from the Empire overseas and to a lesser extent from the United States, more than 950,000 men, 4,500 tanks, 6,000 aircraft, nearly 5,000 pieces of artillery, 50,000 machine guns and over 100,000 mechanical vehicles. We have done this in a period, let the House remember before they dismiss our efforts and our designs as inadequate to the occasion, when for a large part of the time we were threatened with imminent invasion here at home and during the rest of it were sending large supplies to Russia. So far as the central direction of the war is concerned, I can plead with some confidence that we have not failed in the exertions we have made or in the skill we have shown.
Now I come to the question of the qualify of some of our material, to the design and armour of our tanks and to our anti-tank artillery. This was dealt with at some length yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, and by Lord Beaverbrook in another place. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that the House should read carefully that extremely masterly, intricate and authoritative statement of facts upon these matters. I do not attempt to go into them in detail here, as I should keep the House beyond the time they have so generously accorded me, but I must ask the House to allow me to place the salient points of the tank story before them.
The idea of the tank was a British conception. The use of armoured forces as they are now being used was largely French, as General de Gaulle's book shows. It was left to the Germans to convert those ideas to their own use. For three or four years before the war they were busily at work with their usual 597 thoroughness upon design and manufacture of tanks, and also upon the study and practice of armoured warfare. One would have thought that even if the Secretary of State for War of those days could not get the money for large scale manufacture he would at any rate have had full-size working models made and tested out exhaustively, and the factories chosen and the jigs and gauges supplied, so that he could go into mass production of tanks and anti-tank weapons when the war began.
When what I may call the Belisha period ended we were left with some 250 armoured vehicles, very few of which carried even a 2-pounder gun. Most of these were captured or destroyed in France. After the war began the designs were settled and orders on a large scale were placed by the right hon. Gentleman. For more than a year, until Hitler attacked Russia, the threat of invasion hung over us, imminent, potentially mortal. There was no time to make improvements at the expense of supply. We had to concentrate upon numbers, upon quantity instead of quality. There was a major decision to which I have no doubt we were rightly guided.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
May I interrupt? I should have thought that if my right hon. Friend wanted to make some reference to technical matters during my period he would have told me, so that I could have the facts. That being so I must inform the House that a very long time ago, in the Debate on Greece in May, 1941, my right hon. Friend made certain charges about my period at the War Office in relation to tanks. I then had not the facts. I had to secure them from the War Office, and that I did on 23th June, and I think in justice I must read this letter to the House:The Prime Minister was, I understand, intending to develop the argument that whereas in the last war tanks were slow in movement and designed to be proof against ordinary bullets only, it would have been natural to suppose that the preparations for this war would have included the energetic development of fast tanks which would also be sufficiently armoured to stand up against cannon fire. In so far as the Prime Minister's statement is capable of this interpretation, that you definitely ignored or rejected the advice of the General Staff to introduce tanks having both those qualities, it is not borne out by the fact. The Purple Primer of 1931 was only concerned with advocating a tank capable of resisting armour-piercing bullets and not artillery fire.598 That is a direct contravention of an attack made upon me in May, 1941. My right hon. Friend is now making another attack on technical grounds with reference to my period, and I think he might have notified me in advance so that I might have access to the facts for my defence.
§ The Prime Minister
I was only citing the facts as they are known to me; I have not been concerned to make a detailed attack upon the right hon. Gentleman's administration of the War Office. I am explaining that we had, at the time after Dunkirk, to concentrate upon numbers. We had to make thousands of armoured vehicles with which our troops could beat the enemy off the beaches when they landed and fight them in the lanes and fields of Kent or Norfolk.
When the first new tanks came out they had grievous defects, the correction of which caused delay, and this would have been avoided if the preliminary experiments on the scale of 12 inches to the foot—full scale—had been carried out at an earlier period. Is that a very serious attack? Undoubtedly delay would have been saved if we had had the model there and worked it. How do you make a tank? People design it, they argue about it, they plan it and make it, and then you take the tank and test and re-test it. When you have got it absolutely settled you go into production, and only then do you go into production. But we have never been able to indulge in the luxury of that precise and leisurely process. We have had to take it straight off the drawing board and go into full production, and take the chance of the many errors which the construction will show coming out after hundreds and thousands of them have been made.
§ The Prime Minister
At the present moment I have not got there. At the present moment I am only dealing with the Matildas, Cruisers and Valentines, which I may say belong to the Belisha group. Nevertheless, I was about to say that in spite of the fact that there was this undoubted delay through no preliminary work having been carried as far as it should have been, it would be wrong in my opinion to write off as useless the Matilda, the Cruiser and the Valentine 599 tanks. They have rendered great services, and they are to-day of real value. In Russia the Valentine is highly rated. Has the House any idea of the number of tanks we have sent to Russia? As I said, we have sent 4,500 altogether to the Nile Valley. We have sent over 2,000 tanks to Russia, and the Russians are using them against the German armour, with vigour and effect. Therefore, I am not prepared to say that it is right to dismiss these weapons—although their appearance was retarded by the circumstances which I have mentioned—as not effective and powerful weapons of war.
Shortly after the present National Government was formed, in June, 1940, to be exact, I called a meeting of all authorities to design and make a new tank, capable of speedy mass production and adapted to the war conditions to be foreseen in 1942. In 1942—that was the test. Of course I do not attempt to settle the technical details of tank design any more than I interfere with the purely tactical decisions of generals in the field. All the highest expert authorities were brought together several times and made to hammer out a strong and heavy tank, adapted primarily for the defence of this Island against invasion, but capable of other employment in various theatres. This tank, the A.22, was ordered off the drawing board, and large numbers went into production very quickly. As might be expected, it had many defects and teething troubles, and when these became apparent the tank was appropriately re-christened the "Churchill." These defects have now been largely overcome. I am sure that this tank will prove, in the end, a powerful, massive and serviceable weapon of war. A later tank, possessing greater speed, was designed about a year after, and plans have been made to put it into production at the earliest moment.
Neither of these types has yet been employed against the enemy. He has not come here, and, although I sent the earliest two that were made out to Egypt to be tested and made desert-worthy, none has yet reached a stage where it can be employed at that distance. It must be remembered that to get a tank from this country, or a gun, into the hands of troops in the Nile Valley or in the desert takes about six months. Hon. Members will see that the date on which this battle 600 began was a date before we could have got the new and improved weapon into the hands' of the troops. For this battle—for the first battle I say the equipment was adequate—we tried to make up by numbers for an admitted inferiority in quality.
I have been asked by the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate to speak about dive bombers and transport aircraft. I can only say that the highest technical authorities still hold very strong opinions on either side of this question. Of course, you cannot judge whether we ought to have had dive bombers at any particular date without also considering what we should have had to give up if we had had them. Most of the Air-Marshals, the leading men in the Air Force, think little of dive bombers, and they persist in their opinion. They are entitled to respect for their opinion, because it was from the same source that the 8-gun fighter was designed which destroyed so many hundreds of the dive bombers in the Battle of Britain and has enabled us to preserve ourselves free and uninvaded.
§ The Prime Minister
In what way does that affect the argument I am holding, namely, that if we had made dive bombers instead of 8-gun fighter aircraft, we might not have had the 8-gun fighter aircraft to shoot down the JU.87's when they came over? I remember well, 40 years ago, rising to interrupt the late Mr. Balfour, and, after I had said what I had to say, he rebuked me by saying, "I thought my hon. Friend rose to correct me on some point of fact, but it appears that he only wishes to continue the argument." Now there is no doubt whatever that the Army desire to have dive bombers, and, nearly two years ago orders were placed for them. They have not come to hand in any number yet. That is a detailed story which I certainly do not wish to press, if it should be thought in any way that we were throwing any blame off our shoulders onto those of the United States. On the point of priority, the case is clear, when 601 you have, as you had then in the United States, an immense market, an immense productive sphere and no priority questions had arisen. The rate at which the product was evolved was not influenced by the priority position. It was influenced by various incidents—changes of design and so forth—which occurred.
The dive bomber against ships at sea appears to me to be a still more dangerous weapon. I say that because this is my own opinion on the matter, but as to transport aircraft I wish, indeed, we had 1,000 transport aircraft; but if we had built 1,000 of these unarmed transport aircraft, it would have cut off our already far from adequate bomber force. I know there is a tendency to deride and disparage the bomber effort against Germany, but I think that is a very great mistake. There is no doubt that this bomber offensive against Germany is one of the most powerful means we have of carrying on an offensive war against Germany. We did not like it when the blitz was on, but we bore it. Everyone knows that it was the main preoccupation of the Government and the municipal authorities of that day, with factories being delayed in their work, ports congested and so forth. We, at any rate, had hope. We felt that we were on the rising tide. More was coming to us, and, moreover, we were buoyed up by the sympathy of the world—"London can take it" and so on. No such consolations are available in Germany. Nobody speaks with admiration and says, "Cologne can take it." They say, "Serve them right." That is the view of the civilised world. In addition to that, they know that this attack is not going to get weaker. It is going to get continually stronger until, in my view, it will play a great and perfectly definite part in abridging the course of this war, in taking the strain off our Russian Allies, and in reducing the building and construction of submarines and other weapons of war. Of course, one would like to have had both, but at this moment, much though we need transport aircraft, I am not at all sure, if I were offered a- gift of 1,000 heavy bombers or 1,000 transports, which I should choose. I should take advice.
To return to the main argument which is before the House, I will willingly accept, indeed I am bound to accept, what the Noble Lord has called the "constitutional responsibility" for everything 602 that has happened and I consider that I discharged that responsibility by not interfering with the technical handling of armies in contact with the enemy. But before the battle began I urged General Auchinleck to fake the command himself, because I was sure nothing was going to happen in the vast area of the Middle East in the next month or two comparable in importance to the fighting of this battle in the Western Desert, and I thought he was the man to handle the business. He gave me various good reasons for not doing so, and General Ritchie fought the battle. As I told the House on Tuesday, General Auchinleck, on 25th June, superseded General Ritchie and assumed the command himself. We at once approved his decision, but I must frankly confess that the matter was not one on which we could form any final judgment, so far as the superseded officer is concerned. I cannot pretend to form a judgment upon what has happened in this battle. I like commanders on land and sea and in the air to feel that between them and all forms of public criticism the Government stand like a strong bulkhead. They ought to have a fair chance, and more than one chance. Men may make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Men may have bad luck, and their luck may change. But anyhow you will not get generals to run risks unless they feel they have behind them a strong Government. They will not run risks unless they feel that they need not look over their shoulders or worry about what is happening at home, unless they feel they can concentrate their gaze upon the enemy. And you will not, I may add, get a Government to run risks unless they feel that they have got behind them a loyal, solid majority. Look at the things we are being asked to dare now, and imagine the kind of attack which would be made on us if we tried to do them and failed. In war time if you desire service you must give loyalty.
General Auchinleck is now in direct command of the battle. It is raging with great intensity. The communiqué which has been issued on the tape—I have not had any news myself—states that the attacks yesterday were repulsed. But the battle is of the most intense and serious character. We have assured General Auchinleck of our confidence, and I believe it will be found that this confidence has not been misplaced. I am not going to express any opinion about 603 what is going to happen. I cannot tell the House—and the enemy—what reinforcements are at hand, or are approaching, or when they will arrive. I have never made any predictions except things like saying that Singapore would hold out. What a fool and a knave I should have been to say that it would fall. I have not made any arrogant, confident, boasting predictions at all. On the contrary, I have stuck hard to my blood, toil, tears and sweat, to which I have added muddle and mismanagement, and that, to some extent I must admit, is what you have got out of it.
I repudiate altogether the suggestion that I misled the House on and June about the present campaign. All I said was that:…it is clear that we have every reason to be satisfied, and more than satisfied, with the course which the battle has so far taken and that we should watch its further development with earnest attention."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June; col. 533, Vol. 380.]Nothing could be more guarded. I do not know what my critics would like me to say now. If I predict success and speak in buoyant terms and misfortune continues, their tongues and pens will be able to dilate on my words. On the other hand, if I predict failure and paint the picture in the darkest hues—I have painted it in pretty dark hues—I might safeguard myself against one danger, but only at the expense of a struggling Army. Also I might be wrong. So I will say nothing about the future except to invite the House and the nation to face with courage whatever it may unfold.
I now ask the House to take a wider survey. Since Japan attacked us six months ago in the Far East we have suffered heavy losses there. A peace-loving nation like the United States, confined by two great oceans, naturally takes time to bring its gigantic forces to bear. I have never shared the view that this would be a short war, or that it would end in 1942. It is far more likely to be a long war. There is no reason to suppose that the war will stop when the final result has become obvious. The Battle of Gettysburg proclaimed the ultimate victory of the North, but far more blood was shed after the Battle of Gettysburg than before. At the same time, in spite of our losses in Asia, in spite of our defeats in Libya, in spite of the increased sinkings off the American 604 coast, I affirm with confidence that the general strength and prospects of the United Nations have greatly improved since the turn of the year, when I last visited the President in the United States' The outstanding feature is of course the steady resistance of Russia to the invaders of her soil, and the fact that up to now at the beginning of July, more than halfway through the summer, no major offensive has been opened by Hitler upon Russia, unless he calls the present attacks on Kharkov and Kursk a major offensive. There is no doubt that the Russian Government and nation, wedded by the ties of blood, sacrifice and faith to the English speaking democracies of the West, will continue to wage war, steadfast, stubborn, invincible. I make no forecast of the future. All I know is that the Russians have surprised Hitler before and I believe they will surprise him again. Anyhow whatever happens they will fight on to death or victory. This is the cardinal fact at this time.
The second great fact is the growth of air power on the side of the Allies. That growth is proceeding with immense rapidity and is bound to manifest itself as the months pass by. Hitler made a contract with the demon of the air, but the contract ran out before the job was done, and the demon has taken on an engagement with the rival firm. How truly it has been said that nations and people very often fall by the very means which they have used and built their hopes upon for their rising up.
For the last six months our convoys to the East have grown. Every month about 50,000 men with the best equipment we can make have pierced through the U-boats and hostile aircraft which beset these islands, and have rounded the-Cape of Good Hope. That this should have been done so far without loss constitutes an achievement prodigious and unexampled in history. As these successive Armies, for they are little less, round the Cape we decide where they are to go. Some months ago Australia feared that an invasion was imminent. If so, our Forces would have gone to aid our kith and kin irrespective of the position in the Middle East. Personally, I have never thought that the homeland of Australia would be heavily invaded by Japan in the present year, and now that the Australian manhood is armed and in the field, and that a 605 large American Army has arrived in Australia and in the island stepping stones across the Pacific as a feature of the central direction of the war, I am confident that the mass invasion of Australia would be a most hazardous and unprofitable operation for Japan. On the contrary, throughout the whole of the South-West Pacific the watchword of the Allies is now "attack."
In March and April last we were deeply anxious about India, which, before Japan entered the war, had been stripped almost bare of trained troops and equipment for the sake of other theatres. India has now been strongly reinforced. A far larger Army, British and Indian, stands in India under the command of General Wavell than ever before in the history of the British connection. Ceylon, which at one time appeared to be in great jeopardy, is now strongly defended by naval, air and military forces. We have secured a protective naval base in Madagascar. When I remember reading an article by the right hon. Gentleman headed, "Take Madagascar Now"—I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman, as he could not know that our troops had been some weeks on the sea—I really wonder whether he might not have found time to make some acknowledgment of the speed and efficiency with which his direction had been carried out.
All this improvement in the position of Australia, New Zealand and India has been effected in the main by. the brilliant victories gained by the United States Navy and Air Force over the Japanese in the Coral Sea and at Midway Island. No fewer than four out of eight Japanese regular aircraft carriers—vessels which take four years to make—have been sunk, as well as one of their converted auxiliary carriers. When the Japanese came into the Bay of Bengal at the beginning of April with five carriers, we were caused great anxiety, but five are now at the bottom of the sea; and the Japanese, whose resources are strictly limited, are beginning to count their capital units on their fingers and toes. These splendid achievements have not received the attention they deserve in this island. Superb acts of devotion have been performed by the American airmen. From some of their successful attacks on the Japanese aircraft carriers only one aircraft returned out of 10; in others, the loss was more than half. 606 But the work has been done, and the position in the Pacific has been definitely altered in our favour.
This relief has enabled important forces to be directed upon Egypt. The extraordinary valour and tenacity of the Russian defence of Sebastopol and General Timoshenko's massive strokes in the battles round Kharkov, together with the lateness of the season, have enabled us to concentrate our efforts on the destruction of Rommel's army. At this moment, the struggle in Egypt is gradually approaching its full intensity. The battle is now in the balance, and it is an action of the highest consequence. It has one object, and one object only, namely, the destruction of the enemy's army and armoured power. Important aid is now on the way, both from Britain and from the United States. A hard and deadly struggle lies before the Armies on the Nile. It remains for us at home to fortify and encourage their Commander by every means in our power.
I wish to speak a few words "of great truth and respect"—as they say in the diplomatic documents—and I hope I may be granted the fullest liberty of debate. This Parliament has a peculiar responsibility. It presided over the beginning of the evils which have come on the world. I owe much to the House, and it is my hope that it may see the end of them in triumph. This it can do only if, in the long period which may yet have to be travelled, the House affords a solid foundation to the responsible Executive Government, placed in power by its own choice. The House must be a steady, stabilising factor in the State, and not an instrument by which the disaffected sections of the Press can attempt to promote one crisis after another. If democracy and Parliamentary institutions are to triumph in this war, it is absolutely necessary that Governments resting upon them shall be able to act and dare, that the servants of the Crown shall not be harassed by nagging and snarling, that enemy propaganda shall not be fed needlessly out of our own hands, and our reputation disparaged and undermined throughout the world. On the contrary, the will of the whole House should be made manifest upon important occasions. It is important that not only those who speak, but those who watch and listen and judge, should also count as a factor in world affairs. After all, we are still 607 fighting for our lives, and for causes dearer than life itself. We have no right to assume that victory is certain; it will be certain only if we do not fail in our duty. Sober and constructive criticism, or criticism in Secret Session, has its high virtue; but the duty of the House of Commons is to sustain the Government or to change the Government, ff it cannot change it, it should sustain it. There is no working middle course in war-time. Much harm was done abroad by the two days' Debate in May. Only the hostile speeches are reported abroad, and much play is made with them by our enemy.
A Division, or the opportunity for a Division, should always follow a Debate on the war, and I trust, therefore, that the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the House will be made plain not only in the Division, but also in the days which follow and that, if I may so call them, the weaker brethren will not be allowed to usurp and almost monopolise the privileges and proud authority of the House of Commons. The majority of the House must do their duty. All I ask is a decision one way or another.
There is an agitation in the Press which has found its echo in a number of hostile speeches to deprive me of the function which I exercise in the general conduct and supervision of the war. I do not propose to argue this to-day at any length, because it was much discussed in a recent Debate. Under the present arrangement the three Chiefs of the Staff, sitting almost continuously together, carry on the war from day to day assisted not only by the machinery of the great Departments which serve them, but by the Combined General Staff, and making their decisions effective through the Navy, Army and Air Forces over which they exercise direct operational control. I supervise their activities, whether as Prime Minister or Minister of Defence. I work myself under the supervision and control of the War Cabinet to whom all important matters are referred and whom I have to carry with me in all major decisions. Nearly all my work has been done in writing, and a complete record exists of all the directions I have given, the inquiries I have made and the telegrams I have drafted. I shall be perfectly content to be judged by them.
608 I ask no favours either for myself or for His Majesty's Government. I under took the office as Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, after defending my predecessor to the best of my ability, in times when the life of the Empire hung upon a thread. I am your servant, and you have the right to dismiss me when you please. What you have no right to do is to ask me to bear responsibilities without the power of effective action, to bear the responsibilities of Prime Minister but clamped on each side by strong men. As the hon. Member said, if to-day, or at any future time, the House were to exercise its undoubted right, I could walk out with a good conscience and the feeling that I have done my duty according to such light as has been granted to me. There is only one thing I would ask you in that event. It would be to give my successor the modest powers which would have been denied to me.
But there is a larger issue than the personal issue. The Mover of this Vote of Censure has proposed that I should be stripped of my responsibilities for Defence in order that some military figure or that some other unnamed personage should assume the general conduct of the war, that he should have complete control of the Armed Forces of the Crown, that he should be the Chief of the Chiefs of the Staff, that he should nominate or dismiss the generals or the admirals, that he should always be ready to resign, that is to say, to match himself against his political colleagues, if colleagues they may be considered, if he did not get all he wanted, that he should have under him a Royal Duke as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and finally, I presume, though this was not mentioned, that this unnamed personage should find an appendage in the Prime Minister to make the necessary explanations, excuses and apologise to Parliament when things go wrong, as they often do and often will. That is at any rate a policy. It is a system very different from the Parliamentary system under which we live. It might easily amount to or be converted into a dictatorship. I wish to make it perfectly clear that as far as I am concerned I shall take no part in such a system.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I hope that my right hon. Friend has not forgotten the 609 original sentence, which was "subject to the War Cabinet"?
§ The Prime Minister
Subject to the War Cabinet against which this all-powerful potentate is not to hesitate to resign on every occasion if he could not get his way. It is a plan, but it is hot a plan in which I should personally be interested to take part, and I do not think that it is one which would commend itself to this House.
The setting down of this Vote of Censure by Members of all parties is a considerable event. Do not, I beg you, let the House underrate the gravity of what has been done. It has been trumpeted all round the world to our disparagement, and when every nation, friend and foe, is waiting to see what is the true resolve and conviction of the House of Commons it must go forward to the end. All over the world, throughout the United States, as I can testify, in Russia, far away in
|Division No. 15.]||AYES.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Kendall, W. D.||Stephen, C.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Kayes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Kirby, B. V.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall||Levy, T.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||McGovern, J.|
|Gledhill, G.||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Granville, E. L.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Mr. Neil Maclean and|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)||Commander Bower.|
|Horabin, T. L.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D||Benson, G.||Carver, Colonel W. H.|
|Aeland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Bernays, R. H.||Cary, R. A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Berry, Capt. Hon. J. S.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Adams, Major S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Bevin, Rt. Hon. E.||Cazalet, Major V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Bird, Sir R. B.||Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Blair, Sir R.||Channon, H.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Blaker, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Alexander, Bg.-Gn. Sir W. (G'gow C.)||Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'd., W.)||Boothby, Flight-Lieut. R. J. G.||Charleton, H. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Bossom, A. C.||Chater, D.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Boulton, W. W.||Chorlton, A. E. L.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Christie, J. A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Churchill, Rt. Hn. Winston S. (Ep'ing)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (So'h. Univ.)||Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Anstruther-Gray, Capt. W. J.||Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Cluse, W. S.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. J. G. (H'dern's)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.|
|Assheton, R.||Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Cobb, Captain E. C.|
|Astor, Lt.-Col. Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Cologate, W. A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Broad, F. A.||Collindridge, F.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Colville, Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Brooke, H.||Conant, Capt. R. J. E.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Cook, Lt.-Col. Sir T. R. A. M.(N'flk, N.)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Browne, Captain A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cooper, Rt. Hon. A. Duff|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Bullock, Capt. M.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P.||Burghley, Lord||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Beattie, F.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir Stafford|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Burke, W. A.||Critchley, A.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Burton, Col. H. W.||Crooke, Sir J. Smedley|
|Beaumont, Maj. Hn. R. E. B. (P'ts'h)||Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
§ China and throughout every subjugated country all our friends are waiting to know whether there is a strong, solid Government in Britain and whether its national leadership is to be challenged or not. Every vote counts. If those who have assailed us are reduced to contemptible proportions and their Vote of Censure on the National Government is converted to a vote of censure upon its authors, make no mistake, a cheer will go up from every friend of Britain and every faithful servant of our cause, and the knell of disappointment will ring in the ears of the tyrants we are striving to overthrow.
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.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 25; Noes, 475.
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|De Chair, Capt. S. S.||Harvey, T. E.||Mabane, W.|
|Da la Bere, R.||Haslam, Henry||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Denmam, Hon. R. D.||Hayday, A.||McCallum, Major D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||McConnell, Sir J.|
|Digby, Capt. K. S. D. W.||Heilgers, Major F. F. A.||McCorquedale, Malcolm S.|
|Dobbie, W.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Dodd, J. S||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Doland, G. F.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||McEntee, V. La T.|
|Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Mack, J. D.|
|Drewe, C.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||McKie, J. H.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Hepworth, J.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Stockton)|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||MacMilian, M. (Western Isles)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Hicks, E. G.||Macnamara, Lt.-Col. J. R. J.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Higgs, W. F.||McNeil, H.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Magnay, T.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. (Kons'gt'n, N.)||Holline, A. (Hanley)||Maitland, Sir A.|
|Dunn, E.||Holline, J. H. (Silvertown)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Ede, J. C.||Holmes, J. S.||Mander, G. le M.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Marlowe, Major A.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hudson, Capt. Sir A. U. M. (Hckny, N.)||Marshall, F.|
|Elliot, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Martin, J. H.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Hughes, R. M.||Mathers, G.|
|Elliston, Captain G. S.||Hulbert, Wing Commander N. J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Emery, J. F.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Medlicott, Colonel Frank|
|Emmott, C. E. G. O.||Hunter, T.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Mills, Sir F. (Leylon, E.)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Mills, Colonel J. D. (New Forest)|
|Errington, Squadron-Leader E.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. G. I. C. (E'burgh)||Milner, Major J.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Isaacs, G. A.||Mitchell, Colonel H. P.|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Jagger, J.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||James, Wing-Comdr. A. W. H.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Everard, Sir W. Lindsay||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Montague, F.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)|
|Fleming, Squadron-Leader E. L.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)|
|Foot, D. M.||Jennings, R.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)|
|Foster, W.||Jewson, P. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Fox, Flight-Lieut, fir G. W. G.||John, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Frankel, D.||Johnston, Rt. Hn. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Fraser, Capt. Sir Ian||Johnstone, H. (Middesbrough, W.)||Mort, D. L.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Mott-Radcliffe, Captain C. E.|
|Furness, S. N.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Muff, G.|
|Fyte, Major Sir D. P. M.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Gallacher, W.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Jowitt, Rt. Hon. Sir W. A.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)|
|Gardnar, B. W.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Keeling, E. H.||Nunn, W.|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'broke)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Gibbins, J.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G.||Kay, C. W.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Gluckstein, Major L. H.||Kimball, Major L.||Owen, Major G.|
|Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Paling, W.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Lakin, C. H. A.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Peake, O.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Pearson, A.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Col. C. G.||Peat, C. U.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Law, R. K.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worsester)||Lawson, J. J.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Leach, W.||Petherick, Major M.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Lees-Jones, J.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Leigh, Sir J.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Grey, Captain G. C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Pilkington, Captain R. A.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Leonard, W.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Leslie, J. R.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Lewis, O.||Power, Sir J. C|
|Grigg, Rt. Hon. Sir P. J. (Cardiff, E.)||Liddall, W. S.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Asshston|
|Grimston, R. V.||Lindsay, K. M.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Linstead, H. N.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Groves, T. E.||Lipson, D. L.||Profumo, Captain J. D.|
|Guest, Lt.-Col. H. (Drake)||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Purbrick, R.|
|Guest, Major Hn. O. (C'mb'w'l, N. W.)||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Pym, L. R.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Llewellin, Col. Rt. Hon. J. J.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Radford, E. A.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Aberdare)||Lloyd, G. W. (Ladywood)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Looker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Hambro, A. V.||Logan, D. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Lucas, Major Sir J. K.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Rayner, Lieut.-Col. R. H.|
|Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Smithers, Sir W.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Snadden, W. McN.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsond)|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Somerset, T.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Spens, W. P.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Richards, R.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver||Watt, F. C. (Edinburgh Cen.)|
|Rickards, G. W.||Stewart, W. Joseph (H'gton-le-Spring.)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Ridley, G.||Storey, S.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Riley, B.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Ritson, J.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Robertson, D. (Streatham)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Robertson, Rt. Hn. Sir M. A. (M'ham)||Studholme, Captain H. G.||Weston, W. Garfield|
|Robinson, J. B. (Blackpool)||Suetor, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Westwood, J.|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Summars, G. S.||While, Sir Dymoke (Fareham)|
|Ropner, Col. L.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Sutcliffe, H.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Ross Taylor, W.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Rowlands, G.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)||Tate, Mavis C.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Taylor, Capt. C. S. (Eastbourne)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Salt, E. W.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Willink, H. U.|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wilmot, John|
|Sandys, E. D.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)||Windsor, W.|
|Savory, Professor D. L.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Sahuster, Sir G. E.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)||Wise, Major A. R.|
|Scott, Donald (Wansbeck)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Selley, H. R.||Thorne, W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir K. (W'lwich, W.)|
|Shakespeare, Sir G. H.||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P.||Woodburn, A.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Waventree)||Thornton-Kemsley, Major C. N.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)||Thurtle, E.||Woolley, W. E.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Tinker, J. J.||Wragg, H.|
|Shute, Col. Sir J. J.||Titchfield, Lt.-Col. Marquess of||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Silkin, L.||Tomlinson, G.||Wright, Wing Commander J. A. C.|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.||Touche, G. C.||York, Capt. C.|
|Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Comdr. R. L.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Wakefield, W. W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Smith, E. (Stoke)||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Walker, J.||Mr. James Stuart and|
|Smith, T. (Normanton)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Mr. Whiteley.|
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.