§ [Third Day.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [11th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, our Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. A. G. Walkden.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
As I am the first Liberal Member who has taken part in the Debate on the Address, I wish, on behalf of all Liberals, to congratulate the Prime Minister on the success of the Egyptian campaign. I am conscious, as I have no doubt the Prime Minister is himself, of all his faults, but he is a great war Minister on the lines of Chatham and Palmerston. If instead of a victory there had been a defeat or a set-back, undoubtedly the blame and responsibility would have been put on his shoulders. One hon. Member—I do not think he is here at the moment—when we were debating the Egyptian campaign on 232 another occasion, described the Prime Minister as a major national disaster. To the hon. Member's credit, the other day, although he did not withdraw that remark, he altered his tone. It is common knowledge that the inception of the attack on the Axis was the Prime Minister's conception. The Prime Minister would be the last person to claim responsibility for the success of the strategy and tactics that led to this remarkable victory; the credit in that respect must, rightly, go to Generals Alexander and Montgomery, who have so successfully carried through the campaign. We have now discovered two new men who can claim to be distinguished generals.
I want also to express my gratitude, and I believe that of a great number of hon. Members, to the Prime Minister for his journeys to the United States and Russia. I am by no means a chicken myself, but the Prime Minister is two or three years older than I am, and He showed courage and pluck in undertaking, those journeys. I am convinced that they are largely responsible for that new unity of command and spirit which apparently is inspiring the United Nations. My right hon. Friend's personal contacts with President Roosevelt on two occasions, as well as his talk with Mr. Stalin, have prevented the friction which seemed likely a few months ago. There is proof now in what we hear and see that there is good feeling, and I am convinced that this has been made possible by the Prime Minister's journeys. I know there are people who say that the proper place for the Prime Minister is in Downing Street, and that he should not leave the country; and in normal times I think a strong case could be made for that contention; but in the peculiar circumstances of this war, when everything depends upon the co-operation of countries so separated by geography, I think the Prime Minister was justified in doing what he did.
There is one satisfactory feature, which has not yet been emphasised enough, about the Battle of Egypt, or, as I prefer to call it, the Battle of El Alamein—"All mine" as I suppose the Tommies call it—and that is the understanding between the three Services. On two or three occasions my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) has put up a very strong case for the Army having its own Air Arm, and at one time he seemed to justify his arguments. However, we 233 see now that there has been achieved largely the same purpose by co-operation and good will between those directing the three Services. But I was very glad to hear an hon. Member above the Gangway refer to what I think has been the most satisfactory side of the Egyptian campaign, namely, the success of the common soldier. There were people, not in the House but outside, who were seriously suggesting that the British had lost something of their fighting spirit, but all the evidence shows that their dash and fighting qualities are in the best traditions of the British Army. When one remembers that the vast majority of these men were engaged in civilian occupations two or three years ago, that they were mostly clerks, miners, craftsmen, drawn from the whole of the population, hating war and having no desire for military glory, their success against the most highly trained army in the world is a great promise of the ultimate victory of the arms of Britain and the United Nations.
In the Prime Minister's speech and other speeches I thought "not enough emphasis was placed on the work done by the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy still lives up to tradition as the Silent Service. It does not advertise its work. But it should be remembered that the Egyptian campaign was made possible by the safe transit over 12,000 miles of submarine-infested seas of hundreds of ships in convoy while at the same time munitions were being carried to Russia. All this shows how grateful we ought to be to the Royal Navy. It also emphasises the importance of sea power and the necessity that priority should be given to shipbuilding, both naval construction and commercial construction. Tanks and guns will be useless if we do not retain our sea supremacy, and events in the Western Mediterranean, in what is now called, though I do not know why, the North African campaign, emphasise this consideration. It is my firm conviction that sea power will turn the scale in favour of the United Nations against the Axis Powers.
The preparation and embarkation of this mighty armada, which made possible the occupation of Morocco and Algeria, without the secret having been allowed to leak out beforehand, is something almost unparalleled in the history of war. I, certainly, was in the dark concerning it, 234 as I believe was every other Member of this House except the privileged few in the inner circle of the Cabinet. Many rumours had been circulating, but I must confess that when I heard over the wireless about the opening of this remarkable operation I was completely taken by surprise. The opening chapter of this Moroccan and Algerian campaign reads like something out of one of Captain Marryat's books and shows that, as regards imagination and dash, American and British troops are both living up to our best traditions. One very satisfactory result of this campaign has been indicated to-day by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare. A serious leakage in the blockade has now been closed. It will be very difficult for the Axis any longer to get those vast quantities of commodities which were getting across the Mediterranean and through the ports of Marseilles and Toulon. It has also been good to read about the miraculous appearance on the scene of General Giraud. There is something about his personality which will help to give to the French people a new point of view and a new inspiration, encourage them to throw themselves whole-heartedly into the campaign against the common enemy and enable them to triumph over all their difficulties.
I must confess there is one sinister side to this picture which will have to be explained. I am glad that a Question was put to the Deputy Prime Minister by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) on the subject of Admiral Darlan's position. It is rather strange, this appearance of Admiral Darlan on the scene. There may be some explanation, but I must confess that the reaction on those splendid men and women who have been loyal to the cause of France under the leadership of General de Gaulle, has been unfortunate. It has been a rather bitter pill for the Free French to swallow. It may be that Admiral Darlan is a much-maligned personality. It may be that he is not the quisling that we were led to believe he was—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not say so, but if that is not the case, then this is one of the most mysterious chapters in the history not only of this war but of all wars. We understand that there he is in control of the civil administration—this peculiar personality who has shifted his point of 235 view from time to time, Unless the Government can give us something more in the way of explanation than we have had recently in the Press, I think it will do our cause no good, will discourage the Fighting French and put a premium on quislings whether in France, or any other country, if they know that they can carry on with their evil purposes realising that when the tide turns, they can change their attitude.
There was one thing which the Prime Minister did of which I was very glad, and that was the promise which he made to France. The occupation of South-East France will, undoubtedly, simplify the work of the United Nations. On the other hand it is a great blow to the French people. They will be humiliated that that part of France should hear the tramp of foreign soldiers through its streets. No people more passionately love their country than the French. In their hearts and souls I know that the common people of France are sound, and I would like to see the promise given by the Prime Minister endorsed, if that is possible, by a pledge from this House that when the time comes, the French Empire—I do not mind saying it—the French people, will have restored to them intact all their territory. That will be an encouragement to those men who are standing up so bravely at the present time in North Africa and at various places throughout France and carrying on the resistance against this appalling enemy.
There was one omission from the Prime Minister's speech which I am sure was not deliberate but which has been noticed. There was no reference to the war in the Pacific. I assume that the Prime Minister did not want to detain the House too long and cut down his remarks as much as possible. I am sure, as I say, that the omission was not intentional but was due to the pressure of time. It may, however, cause a bad impression. Every word of the Prime Minister is hung upon by our fellow-citizens on the other side of the globe, and they may think that we are losing interest in their struggle. It is true that the leadership there is in the hands of a distinguished American, General MacArthur, and that area is being treated as an American sphere of influence. But Australasia is part of the British Commonwealth, and it would be unfortunate if it were thought "down 236 under" that we in Parliament and our leaders had lost interest in their struggle. The battles in the Solomon Islands and in New Guinea have been magnificent. If we can read the telegrams aright, a great victory has been scored at the Solomon Islands by the American Navy. When we remember the small population of Australia and New Zealand—little more than the population of Greater London—the fact that they were not organised for war, had not conscription, and had even less preparation than we had, the fight which they are putting up is magnificent. It is also to be remembered that while Australia and New Zealand are fighting for their own existence, their soldiers are fighting with distinction and courage alongside ours in Egypt and Libya. This makes it all the more necessary that we should make clear to them that we are heart and soul with them and have not lost interest in their struggle.
I am not among those who take exception to the emphasis which the Prime Minister laid on the Empire. It has been suggested that he put too much emphasis on it. My own feeling has always been that. I do not like the word "Empire." I think it a wrong description. I prefer the description he gave at the Mansion House:The Commonwealth and Society of Nations gathered in and around the ancient British Monarchy.That represents my view of what the British Empire is. The use of the word "Empire" leads to considerable misconception as to what the British Commonwealth of Nations stands for. It actually exists in the United States. Be that as it may, I am all for this great Society of Nations, which stands for everything that our cause is fighting for—democracy, freedom and self-government. The, Dominions are in the war of their own free will, and any evidence that is wanted to that effect is to be found in the fact that Eire stands out. We have South Africa taking a leading part in this campaign, in spite of the fact that 30 years ago she fought a bitter and long war against us. It may be said that the Crown Colonies do not come within the description that I have in mind. Our tradition has always been that we are their trustees. We govern them in their own interest. We do not exploit them. Yet charges are brought against Great Britain's management of those 237 Colonies, due not so much to any bad principles in their policy as to the indifference of the House of Commons, and I may add, the meanness of His Majesty's Treasury. Lastly, of course, there is India. Parliament has accepted the principle that at the earliest possible moment when there can be agreement India shall have the same status in the British Commonwealth as Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
Now I want to make some special reference to the Gracious Speech. My criticism of the few sentences anticipating legislation is that it places too much emphasis on general agreement. In reconstruction I want to see some push, some of the prod that the Prime Minister claims to himself in the, prosecution of the war. There must be some Minister responsible for post-war reconstruction. I am not clear whether it is the Leader of the House, the Lord President of the Council or the Paymaster-General. If it is the last named, we have a competent Minister, and I think he might have a title more suggestive of the importance of his responsibilities, and he might have a proper Department, with a staff and an organisation. In the last war, when it came to legislation there was not the same emphasis on general agreement, maybe because of the personality of the then Prime Minister, who was keen on social reform, but, on the other hand, their difficulties were far greater than ours. We are inclined to forget that party feeling ran much higher and deeper in 1914 than in 1939. There was the controversy over the Parliament Act, and the trouble in Ireland almost led to civil war. In spite of that, two or three great Bills were passed, though there was not even a victory, as there is now, to make the task easier. If the Government fail before the end of the war to make preparations for a great scheme of reconstruction in education, I think they will have failed in their duty.
In the last war the President of the Board of Education was a university professor, with no Parliamentary experience, but he piloted one of the greatest Education Bills that ever reached the Statute Book, introduced after 16 years of bitter controversy. The Balfour Act and the McKenna and Runciman Bills caused the most bitter feeling. There was never a worse atmosphere in education than in 238 the years preceding the last war, yet Mr. Fisher, with the help of the Government and the blessing of the Cabinet, introduced this great Measure and got it through Parliament. I should like the President of the Board of Education to take his courage in both hands. If he is going to wait for general agreement, we might Wait for another 20 years. It is one of the tragedies of education that there always will be differences on the religious question, but we are more likely to get agreement during the war, when party controversy is stilled, than if we wait till the peace, when the floodgates of religious controversy and party feeling will be reopened. I think it is important that directly after the Armistice the whole scheme of a new conception of education should be brought into operation, particularly continuation schools and, more important, the training of teachers. All your new scheme will break down if you have not skilled teachers to do the work. We ought to be making our plans now and not wait indefinitely till we conciliate every section concerned in education.
Another great and even more revolutionary Act was passed through Parliament dealing with electoral law. It actually extended the franchise to women after the most bitter controversy, spread over some 10 years. While no one could agree about women suffrage before the war, in the spirit of the war, with a new tone and temper, that great Bill got on the Statute Book. It is true that it was preceded by an inquiry under the chairmanship of the then Speaker, and it may have been Wise to have had such an inquiry, but after 20 years of experience many anomalies have been revealed in our electoral law. It is time they were put right, and we are more likely to do it during the war than after the war is over. I say that with some feeling. I remember someone coming to see the postwar Parliament and saying it looked like being composed of a lot of hard-faced men who had done well out of the war. We do not want that kind of Parliament. Parliament after this war will have terrific responsibilities, even greater than the House of Commons has to-day. If it is to do its work properly, it must be a Parliament representing all sections of the community, not limited to men of means or men with powerful trade organisations behind them, but composed of men and 239 women who are the most suitable available. The system of election must assure a Parliament strong and powerful enough to deal on bold lines with reconstruction.
In my view reconstruction has a direct concern with the prospects of the war. There are people who say that we should not be diverted from our great purpose of beating the Axis Powers. That is an impressive argument, but I am satisfied from what I have heard from men in billets, overseas, in the Middle East or North Africa that they would be far more satisfied if they felt that Parliament was using its energies to working out schemes so that they may be spared some of the appalling horrors of the 20 years after the last war. They value medals and orders, but at best these go only to a few. They would value far more if they could feel that the House of Commons, while they are fighting our battles, is concentrating its energies, abilities and intelligence in working out a great scheme of reconstruction. I hope that if the occasion comes, as it will come during the Debate on the Address, to discuss postwar problems, the Paymaster-General, or whoever is responsible, will show that the Government really have a policy and constructive proposals and that they are prepared to implement them in legislation.
§ Colonel Harold Mitchell (Brentford and Chiswick)
My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has given the House an interesting and comprehensive view of war and post-war problems. I want to direct attention to one particular aspect of our effort which is becoming of increasing importance every month that the war goes on. Now that we are mounting the grand offensive the Fighting Services will need an ever-increasing volume of supplies. There will be more need than ever to preserve a due balance between output and consumption and also in the supply of personnel. This will require a careful and delicate adjustment of priorities between the Armed Forces and industry, and it may well be found that we have to adopt a lower ceiling for the intake of men and women into the Services. I was interested to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) also expressed considerable anxiety on this question in his speech. This is a problem not confined entirely to us. Our enemies are faced with the same difficul- 240 ties and have in part tackled it by taking men from the armed forces for seasonal work. Before the war is over we may have to consider similar measures. Britain has been at war for two years longer than her two most powerful Allies, and in consequence our war potential is the more highly developed. On the whole, I believe that our somewhat slender resources in man-power have been well handled. Out of some 33,000,000 people between 14 and 65 in Great Britain we have mobilised for service 23,500,000 men and women. These are full-time workers for the nation in one form or another. Apart from them, there are an immense number of people giving voluntary service, and when we take account of all that, we are left with only about 3,000,000 people unaccounted for, and they include children, the sick, the crippled and the aged.
Our commitments are world-wide and ever increasing. In the past conduct' of the war the main criticism advanced against our strategy has been that our undertakings have been too large and that we have tended to disperse our effort. Without entering on to such a controversial ground, I believe that the danger we have now to consider is of a different character, only, naturally, those responsible for the Service Departments feel that their needs are paramount and that they must come before all else. It is of supreme importance, however, that the ceiling fixed for the Armed Forces should be determined with full and careful regard to the possibilities of equipping those Forces rapidly and without delay. If industry is milked too heavily, the equipment of the men will lag behind and training will suffer. Equally those reserves of arms and stores which have become increasingly urgent as a more active phase of the war opens will mean that replacement needs will mount ever more swiftly. It is essential that the supply side should not fail when the time comes to give the final knock-out blow to the enemy.
Lest anyone should think that I underestimate the needs of our Armed Forces in regard to numbers, I may say that I have just returned from a journey of some 25,000 miles in which I had the opportunity of visiting units of the British Army in many part of the Middle East and Africa. The Prime Minister in his recent speech paid a generous tribute to the way in which our great Ally America 241 had come to our help when our need was so great after the retreat from Libya this summer. He mentioned that he had visited many of the units which were going to receive the new American munitions. I had an opportunity a few weeks after his visit of seeing some of those units, and I can say that the effect produced on them by getting these new weapons was tremendous. I can say also what a great tonic to them was the visit of the Prime Minister. We must remember that although American production is rapidly mounting so too are their own needs with the great expansion which is taking place in their own Armed Forces. On the whole, I do not suggest that we have in any way used our man-power extravagantly, but we must look ever more carefully upon the demands which are going to arise. Clearly these are matters which must be decided not entirely by the Service Departments but on an even higher plane. Only the War Cabinet can judge and arbitrate. My plea, however, is that there should be the most exact and careful calculation possible in order that we can use our resources to the full. If the Services must be curbed, from over-straining industry, so industry must economise man-power in every way. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is as ruthlessly as wisely cutting the civilian consumption to the bare minimum. None of us can complain about that, but I am glad that he is giving some measure of consideration to the small trader. If he goes, there is no one to take his place, and to-day he is often working incredibly long hours in performing a task of real service to the community.
On Sunday we all had the joy of listening, after many months, to our church bells, the more exquisite in that we had not heard them for so long. I was privileged to hear them in a famous town. Of the parish church of St. Andrew, Plymouth, nothing remains except the Tower. It seemed to me, in listening, that the peal of the bells was a token not only of the victory of our arms which we were celebrating, but also of the task which lies ahead when we must set ourselves to rebuild our fair cities. In a neighbouring town, also grievously damaged, these words are written up on the doors of the Cathedral: 242They shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities.We must preserve some nucleus of our industries, not only to meet our minimum requirements now, but also to enable us, in due course, to restart our industrial and our national life. The hon. Member for South Bristol (Mr. A. G. Walkden), in his able opening speech, referred to the fact that in many cases signs of strain were appearing in the aspect of factory workers. I might almost say that I have on occasions noticed it in the case of some hon. Members of this House. All these things go to show that we are, in fact, nearing our maximum productive effort. For example, the pool of mobile women is practically exhausted. More may be done by married women in part-time work, but the trouble is that these women are largely immobile, tied by their homes; and work and the woman to do it are rarely in the same place.
I would illustrate my point still further by the case of one of our greatest industries, namely, coal. Once it was our largest exporting industry. To-day we have to have special appeals to miners for more production, and to consumers for more economy in the use of coal. The Prime Minister himself has made an eloquent appeal. This situation arises largely because, in the view of many people, the industry has been unduly depleted of labour. I am more than anxious that these difficulties should not extend to other industries, because I believe there is a measure of danger of that occurring if we are not careful. Take the situation in another vital industry, that of the railways. Take the railway shops, where our great passenger and freight engines are built and maintained. The essential factor in the equipment of a railway is a supply of engine-power adequate for all emergencies. Without this, traffic will come to a standstill in the literal sense of the word. Road transport of all kinds is heavily curtailed, and there is a tremendous additional burden thrown on the railways. If Britain is to fulfil and maintain her position as the arsenal of democracy it is essential to maintain a first-class transport system. To-day the resources of the railways are heavily taxed. There are, indeed, signs of over-strain arising largely, if not entirely, from a shortage of locomotives. This position can be remedied only in one way, and that is by the production of 243 new engines and an acceleration of repairs. The work in shops and sheds is severely handicapped by the lack of skilled engineers. These men are virtually specialists. Substitutes cannot be trained in a short time and it will be disastrous if this position is overlooked.
Many signs are accumulating that our productive effort is now on what I might term the plateau of production. There is nothing to be ashamed of in that. Rather, I think, it is matter for congratulation that we have achieved this position in our war effort so rapidly, but at all costs we must preserve that balance, which up to date, notwithstanding a few miscalculations, has been highly successful. I believe that the Minister of Labour has been a fair and an impartial referee. I am quite sure that he has been subjected behind the scenes to a certain amount of pressure and barracking. I am equally certain that before the game is ended he will have to put up with a great deal more. If there has been one weakness, I think it would be this, that there has been a tendency to under-estimate the importance in industry of the supervision, management and directional side, without which full results will never be attained. I realise that it is far harder to classify people in those groups, but nevertheless nothing would more handicap our productive effort than that this aspect should be overlooked. There is considerable anxiety about it in many quarters. These are the days of economy, but what exactly do we mean by that term? Surely it does not mean a policy of cheese-paring, certainly not economy at the expense of speedy victory. If for economy we substitute the word "efficiency" I believe we shall get the most satisfactory and greatest results. We want efficiency in the use of our national resources: we must have it not only in industry, not only in trade, not only in the Services, but throughout the whole life of the nation.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
The hon. and gallant Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Colonel Mitchell) has dealt with a number of important points, especially that of supply, and I have no doubt the points he has put before us will be considered by the Cabinet. I was interested to note his reference to St. Andrew's Church, Plymouth, because many years 244 ago, more years than I care to recollect, it was in that church that I was confirmed. There has been some criticism in the course of this Debate of what are called amateur strategists. I must confess that I am one of those much-criticised persons, who, after all, are present wherever people assemble who are interested in the war. I was an amateur strategist who always opposed the campaign for an immediate second front in Europe, and I always held the view that as long as the Axis held the Northern shores of the Mediterranean it was our object to secure the Southern shores of that sea. In fact, in my last speech in this House I suggested that the only way of shortening our supply line to Egypt was to burst through the Western end of the Mediterranean. All those things have now been done, and so I think that one school, at any rate, of amateur strategists has been vindicated by the events of the last few days. So much has been said in praise: of the brilliant achievements of the Allies in the campaigns in French North-West Africa and in Egypt that there is no need for a back-bencher to say much more. Both campaigns have been examples of perfect co-operation and faultless efficiency, and I think the Navy, the Merchant Service, the Air Force, the paratroops, the artillery, the tanks, the perfectly brilliant infantry—which I believe is the interpretation of the letters P.B.I.—and both the commanders and the commanded all have won their share of praise.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) spoke just now about the marvel that amateur soldiers who were civilians only a short while ago were able to beat the professionals; but Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem on that very point during the last war. The poem was called "Sons of the Suburbs" and two of the lines were:When the clergyman's daughter is brought up on water,Look out when she starts on champagne.Those who planned for months past in detail these operations, and the Supreme Command who decided upon these actions, deserve the highest praise that this House can bestow. I am glad that the policy of "too little and too late" has passed and has been succeeded by a policy of getting in first with overwhelming force at the decisive point.
245 Two points still cause me some uneasiness. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Air is here, because the first point is, Where are the dive-bombers? Why have they not arrived yet? I know it is said that they are useless unless you have full air superiority and that if you have not full air superiority they are, to use the R.A.F. expression, "pieces of cake." But when we have air superiority, even Lord Trenchard admits that they have value and has said so. I think it is true that then they are useful for the purpose of demoralising retreating troops, attacking convoys and lorry-borne infantry and knocking out individual tanks. I wonder why they have not yet appeared. They would have been very useful in Libya.
The second point is about tanks. It is admitted that American tanks played a great part in the Battle of Egypt. America has been in this war for only a year. Why is it that in that short time she has been able to produce a first-class tank like the General Sherman whereas Great Britain, after three years of war and several years of preparation before the war, has not been able to do so. I am only an amateur in these matters, but if I had been asked to take charge, I should have gone to a firm like Vickers-Armstŕong and asked for their very best engineer to design a tank, or perhaps three tanks, small, medium and heavy. I would have provided him with an, advisory board with experts in tank construction upon it from America and from Russia if possible, and I would have said also, "We will give you an officer who has commanded tanks in war and a mechanic who has operated tanks in the field. And perhaps also General de Gaulle might be willing to contribute some suggestions. Any other help you want you shall have. Go ahead and produce the tanks and we shall not interfere." I believe that a policy of that sort would have produced the tanks, as it did in the last war when, I believe Sir Tennyson D'Eyncourt, the chief constructor of the Navy, was responsible for the designs of some of them.
In this war, the Government seem to have chosen a man who made headlamps, a man who made pumps, a man who made bicycles and a man who made motor cars. The result is what we have seen. I wonder why the Government 246 did not choose the White Knight, who was an inventor of a sort. I suppose, as he was a knight already, that he was ineligible. The others had been knighted for their-failures. I understand that the matter is now in process of being put right, but there should be a judicial inquiry into the whole matter. The Minister of Production told us a few months ago that the Crusader tank turret was found to be too small for an ordinary man to operate. I know a lad of 17 who is an apprentice to engineering. He is very careful with his drawings, and I am sure that even he would not have made an elementary mistake of that kind. Those responsible for this outrageous carelessness and incompetence should be punished.
§ Mr. Cocks
I think it is wrong for the Prime Minister, much as I admire him, to come down to this House as he does from time to time and, when a disaster occurs, say, "I take full responsibility for this," and to refuse at the same time to have an inquiry so that we might find out who really made the mistakes. I do not think that attitude is fair to the House or to the country. We should have a full official inquiry into this matter, possibly a judicial one like the one on the R.102, to investigate the muddle and to apportion the blame.
On Sunday we rang our church bells. Now we have to get on with the work. We have before us a hard and stern struggle. I have always taken the view that this will be a very long war. I have said that the war will last for six years and that we ought to prepare for seven years. It may be that recent events have knocked off a year, and it may be that General Smuts is right in saying that it might end in two years from now. If so, it means two years of hard fighting, and we have to look out for surprises. The idea has recently been put forward from Nazi quarters that Germany intends in the future to wage a defensive war, to consolidate her position in the countries she has occupied, elaborate her defences and await the Allies' attack. That may be correct, but we must regard hints coming from Germany with suspicion. Control of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, we 247 know, is important to Hitler. It is not very likely that he will consent to thinning out his army along many thousands of miles of frontier in order to await attack from us in some unexpected quarter. Is it not more likely that he himself will attack?
It was suggested last week by the right Hon. Baronet the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) that Hitler might invade Spain. If he does, he will repeat Napoleon's mistake in the west just as he repeated Napoleon's mistake in the East. From the point of view of world strategy I would welcome such an action on the part of Hitler, and I hope he makes that mistake. If he does, I hope that the Government will be ready for instant counteraction. In particular I ask them to keep their eye upon Minorca. Another suggestion is that, as Hitler has large forces and reserves on the shores of the Black Sea, he may make a lightning thrust through Turkey to Syria, Egypt and the Persian Gulf, a blow which it would be more difficult for us to counter. It might mean dragging the Eighth Army back to Egypt again. We do not know what is going to happen, but I understand that the Turkish reserves are being called up. We can be quite sure that Turkey will put up a stout resistance if attacked in any way.
Reference has been made to the magnificent resistance of the Russian Army, which has prevented the recapture of the valuable oilfields which Hitler so much needs. Great losses have been inflicted on the German army, but Russia has also suffered great losses. She has lost her best coalfields, she has lost her best corn lands, and she has lost a great deal of her industrial power, and this winter will be a terrible one for Russia also. But the Russian people are fighting for their lives and for the social system they desire, and they will endure to the end. I am sure we shall all agree that every help we can give to that great and gallant people we must give for their sakes and for our own.
The third battlefield is the one in the Far East, of which the right hon. Baronet spoke. Australia a year ago was almost defenceless. I think that now, thanks to the help of America and her own efforts—the efforts of the Australians—she is in a far stronger position than she was. We welcome the news to-day of the great 248 American naval victory in the Solomon Islands. In India we have in General Wavell, one of our best generals. He is decidedly our most tactful one. The commander who tells us that the greatest general of modern times was an ancestor of the Prime Minister and that the greatest general of ancient times was an ancestor of the right hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Hore-Belisha) is certainly not lacking in diplomacy, and he appears to be confident he will be able successfully to defend India and, later on, regain Burma.
But Japan, owing to the enormous supplies of rubber, oil and metals she has recently secured, is in a far better position than she was to sustain a long war, and the late American Ambassador to Tokyo has warned us that there is no likelihood of Japan cracking; she will fight to the end. On the other hand, I have seen it said that many of her highly trained airmen have been killed, and she may be weakening in that arm. I hope the Undersecretary will be able to confirm that with any information he has.
The fourth battlefield, which is almost the most important of all, is the battlefield of the sea. The Prime Minister and Field Marshal Smuts have spoken in grave terms of the U-boat menace. Sinkings have been very heavy and the convoys which must unceasingly carry supplies to our troops in Africa will present a very wide target. Moreover, we understand that more U-boats are being constructed. More German industry has been turned over to the production of U-boats and planes, so that in the spring we shall experience an increase in U-boat attack. On the other hand, in America, what seem to me to be miracles of shipbuilding are being performed, and we know also that new methods of meeting the U-boat attack are being employed, but Lord Hankey, in a letter in "The Times" this morning, says:Technically our scientists, sailors and airmen have solved the problem of combating the submarine but sufficient material has not been forthcoming. It is a matter of priorities and here again the attitude of the Government has been unsatisfactory.That is a very serious matter which ought to be looked into. I do not know anything about it myself, but such a charge coming from a man in the position of Lord Hankey should be looked into, because of all the battlefields this is the battlefield where the Allies could most easily lose the war. In the meantime our mount- 249 ing superiority in the air will enable us to intensify the bombing of Germany, which is causing so much destruction and obstruction to German production and is also, I think, affecting to some extent the morale of the German people. A reliable Swiss observer whose message I read the other day said, having been through Germany, that in many places the people are becoming dispirited and somewhat demoralised, but he warned us there was no possibility of an internal revolt against the Nazi Government until the German armies were beaten and broken in the field. The means of doing that are mounting rapidly. In two years' time—I do not know whether it is an exaggerated figure—the United States hopes to have 200,000 planes. Anyhow, at the end of 1943 they expect to have 7,500,000 men. Indeed it is said that by the end of next year Britain and America together will be able to put into the field an Army of 10,000,000 men fully equipped with tanks, planes and guns, and supplied by a large fleet of merchantmen, which will be able to strike and destroy the Nazi power wherever it is to be found, and to occupy Rome, Tokyo and Berlin. I have no fear of the result of this war, however long it may be delayed.
And then will come a greater struggle and a sterner- struggle, the struggle for social security and international peace. I do not intend to deal with these matters to-day. We shall have many opportunities of discussing them. But it will mean hard fighting for those who want to construct a new order. Already we see that some of the reactionaries are raising their heads. I notice that Lord Croft, a member, of the Government and a friend of General Franco, says that there is no need for a new order after the war. It is quite true that he is only a junior member and—we remember him in this House—a mental mediocrity, but I have no doubt he will be joined after the war by people of greater ability and influence. The scarcely veiled threats which were made against the Catering Bill by those well known appeasers, the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir D. Hacking) and the hon. and gallant Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick), are a further sign that reaction is not dead in this country; it is only shamming sleep. I believe that the Report of the Beveridge Committee is due. Its reception will give some 250 indication of the kind of opposition we shall have to overcome. All I would say on this point is that the struggle to establish a new order in this country and throughout the world will demand all our powers and energies and devotion. I wish I was as sure of winning that struggle as I am sure of winning the war.
One more thing before I sit down. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, speaking on Thursday, spoke of the debasement of the moral currency which had been going on under the aegis of the Axis Powers and said how important it was to restore the element of Truth to international life. To that element of Truth I would add the virtues of Honour and Nobility. It is quite true that during the war and for some years before the war there has been a frightful deterioration of the moral currency in the affairs of the world. The results can be easily seen personified in certain statesmen in other countries, in people like the low and scoundrelly Laval. One can see it there. But some political leaders in this country have not altogether been free from this taint. The men who excused or forgave or connived at the rape of China and Abyssinia, Czechoslovakia and Republican Spain had something wrong in their souls. I often wonder, when we hear of the things that have been happening in Hong Kong and in Prague during this war, how some of these statesmen can sleep quietly in their beds. I wish some of them were not still in office or holding high positions under the Crown. I wish they had thought it fitting to go into voluntary retirement. When the full flood of victory comes I hope it will not have to bear upon its breast this garbage of appeasement. Only when such people have passed out of public life shall we be able to say with Rupert Brooke:Honour has come back as a king to earth,And paid his subjects with a royal wage;And Nobleness walks in our ways again,And we have come into our heritage.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddesdon)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Colonel Mitchell) has given the House a timely warning lest we draw too many men and women from industry into the Forces. I have the honour to be associated industrially with his constituency, and I would like to congratulate him on behalf of many of his constituents for 251 speaking out so boldly on this matter. One of the gravest pitfalls into which the war effort is now railing is, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, lest we should strive to do too much in the Services and too little at the bench. I would have thought that taking into consideration the great distances across the Atlantic to the other arsenal of democracy we should have tried, particularly as regards heavy weapons, to manufacture as many as possible in this country, thus saving a great burden on our shipping resources. I hope that in the next few months my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will not forget the great skill that the unskilled worker achieves if he is working at a given job for a long time. I believe that a great disservice is done to our war production by some of the decisions of the man-power boards, through an assumption that an unskilled worker who is taken into a job for the first time will immediately, or in the early future, do as well as one who has been at that job for months or years and who is removed into the Services. That is one of the greatest industrial fallacies, and it causes great concern to those in charge of production.
I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). I regret very much that in an otherwise admirable speech he thought it necessary to gibe at the words and efforts of Lord Croft. Whatever Lord Croft may have said with regard to any particular item of national policy, the fact remains that Lord Croft has rendered great and distinguished service to the conception of this country as the leader of the British Empire. I believe that possibly when many back benchers, either on this side or the other side, are forgotten, Lord Croft's name will be handed down to our children's children as that of one of the men who fought for the British Empire and all it stands for, in days when it was less well appreciated by those who did not see so far as he did.
My hon. Friend referred to the importance of our bombing offensive, against Germany in particular. It is upon that point exclusively that I want to speak for a few moments. Should the night-bombing offensive against Germany be continued at its present level, should it be greatly augmented, or should it be decreased? I do not propose to embark on 252 an ethical review, but rather to strike in my own mind a military profit-and-loss account with regard to this offensive. Seeing that I shall have to quote figures, let me not be accused of revelling in carnage. This bombing of enemy countries, just like the bombing of our own land, is a horrible necessity in modern warfare, which nobody wants less than I, believing as I do in the pacific uses of aircraft. I would make the point very clearly, in view of the fact that this is in a large sense a military subject, that no figure that I propose to make is taken from any other source than published statements which are available to all who take the trouble to seek them out. Bomber Command and all that goes to make it up is a gigantic enterprise. Vast engineering resources are at the back of it, and the services of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of men and women are used by the R.A.F. It is a major part of our war effort. Do the results justify what is being put into the bombing offensive? Until May of this year the number of bombers that we sent to Germany in any night, according to information given by the Air Ministry, never exceed a few hundred. Most of these were twin-engined machines, very much smaller than the big four-engined aircraft now coming into service, and thus our efforts did not in any way represent our highest bombing capacity. More often than not, there was a variety of separate targets in hostile territory which our aircraft visited on any given night; so the number of bombers attacking an individual target would be dozens, rather than hundreds. The effects on Germany, therefore, will be seen to be, in all probability, hardly more than those which the enemy achieved against this island. As to the effects on public morale and the real destruction wrought by these raids, we have ample testimony not only from the photographs which have been exhibited from the Air Ministry, but also from a host of neutral sources. While some of these raids were outstandingly successful, no one could claim that up to May of this year our air blows against Germany were of a shattering nature, or that they gave us good reason for hoping to force the enemy out of the war primarily by that means.
But on 30th May of this year there came a tremendous event. Sir Arthur Harris, in charge of Bomber Command sent more than 1,000 bombers that night in one raid 253 on Cologne. Two days later he sent yet 1,000 again to Essen, and within three weeks he repeated the feat over Bremen. The world was stunned by the news of these raids. I myself was in New York at the time, and in the days after the 1,000-bomber raids my friends in America assured me that the prestige of Britain had never stood so high in the eyes of the United States of America. This then was an event which cast its light forward over every coming month of war.
But what of the cities that had been visited? There is no question that the effect on morale was stupendous. In that Cologne raid Vichy quoted German sources as admitting from 11,000 to 15,000 killed. Neutral opinion, for the one night of 30th May, put the figure at 20,000. It has been estimated that a quarter of a million people were rendered homeless by that one raid. The centre of the city of Cologne was removed; the banks and the insurance houses which filled it existed no more. Probably, according to neutral opinion, no fewer than 250 factories engaged on war production, if not eliminated for the period of the war, will not be in operation again for many months to come. Possibly most revealing of all—and as one who has studied the German air-raid precautions system first hand, I know how keenly Marshal Goering and the German Air Ministry would hold on to it if they could—is the fact that the air-raid precautions services in the city of Cologne, after the raid of 30th May, were removed lock, stock and barrel from the control of the German Air Ministry and placed in the hands of the Gestapo. To hon. Members who understand the activities of the Gestapo in Germany to-day and the increasing power which is being placed by Hitler into its hands, this will, I think, be the most significant factor of all. Nature in her wildest mood at the great earthquake and fire at San Francisco had not approached the mortal scale and tempo of this destruction.
Let us now compare it with the earlier dispersed bombing technique to which I have previously referred. In two years, according to the Ministry of Home Security, we have lost in this country some 40,000 persons killed, and therefore an average, since German raiding started, of some 20,000 killed per annum. That is the neutral estimate of the number of Germans killed in Cologne in one night. 254 Let us also compare these casualties with the casualties in London when, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security said in his most interesting broadcast on Sunday evening, London was raided for 57 nights on end without intermission, and for the whole of that period the total casualties in the Metropolis were not a fraction of the total casualties in Cologne.
§ Mr. Stokes
I have not heard the whole of the speech of the hon. Member, but has he given the House the Air Force estimate of the losses at Cologne?
§ Mr. Simmonds
I have tried to tell the House that I have drawn on official and neutral figures. I shall be very happy to show my hon. Friend the sources of my figures if he wishes. I am not drawing upon any figures which have not been published. I should like to compare the problem of the bombing of Germany with one aspect of the great Battle of Egypt in the last few days. If I understand it aright, the distinguishing feature of the opening battle of El Alamein was the weight of metal thrown by our guns within a small area within a short space of time. The enemy was bowled over by the volume and unexpectedness of our attack. This twin military criterion—concentration of fire power and surprise—equally is the key of the successes of the 1,000-bomber raid. In their bombing of this country probably on no night did the weight of enemy bombs exceed 400 tons, with 500 as the maximum. This quantity was, as hon. Members will recall, very frequently distributed over a number of cities, and seldom, therefore, can more than 100 to 200 tons of bombs have fallen on one area in one night. In each 1,000-bomber raid—and I take this information from the technical aeronautical Press, bearing in mind the range to Cologne and the published bombing capacity of the aircraft known to have been used—we may well have carried 1,500 tons of bombs, and possibly 2,000 tons. With the elimination of the twin-engined aircraft and the increase in the number of four-engined aircraft clearly this number will rise in the future. Thus in Cologne we dropped four times the weight ever dropped by the enemy even in the heyday of his raiding on these Islands, and we concentrated that tonnage in space and in time. All the bombs were dropped within 90 minutes. As for the comparative 255 losses of our own aircraft under the old bombing technique and the new bombing technique, the figures of the Air Ministry indicate that, in general, there is an improvement with the larger numbers raiding a given target. That indeed is natural because, once the defence commences to be overwhelmed, then clearly there is less fire-power directed against our aircraft from the ground. There is also, on moonlight nights, the ability of our bombers to support each other against hostile aircraft.
The aim of my speech to-day is to urge upon the House and upon the Government the importance of the 1,000-bomber raids and to press that this is something vital, something new, something wholly different from the dispersed bombing technique of the past. A potential door to earlier victory. I do not claim that we should exclusively indulge in 1,000-bomber raids, but let us say that we will do this boldly and of set policy. I believe that there are 25 principal German cities. Were each of these in turn gutted as Cologne was the whole complexion of the war would change. If our bombing policy was based upon this principle, there is no reason, in my opinion, why, as soon as the winter months give way to spring, we should not have 1,000-bomber raids at least on the average of one a week. These 25 German cities could, therefore, be gutted to the same extent as Cologne within six months. I know there is an undercurrent of Press and other criticism which sometimes takes place if, knowing that this gigantic Bomber Command now exists, the bomber raids on Germany are not at regular and frequent intervals. I would pray that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air would ignore this clamour. With the new bomber technique the raids will be at less frequent intervals, but they will be the more powerful for that. I believe that until May of this year, when the new bomber policy showed its worth, there were many fair-minded men in the country who had doubts as to whether we were justified in putting so much of our industrial, military and aeronautical resources into the night-bombing offensive. I trust that they will be so fair-minded that they will review their earlier thoughts in the light of the known facts of the 1,000-bomber raids of this year. With bomber produ- 256 ction vastly outstripping the enemy's production, as we have been told by President Roosevelt and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production, here is the weapon for to-day. Above all, we know that the enemy will no longer be competent to retaliate in kind. He has lost the power to put info the air at regular intervals so large a force as 1,000 bombers, even if he has done so in the past, which is very much to be doubted.
I am not suggesting neglecting bomber support for field operations in any way. I appreciate that we must back up our Army as, in fact, we have done and are doing, not only with the 8th Army but for the 1st Army—something in which all those who take interest in our air effort may take pride. We mounted 1,000-bomber raids on three occasions this year. Next year it should be more practicable with both the United States and ourselves in the air.
It would not be well if, before I sit down, I did not pay a momentary tribute to Sir Arthur Harris and his staff in Bomber Command for this revolution in air warfare and, equally, to the station commanders who organise the individual raids and to the crews who carry them out. There is nothing so coldly gallant and intrepid as the night-bomber crew. I think we must say that the manner in which, night after night, they approach their lonely task and come back ready for the next day, some of them even refusing, unless pressed to do so, to take their turn off duty, is something magnificent. The men who are doing it come not only from these islands but from every part of the world, and they are rendering a most distinguished part in the war effort. No one will say that those who have lost their lives in the night-bomber offensive have in any way been sacrificed without due measure of retribution being called for by them and their friends against the enemy. Bomber Command know that they have in their hands a weapon of surpassing power, but it must be used not tediously and laboriously as a carpenter's saw but with the swift, sudden cut of the rapier. The sharp bright tool, improperly used, is soon blunted. That is the lesson of our earlier dispersed raids. Let no one claim that we should continue to fight the air war on an out-moded equestrian conception. On the contrary, let the 257 new bomber technique wrest for us the full dividends of this mighty opportunity.
§ Sir Edward Campbell (Bromley)
I am particularly pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). I was very interested in all that he said, but it made me very homesick for the Air Ministry. I am glad that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air was here, because I know how efficiently he is working in the Air Ministry and how efficiently he worked while I was there. I think we are fortunate in having such an Undersecretary, and I am glad that he was present to hear my hon. Friend, who knows so much about the industry and who was always so helpful to my chief when he was at the Air Ministry.
I am however, a little sorry that I did not follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). He is said to be the wittiest man in the House of Commons. Generally his wit has been at the expense of the poor Parliamentary Private Secretaries, so I am glad that I have come in second this time. Nevertheless, we have appreciated what he has said, because however much we may from time to time disagree with him we know that he is always very sincere. Even if he does slate us sometimes, it has been done with a twinkle in his eye, because he thinks that we shall probably rise to the bait. But, as a matter of fact, it is a difficult thing for any Parliamentary Private Secretary to speak at any time. He is not supposed to speak when his Minister's Department is interested in anything, and if he is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as I am, he finds very few opportunities to speak as there are few topics which have not something to do with the Treasury.
§ Sir E. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman seems to imagine that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for everything that happens in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Totally irresponsible."]
§ Sir E. Campbell
Even a dead hand. Although there is rejoicing about the successes in Egypt, I feel that the country does not fully appreciate the magnificent and difficult work which has been accomplished in connection with the operations in North Africa. Many Members used continually to say that our workers were not making an ad-out effort. It was said that they were slacking and not putting in sufficient hours of work. I think that in any case they, among others, have every right to a portion of the credit for the success of this action. There is, then, the question of transport. In the last war I was involved in the shipping of many millions of tons of cargo, so that I know something about shipping and the difficulties involved. There are the difficulties of collecting the necessary freight at the right ports, loading and stowing the very varied cargoes, arranging for the necessary escort, and keeping the destination secret.
I think the secrecy of the whole of this affair was remarkably praiseworthy. Dozens of senior and junior officers belonging to all the Services must have known of it for months, hundreds of confidential letters, plans and proposals must have been exchanged between many Government Departments; and yet, not a word leaked out. Surely, this is one of the occasions when due credit must be given to the much maligned Civil servants. Being at the Treasury, I suppose I should not say much about the Civil servants, among whom, after 25 years as a private trader, I have worked in five different Departments with my present chief, for the last 11 years. But this I must say, with a good deal of knowledge of other countries, that there is no country in the world that has a Civil Service even comparable with ours for ability, integrity and secrecy. I think that must be the opinion of many Ministers. At Question time one very often sees Ministers a little bit dubious as to what reply they shall give. Perhaps they need a little assistance. I remember that at a by-election at which I assisted, some years ago, the chairman got up and said, "After Sir Edward Campbell has taken his seat, our candidate will reply to questions." In due course I took my seat. The chairman had had the questions sent up to him in writing and had put them 259 behind his back, giving them to a very knowledgeable man behind him to write the replies. Then the candidate got up to reply. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the first question is 'Is Empire free…?' I cannot read the question, but the reply is as follows:…" I sometimes think that might happen in the House had we not got a Civil Service. Great praise is also due to the Press for their secrecy in the matter. Doubtless the Press could have made many "scoops" if they had been less loyal. I do not think we appreciate as much as we ought to do the very fine Press which we have in this country. This successful start in North Africa has put a new spirit into all of us, and I sincerely hope it will encourage everybody to do even more than he or she has been doing.
The Gracious Speech mentions the question of post-war reconstruction, which will be fully discussed later, but as I shall not have the opportunity of getting in then, I want to make a few remarks now. I hope we shall not spend many millions of pounds on half-baked and ill-considered schemes merely on the plea that we spent £12,000,000 or £15,000,000 a day on the war, and therefore, why should we not do the same on the peace? That is the way to disaster and bankruptcy, which would do no one any good, and would lead to unemployment. With regard to reconstruction generally, I sincerely hope that, as soon as possible after the peace is signed, we shall raise the school-leaving age and have compulsory day continuation schools. The 1918 Act, for which Mr. Fisher was responsible, was never brought into force in most of the towns and counties, and therefore it was of no use, but that was very unfortunate, because it prevented youngsters from getting the education which they should have got. I want to see adequate playing fields and open spaces, as I believe these will be for the benefit of the health of our youngsters. I am very anxious that there should be absolute freedom in connection with leisure. Let the young people choose for themselves whether they wish to join the scouts, guides, boys' or girls' clubs, or other similarly excellent organisations. These organisations are useless if there is compulsion on the children to attend them.
I hope also that the President of the Board of Education will see that there 260 is not only one type of school for all children, as was suggested in the House some while ago, and that an endeavour is not made to turn out a standard type of boy or girl. What is a standard type of boy or girl? Who is to be the standard—the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who represents the Communist Party, or a mere man like myself?—an awful choice to make, in any case. Let the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses teach children to use their brains and think for themselves. What we need to ensure in our children—I have had seven, and I have six grandchildren, so that I know something about children—is that they shall have independence, initiative, self-reliance and even naughtiness and a bit of the devil if you like so long as they are natural. Let them know the team and competitive spirit which has made this country great. They must be taught respect for God, King and parents, and be loyal to their school, whether it be Eton, Dulwich, or Bromley Road School. Let them be proud of it wherever they have been educated.
I want now to say a word or two about India. I lost a brother in Poona two or three weeks ago. He went into the Indian Civil Service in 1898 and became temporary Director of Army Recruiting in the last war. He was very fond of the Indians; and ended his Indian career of nearly 44 years as a missionary. I am told by two Members of the House who knew him very well in India that his knowledge of the Indians and the fluency with which he spoke their dialects were quite unique. He never entered the political arena, but he often wrote to me about things in India, and he told me to beware of Gandhi, who, he said, was extremely clever but politically quite untrustworthy. When the Indian reforms went through the House, a number of die-hards, as they were called, strongly opposed those reforms. Recently the Lord Privy Seal visited India and made a quite unprecedented offer, which was turned down. I am sorry about that. I think it is high time that the saner elements in India—and they are by far the larger proportion—got together and accepted the terms offered to them by the Lord Privy Seal, or at any rate made reasonable alternative proposals. India has millions of friends and admirers in this country, and we all appreciate India's great and growing war effort.
261 I am very annoyed when I hear Members belittle this country's war effort or suggest that the House of Commons is losing prestige, presumably because we do not talk enough. That, of course, is a lot of nonsense. It is deeds and not words that are needed. I think we have every reason to be proud of our effort. But, while we rejoice at the turn of events, we must not relax. We all see victory in sight, but it is long way off, and, whether we are in the House of Commons, in the Fighting or the Civil Defence Forces, in the factories, in trade or in commerce, we must all pull our weight and pull together if we are to win. However we may fare against Germany and Italy, do not let us ease down till we have dealt adequately with Japan, whose forces we must not despise. Much as I dislike the Japanese—and I know them very well—I must give them credit for being efficient, industrious and practical. They are ruthless and tenacious and will hang on till the bitter end and die in the very last ditch. When the time comes to attack Japan itself I hope it will be arranged that Indian troops from Singapore, Malaya, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies will form a part of the United Nations expeditionary force.
As one who was for many years a merchant and consul in the Far East, I want to give the following advice to British export firms. Train prospective travellers now and let them study new currency and weights and measures and, if possible, a bit of the languages of the countries to which they are going, and not repeat the error so often committed in pre-war days, which lost us a great deal of trade, of trying to get rid of goods left unsold here. Find out the requirements of the people in the Far East and sell them what they ask for, or they will go elsewhere and we shall lose wonderful opportunities. We have in our export firms young fellows growing up, and, to my mind, they should be taught now what is likely to face them when the war ends, when we shall want them to go abroad as soon as possible to start business, and, unless they learn these things now and become efficient, they will make the same silly mistakes that I have seen made so often. Young fellows used to come to me in the Dutch East Indies and ask how many guilders there were in a £, and ask questions about weights and 262 measures. It was very bad business indeed. By developing export trade and preparing now, we shall be able to give employment to millions of our people as soon as they are demobilised. I am proud of this country of ours and of what the British Empire has done and is doing, but I should like to know who is responsible for calling it the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is a horrid term for the greatest Empire the world has ever known. It was always called the British Empire in my day. Why should it be changed now?
§ Sir E. Campbell
I always had the greatest regard for Lord Rosebery, but I am sure he made a very great error. I am going to call it the British Empire till I pop off. I think it is a great name. In any case I hope that Ministers will see that, in any documents connected with the war, the peace and the armistice, it is always termed the British Empire—what Campbell said, not what Lord Rosebery said. We have in this country living representatives of all the United Nations, all united in one purpose—to defeat Germany, Italy and Japan. Let us take this and every opportunity of getting to know personally as many of them as possible and so forge a link of personal friendship. I think we have an opportunity now, that we have never had and shall never have again, of getting to know people not only from the British Empire and the Colonies but from the various Allied countries. I am particularly friendly with the Dutch people. I take every opportunity I can of meeting them, and I try to speak to them in their own language. I try to get to know them intimately, so that when they return to their own country they will feel that some of us understand their difficulties and sympathise with them in their ambition to build up their country again. My remarks have been rather rambling, but, as this may be looked upon as my last speech for several months, I am very glad to have had an opportunity of expressing them.
§ Captain Poole (Lichfield)
I should like to join the hon. baronet in his congratulations to all those who had any hand in the recent landings in North Africa. As his speech developed I rather 263 thought that perhaps he had got hold of my notes, or I had his, or, as an hon. Member facetiously said, that we have both been to the same agency, because my notes were almost identical with his in the beginning, though I differed from him in some respects as he went along. I am particularly pleased with the North African venture for one specific reason. For many months I have been endeavouring to say something to answer the clamour for a second front. My greatest fear has been that public opinion would stampede the Government into taking ill-advised and inopportune action. When in America I endeavoured to put very clearly my opinion that the surest way to lose the war would be to open a second front on the Continent at an inopportune moment, before we were fully prepared. The slogan all along must be, whatever schemes and plans may be in the mind of those who are responsible, that we must always remember that there is no second chance for a second front. We shall make one landing on the Continent with all the resources that we can command, and we shall be successful, or else we shall have gone a long way towards losing the war.
When the public read something of what had been necessary in order to effect that landing on the North African coast, many of those who had been clamouring for a second front in Europe realised something of the problems which confronted those who had to initiate such a movement—the vast assembly of ships, the multitude of stores that have to be accumulated, the naval and air protection, the planning and all the many things which go to make even a small landing possible. The hon. Member for Bromley said that he was associated with shipping during the last war. I have been associated with it since the beginning of this war and I claim to know something of what it takes to make up even a small expeditionary force—the enormous amount of initial planning, the points from which supplies must be drawn, the points at which it must be assembled all round this island and on shores far distant, and the co-ordination of all the efforts of the Services. I am pleased that the North African venture has been the success it has, because it will show men and women all over the world not only that there is a will to prosecute the war in an offensive spirit wherever possible, but that there is an enormous amount of 264 behind-the-scenes spade work which cannot be made public when such a venture is on foot. The hon. Member for Bromley pressed the need for secrecy. That must be paramount and obvious to everyone.
I was amazed to read the revelation in another place with regard to a recent convoy to Malta, when the Minister said that he was appalled to find that the destination had appeared on the stores which had been loaded in the ships. I would like to refer the Ministry concerned to the remarks which I made in the House on 8th October, 1940, when I appealed to the Ministry and to the Secretary of State for War to do something to reduce the marking of the stores to theatres of operations. An enormous lot has been done, but much remains that might be done. There is a considerable difficulty in the codification which was described in the House a little time ago. If code letters or words are used to determine the destination of stores, every dockside labourer who handles the stores has to be in possession of the code. The stores have to be handled at their despatching point and handled by railway companies and shipside stevedores. A multitude of people must, therefore, have the code, and it soon becomes ineffective. I suggest to the Minister that while the position in this country may be considered fairly satisfactory, he might direct his attention to the markings on stores originating in Canada and the United States of America. The amount of control that the Army exercises there is very small because it is operating in other countries, and as there are practically no ordnance depots in those countries stores have to be shipped direct from the manufacturers to the sea ports. This means that the producer in almost all cases knows the destination of the stores which he manufactures, and as he knows it the workmen engaged in the industry also know it. It is a remarkable thing that, as so much of what was necessary for the North African venture must have originated in those countries, the venture was so successful. There is here a great loophole to which the Department might profitably pay attention. The Ministry of War Transport, which operate shipments from Canada and the United States, have a colossal task. They have an equally colossal staff engaged in doing it. I am not going to suggest that they are not doing the job as well as it might 265 be done. I only want to say that their organisation in New York is known to all who have been associated with it as a mad house. It bears all the semblance of a mad house, and I would ask the Minister to find out whether all is well with the British Ministry of War Transport and its organisation in New York.
The primary purpose for which I have risen is to direct the thoughts of the Government towards the Dominion of Canada. Canada has sent here many of her brave sons to fight. I would the position away back in Canada were half as good as it is with the fighting men in this country. Canada has serious problems of her own. She has a French Canadian problem which is exercising the minds of the best of her politicians—and there are not many to whom the word "best" can be applied. Canada's potential wealth is enormous, and yet poverty is acute among many hundreds of people in the West. There is a danger which looms in Canada, and I want the Government to direct their attention to it. Canada is wealthy and offers wonderful scope for development. We who were responsible for the original colonisation of the country may, when the war is over, unless we are alive to the problem, have the spectacle of the Japanese and other people going over in their thousands and profiting by the initial spade work which was put in by the many men and women who went from this country and who, in many cases, lost all they had in the endeavour to make the country fertile. I wonder whether emigration finds a place in the Government's post-war proposals, and whether they are now engaged in discussing with the Government of Canada plans for emigration after the war. It will be far too late to start to think and plan when the war is over. There ought to be a ready-made scheme agreed between the two Governments which will enable 500,000 of the best families in this country to go to Canada with economic security guaranteed for a period of time. We should not, as we have often done in the past, send men overseas because there was no place for them here, with a few pounds in their pockets only to find themselves starving in a country which is not their own.
There must be an intelligent scheme of emigration which will enable men and 266 women to go to Canada to partake of the wealth which is there, to develop the country and to keep the country inside the British Commonwealth of Nations. Those who know me and the party to which I belong know that we are not imperialistic, but I want to see Canada and the other nations which form a part of the British Commonwealth remain therein. I see in Canada the great danger—and this is not a remote possibility—that within five years after the war the country may vote herself out of the British Commonwealth. Anyone who studies the statistics of population of Canada will find that during the past few years the British people from these Islands had formed a diminishing proportion to the total population and that people from other countries are becoming a majority. We are thus in danger of finding the work of the early pioneers who ventured there, sacrificed there and endured great hazards robbed by people who come in after the initial work has been done. So I appeal to the Government to get into consultation with the Government of Canada if they have not already done so, so that when the war is over we shall be able to offer to our men and women not merely the chance to go overseas but to go to a country where they will be welcome, where there will be a chance to make a decent living and where there will be the economic security for them and their families.
Such a scheme must be accompanied by a cheapening of trans-Atlantic travel. What are the main objections to emigration? First, there is the economic uncertainty; secondly, the loss of friends and relations; and, thirdly, the doubt as to when it will be possible, from the financial standpoint, to return to one's own country. It ought to be possible under a Government scheme such as I have envisaged for men and women to go to Canada and back or come from Canada to England and go back for a round fare of £10. If the charge were something like that people would feel when they left this country that it would be easy for them to come back here to see their friends and then go back again, in the same way as if they were living in the north of Scotland and wanted to come to London. Let us bring the countries nearer by making travel much cheaper, and then we shall not find that there is any shortage of men and women who are prepared to go out 267 there and partake of the wealth which is awaiting development in the Dominions.
The next thing I want to speak about is our news services in the United States of America. The other day I asked the Minister of Information one or two Questions on the subject, and I cannot claim to have been very satisfied with the replies I received. I learned from a Question put last week that the Ministry has 321 full-time employees in the United States and 19 part-time employees. Doing what? I do not know. I thought it was one of the functions of the Minister's Department in America to make news or statements available to the American Press in order that publicity might be given there to the British viewpoint. But no; the Minister tells us that it is the responsibility of the American Press representatives in this country to provide the American newspapers with the news they require. In that case I do not know what those 321 employees out there are doing. I asked the Minister whether he was satisfied with the presentation of our news in the United States, and suggested there was an inadequate service west of Chicago, and he retorted with smart repartee to an hon. Lady who asked a supplementary Question by suggesting that it was not his responsibility to provide all the people in the west with wireless sets on which they could hear British news. If he desires to make a practical success of his office he ought to be prepared to listen to impartial and to some extent informed opinion.
I say frankly, and without any desire to criticise the Department unjustly, that after having been in 40 out of the 48 States of the Union in the past three or four months, I feel that we are failing lamentably in our presentation of news to the American people. The people of California and other places in the west do not yet know even the elementary story of the Battle of Britain. When one tells them that 75 per cent. of our juveniles have been recruited for work in our war industries they are amazed and appalled—elementary things which are known in this country and ought to be made available to the American people, so that they might more fully understand that when we asked them to help us we were only asking them to help a nation which had done its best to help itself. The Minister may say what he likes, but as one who has met the ordinary man in the street in 268 America and talked with him—and in the course of six weeks I spoke to rather more than 500,000 shipbuilding workers there—I say frankly that I am appalled, and there is no other word for it, at our failure to get common, decent, human interest stories from this island, which are worth telling anywhere in the world, over to that great people in America. We have here a story, an epic, of a people who have surpassed themselves and yet we have failed to tell it to people who are just waiting for something like that and who love to hear such things.
I ask the Minister whether he does not think it is time he did something about it. I did not draw my information merely from the sources to which I have referred. I spoke to the Advertising Club in San Francisco, which comprises all the industrialists of the West coast of California, and to the Press Club of San Francisco, which numbers among its members all the editors of the important papers of the west and also the radio commentators. They all had the same story, "Why don't you give us news?" If it be the responsibility of the American Press representatives over here to send the news, why do not the Ministry of Information give them the stories to send to America? I remember the way in which the Dieppe raid was presented in the American papers and the reaction which I had. The impression in America still is—or was when I came away at the beginning of September—that we in Britain are still allowing everyone else to do our fighting for us. That is something which our news service should have corrected. There were five-inch headlines in the newspapers: "Yankees land in France for the first time since 1917." That was the way the Dieppe raid was given to the American people. With all due respect to the American Force and the percentage it formed of the total forces engaged, that was grossly unfair to the brave men who went from this Island and who fought and died at Dieppe.
I know that the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) has been pursuing this subject for some time, and I have not previously felt competent to speak upon it, but now, after having been out there, I consider the presentation of our case is part of the war effort of the country, because our relationship with the United States of America is important 269 to our total war effort, as important as our relationship with the U.S.S.R. I am speaking of America to-day only because I know that country just a little. After this war we must have the closest possible relationship between the U.S.A. and this country and the U.S.S.R. How can we get that close relationship if all through the war we have failed to tell them what we are doing or intending to do? We shall find ourselves at the end of this war left again with a complete lack of understanding on the part of the American people of our aspirations and ideals, and we shall have deserved it, because we failed to tell them just what we were heading for and what we were intending to do.
I suggest that the Minister ought to hie himself to America and not merely rely on the information he gets from the heads of his own Department. He should mix with the ordinary man and woman in the streets of the United Spates of America, and he would see how sadly his Department is failing in the job they are supposed to be doing. Let him tell the House what his 340 employees there are doing, because I have failed to lind evidence of any activity on the part of the British information service. Once they sent me to Chicago to speak at a meeting. They could not tell me the time of the meeting or what it was about; all they knew was that the meeting was to be held on a given day. That is not the way in which the British case ought to be presented. Let the Minister go West, either literally or figuratively. Let him go to the Western parts of the U.S.A. To the people there the only war is the war in the Pacific. They have no interest in the war taking place in Europe. Let him find out how necessary it is that our story should be told there. The Press Club in San Francisco respectfully urged me to do my utmost to get to them more of the sort of news which I humbly endeavoured to tell them when I was there.
We have lived through some dark and gloomy days, and yet they have been glorious days. There are many who feel now that we are just beginning to see a glimmering of light. We have been wandering in a maze for many years. Now we begin to see a road that will lead us somewhere and will take us on to victory. I believe many disappointments 270 will yet have to be borne by us and that there will still be times when we feel like doubting. I ask that there shall be no foolish optimism because we have scored a victory in North Africa. An enormous lot of hard fighting and of hard work in our industrial factories yet has to be done, and a long road has to be travelled. We shall win this war only if we deserve to win, and we shall deserve it only if we put our own house in order and put an effort of 100 per cent. behind all that we endeavour to do. When victory comes, it will be only the beginning of another fight, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) said, to end poverty, misery and human suffering, to give the fullness of opportunity to the young and a tranquil eventide to the aged.
§ Mr. Granville (East Suffolk, Eye)
I have listened with the greatest interest to the speech that has just been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I find myself very largely in agreement with most of what he said. I only regret that no representative of the Ministry of Information has been present to hear him. I hope that the Minister of Information will take the opportunity of reading the speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT and to see whether something can be done to improve our Press services, particularly in Chicago and the West. This Debate is an opportunity for the ordinary Back Bencher to pay his tribute to the Fighting Forces and the workshops of this country and America, and to the Prime Minister for our success in North Africa. It is as yet a long way from Benghazi to Berlin. Now that we have rung the bells we must intensify our efforts. We must try to achieve a united strategy between Great Britain, the United States and Russia, and we must enable this Parliament to lay the foundation stone for a better Britain.
I listened to the speech of the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs last week regarding our first effort in political warfare connected with the campaign in North Africa. I have no doubt that we have learned some very useful lessons. I think we know that, properly directed, political warfare can save time, which is a vital factor. We should pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary and those who were planning and organising this effort for months before, as it undoubtedly played a considerable part in upsetting the strategy 271 of the German High Command. The main fighting in North Africa was all over in 77 hours. As the Americans would say, the fighting was in the nature of a push-over. No doubt the German High Command expected the French in North Africa to hold on sufficiently to enable Germany to establish herself in Tunisia. The time that has been saved may well have disturbed seriously the strategy of the German High Command.
From the radio, and reports from America, it is obvious, in connection with political warfare, that the battle for Italy and for Metropolitan France is now on, and that revolt in the Adriatic and in the Balkans becomes practical war politics. In view of recent events, we have to ask ourselves whether we can discriminate between military necessity and the cause for which we are fighting. I believe we have reached something in the nature of a revolutionary climacteric in this political warfare. We are playing for very high stakes, but we have to do so with clean hands. The prize was the French Fleet and also the capitulation of the French Armed Forces and Government in North Africa. We landed, not the prize, but Darlan. I heard the reply given to-day by the Deputy-Prime Minister. I sincerely hope that this matter will not set back the clock for revolt in France and in Italy. The American Press and the Press in this country in the last few days have flown the Darlan kite to see whether it would come off. It has come to earth, labelled "Quisling," and I believe that the reaction of a great deal of public opinion in this country is that now that we have got a good man like Giraud out of France, at this vital juncture it is surely Edouard Herriot for whom we should be looking. According to this morning's papers, General de Gaulle has denounced the agreement with Admiral Darlan. Whatever may be going on behind the scenes in diplomatic discussions, in my view and in the view of a large number of people in this country, Darlan must go. I ask whoever is to reply for the Government to tell us what has happened to the de Gaulle prisoners who were captured and are still in North Africa and whether they have been immediately released. I leave to other Members the wider question whether General de Gaulle was consulted about the North African adventure and whether the Fight- 272 ing French were consulted before it was begun. I read also that we have sent a diplomatic or political representative to take up a position in liaison, with Admiral Darlan or the American authorities. I ask the Government, and particularly the Lord Privy Seal, to use his good offices to make representations in regard to the unfortunate Spanish Republican prisoners in North Africa.
There are other aspects of the great successes that we have enjoyed. Let us not be hypocritical in this House or in this country. Without Russia's magnificent defence at Stalingrad, there could have been no offensive in North Africa. Hitler is attempting to stabilise the Eastern front, presumably to enable him to send troops against the United Nations' offensive. Our strategy will need a diversion on the Eastern front when we begin the European offensive which the Prime Minister referred to in his speech last week. Last winter the Soviet Forces undertook an offensive. Hitler has said in speeches since that Germany nearly lost the war during that winter. In this global war we still depend vitally on the strength and might of the Russian Army. As an hon. Member who spoke earlier in the Debate said, Russia needs more equipment. Russia has had tragic losses in men, in territory, in materials and in food production. I do not know why the Under-Secretary came down to the House of Commons last Thursday and made the statement he did giving the figures of the supplies that had been sent to Russia. I do not know whether there was a diplomatic reason behind that or not. For my part, I thought it was a good story. I thought it was a very considerable undertaking on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
I would emphasise to the Lord Privy Seal, who came back from Russia with an enormous reputation in this country, that Russia's losses have been very heavy, and the figures given by the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs last Thursday were of supplies sent by this country and the U.S.A. He did not discriminate to say which were British and which were American. But they were the supplies which were sent, and not the supplies which arrived. The Prime Minister in his speech last week said that when America was sending shiploads of tanks to the Middle East and one went down, the first thing the President 273 did was immediately to replace it. That was setting a very high standard. But if Russia is to take her place in a coming European offensive by our Forces, if Stalin is to undertake a substantial diversion, then I say to the Government that we have to strain every single nerve in the workshops of this country to see that we fulfil our obligations to the Russian Government to send them the maximum supplies of equipment, of tanks and of aircraft.
I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Production on the Front Bench, and I congratulate him on his appointment. I believe we have to intensify production here and in the United States of America. For my part, I do not apologise for prodding on production in the past. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production is in the United States trying to get a Production Board including Canada, which we were advocating in this House two years ago. I am glad also that the Minister of Aircraft Production has made a special appeal to the aircraft factories of this country to redouble their efforts to give us a greater quantity production of aircraft. I think the Prime Minister should leave his maps and the issuing of communiqués from No. 10, Downing Street, to make an appeal to this country to turn it into a warrior State to make an even greater effort to achieve victory next year. I am not one of those who complain that the Prime Minister likes playing soldiers with the British Empire. I think that when the Prime Minister was very young he wanted to be a general when he grew up. Fortunately he became a politician and never grew up. I wish he had taken the opportunity in his speech at the Mansion House or in his speech in the House of Commons, of making an appeal to the people of this country to the effect that what is wanted now more than ever is a still greater effort to try and clinch the possibility of attaining early victory in Europe.
It must be obvious that there is a powerful opinion for the Government to take the initial steps in attaining what is called a unified strategy. The Prime Minister referred to Japan. He did not mention India. I cannot see why His Majesty's Government find themselves unable—and I put this point to the Lord 274 Privy Seal—if this is an Allied war and a war of the United Nations, to set up an Allied War Council in India, with China and America represented in that Allied War Council, to serve under the Commander-in-Chief, General Wavell. I would like somebody for the Government to tell us why in a war where we are to have something in the nature of co-operation and consultation between the United Nations it is impossible for His Majesty's Government to set up such an Allied War Council in New Delhi. According to the Press, we are to appoint a new Viceroy in the immediate future. I hope the Government will show some imagination and not send a reactionary mind to fill that very vital post. Mr. Rajagopalachariar and Mr. Jinnah have recently conferred in India. Why not invite Mr. Rajagopalachariar to this country to discuss the question of the formation of a National Government in India to see that India gives us the maximum contribution in the war effort? I hope that if someone is going to reply for the Government I shall not be told that that is bad policy or bad psychology.
The Prime Minister also said in his Mansion House speech that he did not become Prime Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. I wish the Prime Minister had said that before the fall of Singapore. But what does it mean? An hon. Baronet who made a speech earlier to-day referred to the fact that he does not like it because we call the British Empire the British Commonwealth of Nations. To-day the Dominions are self-governing nations. They are entitled under the Statute of Westminster to their own views and their own decisions upon foreign policy and defence. In referring to the British Empire, which we claim the right to speak on behalf of in this country, India is promised independence and freedom in the future. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Atlantic Charter applies to the Colonies. I notice there is a revival of the Rump on the third bench below the Gangway. Whereas two years ago it was considered a mortal sin to mention the British Empire or to talk of a revival of Toryism, now the knives are being sharpened, and there are cheers whenever the British Empire is mentioned instead of the British Commonwealth. [Interruption.] I wish some of the hon. Gentlemen who say "Hear, hear" would take into 275 consideration opinion in the Dominions as well as in this House. Lord Croft is a member of His Majesty's Government and a close colleague of the Prime Minister, who fought with him during the days when the Prime Minister was opposing the India Bill. Is Lord Croft speaking the mind of the Government? Is Lord Croft speaking the mind of the Conservative Party, or is the Foreign Secretary speaking the mind of the Conservative Party when he makes one of those speeches in which he says that the old order is dead and that it was not killed by Wotan and Mars? The Government would do well to remember that there are very few people in this country besides Lord Croft who will follow the Government in carrying out a purely Imperialistic war.
I was sorry that when in the Debate last week my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was speaking the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) referred to "fireside fusiliers." There are a lot of fireside fusiliers of the last war serving in this Government to-day. There is a tendency for this note to creep in now. There was a lot of khaki glamour in the last war, but it did not survive long after the war. There were a lot of heroes on the front pages of the Press in the last war, but a lot of unhappy things happened after the war and those heroes were forgotten. It is that sort of thing that worries the men of the Fighting Services to-day. I do not think the ordinary members of the Fighting Services and the people in the factories trust these carrots-before-the-donkey speeches of Ministers. They want you to begin the new world that we talk about now, and not to promise something after the war. There may be a revival in diehard opinion in this country; but if this Parliament dodges the vital decision in the laying of a foundation for a better Britain, it will be the biggest double-cross in the history of the House of Commons, and every party will have to pay the price when it meets the electorate. If you exclude social reform because it has party consequences, then, as the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition said last week, the status quo is a victory for the diehards. When the Leader of the House introduced his Motion last week, did he mean when he said that there was to be no party con- 276 troversy in the House on social reform that there will be no Bills introduced into this House if the die-hards object? The Bill which is foreshadowed by the Minister of Labour will be a test.
My hon. Friends opposite must realise that the past is not going to be forgotten. Enough water will never have flowed under Westminster Bridge to make the people of this country forget that they were landed in the second world war in the condition they were in in 1939. Surely the only thing for hon. Members to do is to support these Measures of social reform in order to redeem their past. I believe that this war is different from the last. You cannot conscript men and women in their millions and ask them to die, if necessary, for an ideal, if that ideal is not big enough to safeguard them afterwards. I believe that the Beveridge Report is the beginning of that. I hope that we are not going to be told, when the Beveridge Report is issued at the end of this month, that it cannot be dealt with in the lifetime of this Parliament. I believe that the Beveridge-Report may be the foundation of a better Britain. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you seen it?"] I only know what I read in the newspapers. I hope it corresponds to something like that. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh; but if the Beveridge Report means that, having conscripted these men and asked them if necessary to give their lives, you are going to give those who return a guarantee against ill fortune, suffering, and hardship, so that what happened in 1922, when heroes became hawkers, does not happen again, will you support that, whatever is in the Report? This is a vital thing, and one of the things that we are fighting for. I believe it is the responsibility of this Parliament to do something about that within its lifetime. I believe that if we shirk it, as a Parliament elected seven years ago in the interests of the men who are fighting this war for us, our day of reckoning will come.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
I should like first to refer to the admirable speech made by the Prime Minister when he surveyed recent events in Egypt There can be no doubt that the Government have every reason to be proud of the real victory we have achieved there. It was evidently the result of long preparation and co-operation in a 277 marked degree with the leaders of the United Nations. The change in the scene which that victory has given us has brought relief, satisfaction and joy to all the people of this country, and the Government are entitled to, and will, I am sure, receive unanimously from this House, the heartiest congratulations upon that result, upon the long preparations so carefully made, and, not least, upon the commendable secrecy with which those preparations were carried out. I should have preferred to leave my references to the war there—I have not been at all anxious that past controversies should be brought again to the notice of the House—but I would remind the House that the Prime Minister himself referred in a very marked way to the Debate which took place on 2nd and 3rd July last, and referred definitely to the fact that these preparations had been made before the Vote of Censure was then moved. I notice that no less a newspaper than "The Times" referred last Thursday to the Prime Minister's remark as a legitimate score against his critics. I think, therefore, that the House will not consider it unreasonable if I refer as briefly as I can to the matter, not only as the position was then but as it is now, in connection with that criticism. I hope to show that in my own mind and, I believe, in the minds of all who supported me on that occasion, we are as convinced to-day as we have ever been that that criticism was justified, and we believe that it had definite and beneficial results.
Let me remind the House what that criticism was. Shortly, it may be put into two sentences. It was a criticism of the offices of Prime Minister and Minister of Defence being held by one person, with the result that, in our view, the very vital aspects of the Prime Minister's office in the control and improvement of production in this country were not being carried out, and, secondly, it was a criticism of the conditions which led to our soldiers in Egypt and in Libya having to fight with weapons which put them into an inferior position to that of the enemy. It was not a criticism at any time upon the Prime Minister's visit to the United States of America. It was not a criticism at any time of the leadership of our Armies in the field. It was a definite criticism, not upon what the Prime Minister and his 278 advisers were doing in June, but upon the fact that we were at that date nearly three years from the beginning of the war and something like six years since the beginning of rearmament, and we still had no proper weapons with which to fight. That was the criticism. We believed that the faults were due to the want of Government action in the previous period, and just as the Prime Minister's speeches in June and September last justified that criticism, so his speech of last week again confirmed that justification. I would ask the House to remember what the Prime Minister himself said last week. He said:When I was in Egypt in the early days of August I visited myself every unit which was to be armed with these tanks and guns, some of them the most seasoned regiments we have, including the Yeomanry Division. But, alas, they had no weapons adequate for the fight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1942; col. 22, Vol. 385.]Is it necessary for anybody else to justify everything that was said in this House by the critics last July when we have the words of the Prime Minister himself completely confirming what we said? I was interested to see also that my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor), who spoke so ably in the House last week—a most interesting speech—of his personal experience in Egypt, made very much the same statement. He said:It is the same troops who had endured those things, who in the last battle, once they had equipment equal to that of the enemy, conquered him very quickly. There was never any doubt that, man for man, our troops were better than those of the enemy and that when once they had equal weapons they would do the job.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1942; col. 92, Vol. 385.]That was the whole criticism which was put forward here in July. I do not want to go into the question of tank production to-day in detail. I notice that it has already been referred to in the Debate, but I am a little surprised when I read some of the statements in the newspapers. I wonder to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was referring when he said that we had the best tank in the world. We have some excellent small tanks and tanks which have been of excellent service. I believe that this country could produce the best tank in the world. I have no doubt about it, but if he means that we have to-day a British tank armed with guns capable of meeting modern German tanks, then I would be extremely obliged if my right hon. Friend would give us a little further information about 279 it and could tell us where this tank is. I assume, according to his statement, it must have done hundreds of miles of trials, have been thoroughly tested in every way and satisfied all the experts that it is armed and equipped to meet modern German equipment set against it. I notice that the same statement, in other words, was made by the Minister of Production. The House is entitled to know something more about these tanks, because people in the country naturally and rightly believe these statements and they are inclined to say, "Why do we have to have American tanks if we have the best tank in the world?" The Government should answer that question. Personally, I am—and, I am sure the House is—extremely glad that the Prime Minister did go to the United States, and that he arranged for the supply of the excellent Shermans and Lees and other tanks which we so badly needed, and without which there is little doubt that our recentvictory in Egypt would not have been achieved. I do not want to carry the tank question further than this, but I believe from what I read in the newspapers that new arrangements are being made which we hope will be entirely satisfactory. It is far better to look to the future than to the past. I have no wish to dwell upon the mistakes of the past, but I think I am entitled to say, when we are told that the Prime Minister's speech is a legitimate score against his critics, that everything the Prime Minister himself has said has justified that criticism.
I only want to mention two other matters about which the House is entitled to know more. I am sure that I shall immediately meet with the resentment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Privy Seal when I mention one of these matters, but I am going to mention it because I consider that the House has not been properly treated. I refer to the chaining of prisoners. It is time that the House knew what the situation is. There is very grave disquiet over this matter throughout the country. I am told by such expert information as I can get that the raising of this matter is not likely to do any possible harm to our own prisoners at all, but I have refrained from saying more about it in the hope that the Government would make a statement, and I think that a statement is overdue.
280 The only other matter that I would like to mention in the Prime Minister's speech is his reference—quite right, no doubt—to the propriety of misleading the enemy. With that, of course, we all agree. But I wonder whether in order to mislead the enemy it is really necessary to make the very categorical statement regarding a second front which was made in this House. I should think it would be possible to mislead the enemy without misleading all our own people as well, but anyhow, that is a smaller matter which I do not want to pursue further now. I do, however, want to refer to one other matter which is giving a certain amount of trouble in the production effort which is still so necessary in the country. I do it as one who has criticised the extent of that effort from time to time and who is now paying, and who has publicly over and over again, paid tribute to what the people of this country are doing. It is marvellous, the way the people have turned to factory work and have found unusual kinds of work and in it are producing armaments on an amazing scale. But there is one small section of that working population who still give us trouble. It is a small section. It is mostly comprised of young men, some of whom apparently cannot yet appreciate the enormous importance of their own work and its value to the nation at the present time. Those young men, that small section of the community, are undoubtedly setting a very bad example and causing a good deal of resentment in the minds of many who are striving their utmost in the national effort. They are reserved for the special occupation in which they are employed.
Obviously, the natural remedy if they will not yield to discipline is, at first sight, to de-reserve them, but there are obvious objections to that course. We do not want to set up the Army as a place to which a man is sent as a penalty; we do not want to put the Army into that position, and consequently there are distinct difficulties in the way of de-reservation. But is there any reason why young men of that age should not first be called up to the Army, be given an official number and, perhaps, some small amount of training and then released for urgent national work in factories where they are wanted? If they did not work properly or respond to the appeals made to them, if they would not be disciplined, then they could be recalled to the Army. I think it worth 281 while for the Government to consider whether it would not be better to call young men up first and then release them as they are required for urgent work in factories.
His Majesty's Speech refers to measures which are necessary in peace-time, and my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) has just referred to these matters in detail. It is perfectly true that our first business is to win the war and that we must not be diverted from that by any considerations at all, but clearly there are a number of people in the country who, for many different reasons, cannot give their whole time to actual war work, and it is right for them that they should consider—as we should consider as a legislative body—what conditions are to be after the war, in so far as anybody can determine these matters now. Planning is undoubtedly desirable and will be necessary, but there is grave danger in trying to over-plan. A further danger which I see ahead of us, and which few people to-day seem to appreciate fully, is that we are losing to some extent our sense of initiative. In the early days of the war, when there was great growth of bureaucracy, there was considerable resentment among all classes of people at being ordered to do this, that and the other. To-day there is almost equal resentment in the ranks of industry and trade, but I doubt whether there is still the same resentment among private individuals. I am a little afraid that some of us in our private affairs and lives are beginning to adopt the attitude that, after all, these regulations are necessary, that we have accepted them and that we should accept them as a normal part of our lives. That, as I see it, is a dangerous attitude. I have not the slightest doubt that after the war it will be necessary that controls should continue for a period, but we want to get rid of these controls as soon as we can. As I see it, we want to get back to our responsibility for our individual affairs and for the family life upon which this country has been built up and also to that sense of enterprise and initiative upon which our whole Empire has been founded.
There is a further danger that I see, and it is the only other matter I want to refer to to-day. It is that as the war has gone on bureaucratic influence, which is perfectly natural and reasonable in war- 282 time, has spread much further than anybody imagined it would, with the result that to-day local government in this country is in danger. Many of the functions of local government are being absorbed by the regions, and the regions in turn are controlled by Whitehall. As one who is unconnected in any way with local government, I think that those who are most interested in maintaining our local government institutions, which are part of the bulwark of our Constitution, one of the mainstays of our public administration, should consider how this present tendency is to be combated when the war finishes. I mention these matters because there are few occasions in the House when one can deal with a variety of subjects in the manner possible at the time of the Debate on the Address. I do not want to say anything which will detract from any one person giving his or her utmost effort towards victory, for we are not by any means out of the wood yet. The ringing of bells last Sunday was a very natural gesture and one to which nobody could object, but at the same time I cannot help feeling that it would, perhaps, have been wiser to have waited a little longer. We still may have a long road to travel, and it will require the united work of every single person in the country to get that victory which now, for the first time, we see ahead, however far away the final shot may be. I conclude, as I began, by whole-heartedly congratulating the Prime Minister and the Government on bringing about the tremendous change in the war situation resulting from the actions in Egypt and Africa.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
It has been my fortune to listen to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) in previous Debates, and frequently I have agreed with his criticisms. So far as the last part of his speech to-day is concerned, I cannot agree with him less. He is all for compulsion, for bureaucracy and controls in war-time so that we might produce the requisite number of tanks, aircraft and other munitions of war for the purposes of victory, but when that victory has been achieved he wants no more bureaucracy, no more controls and no more co-ordination for the purpose of producing houses, for the reorganisation of industry and for achieving in peace the objective for which 283 we have entered the war itself. I beg my hon. Friend and other hon. Members opposite not to make the ghastly error that was made after the last war. But upon that issue there will be something more to say.
It would be churlish almost to the point of offensiveness not to extend cordial congratulations to the Prime Minister and to the Government on the remarkable success that has attended our arms. The Prime Minister has endured with fortitude an incredible succession of setbacks and disappointments. He has not been unduly favoured by fortune. That is all the more reason why those of us who have indulged occasionally in severe criticism of the Government should join in the chorus of praise that has suddenly descended on his head. But in this there is no evidence of servility or sycophancy and no disposition to indulge in fulsome adulation. It is the sincere expression of those hon. Members who longed, with the. Government, for victory but were frustrated by defeat, and who now welcome with appreciation the turn of the tide. Rejoicing in victory is not the exclusive monopoly of the Government or of those hon. Members who did not feel the urge to direct attention to alleged deficiencies in the organisation of the war effort. This is not only the Government's war; it is everybody's war, it is our war. When the Government fail we are as deeply concerned as they are, equally frustrated, equally disappointed. On the other hand, when they achieve a measure of success, we are elated. The victory is as much ours as it is theirs.
Since the Prime Minister made, last Wednesday, that exhaustive, analytical and massive oration reviewing the situation in North Africa and in the Mediterranean, the Debate has taken a somewhat desultory turn, relieved by a few brisk and scintillating interventions, but unfortunately marred by some vehement and nonsensical observations by certain hon. Members who seek to attack the critics. It is strange that in this Assembly, the cradle of criticism since the days of the Stuart kings, there should be hon. Members who prefer the monotony of agreement to the clash of controversy. When agreement is complete Debate becomes unreal and, therefore, superfluous. When that occurs we are reduced to the level of the Reichstag, and hon. 284 Members represent nobody but themselves or it may be a Fascist dictator. From that melancholy situation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Good Lord preserve us."] I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. Let us be safeguarded.
Moreover, occasionally it happens, strange as it may appear, that the so-called critics are in agreement with Members of the Government. Let me furnish one example. In his speech last Wednesday, the Prime Minister informed the House that one of the reasons certain communiqués were presented to the world, and the reason certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite who were Members of the Government referred to the second front, was for the purpose of deliberately deceiving the enemy. It is not quite certain whether the enemy was deceived; but let us set that aside—it is a little controversial. It so happens that a speech was delivered in the House in May, 1942, during a Debate on the conduct of the war, in which the hon. Member who was speaking said:Instead of Government spokesmen saying we cannot announce our intentions to Hitler because that would be telling him what we propose to do, I would prefer the opposite method.The hon. Member then proceeded to indicate what the opposite method was:I would tell Hitler what we propose to do. I would say that next week, at any rate, we propose to put 500,000 men on the Continent, that we have the ships, we have the guns, we, have the tanks, and we have the air power. I would tell him at the same time that we propose to invade Norway and to attack from Murmansk through Finland, because if we could suppress the resistance of the Finns and gain entry to the Baltic, we could strike a heavy blow at the Nazis and aid our Russian comrades.Immediately the hon. Member offered those observations, very modestly, he was met by derision from all quarters of the House, and one hon. Member said, in an interjection:Would Hitler believe it?The hon. Member who was speaking said:But it is necessary to maintain the threat and to give the appearance of aggression—to support it and fortify it materially, of course, but to go on threatening."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; 20th May, 1942; cols. 320–321, Vol. 380.]That is what the hon. Member said, but he was met with derision. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who was it?"] It was the hon. Member for Seaham. The purpose 285 and view was to threaten the enemy and to keep him on tenterhooks, whether he believed it or not. Apparently, that was also the Government's desire. The Government had given careful attention to it. You see, sometimes we agree. We are thinking along parallel lines. That in itself is a reason why hon. Members should not be too hasty about alleged criticism. It may be that occasionally—I will not put it higher than that—the critics may be right. But let me put this to the House: Let us assume that in this assembly, from the beginning of the war, the voice of criticism had been completely suppressed and that never a controversial word had been uttered.
Does anyone suppose that that would have fortified the Government and the war effort? Does anyone suppose that that would have assisted the Government materially? Of course not. In fact, in the sphere of production, of shipping, shipbuilding, food rationing and the general organisation of the war effort, some of the critics have been as helpful by public utterances here and elsewhere as many others who have been inarticulate in public but exceedingly garrulous in private. The hon. Member for Kidderminster seemed to convey that the Prime Minister was trying to score off his critics. I do not complain at all. Let him score off his critics as much as he likes. Let him score off me if he likes, if it is necessary so to do. I do not mind, and I hope others will not mind. It does not matter to us. We can take it, as long as he scores off Hitler. The Prime Minister, however, showed commendable restraint in this speech. He made no attempt to score off the critics, and that pleased me as much as anything else he said, apart from the statement of our success in North Africa. I have not the least doubt that, in spite of the congratulations offered to the Government, there will be criticism, and I am certain the Government will not mind, and even if they do, I still believe that there will be critics.
There is a disposition in some quarters to underrate our achievement in North Africa. I do not share that view. If we can free the Mediterranean, it is a vantage point for a front. Never mind about the numerical position, first, second, or third. It is a front, and a solid front. It is a base for air attack and for air cover 286 for our shipping, but it is much more than that. It will save us a substantial volume of shipping—perhaps 2,000,000 tons annually. When we speak of, shipping losses we do not always mean sinkings. If it takes shipping proceeding from this country to the Middle East four or five months instead of three weeks, that is a distinct and substantial loss. If that can be saved by freeing the Mediterranean, this is the first great achievement of the war. Far from underrating it, I applaud it, and I hope we shall derive substantial benefits in due course. There is another advantage. Some day we shall have to attack Italy. I hope it comes soon. I have welcomed the bombing attacks. It has been said that we ought to be careful in our propaganda in relation to Italy, that the Italians are a very nice people and, if only we treat them kindly in our propaganda, they will throw Mussolini overboard. I am not so sure about that. It is much better to treat them as they try to treat us—ruthlessly. Nothing could be better than attacking Genoa and destroying it utterly. That is the best form of propaganda, and to the extent that our bombing operations can teach the Italians a lesson, all the sooner the war will be ended. There is another advantage, that it enables our munitions of war to proceed more speedily to India, and to that extent fortifies our strength and paves the way for the recapture of Burma, which is essential if we are to come to the assistance of the Chinese and prevent the Japs making an attack upon Russia. There are great advantages in this achievement.
Let me now direct attention to what is perhaps a disadvantage. Recently there have been manœuvrings of a diplomatic and political character in North Africa. I do not want, at any rate at this stage, to embark on a subject which might be embarrassing to the Government, but if the matter were left to me, I am prepared to use anyone and anything in order to win the war. [Interruption.] They are Fascists. I am not even prepared to use that language. If you are asking someone to assist you, you had better not call him hard names. We are not asking Mussolini to assist us. He never will. Our purpose is to destroy him ruthlessly and utterly. That must be done before the war can be brought to a successful issue. But while we must be prepared to utilise the services of the French ex-statesmen 287 and military and naval experts, at the same time we have to consider the position of the Free French. They came to our side without any prompting. There was no treachery as far as they were concerned, and at that time we were not on the winning side. All the more credit is due to them. We must consider their future in a reconstructed Europe. I hope that out of this diplomatic tangle in North Africa the Government will be able to extract something clearer, less foggy and more conducive to support for those who came to our side in the early days.
General Smuts the other day referred to what he regarded as the most devastating menace that confronts us, namely the U-boat campaign. He is quite right. There is nothing more menacing. Of course, that has been said by many hon. Members. Only to-day I heard something about our shipping losses which is by no means encouraging, and I am glad to note that Lord Woolton has decided to curtail civilian consumption a little more. We must be prepared for greater sacrifices. We are only at the real beginning of this war. Now that it is becoming grimmer we are making real contact with the enemy, but we shall have to make nearer contact with the enemy before it is over. In these circumstances not only ought we to call upon our workers to render more effective aid—and no doubt individually they are doing their best—but we must ask the Government and the executives in industry to improve the organisation of industry so that we might extract from it the maximum production. We must in addition be prepared ourselves to accept sacrifices. We cannot ask our men to go on to the high seas and risk their lives, or to go into the field of battle, or into the air, and make sacrifices which they are now making so gloriously, and not be prepared to endure and make sacrifices ourselves. That is the least we can do. I hope that the Government will do all they can in that direction by propaganda and by a further curtailment of civilian consumption so long as it is done along the lines of equity.
I come back to the question of the U-boats. The first thing we must do is to provide sufficient escort, because if we cannot we must put merchant vessels into a position to protect themselves adequately. That really has not been done. I know that guns have been placed on the sterns of vessels and also on bridges 288 occasionally, but we ought to provide guns fore and aft on merchant vessels. I understand that the reason we have not so far provided sufficient armaments on board these vessels is that there is something in international law which provides that ii they proceed to a neutral port they may be interned. A fig for international law at the present time. It is not done because there are not sufficient guns, for I am satisfied that we can provide them. Moreover, we must provide faster ships. I am sorry that the Government have not responded to the demands so frequently made by hon. Members and ship-owners to provide fast ships of 15 and 16 knots which are capable of eluding submarines. Although I know that submarines are faster than those which emerged in the early days of the war, if our ships were adequately armed and had a faster speed, they would be provided with a greater measure of protection than many of the merchant vessels which are now operating. It is a duty we owe, if not to the nation, at any rate to the men who serve on the high seas.
There is a further question that I want to put to whoever is to reply for the Government. Can we have a litle more information about the position in the Far East? I am not asking for details or plans, but we ought to try and remove the fog. Many reports appear in the Press, some of an encouraging and heartening nature, but some not so encouraging, and we are entitled to know a little more from the Government of what is happening in the Far East, to what extent we have carried assistance to Australia, what are the reactions in that country, who is actually in command, whether there is a unified command, and to what extent we are damaging the enemy. I hope that before the Debate ends we shall have, if not a complete review of the position in the Far East, at any rate some indication of what the position is.
I want to say a word about the future. I will not deal with reconstruction, for there is to be a Debate on it. After Dunkirk hon. Members opposite, to whom my observations are addressed, were almost disposed to accept by the jugful the oxygen of Socialism. They were progressively inclined, and I have occasionally heard hon. Members opposite speak of the need of collectivism in industry or social 289 reform and the like. That was after Dunkirk. Things were not going so well then. Now there is a turning of the tide and hon. Members opposite see that the coast is clear to come out of their holes, some of them almost scurrying out of their holes, and assert themselves. Nobody in the House has any right to assert himself too emphatically about the future. Let us see what that means. So far as we are concerned, we do not expect Socialist Measures from a Coalition Government. It would be surprising if they emerged, except so far as they relate to the organisation of the war effort. It should be noted, however, that although Socialist Measures have not so far emerged, nevertheless some Socialist principles are in operation in the organisation of the war effort. When it comes to the questions of housing, land, wages, private profit and the like, and those social and economic issues which are thrown up in our controversies and have been thrown up for many a long year, we can hardly expect a Coalition Government, with a Prime Minister who is the leader of the Conservative Party and the Conservative Party being what it is, with some honourable exceptions, to provide Socialist Measures, certainly not of a substantial character. It is asking too much.
We are entitled, however, to ask the Government whether they are considering plans for demobilisation and what is to be done with the men when they return. Many of the men will return, the more the better, and when they return what are they to return to? The traditional England, the England of slums, misery desolation, and social insecurity? I hope that the men will never accept that. So far as we can claim to be the spokesmen for these men, we shall see that they do not return to those conditions. Hon. Members opposite also are spokesmen for these men. I hope that they will not fail to recognise that fact. They are as much the spokesmen for the men now serving the cause as we are on these benches. If that be so, we must speak together for the needs of these men and not for our own selfish pettifogging interests. What are these men coming back to? To work? What kind of work? What are the hours of labour going to be? Is there to be security? When men are out of work through no fault of their own is it to be the dole with the means test and the 290 inquisition all over again? Are the children to be deprived of an education which this country can give to every one of its children? Are we to have at the end of the war a repetition of the slogans which fall so glibly, and no doubt quite honestly, from the lips of certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite? Slogans will not do. That is a consideration that must present itself to the minds not only of Members of the Government but of all hon. Members.
It is often said that this Parliament is out of date. I think this Parliament is as good as any of which I have ever been a Member. I have been here since 1922, with a brief interval outside. It is as good as any Parliament we have ever had. I do not complain of hon. Members—except when they refuse to agree with me. Generally speaking, hon. Members who have had the opportunity have devoted themselves assiduously to the activities of this House, at any rate as far as they could. When there is a Coalition Government and when there is a war it is not easy to be so active as one can be in peace, when all kinds of issues emerge from time to time. Therefore, I do not complain of Parliament. This Parliament may go on for another two years, and perhaps be one of the longest Parliaments we have known in our history. That will not matter so much as long as we justify our existence, as long as we think of the men who are going to return, as long as we see to it that plans are prepared—it is no use talking about over-planning: one can never get too much planning in modern times—so long as plans are produced, constructive plans, wholesome plans, intelligent plans, human plans which will lead to benefits for the men who have been prepared to sacrifice themselves in our cause. And when I speak of the men I naturally embrace the women.
There is only one other thing I need say. I hope that no hon. Member will imagine that because I congratulated the Government there is any weakening. So long as there is Parliament I hope hon. Members will be alive and will not be afraid of controversy. But the one thing I did want to say to the Government was this—"Go in and win. Put all your heart, soul and mind into it, gather all your strength, harness all your resources, ride roughshod over every obstacle that comes in the way, no matter who or what 291 it is. Go in and win." That is the essential and primary consideration. When you are winning we will fortify you in your efforts, every man Jack of us; and when you seem to be failing, through your own fault, because of your own defects, I hope the Government will not mind if we occasionally raise the voice of criticism.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
I would re-echo the last words of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) wholeheartedly, and would say that I agree with him that controversy is vital to the progress of the war and to the life of Parliament. In one way the hon. Member was a little illogical. He put up a magnificent case for criticism of the Government, and then referred to the fact that perhaps the Debate had been a little spoiled by the nonsensical observations of one or two persons who desired to criticise the critics. I would remind him that if critics have a right to criticise the Government, it is not inhuman that those who have had a little faith in the Prime Minister should not be entirely averse to see those critics a little bit confounded. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) referred to Africa, and I want to say a word or two also upon the very powerful speech made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) last week. The hon. Member for Kidderminster to-day said, "Well, after all, we criticised the Government over Africa a few months ago, and we think it had a beneficial effect." Then he went on to say that their criticisms were never against the leadership of the Armies in the field but simply against the lack of weapons and the fact that the Prime Minister was also the Minister of Defence; and yet the most powerful speech that was made in support of the hon. Member on the Vote of Censure was made, I think, by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who reiterated only last week that two great points against the Government in the African campaign were, first, the lack of weapons and, second, the lack of leadership. They had had to find the weapons and "sack" the leaders. The critics cannot have it both ways.
To come right down to brass tacks, suppose the Debate on the Vote of Censure had been held when we had the knowledge that the House has now showing that it was not a case of the Government having made no provision for the 292 future, but that they had not only ordered but made and despatched the weapons which in a few short months were going to break with full force- on Rommel on a narrow defensive front. If that had been in the minds of the people of this country and of Parliament, that Vote of Censure on the question of weapons would have cut no ice whatever. Criticisms were raised against individual Ministers, and it was stated that the Government should be speeded up to take action wherever mistakes could be seen. I am all for criticism, but it is a pretty poor result, after putting up a Vote of Censure at a moment when the whole world was wondering whether we were going to crash in the middle of a campaign, that it now appears that the Government had made at that time the preparations which would turn defeat in one battle into victory in the whole campaign. Prime Ministers and generals have to be judged by campaigns. When things go wrong, certain people come out of their little holes and jibe and jeer and pull the Government to pieces. That sort of criticism can do no good to anyone but the enemy.
Late in his speech the hon. Member for Seaham referred rather contemptuously to the future and to the way that voices which had been quiet for some time were being raised once again by the forces of reaction. I imagine that not one Member of this House supposes that the world after the war can be an exact replica of the world of 1939, or who has not learnt things in the course of these three years, when we have been linked together in the greatest struggle of all time. Great reforms must and will be made after the war. This is not an occasion to go into that matter, but, speaking for myself as a right wing Member of the House—
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes
Nothing has brought home to me the truth of what I have just said about the need for real housing reconstruction more than what one has seen in the sort of habitation that has been devastated during this war. I 293 am certain that if we are to be worthy of the sacrifices that are being made every day and will be made in far greater quantity, I fear, before we are victorious, the population after this war has got to have housing worthy of a great State, from the highest to the lowest, irrespective of any vested interest of any sort or kind. That I would say, and I would say beyond that—I am not going into the question of social reform—that whatever may be the controversy upon the Beveridge Report, which none of us has seen—and I think there is bound to be controversy on it—I hope and believe that we may find at any rate the possibility within the lifetime of this Parliament, without great controversy between parties and individuals, to implement some form of all-in insurance which will enable the old people of this country to face their future with greater security than has been the case in the past.
There is one other aspect of our present-day problems on which I venture to dwell for a moment or two. Again I may be a little controversial, and I do not mind if I am. The assumption has been made by certain speakers, perhaps most of all by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, that on the whole the British Empire is not a good thing, that indeed if we want to inspire men to work and struggle all over the world for the winning of this war, the last thing we want anybody to think is that we are prepared to guarantee our own or any other Empire. That is a point of view which is held in certain quarters. I speak as one who believes most profoundly that the future not only of this country but of Europe and the world depends very largely—I do not mind which word I use but I will use the old-fashioned word—upon a strong and free British Empire, not only now but in the days after the war. In his speech the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale asked whether we would expect Frenchmen, Belgians, Czechs and so on to face the sort of anguish they have to face in Europe for the sake of the British Empire. I should say that there are countless millions of people who are prepared all over Europe to offer up sacrifices in order to turn the enemy from their hearths and homes, who thank God that there is a British Empire which may keep them there after the struggle is over. It is all very well to 294 jeer, as the hon. Member jeered, at the tact that we had given guarantees in regard to the Spanish and Portuguese empires at this stage of our campaign in Africa. Would it not have been the height of folly to have endeavoured at this moment to have deliberately cast more people over to the other side by saying, "Your empires will go whatever happens, if we are successful in Africa"? That is a type of muddle-headed folly which causes nothing but harm. Again, who among our best Allies have we got stronger than those Fighting French, who have come in the new struggle with the determination to preserve the French empire? Pretty little hope of help should we have got in this new expedition if we had gone out and told the French in Africa that of course we might save them from the Germans but that their empire was to be handed over to some vague form of control at the end of the war.
With regard to our own Empire, I do not think, although certain hon. Members are still inclined to jeer at it, that the men who are fighting in our Armed Forces will fight any the weaker for the knowledge that the Prime Minister has had the courage to stand up at the Mansion House and to say what he did. A gasp of relief was uttered in many countries on learning that, at any rate, the British still believe in something which they are prepared to hold and to fight for. I do not mean that the British Empire will always remain static and unchanged. Everything that remains static is bound to decay. So far as our Colonial possessions are concerned, I look forward to seeing them advance to a form of partnership, to take their place more and more as equal partners with the great Dominions; but those things must take time. There are various persons, in different states of civilisation, in different spheres of development. I am not ashamed of the period in which I speak, but I look forward to seeing that period blossoming into a period of something stronger even than trusteeship. Are those the sort of ideals that we need to be ashamed of? Have hon. Members, on this side or on the other side, to apologise for supporting ideals of that character? Do not the people of Europe look to see in the new Europe after the war federations of States modelled on the free States of the British Commonwealth, with chaos and economic anarchy as the only alternative? The 295 Prime Minister's definite statement that he was not going to be the First Minister of this country in order to liquidate the British Empire has done not harm but good, and I have no doubt that it has stirred the hearts of hon. Members belonging to other parties as much as those of Members belonging to our party. Let us look forward to the future, prepared, of course, to criticise, but renewed with the spirit of hope, and determined as a result of these recent victories, not to carp—it is so easy to do that—and with a determination that we will hold together to see this thing through; and that when it is through, however much we may have to fight our political battles on all sides of the House, we shall be worthy of our past and of those who come after us.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
No one will envy me in having to follow from these benches such a dazzling and scintillating speech as has been delivered by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). Whatever one thinks of his argument, it was a speech which in my opinion showed earnestness and a capacity to assess the general situation such as is given to very few people. I will, however, express a point of view which perhaps one hears outside more than in this distinguished Assembly. There has been, unfortunately—I use the word advisedly—an undue optimism in respect of our well-merited victories in Africa. One sees in the newspapers optimistic phrases, suggestions that the whole course of the war has changed and that victory is just around the corner. We must have regard to the fact that the brooding German eagle has spread its wings not only over Europe but, by its associations, over other parts of the world, and has sunk its talons into the soft flesh of its prostrate victims.
When all is said and done, Russia is in a very difficult situation at the moment, and it is wrong to imagine that they can necessarily stage at any time the winter offensive unless at the same time there is concerted action by all the Allies. Having regard to all these facts, it must be borne in mind that our recent victory, which has won the admiration of every section of the community, is in itself a comparatively small achievement. We are told that if we succeed in acquiring the port of Bizerta we shall possess a strategic port of immense importance. There is no doubt 296 about that, but I would emphasise, what has been said by the hon. Member for Seaham, that we should sustain a more virile attempt to bombard it; and since the word "produce" has been used in these Debates, I would venture upon a pun with a point. I would ask the Government, Is their slogan to be "Prod Duce" or "Pro-Duce" in their action in not assaulting Italy in every way they can?
It is true that we have made some effective raids on Genoa and that no doubt we shall make other raids in future. The more quickly we can bring about the cooperation of our Services into bringing about the downfall of the weaker partner of the Axis, the better for the war effort. An hon. Member last week said something about the vital needs of propaganda. This is an inverted war, and, strange though it may seem, the sword is mightier than the pen. I believe in propaganda. I am in favour of those who say that propaganda should be incisive and tell the truth in a way that would arouse the resentment in other countries against tyranny. It is good that attention has been drawn by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Captain Poole) to the fact that our propaganda in America has not been as clear and effective as it might have been. It should be made clear that, despite mistakes in the past, this country is putting forward a prodigious effort to win the war,
I am one who voted in support of the Prime Minister. I believe that he is a big figure and a man of courage and earnestness. I am not so churlish as to disparage a Member of an opposing party merely for political expediency. After this war the people in the constituencies, soldiers, sailors and airmen, and young people, will be asking the politicians, "What are you prepared to do to bring about a betterment of the conditions of the country?" I do not necessarily mean amelioration or reformation. I am one who sees that there can be no piecemeal legislation which could effectively cause happiness to come to this country and other countries of the world. The only solution is a system of society where the worker by hand or brain is entitled to the full fruits of his production and not the partial fruits; where the production of every commodity in this country is for the use of the whole community and not for 297 individual aggrandisement and profit as at the present time. As long as politicians hold the point of view that this war must be won in order to conserve privilege and build up a bureaucratic state of society which gives to a small proportion of people in this country power and domination over producers, I believe that the whole principle of this war will be lost. Whatever may be our victories in the field, at least in our soul we will have suffered bitter disillusionment and we will have retrogressed.
I would like to pay a tribute—as indeed I am sure Members of all parties would—to the magnificent and wonderful Courage which has been displayed by our Civilian population in air raids. I live in Liverpool, although I do not have the honour to represent that city, and I can speak of the way in which it endured eight consecutive nightly blitzes. I am not making invidious comparisons, but I know how the people there showed stoicism and magnificent courage. Young and old of all classes built up the courage of the whole population by the way in which they saved lives and salvaged property. They deserve a great tribute from this House, and the greatest tribute we can pay to them will be to see that at the termination of this war everything the nation can give them in the way of increased pensions, better social security, decent houses, child welfare, maternal institutions and hospitals should be given with a generous and not with a parsimonious hand.
I would like to say a few words upon our international policy after the war. Do let us have regard to the claims of minorities. Let us remember the heroic minorities who have helped us along our struggle, and let us see, in giving freedom to the peoples of the world, that we give it to those who have not the power or possibility of building up their own nations. When we speak of the British Empire, let us not speak of it in the narrow and restricted sense; let us speak of it as a co-operative Commonwealth of Nations who wish to come in on equal terms. Less than equal terms would be a negation of the principles for which we stand. We are in a difficult position at the present time. We have had our temporary moment of jubilation, but we may have to face a period of sorrow and tribulation. We have not come into close con- 298 tact with the enemy; we have not yet had an intimate clash. I have been one of those who have advocated a second front in Europe which will meet a German army on a scale sufficient to defeat it. I know there have been gibes and jeers by people who have expressed their contempt for those advocates of a second front. I would remind them that the Prime Minister himself has said that he welcomed this advocacy.
Mr. Stalin has said the same thing, Mr. Maisky has likewise urged it, and no less eminent an American leader than Mr. Wendell Wilkie, who is a good friend of this country and who never minces his words, has said that a second front, in his opinion, with full knowledge of the facts, is possible and practicable. I know that we have engagements at the present time, but I hope the Prime Minister will have regard to the immediate necessity for a second front in Europe, in which we shall meet the enemy face to face and inflict a mortal wound upon him, for, indeed, no operations in Africa, however successful they may be, can inflict a decisive defeat upon the enemy, as could a great military operation upon the Continent of Europe.
In conclusion, I would say that the greatness of this country will depend not upon a too narrow conception of world affairs. The greatness of this country, if it is to be a teacher to the world, if it is to blaze a trail, if it is to implement all the great principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter, will consist in showing tender consideration for those who are both ignorant and innocent. I do not want to see in the future a world governed by nations who seek reprisals and seek to exploit enmities. I believe that the peoples all over the world, including the people of Germany, can with right guidance and proper understanding help to build after this war a world in which dictatorship will be banished for ever and in which we can enter a phase of universal peace, in which our children can inherit the good things of the earth which we, in our turn, will have helped them materially to do.
§ Colonel Colville (Midlothian and Peebles)
I do not know whether you have observed, Mr. Speaker, that although we are drawing to the close of the third day of the Debate on the Address, there have as yet been no contributions from Members representing Scottish constituen- 299 cies. Whether that is a source of grief to you or not, I cannot judge, but I feel emboldened to say a few words with particular emphasis on affairs in Scotland. I had hoped to wait until post-war reconstruction was discussed, but as military duties will prevent me from being here then, I want now to say something on that subject.
First, however, I would like to address myself to the wider considerations that have been occupying the attention of the House. There is no doubt that the Gracious Speech has a real ring of confidence about it. Nor is that surprising, for there are solid grounds for such confidence; but we must be sure that it is the type of confidence which fosters steady and continued effort and does not raise us up with a flash of enthusiasm and drop us back again afterwards. I think there are grounds for that confidence because now we are definitely seeing the great strength and resources of the Allies in Europe, in Africa, in Asia and on the seas. Recent speeches of the Nazi leaders have begun to betray their realisation of this. When we soberly consider what are the resources of these great nations that are banded together with us, when we think of the three great U's, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, of the courageous and unconquerable people of China and the many other countries now joined with us in this great cause, we cannot have any doubt of the mighty resources which we can muster and of the fact that they will gather strength until they become irresistible.
We have solid grounds for such confidence, and as the Allies seize the initiative—and what has been specially heartening in this recent venture is the fact that we have seized the initiative and caused the enemy to be a move or two behind us—Germany's greatly extended lines from the Caucasus to the Midnight Sun will prove an increasing source of weakness to her, and her European Allies will become a growing embarrassment to her.
Hitler sprawls to-day over Europe as someone sprawled once before at the height of his power. Napoleon then faced the armies of Russia, which he had not broken, and the fleets of Britain, which he had not broken. But Hitler faces something else which Napoleon did not have to face, that is the tremendous re- 300 source and power of the United States. Verily the writing is on the wall for our enemies if we bend our whole energies to the task.
In the work in which I am engaged we frequently demonstrate the pincer movement, sometimes on a very small scale, one man along one hedge and another along another, converging on an objective. The mightiest pincer movement that has ever been conceived forms the major strategy of our enemies, the pincer movement of two Empires, the German and the Japanese, designed to converge and pinch us out of the Middle East. But I think something will go wrong with those pincers because another pincer movement is at work to-day on the African coast which, with the degree of success it has now achieved, and that which we confidently await, will seriously interfere with the enemy's plan. A great thing that the successes of recent weeks have done has been to convince the people of this country and of the world that co-ordinated planning by the Allies for these great operations could be done effectively and in secrecy. I would recommend to those who urge the early formation of another front in Europe—do not let us call it a second front; it is no longer "second"—the skill with which this huge combined operation was planned and timed, and I think the majority of people will be content to know that those who are responsible for planning such operations will at the proper time launch that second front, not out of time at the behest of those who clamour for it.
I have spoken about the solid grounds for confidence, but that confidence must rest on continued and unrelenting efforts, and there is just a danger that the happiness which we have felt over the success of our arms, and perhaps some too optimistic speeches and articles may have a bad effect on that effort. I struck it in a small way the other day. A certain Home Guard unit had been told to come out and dig trenches and prepare a certain place as a defended locality. The turnout was very poor because, they said, the place would never have to be defended. How do they know? How do any of us know which locality might have to be defended in the event of an air borne raid? [An HON. MEMBER: "What did you say to them?"] I could not repeat here the terms I used to explain that I disagreed with them. It is most important 301 that we should get across to our own people that the dangers have not passed. I refer now to the danger of invasion or raids. Occasionally speeches have been made which suggest that such danger is at an end. A speech was made recently by Lord Cecil of Chelwood who said that no one but an idiot would attack this country, and that although no one would be certain what a military idiot might do, it was beyond the bounds of possibility that there would be an attempted invasion of this country. We grant that the operation becomes more difficult with the rise of our air power, but so long as this country is a great base for offensive operations against our enemy, there is always a danger of retaliatory action on her part. As long as she has troop-carrying aircraft and means for carrying out raids, either sea-borne or air-borne, we must be continually vigilant and on guard. I would strongly stress that in the garrison in this country, whether Regular or Home Guard, vigilance should be right in the forefront and that any suggestion of easing off should be dropped on quickly.
The industrial effort of this country is great and quickening, and I am glad that tribute has been paid to it. Special mention should be made of the work of shipbuilding and ship repairing. The whole basis of our military strategy depends on shipping, and while other branches of production are immensely important none can exceed in importance the provision and maintenance of shipping for our war effort. I am glad to note that the work in the shipyards is going on so well and that the spirit is so good. Let us be sure that we pay tribute where it is due and see that the output is kept up and, if anything, increased. The Prime Minister has great influence with the people of this country, and when wisely timed and used his intervention can have great effect on production. I would instance his meeting the other day, together with Field Marshal Smuts, with the miners. It was a wise and timely meeting in which they discussed together the problems affecting the mining industry and the essential needs of production. I commend to the Prime Minister the thought that that might be applied to other industries. His influence is great and I know also that the speech made by Field Marshal Smuts on that occasion had the best possible effects.
302 I should like to turn from general considerations to one or two points affecting Scotland. My first point, which is a minor point in relation to the big issues we have been discussing, is one that I commend to the notice of the Ministry of Food. The Ministry has done its work well. It has had a difficult task, and few Ministries have tackled their tasks with more ability or more general acceptance in spite of the troubles encountered. I have, however, one little bone to pick with the Ministry of Food in relation to the Scottish islands. The price of bread there is higher than on the mainland, and as the price of fish, which is a staple article of diet, is higher too, they are thus caught in two ways. I commend, therefore, to the consideration of the Government that the Ministry of Food should be asked to make the price of an essential commodity such as bread level in all parts of the United Kingdom, so as to bring the Scottish islands into the same zone of equal treatment as other parts of the country. My work takes me all over Scotland, and I visit the islands and know that they are feeling the effect of higher prices, particularly the older people with fixed incomes.
A word now on reconstruction in Scotland in future. The Secretary of State has done much to foster the team spirit. I have never in my remembrance seen Scotland so purposeful and united a country as she is to-day. The very Campbells and MacDonalds are pulling together to-day in Scotland. When that happens, let our enemies tremble. Concentration on the war effort in Scotland has produced a purpose and unity that I would like to see carried beyond the war and into the days that are to come. Certain questions of a Scottish character command a very great measure of agreement among Members of different parties, and the Secretary of State for Scotland has sought to foster that spirit in his Council of ex-Secretaries of State and in the inquiries which he has set up. That is particularly true in regard to the problem of housing on which there cannot be any difference of opinion between parties. We most urgently require a very large number of new houses, a number far larger in proportion than is required in England. I hope that the question will be kept right out of party politics and that there will be joint effort on the part of all parties in Scotland to bring the 303 matter of housing into line with standards of decency and comfort of which we are far short at the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "You were Secretary of State for Scotland."] I was Secretary of State for Scotland for almost two years, during which time the war came upon us, and the difficulties became insuperable in the way of continuing a house-building programme. We were getting on fairly well, but we had to stop. We had stepped up the rate of house-building and then had to close down suddenly because of war work. I want to see, not 25,000 houses our highest figure, but 50,000 or 70,000 houses built in a year in order to meet the requirements. In order to do so, we shall need the co-operation of labour to a very marked degree, a greater degree than we have had in the past. We must all get together on this problem if we are to carry through a housing programme of sufficient size.
There are several other things in Scotland on which we can agree. There has recently been an inquiry into hydro-electricity, and in due course my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will explain to the House the new proposals of the Government in that regard. I hope that we may get unity of purpose between the parties on that matter, in order to do what is undoubtedly right for Scotland. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bring in a Bill to implement the proposals made by the committee which examined this problem. In addition to that, Scotland has a fishing industry which has been very much in our minds. I was appointed chairman of a committee to investigate the herring fishing industry. This industry does not employ so large a community as do some other industries, but it is a community which deserves our assistance because its help is always forthcoming to the country in the hour of need.
Let me give the House an example of that. During the early months of the war I was called to the North-East of Scotland at a time when the fishing boats were being attacked by the German aeroplanes. Among the deputations which I saw was one composed of the skippers of a North-Eastern port. Their only grievance was that they as skippers had not been taken over along with the drifters. They were very eager, those elderly skippers, for Naval duty. I remember that the leader of the deputation said with
304 much feeling, "Why is it that my son gets a steady job and I am left behind?" I asked what the steady job was, and he said it was mine-sweeping. The type of man who can regard—and did and does regard—mine-sweeping as a steady job is one who will not let us down. We must try and see that we do not let them down again as they were let down before. The committee to which I referred is in session at the present time, and I cannot now say more than that we shall be issuing an interim report very shortly.
Then there is the possibility in Scotland of rehabilitating our hospital system by taking advantage of the great expansion of the emergency hospitals which the war has brought about. It provides a fine opportunity for Scotland to receive adequate and proper hospital services in the days to come. I hope that we can get inter-party agreement on that matter and not make it again the play of party. There are other Scottish issues I might mention on which we ought to get agreement, but I would leave with the House the note that the spirit of unity of purpose which we find to-day in Scotland is worth preserving and carrying forward into the years that are beyond.
We welcome the Gracious Speech with its dominant note of confidence. While the Government are basking in the sun of our recent successes, we hope that they are remembering to pay tribute for those successes to the quarter to which they are mainly due, namely to the Allied military experts who planned and directed them. We enter this new Session with high spirits and courage, and we hope that the Debates on the Address will be read throughout the world and will reflect the resolution and the spirit of the British people.
§ Mr. Sloan (Ayrshire, South)
I wish that I had time to follow my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Midlothian (Colonel Colville) in the references he has made to Scotland. I feel that I could convince the House that the difficulties in regard to the housing of the Scottish people have arisen from the activities of right hon. and hon. Members on the other side. However, I hope to take an opportunity to deal with Scotland on a future occasion. I have been struck with the way in which hon. Members look forward to the King's Speech. They look forward to it with some sort of anticipa- 305 tion, as though they expected that something remarkable would arise from it. Although they know they are only deluding themselves they crowd into the House, filling the benches and overflowing into the galleries, to listen with rapt attention to the reading of the Speech, and then discover, as they have discovered in the case of all King's Speeches, that there is nothing at all in it to bring any hope to the working classes. The Speech which we are discussing is really no exception to the rule. If the workers can find any real hope in it, I shall indeed be surprised. It has touched upon none of the very important questions which affect the mass of the workers.
In the middle of a war ostensibly fought fox freedom and democracy and the rights of people to live a really decent life, it is evident that the war is largely being fought to preserve what is known as the status quo, and for the purpose of seeing that those who have been in a privileged position shall remain in that privileged position. I heard an hon. Member say that at the present time the miners were able to buy things that rich people could not afford. I should be very happy if that were the ease, and I should think there was a great deal of justice in it, because miners and industrial workers in general have to work hard and put forth great physical effort in securing the wages they are paid, while the rich people are merely spongers upon the backs of the people of this country.
They are so to-day. Even in the middle of a war we find, according to the Inland Revenue returns, that unearned incomes increased by £355,000,000 between 1938 and 1940, and amounted to one-third of the total national income of this country, so that one-third of the national income goes to those people. What does the Government intend to do in a set of circumstances such as this? What hope is provided in the King's Speech in a matter of this kind? Despite the Excess Profits Tax, capitalist companies still make and distribute enormous profits; the banks still throttle industry, and it is estimated that during the war they have created £1,000,000,000 of paper money on which, although it has cost them nothing, they are able to charge interest. The profits of the big five are a sure indication of this particular form of robbery. 306 The Gracious Speech makes no attempt whatever to deal with that particular aspect of the problem.
But there is one omission from the King's Speech to which I wish to make special reference in this House to-day. There is no reference to India. In this regard great minds think alike. The only difference is that they do not think alike at the same time because I found, on reading in the Library to-day the OFFICIAL REPORT of 1938, that four years ago the present Leader of the House made that very same remark. He deplored the fact that there was no reference in the King's Speech to India. Such an omission is at this particular moment as inexcusable as it is indefensible. It is an incomprehensible insult to the House and an inconceivable blunder on the part of His Majesty's advisers. India is a focal point in world strategy, and the problems that affect her are not our concern alone. They affect the whole international situation, but of course they affect the Indians themselves more closely than they affect others. Whether one is considering the point of view of the colossal world war with its attendant slaughter and misery, or the political, economic and commercial consequences, the future of 400,000,000 human beings is concerned in this question. We have been in the habit of viewing these teeming millions of humanity as mere passive observers of their degradation, as though they did not matter, and as though they had not the capacity to think or, if they had the capacity to think, had not the capacity to act. If that were ever the case, which I very much doubt, if is the case no longer. They no longer look upon Englishmen as their slave-masters.
They are an active, dynamic force, desiring nothing better than to shoulder their own burdens, to shape their own destiny, to work out their own political and economic salvation. They desire nothing better than an opportunity of rectifying the shameful maladministration that has been forced upon them for the last 150 years and the degrading effects of what must surely be the blackest page in English history. As an example of this, may I quote the Dean of Canterbury. In last Sunday's "Reynolds" newspaper, he said:North of the Himalayas lies Soviet Russia's backward tribes: Tadjiks, Turkomens, etc. Southwards lies our India. Soviet 307 Russia spends £39 per annum on the education of each Turkomen child and £5 10s. on its health service. We spend 1s. 6d. on the Indian child's education and 1d. on its health service. Ninety per cent. of Hindus are illiterate. Russian illiteracy has been well-nigh obliterated.I would like, in reference to this question of India, to make a quotation from the speech I have already mentioned, by the present Leader of the House. I know no one who treats the House with more respect than the right hon. and learned Gentleman does. He never enters Debate without preparation; he never speaks without the book; he never speaks off the record; he never trusts to his memory; he is never flippant; he is always serious. I never laugh at jokes, but if ever the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes one I think I shall indulge in loud laughter. With all this in mind, I ask the House to listen to the quotation:We are in fact going to make them even more hostile…. The only way in which we can obviate the very grave danger of a hostile India is to give to the Indian people that right of sell-determination which they will, eventually, wring from this country, whatever happens. If measures in that direction could be taken now"—that was four years ago—it would at least be possible that they might be neutral or even friendly in the case of this country meeting trouble elsewhere. As it is, a hostile India will provide an excessively difficult form of opposition in the event of trouble occurring in any other part of the world. It seems to us that the time has now come when this problem of the future of India must be tackled in a more realistic manner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1938; cols. 136–7, Vol. 341.]I notice that the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have expressed himself very strongly indeed, because he referred to certain Members as "a set." He suffered some interruption, and he apologised and substituted the word "gang." The gang is still there. It is sitting behind the right hon. Gentleman instead of facing him. Its members are now his colleagues, and, instead of directing his criticism towards them, he is directing it towards the people of India, whom at that time he was prepared to defend.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
The hon. Member said that there was no reference to India in the Gracious Speech from the Throne; but there is an admirable reference to India in the Prorogation Speech, which I suggest is worth studying
§ Mr. Sloan
I will study it to my own satisfaction. I would like to draw attention to the wonderful change that has come over the Leader of the House during these years. If he were asked to justify his position in view of his position four years ago, I am afraid he would find himself in Queer Street. Perhaps with his legal experience he would be able to justify anything. Whatever the result of this unfortunate episode, one thing stands out with remarkable clarity. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has no right whatever to be proud of his share in the Indian question in recent months. An offer of freedom has been made to India. How can you convince the Indians of your sincerity? We talk as if this were the first offer of freedom made to India. In 1858, 84 years ago, Queen Victoria, in a Proclamation to the Indian people, assured them of the equality of all British subjects, irrespective of difference of race and colour, religion or creed. In 1917 the Secretary of State for India laid down the pages of a policy of freedom for India, and in 1921, and again in 1929 we had the thing repeated. The Prime Minister makes many speeches. Speaking at the Guildhall confronted by the vested interests, the bankers and the brewers, the coal, shipping and land interests, the armament gang, iron and steel and all, he said:Let me therefore make this clear in case there shoud be any mistake about it in any quarter. We mean to hold own own. I have not become the King's first Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is how they cheered at the Guildhall. Perhaps the Prime Minister will inform us that he will clarify the position, or perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will be able to do it for us. We have been told that the Government are prepared to give India Dominion status after the war, at some time in the dim and distant future, but can the Leader of the House tell us how it will be possible to grant Dominion status to India under the Statute of Westminster, with full rights to contract out, without at the same time voluntarily liquidating the last chunk of the British Empire? Can he tell us how it is possible to grant Dominion status under the Statute of Westminster, with full powers to contract out, if at the same time you say, "What we have we hold"? The 309 position seems to me to be absolutely inconsistent. When hon. Members opposite cheered the Prime Minister's statement they meant that you are only trying to deceive the Indian people by saying that you are prepared to give them Dominion status after the war. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the British people?"] Yes, and the British people. I think it will be agreed on all hands that the Lord Privy, Seal's mission to India was most ill-fated. He came from Moscow with a halo of glory and he went to India to try again to get the Indian people to accept something in which they did not believe. With all his experience he was unable to convince them that the British Government were sincere and he tried to throw the blame for the breakdown of the negotiations on the Indian people, giving various statements about it, some of which could not be entirely accurate. Then the Prime Minister himself made the position very much worse when he made that deplorable statement in the House, of which Mr. Rajagopalachariar said:It is an irony of fate that certain manufacturing and financial interests in White India have tried to smother the voice of truth and are seeking to bolster up the British Prime Minister's disastrous policy of alienating all their main friends in India. It is not sound policy to rest on the hope that Japan will not come and that war may end in the meantime. Mr. Churchill tried to cover up his Indian policy of drift and invective. It is unnecessary to show the many fallacies, in detail, of the British Prime Minister's speech. The main fatal error of his attitude is that it aggravates the isolation of the Indian population from the defence of India—an attitude which cannot be justified even by Imperialists unless their share has been finally held up in the Pacific.I think it is deplorable that this question has been allowed to drift and I ask the Government to reconsider, even at this eleventh hour, the whole matter and reopen negotiations with the Indian people. The Lord Privy Seal said that the door was not shut, but he followed up that statement by saying that no other terms would be offered because they were the best terms that could be offered. The Indian people have refused these so-called best terms and we are asking, in order to preserve the good name of this country, that the Government should take the earliest opportunity of re-opening negotiations and offering to the Indian people full self-government now so that we may bring to an end the sorry affair which 310 has clouded the name of Britain for so many years.
§ Mr. Emmott (Surrey, Eastern)
I find myself in disagreement with the speech of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan), but I do not propose to follow him in his examination of the subject of India. I propose to devote my remarks to a consideration—
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.