§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Lawson—namely, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am glad that no attempt has been made to compartment this debate. I think it would be impossible to do so, for all the subjects dealt with in the gracious Speech— defence, foreign affairs and domestic policy—are interdependent. The gracious Speech begins by focusing our attention upon the international situation and the rearmament programme. Our energies and our united efforts indeed should be concentrated on what we must do for the defence of our own country and of the free world. In this vital matter of defence, time is of the essence of the con-tract. As General Marshall said a few days ago:What has been done so far, good as it may be, is far from good enough. Let us go about the business of translating our plans into military strength quickly and effectively.We have much leeway to make up and none of us knows what time will be given us in which to do it. We need speed in the whole strategic set-up of the Alliance; in combined planning and in industrial mobilisation, by which I mean coordinated production for our combined armament programmes. We certainly need rapid action in the execution of our 98 own armament orders. As the Minister of Defence, Mr. Shinwell, said in September:There is no advantage in placing orders unless we secure completion of those orders at a very early date.If speed is a vital element in carrying out our policy and our programmes, inter-nationally and nationally, the corollary is that the policy and the plans must be both definite and practical.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VIS-COUNT JOWITT)
My Lords, the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting him but, through no fault of his own, I could not hear a word he has said, and if I am unable to reply to any of the points he has made he will understand why that is. It is no fault of his and no fault of mine. I am doing the best I can to hear in spite of the appalling noise that is going on outside this Chamber, and I have signally failed so far.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am speaking up and I am extremely glad the noble and learned Viscount has interrupted me. I understand that all our loudspeakers have been taken away, and in place of them we have loud noises off—not a very good substitute. It is rather like an open air meeting in the old days without loud-speakers. I will do my best to make myself audible in all quarters.
As I was saying, the corollary is that the policy and plans must be more definite and practical. Indeed, if those plans are not practical, there cannot be rapid progress, and the result will be in-effective. Surely we must all apply that test of what is practicable and workable to the conception of defence policy, to the structure of defence forces and to the production which will equip those forces—and that practical test applies all along the line throughout the Grand Alliance and at hone. In our recent debates it looked as if at long last a policy had taken definite shape and was being translated into action. So far back as last June, in answer to questions put to him by this side about the over-all plan, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, said:I want to make it clear that the plan does cover all the land, sea and air operations for the defence of the North Atlantic Area, and that the requirements of all three Services have been embodied in that plan.99 He went on:An estimate of these forces has now been made"—that was in June—and it remains only to determine what contribution each member nation should make towards the balanced forces which are required to ensure conformity with the agreed plan.I must admit that a few months later, in September, in the special Session, the noble Viscount said:We want to get reasonable contributions from all the countries in the Pact. I think that attitude is right. It should be known quite clearly that there was a plan"—I suppose he means, "there is a plan"—and that plan must necessarily be in two parts. One must cover what we can wholly afford ourselves and the other must cover what we can contribute with outside assistance to the generality of the whole Treaty organisation.That would seem rather to obscure what I had understood to be the clear declaration that had been made before. I think most of us understood, and this was certainly how I have understood it, that His Majesty's Government had embarked on a programme which would entail expenditure on the Navy, Army and Air Force of some £3,600,000,000 over the next three years or so, and that as part of that sum additional orders for £200,000,000 of equipment had been placed, or would be placed forthwith. But yesterday we had the disconcerting statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty that the £3,600,000,000 was not, as I understood him, a firm commit-ment—I do not know what part, if any, of it is a firm commitment—but was dependent on foreign aid. The First Lord also said that of the £200,000,000 of orders only £122,000,000 had been placed or were in active negotiation.
It really is vital that we should know exactly what the position is. I would, therefore, put the following questions. How far have the countries of the Atlantic Pact agreed on the aggregate forces, Navy, Army, and Air that should be provided, and on what contribution each country is to make to supply that aggregate? Leaving aside Germany, which I will deal with later, have the Allied Governments in fact agreed upon the aggregate of these forces under an overall plan, and the pro-portion which each country is to provide? Unless that is done, I do not see how the 100 industrial production required from the different countries can be assessed, much less integrated. And speed is vital, both in the provision of the forces and in their armament.
Let me now turn to the position of Germany. It is obvious that the overall plan cannot be finally completed without certainty as to the German position; and, in my view, Germany is essential to the overall plan, both in defence and in production. We who have been France's Allies in two World Wars, who have fought on French soil, have a sym-pathetic understanding of the French anxieties. But that understanding and our common interest, the old perils we shared together in the past, the new peril we face together to-day, and the fact that if we have to fight again we shall once again be fighting side by side—all that entitles us and enables us to speak frankly as friend to friend. We are all members one of another, and we must face the realities of the position." If hopes are dupes, fears may be liars." There are always risks. But it is the task of statesmanship to assess the risks and to take the right risk. Surely, to-day the overriding risk is that of Russian aggression. And Russian aggression must be contained on the German frontier. That has been accepted not only as a fact but as an Allied obligation. The statement issued after the meeting of the three Foreign Ministers affirmed that they— that is the three Allied Governments— wouldtreat any attack against the Federal Republic of Germany or against Berlin from any quarter as an attack upon themselves.It is then reasonable to assume, not only that Germany should help to defend herself, but that Germany cannot be effectively defended without her own help. It has always been the policy of all the free nations, including France, to bring Ger-many back into the comity of free nations. All Germany's interests, and ours, lie that way.
Western Germany has a great and essential contribution to make to the economic prosperity and unity of Europe, as well as to its defence, militarily and industrially. That contribution must be made effectively. It must be adequate in quantity and practical in form. On the industrial side, with equipment standardised as far as possible, and with production co-ordinated and integrated, German 101 production becomes an integral part of a common whole. Similarly, on the military side the units or formations which Germany would contribute must be adequate in quantity and practical in form. Frankly, I do not see how it is possible to have a brigade or a division consisting of men speaking different languages. Unless every man had the gift of tongues, that would not be an army of Europe but an army of Babel. The formations and units, however, would all be part of a European army, consisting of all the Allies, European, British and American, under a supreme command—a supreme command not after the fighting had started, but long before; and if the army is so integrated it is the best assurance that the fighting will not start at all—and a combined general staff.
In those circumstances, there would be no need and no excuse for creating a German Great General Staff. The organisation in Germany should be adequate for its purpose. More would be superfluous and wasteful, as well as potentially mischievous. I would add only one comment—and I think this is the crux of the whole matter. This grand alliance of free nations under the Atlantic Pact is some-thing quite different from, and something much more closely knit and interwoven than, any alliance of the past. Integrated and interdependent from the start in its military formations, in its supreme command, in its combined staffs and in its industrial production, those who are committed to it and those who are partners in it are. I believe, irrevocably committed alike by that integration and by their common interest. Therein lies its unity and its strength.
Let me now return to the application of policy in our own defence programme. I say at once that I think we shall all agree that the Foreign Secretary has done his best to keep Parliament fully informed, both as to his aims and on the march of events in the field of foreign policy, which is so inseparable from defence. We have, it is true, had one rather odd interlude by Mr. Morgan Phillips. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, recently advised us that we ought to have two Secretaries of State for the Colonies. That suggestion did not find universal favour in any quarter of the House—
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
—but apparently Mr. Phillips took that advice to heart; and, remembering that historically there had once beer two Secretaries of State (one for the North and the other for the South, he thought it might be a good thing to revive, à la Winster, the diarchy in a separation of East and West. However. Mr. Bevin quickly and firmly put down that insurrection, and I take it that we may disregard Mr. Phillips as an exponent of policy, at any rate in the foreign field. We certainly have no quarrel with Mr. Bevin's policy. Indeed, as has been said before, I think he has received more consistent support—I am not speaking only of this House, where we have all supported him—from us than from some of his own followers.
In matters of security and defence, foreign policy is real and effective only in so far as it is translated rapidly into action. It is the responsibility of Parliament not only to approve the policy bat to be satisfied as to how it is being carried out. But Parliament cannot do that unless it has the necessary information. It is here that the Government are placing us in an impossible position. On the First. Lord's statement yesterday, we really do not know what our defence programme is, or even whether we have a firm and definite programme. We were told two months ago that the programme included ten Regular divisions and twelve Territorial divisions. Does that programme stand? We have never been told what is to be the Royal Air Force programme, either in squadrons or in first-line strength, though I have never been able to understand why it is safe to give the number of divisions but not safe to give the number of squadrons.
As regards equipment, we have been told no more than that £122,000,000 of orders have been placed or are under active negotiation. But, as Mr. Shinwell said, there is no advantage in placing orders unless we can secure completion at a very early date. On that vital condition Parliament knows nothing at all. We do not know whether the factories are ready to start work at once; we do not know whether they have the jigs and tools; we do not know what orders have been given, or whether any orders have been given as to the priority of defence orders over other work. We do not know the nature of the orders or the target dates of completion—completion 103 at a very early date. When we asked the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander, in our last debate whether the factories were ready to start work, he said that he was not going to answer questions. That was not a very co-operative answer. When he was elevated to this Assembly—promotion or translation in which we all rejoiced (though not in order to supersede that "grand old man" the Leader of the House; that we really would not have tolerated)—we had erroneously sup-posed that he was intended for use as well as for ornament. We were mistaken. Parliament cannot be left in this lament-able state of ignorance on the most vital subject we have to watch. If it is said that information on the rearmament programme and its progress cannot be given in public, then the case for periodical report and review in Secret Session is really unanswerable. Parliament is to be trusted. If I had to take the chance between Parliament having the essential material upon which it is to do its work, and the chance of leak, surely tradition and security alike entitle us to have that knowledge. And we must have it.
This responsibility of Parliament leads me naturally to another topic in the gracious Speech. We are to have a Bill to make permanent a revised version of the Supplies and Services Act. We shall not know what is in the Bill till we see it, but from the speeches which have been made by supporters of the Government it is clear that great issues of policy must be involved. We have found, both with the nationalised industries and in regard to the executive action of Government, that there is already a serious problem as to how Parliamentary control is to be maintained. There are really two schools of thought (if that be the right phrase) in this matter—two schools of thought and action. There are what I may call the Parliament men, on the one side, and the führer men, or totalitarians, on the other. Those two schools are fundamentally opposed. It seems to us that, in spite of the fact that there are Parliament men in the Socialist Party—and from the way my remark was received, that is clear—the totalitarians have won.
They have always had strong advocates. Long ago, as my noble leader reminded your Lordships yesterday. Sir Stafford Cripps advanced the unparliamentary and 104 totalitarian thesis that the job of Parliament was to give a sort of Second Reading to a blank cheque for the Government of the day. After all, that is exactly what Hitler did and it is exactly what Stalin does. And observe this: that the reality of Parliamentary government is always suppressed under the camouflage of Parliamentary procedure. As the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, said in a speech on this philosophy which should be read widely, the totalitarian gospel is preached here under the now familiar text that, "The gentleman in Whitehall knows best." He not only knows better than the parent or the housewife: he knows better than the Member of Parliament and those who elect him. If that process is to be carried on, Members of Parliament will have a very different function from that which they have enjoyed through the centuries, and they will have to know their place and like it.
My noble friend Lord Saltoun yesterday commended to the Government some aphorisms of Sophocles. Perhaps a lighter and later dramatist would be more appropriate to this subject:The duties are delightful and the privileges great,But the privilege and pleasureThat we value beyond measureIs to run our little errands for the Ministers of State.My Lords, not only does the gentleman in Whitehall know best, and know it all before he starts, but this school of thought believes that besides knowing it all, he can do it all. It is as if an army commander were not only to try to command his army, to plan the broad strategy and to give his general orders, but also to attempt to command in detail divisions and battalions. Any commander who attempted that would be doomed to failure. Yet an army is a much more unified and homogeneous affair than British industry and commerce. Upon the success of the infinite variety of our productive industry and our world-wide network of commerce and finance and transport, our success and our very life depend. Even if every Minister were a heaven-born genius, he could not supply or supplant the experience and the initiative and individuality of the thousands of men who have built up, and still build and maintain, our trade and industry, and who are so largely responsible for the 105 success we have achieved in recent years. And if Ministers were men—I will not say of genius, but just of common sense, they would not try. When to this passion for centralised detailed planning and control is added a partisan insistence on nationalisation, to which more than half the country is resolutely opposed, then you are disrupting national unity and courting disaster in a grave and critical hour.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, my noble friend who has just resumed his seat dealt in the earlier part of his remarks With the problem presented to the Atlantic Powers by the rearmament of Germany, and it is with that theme particularly that I wish to deal. I am sure that no one in your Lordships House, no one in this country, no one in the Western world, can envisage without deep distress the fact that, only five years after the defeat and disarmament of Germany, we are now compelled to consider German rearmament—rearmament of the people responsible for the two great world wars of this century—lest a more terrible ordeal should befall us. The realisation of that fact (let us not disguise it) will strike dismay into millions of hearts, not only in Europe but in this country, hearts still heavy with the memory of what they have lost and suffered at German hands. Ringing in my head ever since this topic has come to the front is the line of the old Roman poet, "Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis." If peace can be had only at the price of rearming the most militaristic people in the world, what real prospect is there of stable peace? That is the question which millions of people will ask themselves to-day.
I am not sure that the Russian action in rearming Eastern Germany is not the most sinister thing that the Kremlin have done since the end of the war. But we have to face the fact that they have done it. They have not only done that; they are pressing on with the development of a powerful and, it would seem, a well-equipped force in Eastern Germany. A day or two age, I read a statement from one of our correspondents in Germany —I do not know on what authority—that that force is expected to reach a total of 400,000 in the course of the next year or eighteen months. That is a terrible 106 fact. Its effect upon the European situation must be extremely grave, and obviously, whatever may be our feelings about the rearmament of any part of the German people, that action in Eastern Germany must be effectively countered in some way.
One thing which I am sure all your Lordships will agree is imperative and cardinal in this situation is that there must be no disagreement. There must be complete solidarity among the Atlantic Powers. The first essential to that, of course, is the solidarity of the English-speaking world. There, from the material standpoint, is an arsenal of resources unequalled in the world; and there, from the moral standpoint, is the world's surest bastion for liberal and progressive ideals. The march of opinion in America is, I think, the greatest event in recent history. Consider how the Americans have moved. They have practically abandoned the old creed of isolationism. Only three years ago—perhaps less— when I was last in Germany, I remember that it was universal talk, not only outside but inside the American Zone, that American troops could not be expected to remain in Europe indefinitely. That was the general impression everywhere; and it was certainly reflected by opinion on the other side of the Atlantic. Now we have the President, Congress and the people of the United States declaring that they will put divisions into Europe and maintain them there That is a fact of tremendous significance, and a wonderful revolution in American opinion.
Then we have had their splendid leader-ship against the aggression in Southern Korea, which has changed the face of international affairs. Finally, as your Lordships all know, in addition to the milliards which they have bestowed for helping the economic recovery of Europe, they are now promising generous dollar aid for rearmament. Incidentally, I am sure that your Lordships would all wish to offer the congratulations of your Lordships' House to the President and people of the United States upon the failure of the assassins' attempt on the President's life yesterday. The death of the President would have been an incalculable loss to the leadership of the free peoples at the present time. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that all hope of peace in the world to-day would crumble if misunderstanding arose 107 between Great Britain and the United States. Solidarity with France, and between the three main Powers of the Atlantic Pact, is equally indispensable, since solidarity with France is part of that.
Between the wars, this country mocked French fears and disregarded French warnings about German rearmament. In fact, I fear that we did much to encourage the opponents of real resistance, the apostles of neutrality in France, in the Low Countries and elsewhere. Now, hap-pily, our position is quite different. To some extent, geography has been altered by the development of modern weapons. The Channel is not so effective a moat as it used to be, and all must recognise that our destiny is inextricably linked with the destiny of France. The Atlantic is now the moat, and the United States of America, having that moat, might be excused at the present time for adopting an attitude of semi-detachment such as we ourselves followed between the wars. Fortunately, they have not done so. But we, who can understand, as no other country can, both the American and French standpoints, certainly have the foremost duty of reconciling the two.
What is the French position? The French maintain that there is no evidence of any real change of heart in Germany. The French are not alone in that view. I have made only passing visits to Ger-many, but the atmosphere there did not seem to me to indicate any fundamental change. Although I agree with my noble friend Lord Saltoun that there are elements in that population which have changed a good deal, I am afraid that the heart of the people is pretty well where it was. In support of that statement I should like to quote to your Lordships an article, which was afterwards broad-cast, by a distinguished Canadian ob-server, Mr. George McCullagh, publisher of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and of the Toronto Telegram. Towards the end of last year he was in Germany, a perfectly independent observer from the other side of the Atlantic, and this is what he found:There is something terrifyingly arrogant about this German in defeat. I talked with many of them. There was a young German doing police duty in Munich. In conversation I learned he was from East Prussia. I re-marked on the shabbiness of his uniform, but told him how pleased I was to see the swastika 108 removed from the buckle of his belt. I said, 'That shows that you have no reverence for Hitler or his ideals.' He turned, and with a wry smile said, 'It's still inside there,' and reversed his belt buckle and, sure enough, there was the swastika emblem.Mr. McCullagh goes on:World statecraft was never faced with a more difficult human problem than the Ger-man race…I think many people would confirm the feeling, which is predominant in France, that there is no assurance whatever that, unless the Germans can be firmly held in some way, one can count on their loyalty to the West or to Western ideals.
The French also ask—and this is a question that must be answered: "Once you have started the establishment of German military forces, how do you limit them? If the Germans chose to act in the way in which they acted between the wars, after Hitler came into power, the only way of limiting them would be to discipline Germany. If you take that line, we have got to come in and estab-lish our own view by force." The French also say:" Would not that be Russia's opportunity? How are you going to do it?" Finally, they ask how it is possible to curb the German irredentist movement for the recovery of Eastern Germany and even, possibly, the realignment of the new Polish frontier? For these reasons, France maintains that if German forces are created, a proposal to which I under-stand her Government agrees, they must be incorporated by units in a European Army, under a European Ministry of Defence. Obviously, that could not be done without a fundamental constitutional change in Europe at the present time. Such a Ministry would have to be responsible to some representative body, and could not be established with-out the federation of at least some of the Western European Powers.
My Lords, my own conviction is that it will always be impossible for Britain to become a province in such a federation —I say that quite frankly. I believe that it would take the heart out of national life in Britain, and also out of the family life of the Commonwealth, and would therefore destroy Britain's value to the whole Atlantic association. There is no need here and now to argue the constitutional aspect of this proposal. Whatever view may be taken, I think it is a complicated long-term proposal which could not be worked out in under two, 109 three or more years. As my noble friend Lord Swinton said, time is the essence of our problem to-day. We must reach some practical understanding immediately between all the Atlantic Powers, and particularly between France, the United States and ourselves.
Mr. Churchill has warned us again and again that time is being saved for us only by the atom bomb. It is interesting to note (I do not think the information has been reproduced here) that a distinguished American journalist has recently given what he believes to be the American authoritative point of view on Russia's production of the atom bomb—I refer to Mr. Stewart Alsop, one of the Alsop brothers, a well-known pair of journalists who work for the New York Herald Tribune. He said that although at the end of the present year it is believed that the Russians are unlikely to have more than a stockpile of twenty-five atom bombs, they will have one hundred at the end of next year, and three hundred at the end of 1952. He gave those figures in public to the people of the United States as authoritative, saying that he believed they would not be disputed by the American defence authorities. That gives us pretty clearly the limits of time within which we have to work. After the temporary breakdown of negotiations in Washington recently, I understand that the Chiefs of Staff are now reconsidering the French objection, and I trust they will find some method, which will be satisfactory to France, of incorporating German forces into the European or Atlantic army.
This afternoon I, as an outsider, would only suggest certain safeguards which seem to us on this side of the House to be indispensable. I will mention just three. One was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Swinton—namely, that the German formations when created, whatever form they may take, should not be responsible to a German command and a German Staff; but, like all the other Atlantic forces, should be directly under the combined Atlantic Staff and a supreme Atlantic command. I think Lord Swinton made that point, and I hope that it will generally be accepted. The second is that the Germans should be invited to provide ground forces only. We do not wish to see, certainly at the present stage, the re-creation of a German air force, the reincarnation of the Luftwaffe. We do not 110 wish to see that, and we do not believe it to be indispensable. Thirdly, and above all, there should be no delay in bringing the rest of the Atlantic forces up to the strength laid down by the Chiefs of Staff. German participation must not be taken as an excise for relaxing our own efforts, or for going slow on our contribution towards Western European defence. On the contrary, it is more imperative, if we rearm Germany, that the rest of the Atlantic forces should be brought; up without delay to the full strength required.
I am sure your Lordships will agree that this is vital. Remember, the German people will not have forgotten the be-setting sins of the democracies: that they prefer comfort to security, of thinking that it will do to begin preparing for defence tomorrow, and not to worry about it to-day. The Germans will not have forgotten that. They traded on it. for six years, from 1933 to 1939, and then in August, 1939, they made a pact with Russia. But the Germans also have every reason to remember the moral and material resources of the English-speaking world when mobilised. The power of the English-speaking world must be ready to face any challenge if Germany is to be held loyal to a Western association. Germans in the mass have little regard for peace as an ideal, or for liberal government in any form as an ideal. They recognise and respect one thing only in the world—organised military power. Let there be no doubt about our strength and readiness in that respect. My Lords, from that standpoint I must say, as my noble friend said, how disquieting we found the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, yester-day, and I hope that we shall have a much more complete assurance from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack when he comes to address the House this afternoon.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships for the first time, I hope I may rely upon that tolerance and indulgence which is traditionally given to people in my unfortunate predicament. For two days now I have listened to the debate on the Address and, while I know that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has described it as a pre-Election Address, I feel that a good many 111 of the speeches to which I have listened are equally election addresses, redolent of the bracing atmosphere of Blackpool and all keyed-up for the speakers' hope of an Election in the near future. On the whole, I think the Government are to be congratulated on the lack of effective criticism of the Address. On a great deal that is contained in the gracious Speech there is general agreement. I could not help feeling much sympathy with the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham. In the realm of foreign affairs and defence I recognise that there is a desire on the part of noble Lords opposite, and on the part of many others, to obtain rather more information than has been offered so far. I think there is a good deal to be said for that, subject to the overriding consideration of security. I understand that in the near future there is to be a discussion on defence, and I hope it may be possible to satisfy the legitimate interest of all sections of this House at that time.
The real controversy arose on domestic matters, and particularly on housing, on the cost of living and on the proposed measure for making permanent our system of controls; and I should like to say a few words, and only a very few, under each of those headings. First, as to housing. I put that first because I feel that all noble Lords would agree that it is the most important to-day of all the topics referred to in the gracious Speech, and one which, I suppose, occupies the first place in public feeling. There was, and there is, an attempt on the part of the political Parties to create a great volume of controversy on this subject. I doubt very much whether there is this difference of opinion that is often accentuated on both sides. We all agree that we need as many homes built as can possibly be built, and as quickly as possible. There is no dispute about that on either side. I would give the noble Marquess full credit for desiring to build the maximum number of homes, and I hope that he will give us on this side equal credit. I believe it is possible to provide more homes than are being pro-vided to-day. It is possible. We have something like 1,250,000 men employed in the building and civil engineering industry, and, even at the present rate of production of homes, if every one of those 112 men was turned on to the building of houses, we could build something like a million a year. No one, of course, is going to suggest that that is practicable. It would mean that no labour would be allowed for repairs and maintenance, or for the building of factories and offices and other buildings essential for the life of the community.
I think, also, it would be agreed that it is not really practicable in present conditions to increase that labour force of 1,250,000, and having regard to the claims of rearmament—a matter which has been so strongly stressed by the noble Viscount this afternoon—it is unthinkable that labour should be diverted from other spheres of industry into the building industry. Therefore, the position is that we have a force of 1,250,000 men, and we have a large number of claims on that force, including the claims that will arise as the direct result of rearmament. The question is: to what extent can we increase the amount of labour available for the building of houses, and at the expense of what? At Blackpool, and since, a figure of 300,000 has been referred to. I believe it is purely an arbitrary figure. I do not believe it has been care-fully worked out. I heard the noble Marquess speak of it yesterday, and he was at Blackpool.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I was not at Blackpool. The figure has been worked out and we believe that it can be achieved.
§ LORD SILKIN
I wish I could feel as confident as the noble Marquess, because if that could be done no one would be happier than we on this side, and no one would be happier than myself. We have not, so far, had a single suggestion as to how it can be done—not a single practical suggestion. Mr. Eden said he could not believe it was not possible somehow to increase the number of houses from 200,000. That may be so. Moreover, various speakers on the Conservative side have referred to this figure of 300,000 in different ways. It has been referred to as a "target" and as a "minimum." Those are two very different things. A "mini-mum" I regard as a specific assurance that that number of houses will be pro-vided. A "target" is an indication of the hope, with more or less justification, that 113 it may be possible to provide such a number. But they are two different things, and I should like, even at this late stage in the debate, someone to tell us how it is possible to increase the number of dwellings that can be provided within the limitations which I have indicated. I should like to assure the noble Marquess—and I say this with some knowledge of what I am talking about—that if the Conservative Party have carefully worked out the practicability of building 300,000 houses, so has this Government worked out the practicability, on a basis of priorities, of what can be built. I should be very much interested indeed to have a more specific account of the calculations which were made at Blackpool, which were thought to have justified the Conservative Party in accepting a target, a minimum or a pro-gramme—whatever they choose to call it —of 300,000 houses. I am not going to say that it is not possible—I would not say that at all. The noble Marquess and his friends may have ideas and suggestions to put forward which may be readily acceptable to us on this side. If that should be so, I can assure him that no one would be happier to accept it than we should be.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, referred also to the cost of living, and lie gave figures and illustrations showing alarming increases in the cost of certain commodities. I would agree with him that certain commodities have increased in cost very considerably within the past eight or nine months. I think we are on common ground in saying that at least the greater part of the increased costs is not due to the actions of the Government at all. but arises from actions entirely be-yond their control.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me. I dislike very much interrupting him in his first speech in this House, but I think it would be only fair to the Government that I should say this. In an answer which I gave to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, after an interjection by him in the course of my speech, I said —I have looked up the report of my remarks in Hansard—that it was entirely the fault of the Government. I must have expressed myself extremely badly. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that a very large measure of the increases to which he has referred is due to increases 114 in world prices. The Government would not agree to this, of course, but I still think it is in part due to the action of the Government. I say that now because I should not like to be guilty of making an unfair charge against the Government.
§ LORD SILKIN
What the noble Marquess has just said is exactly what I understood from his speech. He would agree that to a great extent the increase in prices was due to circumstances beyond the Government's control. I listened to the noble Marquess's speech and read it with great care to see the field in which the increased prices were subject to Government control, and I find myself in some difficulty. The noble Marquess referred to Government extravagance but gave no particulars, and it is difficult to deal with a general charge of extravagance. Again speaking with some know-ledge I can say that the Government have scrutinised most closely their administrative expenditure, especially the kind of items which might come under the heading of extravagance, and in the last Parliament, as the noble Marquess may know, they brought about a reduction as a result of tightening control over a good deal of expenditure. Beyond that, the only way in which we can reduce Government expenditure is by reducing Government services. There we are involved in a different sort of policy. On this side we believe it is not right at this time to reduce services which have been pro-vided for the people. We take the view that the provision of services for the people is something which, if not pro-vided by the Government, will have to be provided by the people themselves. The wig, which is the common example produced by the Conservative Party, is not a luxury. Noble Lords do not find wigs a problem—they can get on without them; but I imagine wigs are regarded as necessities in some quarters by people who cannot afford to but them, and if the Government withdrew that service, those who require wigs would have to pay for them out of their own pockets.
The noble Marquess referred to the sort of combined interest which arose as a result of the increase in prices: to the fact that the higher the price, the higher the purchase tax levied by the Government. Of course, that is true. The 115 inference I took from the noble Marquess's remarks was that he disliked purchase tax altogether and if he had his way he would abolish it. After all, this is a tax upon the proceeds of which the Government depend for their funds, and if the purchase tax were abolished, and on the assumption that waste has been eliminated, where should we raise the money? According to the noble Marquess, the rich have been well and truly soaked and there is nothing more to be got out of them. The only alternative is, as he says, to soak the poor. The alternative to the abolition of the purchase tax is the re-imposition of a similar tax, presumably on the same class of people. Is that not so?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I did not quite say that. At the end of my speech I said I believed the cure to be a gradual increase in productivity. I have no doubt noble Lords opposite will agree with that. I had my own suggestion about how it should be done, with which suggestion they would not agree, but that was my cure, or my main cure.
§ LORD SILKIN
I did not follow the purpose of the noble Marquess's observations about purchase tax. If he is relying on greater productivity, we are getting it, and getting it to a greater extent than any other country in the world. I can produce the figures and I think they are generally accepted. At any rate, we are getting greater productivity to a very considerable extent. If we could only reduce prices at the same rate as we are increasing productivity, all would be well, but unhappily it will take a long time to get prices down. The fact is that prices must inevitably rise at a time when we are trying to do two things: first, to compete in the world's markets for the things that we need to import (and there is keen competition to-day for these articles so that there is a gradual rise in prices), and secondly, to give to the ordinary people a better standard of living and relatively higher wages than they were getting before.
The effect of both these things must inevitably lead to an increase in prices. Also, as my noble friend Lord Strabolgi points out, we have a large number of men in the Armed Forces who are taken out of industry and have to be main- 116 tained. This Government have endeavoured to meet the rise in cost of living by trying to relieve the people who are less able to bear it. We are pro-viding food subsidies of £400,000,000 a year to keep the cost of living down. I notice that the noble Marquess did not give any examples of food of which the cost has risen considerably in the last nine months. He gave the examples of Axminster carpets and luxury shoes. I can assure the noble Marquess that they are luxury shoes he was talking about. The Government are endeavouring to meet these rises in price by providing a wide range of utility clothing and utility furniture, and while I am not well up in the carpet trade—
§ LORD SILKIN
Yes, but they were the highest priced utility. I can assure the noble Marquess that he can buy utility shoes at much less cost than those he quoted. He quoted the highest priced of that class. I do not know whether the Axminster carpets were utility or not, but one can buy utility carpets at considerably less cost than the figures he quoted.
§ LORD WOOLTON
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but it would be helpful if he would give us examples of those lower prices, because I happen to know about these things.
§ LORD SILKIN
I know: that was why I was going to say I could not compete with the noble Lord. But I have had some experience as a purchaser and I found that I could buy utility goods at considerably less cost than I should have had to pay for goods of almost identical quality which were not utility.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am afraid I am trespassing too much on the indulgence of the House. I want to get on to the third point, the question of controls. Last week your Lordships listened to a remarkable debate on controls, the result of which was that we agreed without a Division to the imposition of controls for another year. I think everybody agreed that it was unthinkable that controls should be suddenly abolished, and that many of them were necessary. It must have been within the knowledge of most of us a week ago that it was the Government's intention to make some of the controls permanent. There can be no doubt that it is necessary to deal with this question of controls, for a number of reasons. We cannot go on year after year re-imposing controls under a Statute which was passed in war time and for the purposes of war and the emergencies created thereby. If controls are necessary, they should be imposed in accordance with the requirements of to-day. Therefore, I feel that there would be little disagreement with the policy of introducing legislation in order to bring up to date the question of controls.
Where there is dispute is on the question whether these controls should be permanent or temporary, and on the extent of Parliamentary safeguards. I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said yesterday, quite properly, that he would prefer to wait and see what are the Parliamentary safeguards. Probably that is the right course. I should like to make a claim to-day, however, that there are certain controls which, in the light of present-day circumstances, and so far as one can see the circumstances of the future, are bound to be permanently required. We are living in days when the Government are held answerable for every aspect of our social and economic life. The spacious days of which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, spoke (I think he said he had heard fifty King's Speeches), when the Government could sit back leisurely and act as a sort of referee, just coming in when they were required, have gone. To-day the Government are held accountable for everything, including sometimes the results of the weather. The Government are certainly accountable for the economic life of the community, and rightly so. In my view, therefore, they must have the necessary powers to deal 118 effectively with the responsibilities imposed upon them; and those powers must match the extent of the responsibilities. Therefore it seems to me inevitable, if these conditions are to continue, as I think they must, that many of the controls should be permanent
However, I agree that this may not necessarily apply to all controls. I think (here I am thinking aloud, if one is permitted to do that in this Chamber) there is scope for having permanent controls and temporary controls, and that while some should not be required to come up for reconsideration from time to time, there may be others which should come up periodically for reconsideration. I agree also with the noble Viscount that the Parliamentary safeguards should be real ones. I am not certain that a negative Resolution is an entirely satisfactory and adequate safeguard, both from the practical point of view and from the point of view that it is, in fact, usually taken at so late an hour that it does not arouse very great interest.
I should also be prepared to consider some machinery, not necessarily for examining these regulations word by word and line by line, but, at any rate, for recommending certain broad amendments. I quite agree with the criticism which has been made that it is very difficult at limes to say about a long regulation: "You must lake it or leave it." One may agree with nine-tenths of it and disagree violently with the other one-tenth. I feel that there might well be some machinery for discussing the part on which there is disagreement, and for the views to be made clear. It may equally be, as the noble Viscount suggested yesterday, that we shall have to devise an entirely new form of machinery for the purpose of dealing with such regulations. All fosse things are not excluded by the reference to these regulations in the gracious Speech. While I have no knowledge whatever—certainly not more than the noble Marquess and his friends—as to the form which the legislation will take, I do suggest that it would be premature to make up one's mind (as a number of newspapers supporting the noble Marquess and his friends have done) that this measure is going to be violently opposed and is to be the basis of the forthcoming Election. I hope that when the Bill comes it will be 119 considered on its merits. I have long since exhausted your Lordship's tolerance and patience, and I hope I shall be forgiven. I can only promise that it shall never happen again.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, it falls to my privilege to congratulate him upon an instructive and interesting speech. I do so most heartily. I am sure I am only clothing your Lordships' thoughts with words when I say to the noble Lord that we hope to listen on many future occasions to his contributions and interventions in our debates. We are grateful to him for the contribution he has made this afternoon. The noble Lord referred in the earlier part of his speech to the priority of the housing programme of the Government. I, too, would give that a high priority, but I want to refer to what, in my judgment, might demand an even higher priority—for, after all, the building of houses would not be much good if the prospective occupiers were incapacitated from occupying. I have no desire unduly to detain your Lordships. I recognise that this is the third day of our discussion, and that there is a general desire to bring the debate to an early termination. There are two matters how-ever—which in fact are indissolubly one —to which I cannot refrain from drawing your Lordships' attention.
The gracious Speech refers to a measure to be laid before Parliamentto provide River Boards with more effective powers to deal with the pollution of rivers and streams.I want to ask the Government whether such contemplated legislation, if enacted, will replace; he Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, and part of certain other Statutes, both general and local. Further, will the enforcement of the new Act be in the hands of River Boards in their respective areas and, in the case of other areas for the time being excluded from Section 1 of the River Boards Act, 1948, in the hands of county councils?
I would remind your Lordships that the tidal part of the River Thames within the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority is excluded from the provisions of Section 1 of the River Boards Act, 1948, but Section 7 of the same Act provides that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries may 120 at any time, by order, provide that the whole or any part of the areas excluded from Section 1 of that Act shall cease to be excluded from that Section. At present it is the duty of the London County Council to prevent, so far as practicable, the sewage of the Metropolis from passing into the river in or near London. The London County Council, when created, remained entirely removed from the scope of the Thames Conservancy's pollution powers—as had been their predecessors, the Metropolitan Board of Works—and when the Port of London Authority came into being in 1909, the pollution powers of the Thames Conservancy were transferred to the Port of London Authority, with the corollary that the London County Council thus still remained exempt.
Whilst assuming that the proposed legislation which His Majesty's Government contemplate will be an improvement upon the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, the fact remains that it can have no effect on the pollution of the tidal part of the River Thames by the London County Council. It is hoped that the Festival of Britain will stimulate trade and advertise Britain, and for the Festival to be a success it is no doubt hoped that the weather will be fine and the summer a dry one. The effect of such weather, however, will be to make the condition of the Thames infinitely worse, and nothing contained in any proposed Bill can have any practical effect for the purposes of the Festival of Britain. Other and more urgent steps are needed for that purpose; otherwise, I warn your Lordships, in the event of a fine dry summer there will be an open sewer flowing past your Lordships' House and along the South Bank past the site of the Festival of Britain.
I am fully aware that since 1934 the London County Council have sought to extend their plant at Barking for the treatment of sewage. My anxiety is to emphasise the greater urgency of such work; that is far more important than that a Bill should be passed making changes in the law. Only this morning, at a meeting of the River Committee of the Port of London Authority which I attended, we had before us the analyst's report on river pollution; and at both the London County Council northern outfall at Barking, and at their southern 121 outfall at Crossness, from July to October the return was progressively serious. In summing up his report the analyst's words were, "Unsatisfactory; very unsatisfactory; most unsatisfactory." I am conversant with what transpired a fortnight ago when a joint deputation of the Port of London Authority and the London County Council met the Minister of Health, and certainly I have no desire to question the assurances then given. On the contrary, my one anxiety is to strengthen the hands of the Ministry of Health in their contest with other Departments to ensure that priority is given to this all-important work.
It is now over forty-seven years since I was first elected to the City of London Corporation, and for the past eighteen years I have been a member of the Port of London Authority. Speaking with a full sense of responsibility, I have no hesitation in saying that never during the last fifty years has the River Thames been so dangerously polluted as it is at present. I would therefore urge the utmost priority for the works so necessary to be undertaken by the London County Council in this connection. What is needed, more than additional powers, is that priority should be given to ensure that existing powers are exercised. Although I am a member of the Central Advisory Water Committee, it is not in that capacity but as a humble member of your Lordships' House that I desire to ask the Government whether, in dealing with the probem of pollution, they intend implementing the recommendations of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Sub-Committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee.
The other matter indissolubly connected with the pollution of our rivers is the question of our water supplies. The two problems of sewerage and water are inseparable, and I cannot but deplore the absence of any reference in the gracious Speech to the nationalisation of water supplies. This subject figured in the General Election manifestos of both the Liberal and Labour Parties. In my old constituency of Rochester there was no Liberal candidate at the last Election, and I went on to the Labour platform and advocated the public ownership of water supplies. In my judgment it is difficult to exaggerate both the urgency and importance of such public ownership. The 122 National Federation of Women's Institutes recently carried out a survey in rural areas by means of a questionnaire to its 7,000 branches, grouped in their fifty-eight county federations. Returns, partial or complete, were received in respect of 6,747 villages in England and Wales.
In vast areas of the country the people's health is in danger, owing to the in-adequacy of water supplies, and therefore I deeply deplore the absence from the gracious Speech of any reference to this matter. Never was there greater need for amendment of the existing water legisla-tion and for the provision, by public ownership or otherwise, of an adequate supply of water throughout the country. Water is, after all, a necessity of existence, and the advantages of having public supplies are numerous, With a system of public supplies it is possible to maintain constant supervision and adequate control over the gathering grounds. The survey to which I have referred shows that 4,567 villages have a piped water supply to some part of the village; 435 have a sufficient supply of some other kind, and 1,468 are without a sufficient supply of any sort Many reports speak of an inadequate supply, of laps which run dry at certain seasons of the year, or at certain hours of the day. The return shows that in many villages only a few houses are connected; in the rest housewives must fetch water from a stand-tap which often freezes in winter. There are cases where there are no taps or sinks in most workers' houses, and water must be carried nearly a mile from street taps to some of these houses. One village in Devon finds its main water supply totally inadequate when summer visitors add to the population. Last year the supply failed, and the village, without warning, was supplied from a river into which the sewage was drained. An immediate epidemic followed, one village doctor alone having 300 patients.
Villages without a main water supply depend mainly on wells. These are often inadequate, and not always pure. One village in Norfolk speaks of vermininfested wells, while in Sussex the return shows a village dependent on shallow surface wells, which arc unfit for drinking and often situated in gardens where night soil must be buried. With conditions, such as these—and I could multiply such instances—it is not surprising that in seventeen counties first place is given to 123 a main water supply as the most urgent need. I can only hope that the Government will be so seized with the urgency of the public ownership of water that they will even yet find time to tackle the problem during the present Session under the last paragraph but one in the gracious Speech, wherein occur the words:Other Measures will be laid before you if time permits.
§ 4.11 p.m.
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not pursue him into the subject of water, which is a liquid of which, I fear, I have little knowledge. I will now, if I may, revert to the main topic of the gracious Speech which has already been much discussed this afternoon. The Party opposite, I think it is fair to say, have always been a Party with a doctrine—a doctrine which they have preached for over forty years. But until 1945 they never had an opportunity to practise it. It was, perhaps, inevitable that with their great majority in the House of Commons they should have taken full advantage of the opportunity which presented itself to them and which they no doubt felt might not recur—and I am sure I speak for all the noble Lords on this side when I say that we hope it will not recur. I must say I do not entirely blame them for that. They have had a good time. They have nationalised, they have controlled, they have soaked the rich and the not so rich, and they have certainly given the doctrine a very good run for its money.
But, despite all this, as my noble friend Lord Salisbury pointed out, it does not seem that our problems are much nearer solution than they were five years ago. Abroad, Korea is only the climax of a situation which has been steadily deteriorating, whilst at home ever-increasing inflation is only the logical successor of the series of economic crises for which the Government's policy, though I admit in no way wholly, is, in my opinion, partly, responsible. The Prime Minister, in a message to the Socialist candidate at a recent by-election, spoke of the success of the Government's devaluation policy. I have no doubt that devaluation has proved very stimulating to our export trades, but noble Lords who are familiar with stimulants will 124 know that after the first elation has. passed off there is apt to be what is vulgarly known as a hangover. If I may suggest it, it seems to me that in the present rising prices and the consequent increased demands for wages we are seeing the first signs of an economic hang-over which, if it cannot be stopped, will not only undo all the good which the original stimulant did but may possibly leave the patient even weaker than before.
In these circumstances I should have hoped that perhaps the Government would have adopted a more realistic attitude in facing up to our common problem. I must say that I am disappointed to see that the only major contribution in the gracious Speech is the proposal to make permanent the existing controls. Much has already been said about the constitutional gravity of this action, and indeed it strikes me as a direct attack upon the very basis of our democratic institutions. I do not propose to pursue that point, but I should like to say a word on something which astonishes me almost as much as the Government's action in putting forward this proposal, and that is some of the reasons which they have advanced for the step they propose to take. In the gracious Speech the first reason given for perpetuating these controls is that full employment may be defended. I believe it is a dangerous illusion, and one which should not be given currency in this country, that merely by controlling the internal economy of the country we can safeguard full employment. Full employment surely depends, not upon the Government, nor indeed even upon the so-called employer, but in the last resort upon the consumer, and in this country it is the consumer abroad upon whom it depends. In other words, if there is a world demand for boots, then there will be employment in the boot industry somewhere; and if British boots happen to be the cheapest and best, then there will be full employment in the British boot industry. In fact, employment cannot depend upon Orders-in-Council: it can depend only on orders from customers abroad. There-fore to give the people of this country the impression that if we perpetuate controls all will be well and their employment will be safeguarded, seems to me a very dangerous proposition to put about.
125 What is more, I cannot help drawing a contrast between the emphasis the Government place upon the permanent riveting upon us of these controls and the more easy attitude they have taken about the one control which to my mind really matters, and that is the control of our home market by means of tariffs and preferences. I believe our greatest remaining asset to-day is the consumer market of this country, which before the war absorbed no less than 20 per cent. of the total exports of the world. By means of that asset and the bargaining power which it afforded us we were able to obtain reciprocal markets for our goods in other countries and to achieve a great increase in our Imperial trade. In addition, we were able to protect our domes-tic industries from unfair competition and dumping from other countries, all of which were safeguards for the employment of our people. Yet at Havana and elsewhere, though I should not go so far as to say that the Government have finally sacrificed this principle, they have to my mind committed themselves very dangerously towards the abandonment of the one control which might make a permanent contribution to full employment in this country.
The other reason which has been advanced and which seems to me curious— at any rate the wording of it seems curious —is that apparently these controls are to be made permanent in order to avoid inflation: not to curb inflation or to repress inflation, but to avoid inflation. I should have thought that if there was one thing which we had in this country to-day it was inflation, and it seems that it is getting steadily worse. It is true that in part this inflation is due to causes outside the control of the Government; and it is perfectly true that by means of controls something can be done to slow up the pace of inflation. Prices and profits can be controlled for a time, but in the long run it is no good controlling prices and profits unless wages can be controlled as well. In this respect the Government have shown themselves totally unable to cope with the rising demand. Personally, I should have thought that if there were an inflationary situation, the best method of dealing with it would be to adopt a deflationary policy—but that, of course, means economy, and that is a subject 126 which is not normally taught at the Lon-don School of Economics.
To sum up, it seems clear to me (and I am disappointed to see it) that the doctrine embodied in the gracious Speech is, in fact, the same old doctrine that has been preached by noble Lords opposite for the last forty years. The doctrine is quite simple: the infallibility of the Socialist State. Not the infallibility of the State— oh, no! If we on these benches were returned to office, I do not think for one moment that noble Lords opposite would approve of our enjoying one-quarter of the powers which they at present enjoy. But they have persuaded themselves that so long as they control everything, all our problems can be surmounted. What is perhaps more serious, they have persuaded quite a large number of humble people in this country that, by some magic undefined, they, and they alone, can bring about the prosperity and stability which those people so much desire. I wish I thought it were true but, in point of fact, I believe, as was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that the only way of getting out of our difficulties is to allow the fullest scope to the brains, energy and enterprise of all the citizens of this country. Since there appears to be no recognition of that fact in the gracious Speech, I can only hope that if the Government will not face reality, perhaps the people of the country will.
§ 4.22 p.m.
THE MARQUESS or READING
My Lords, in initiating the last stages of this debate, may I be allowed to supplement the congratulations already extended to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on his interesting and effective maiden speech? I have always regarded him with some awe as belonging to a small and esoteric band of people who possibly understood some portions of the Town and Country Planning Act. My veneration for him is both widened and increased by his speech this afternoon. I thought, in listening to the noble Viscount the First Lord, that he pronounced a somewhat qualified eulogy on the gracious Speech when he described it as being, in all the circum-stances, an honest speech. It seemed to me that that was more what those tire-some lawyers are apt to call a plea in mitigation of punishment than a defence calculated to produce an acquittal.
127 The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, last night painted a very glowing picture, but even so we in this country do not yet possess all the goods which flesh is heir to. I heard the other day that there is on some markets, although not in this country, wallpaper which is printed with reproductions, frame and all, of pictures selected from the works of one's favourite artist, so that with one sweep of the brush the wall can be hung with paper and pictures as well. I cannot help thinking that His Majesty's Government must have been informed of that novel device when they were engaged in preparing the gracious Speech. It need not be original; it need not be valuable; it need not even be genuine. But it does cover a certain amount of blank space, and it does produce an effect of a kind.
The Government have begun by turning their attention rather to the Impressionist school—no great detail, an outline, a suggestion, a colour-note, predominantly rose madder, and a preference for the well-known Monet picture, Westminster in a Fog. And then, with one excursion in connection with beet sugar into Cubism, they have concentrated upon the Modern school, which has the great advantage that the significance of the subject differs according to the point of view from which one looks at it. It may well be that this decoration is intended to endure for only a short time, and that it has to do duty only until the Minister of Health issues them with a licence to carry out more extensive changes.
There is, however, one item which is obviously destined for greater permanence. The figures are a little difficult to discern; they seem to be somewhat obscured by several coats of only too trans-parent varnish, but it would appear at least that it is designed to be a battle piece, even if it is for the moment desscribed in the catalogue as Paradise Retained. When that Bill to make permanent the transitional powers is submitted to us, we shall, of course, examine it with care, and, in particular, we shall examine those "Parliamentary safeguards "which we are promised. For my own part, I certainly agree with the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that the present procedure of a negative Resolution would be wholly insufficient to meet the changed conditions of permanent powers.
128 What is said to be the reason for this Bill? The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, used rather a curious phrase in that connection. He said that it was designed to bring these powers up to date. We have been told a certain amount about the Government's intention, that their only intention in introducing this Bill is to weed out a certain number of unnecessary powers. If that is all they want to do, they can do it at any moment, lay before Parliament the results and let Parliament see what it thinks of the outcome of their labours. It seems to me that the real objection to the proposed measure, so far as we can anticipate its provisions, is likely to be this: first of all, a too great centralisation of powers in the hands of the Executive. Secondly, we are told: "Oh, but these measures which are now being given permanence do not confer new powers. They consolidate and make permanent existing powers." Do let us remember that these existing powers were conferred at a moment of acute national emergency, and that, as a result, they give the Executive scope and authority so comprehensive that they could be used for almost any purpose of regulation which the Executive desired. I cannot help foreseeing that this is going to be one more, and perhaps the most serious, instance that we have had of that tendency of which this Government have already given us so many examples—namely, that of taking the widest possible powers and trying to turn criticism aside by saying that the powers are nothing like so extensive as we may think, and that in any case they do not intend to use them. If they do not intend to use the powers, let the Government, as we have urged time and again, not ask for them now.
In the course of this debate several glowing tributes have been paid to the Government by members of the Government. Last night the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, treated us to a speech beginning, if I may say so, with a quite unjustifiable —I will not say attack, but reflection, upon my noble friend Lord Teynham for having gone outside what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, thought were the terms of the debate, and going on to give a description of the situation of this country under full employment. Anybody listening to, or reading that speech, would have thought that the whole credit for the state of full employment in this country to-day 129 was due to nothing, and to nobody, but the policy of the present Government. From beginning to end, there was no suggestion that during the war. when this question was examined closely by the National Government, it was the view of everybody that, for obvious reasons, that would be the situation when the war came to an end.
I recall from the noble Lord's speech no particular reference to the fact that a White Paper on unemployment was published before this Government ever came into office, setting out the prospects of exactly that state of affairs. He knows perfectly well that the whole condition obtaining in this country to-day, and in the post-war world, the whole of the man-power situation, has been acutely influenced by the conditions created by and left over from the war. And yet not one of those factors was ever so much as mentioned in the speech which he made. If the noble Lord thinks that the country believes that only in the continuance of this Government lies any hope of the maintenance of full employment, he might reflect back on the course of the last Election, and the descent in the majority which this Government obtained, from something in the nature of 200 to six. Yet that was one of the issues which the Socialist candidates did not hesitate to put in the forefront of their campaign in making claims almost as extravagant as those which the noble Lord made yesterday.
Lord Lucas also painted a picture for us of a position of general prosperity and high wages. But there, again, he did not seem to pay very much attention to the fact that if wages were high it was not this Government that put wages up. Wages have been going up during and since the war, as they always do. One could cite instances galore. We have only to look at the position at the beginning of the war, to see how this affected one of the lowest paid industries in the country—mining. By the end of the war the miners were almost certainly among the highest paid workers in the country. It was not the Labour Government which produced that desirable state of affairs, from the miners' point of view; it was a result of the conditions which obtained during the war. No reference was made to that fact in the noble Lord's speech.
130 Nor was there a reference to the fact that, in spite of the high wages, the rise in wages is being steadily overtaken by the rise in prices. There was no reference to the fact that, in spite of high wages, there are a number of people in this country to-day who are unable to take up their rations because they cannot afford them. There was no reference to the fact that married women in this country who ought, and would wish, to stay at home and look after their children and their houses are being driven out into industry. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, regards that as funny. If he would go and ask women who attend day nurseries why they are bringing their children now to those nurseries, he would find out, in instance after instance, that it is because, in spite of high wages, increased prices make it impossible for these women to balance the family budget on the amount which is put into their hands. My Lords, there was not a mention of all that. All the credit comes, as always, to the Government for their wise and beneficent far-sightedness and planning.
My Lords, may I for a moment turn into rather calmer waters? In the gracious Speech there was a reference to a Bill to establish a court of appeal for courts-martial. I should like to say a word as to the history of that matter, and to ask two questions. Your Lordships may remember that, I think in 1946, a Committee was appointed to go into the whole position of courts-martial in the Army and Air Forces alone. The Committee was known as the Lewis Commit-tee, taking its name from the learned Judge who presided. That Committee re-ported in April of 1948 The Report was never published until January, 1949, and it was not until that Report had been published for a month that it occurred to the Government that they might appoint a similar Committee to inquire into naval courts-martial. That was the Pilcher Committee. Yesterday, when the noble Viscount the First Lord was speaking on this particular topic he said that the proposal to establish a court of appeal was supported alike by the Lewis Report, which is the Army and Air Farce Report, and the Pilcher Report, which relates to the Navy. In spite of efforts made by various members of your Lordships' House to obtain information, that is the first official intimation we have ever had that the 131 Pilcher Committee has issued a Report at all.
I should be very grateful if in the course of his speech the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack could tell your Lordships two things: first, when was the Pilcher Report received by His Majesty's Government and, secondly, when is it proposed to publish it? The Government clung very tenaciously for nine months to the Lewis Report before they published it. I hope that they may feel disposed to disgorge the Pilcher Report after a little less lapse of time. Of course it is impossible to say anything at this stage, since we have not yet seen both Reports, but it may well be that when we do, as I hope we shall in the very near future, have an opportunity to study the Pilcher Report we shall require an opportunity to discuss both of them, to see how far they are in harmony the one with the other, in order to bring discipline in the three Services on the same lines.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, finished his speech last night by demonstrating the conflict which in his view—though I think in nobody else's—was likely to arise as the issue between the Parties at the next Election. That may be of only very passing interest, but the time when the next Election comes is, of course, a matter of the profoundest interest to us all. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, described the balancing act which is at this moment being performed by His Majesty's Government. The prolongation of that state of instability and tension is good neither from the domestic nor from the international point of view. It may be, of course, that His Majesty's Government think it is essential to the success of the Festival of Britain that they should grace the Treasury Bench when that moment comes. It may be that they look forward to a prospect in which the Shot Tower and the Dome of Discovery will be handed down to posterity as the Herbert Memorial and the Herbert Hall. Not so long ago, they made one overriding, unforgettable and, I think, unforgivable mistake in deciding to go on, in spite of all that was involved, with the plan for putting into operation the Iron and Steel Act. I do not go into that controversy to-day; we have discussed it. But I would say this. This clinging on in the present situation, with all the detrimental effects that it must 132 have, both internally and externally, would be pathetic if it were less perilous. The Government seem to have decided to adopt and to adapt Blake's lines:I will not cease from Party strife,Nor let the Seals fall from my hand,Till I have built Utopia,In England's pink and dismal land.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VIS-COUNT JOWITT)
My Lords, it falls to my lot to follow up, as briefly as I can, the discussions which we have had and to answer some of the questions that have been put to me. I do it in somewhat unfamiliar surroundings and, I must say, in circumstances of the greatest discomfort. Apparently according to precedent, the door behind me is left open and there is a howling draught blowing round my silk stockings; I have the greatest difficulty in hearing what anyone says, and when, occasionally, I think I am beginning to hear, someone starts up a pneumatic drill. It is difficult to ascertain where the sound of that drill comes from. If it comes from behind the Woolsack I gather it is for the Serjeant-at-Arms to deal with; if it comes from in front of the Woolsack, then it is a matter for Black Rod. I have, as yet, been unable to determine exactly where the noise comes from, so it is a matter of considerable difficulty to know how to deal with it. I hope that when, in the future, we resume our debates in this Chamber, there will be some method of ensuring that we can hear what one another says.
This has been a very remarkable debate, and not least for the witty and entertaining speech of the noble Marquess who has just sat down. I always wish that I could remember the good things which he says, in order that I might be in a position to bring them out as my own afterwards. It has also been a remarkable debate by reason of the thoughtful maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I should like, as an old colleague, to congratulate him on what he did and what he said. He, obviously, provoked the other side into answering him, which is against all the traditions of a maiden speech. Equally obviously, he did not in the least mind: in fact, he trailed his coat rather in order that he might get those remarks from the Benches opposite. But, in any case, a good time was had by all.
133 With regard to domestic matters—with which I propose to deal before I come to a few points relating to foreign affairs— some question was raised about the paragraph in the gracious Speech referring to the British Sugar Corporation. The noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, who are not able to be here to-day, were disturbed lest this meant an end of the sugar beet industry and the subsidy attached thereto. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the sugar beet industry and the subsidy attached thereto, this proposal has nothing whatever to do with them. I can assure the noble Lords that they can sleep quite happily in their beds, knowing that nothing here contemplated will interfere with the industry which they have at heart. When, in the fullness of time—I am not going to anticipate what is to be dealt with in legislation—your Lordships have a chance of considering the structure of the British Sugar Corporation and considering, as I have no doubt you will also have the opportunity of doing, the agreements by which the Corporation is bound, I think you will realise that there is an enormously strong case from every point of view for doing what we propose to do.
Now a word about housing. May I say quite simply what the answer is? I can assure the noble Marquess that I have no doubt at all that it is possible to build 300,000 houses—or, indeed, 400,000 houses. The only question is, what are you going to stop building? If you have a worked-out programme, then you have to divide your available resources between various purposes—for instance, between factories and houses. If you are going to increase the amount, you must allocate your resources which you are spending, not only in money—it is not merely a matter of money—but in materials and labour on houses. If you increase your allocation somewhere you have to take it off somewhere else. What we want to hear in due course from the noble Marquess and his associates is what they are going to cut off in order to justify this further expenditure on housing. That is, to my mind, the important consideration.
I now pass to the question of Supplies and Services, and the liberty of the subject. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will not regard this question of the liberty of the subject as being 134 the peculiar preserve either of himself or of his Party, because I believe that liberty of the subject is a matter which concerns us all. It concerns everone who is opposed—as, thank God, we are all opposed—to the Communist outlook and the Communist régime. It is the hallmark, the distinction between a free and a totalitarian regime. It is true that I objected to the noble Viscount's Bill, the Liberties of the Subject. Bill, because I thought it set up a series of spurious remedies. If ever there was a jackdaw strutting in peacock's feathers, it was that Bill. It is not that I do not regard liberty of the subject as in itself a most important consideration. I do; and I claim that this Government have made a notable and a remarkable contribution towards securing the liberty of the subject.
May I point out to your Lordships that we have abolished the old barriers that protected the Crown—that is to say the Executive—from being sued? I am proud of that, and I am proud to recognise that in doing it I received assistance from all quarters of the House. Anyone who thinks that he is being roughly treated by the Executive can now bring an action against any Department of State, just as he can against any individual. Furthermore, we have now provided under the Legal Aid Act that if he has not the necessary money to bring that action, he can go to a committee of the Law Society, which has nothing whatever to do with the Government, and get public money given to him to enable him to bring his action to test the legality of what the Executive is doing. We can all take pride in that. It is a remarkable achievement which is without precedent in any other country in the world. In face of it, it seems to me quite ridiculous that anybody should say that this Government have no regard for the liberty of the subject, or that this Government desire to run our concerns on totalitarian lines. It is not true, and anybody who stops to consider the matter knows it is not true. It may be good stuff for electioneering, but as I listen to the speeches in this House, as an old electioneer I have come to the conclusion that, however good we may be in debate, we are no longer very good electioneers. It is better for us to stick to our proper duties, and leave electioneering to those more, closely concerned with it.
135 My noble friend Lord Silkin made some interesting suggestions in his speech. Only last week I introduced a Motion to continue for another year various powers of control. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will realise that everybody agreed that these powers must be continued for another year. Everybody knew that it was necessary, in the circumstances of to-day, that we should have these powers. If it does so happen that the Liberal Party, or even the Tory Party, achieve a majority at the next election, I will make this prophecy—I am certain they will see that these powers are available to them. In the circumstances of to-day, with all the difficulties with which we are beset—and, my Lords, they are very real difficulties—it would be madness to give them up; and when I asked for their extension for one year I had no difficulty at all. We had an interesting speech from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, and an equally interesting but somewhat shorter speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel; and without the slightest dissent I got my will, and these powers went on for another year.
What then is the real controversy? It is this: Shall we go on extending these powers by a yearly Act of Parliament or shall we have them on a permanent basis? No Act of Parliament is permanent, of course, but it may be regarded as permanent as opposed to yearly legislation. This question raises two matters of great importance. The first is this: if these powers, which come to an end on December 10, are extended on a yearly basis, then about the middle of the year the country will not be able to tell for certain whether they are to be extended for another year or not. Mark you, the vast majority of traders who will want to know their position welcome these powers. It is a fallacy to consider that they are imposed upon reluctant traders. They are welcomed and we discuss their exercise with the traders concerned. But if they are uncertain whether or not the powers are to continue, they are in a most difficult position, a position of great uncertainty for trade and for every-one else. Therefore there is a great deal to be said for not having the powers merely on a yearly basis.
Secondly, there is a constitutional reason here involved to which I attach 136 some importance. It is right and inevitable that the Government are at the mercy of another place, which is composed of the elected representatives of the people. They can refuse Supply, and if they pass a vote of censure on the Government, the Government must go. That has never been so with regard to this House; no Liberal Government or Labour Government have ever been dependent upon the approval of this House for their continued existence. I cannot think your Lordships would really wish it were so. But what is the result, if we have these powers on a yearly basis? Granted that these powers are absolutely necessary, and granted that no Government could carry on governing this country without them, the Government would have to seek a Resolution of approval from this House. We should be at the mercy of this House, and whatever may be the merits of this House—and they are very great—it does not represent the electors.
If these powers were on a yearly basis, the Government would have to come and, in effect, ask this House whether it approved of the Government's going on. That is no part of the role of this House, and for that reason it is far better that these powers should be given to the Government of the day, not merely on a year-to-year basis. I am really hopeful that when we consider this Bill together, your Lordships will agree with me in what I am now saying; but I am most anxious that we should consider most carefully what sort of powers we put into the Bill. I do not like going, as it were, to the dustbin of the past and selecting Regulation 49A, B and C, or something of that sort, and putting them into the Bill. I should like us to set out precisely what are the powers with which Parliament entrusts us.
I will go further—and here I hope that I shall convince the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that I am not seeking to be totalitarian about this matter. I believe that those powers which definitely might conflict with the freedom of the individual, such as the direction of labour, should be left out altogether. If the time ever came when, owing to difficult circumstances—and they might easily become difficult—we needed any such power as that, we should come to Parliament with an express Bill for that purpose. In the 137 Bill which we shall produce, I shall pro-pose to cut out altogether these powers and to confine the Bill to the sort of economic powers which a week or two ago all your Lordships agreed were absolutely essential at the present time.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Do I gather from what the noble and learned Viscount has said that the Bill will be introduced in this House?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Whether the Bill is introduced in this House or in another place it will not contain the proposals dealing with the direction of labour, or those other matters about which the noble Viscount had some words to say on a previous occasion. I am sure it will be reassuring to him, and to other noble Lords who want to look at this matter from a fair point of view. We must have these powers. I have suggested that there are the strongest possible reasons for not having them merely on a yearly basis. I have conceded that this House and another place should look most carefully at all these powers. And I am prepared to consider what Parliamentary safeguards we can have to see that these powers are not abused.
I come next to the cost of living. I must say that the noble Marquess selected the most odd illustrations. I do not doubt there is truth in what he said. The cost of living has gone up. We should be living in a fool's paradise if we believed that the cost of living was not likely to go up. But really, Axminster carpets! And then afgalaine! I asked in my own domestic circle what afgalaine was. I got no response there. I sent for the Oxford Dictionary, the large edition, and I looked up "afgalaine." There is no answer there. I guessed from my slight knowledge of French that it had some-thing to dc with wool, and I thought that perhaps it came from Afghan sheep— whether I am right or not, I have not the least idea. It is a sad thing, and I am very sorry about afgalaine. When I heard it mentioned I said to myself: "I will give up using afgalaine and do the best I can without it." Then, glacé shoes! I am afraid, so far as I am concerned, I shall have to give up Axminster carpets, afgalaine and glace shoes. But there are much more homely and simple illustrations which I should have thought would do—things like dusters, sheets and pillow cases.
138 I will go further with the noble Marquess. I have no doubt that to some extent the increase in prices is an inevitable corollary of devaluation. There were two effects of Devaluation. It has without doubt had some effect—and still is having—on rising prices. But there is another side to the picture, and I should like to call attention to that. I believe that when the trading figures for the third quarter of this year are analysed and published it will be found that, for the first time in our history for many years, we have broken even with regard to our visible exports and imports. That is a remarkable achievement. I believe it will be found that we have again had a most remarkable accretion to our gold and dollar reserves—not as much as we should want, because if we are going to be the bankers of the sterling area we obviously want very large reserves. But we have achieved it, and it is most remarkable. When the noble Marquess said, as he did, that the way out of our troubles must lie, as he thought, largely in the way of increased production, I could not agree with him more. But it is relevant to stop for a moment to see what the figures are. I am bad at remembering (the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who was at the Board of Trade before the war can tell me) but I believe that the generally accepted view was that our productivity increased at the rate of about 2½ per cent. a year.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
At any rate, that sort of figure. It is all reported in the books. If you take the industrial production of 1946 as the figure of 100, this is what you find: in 1947 it was 108; in 1948, 121; and in 1949, 129. I have here the figures for only the first months of 1950, but your Lordships can take it that the improvement of 1950 over 1949 is most marked—indeed, in the month of June we reached 142, as compared with 100 in 1946. I am not saying for a moment that that is due to the Government, or, if you like, that it is in spite of the Government. But in abusing this Government, do not let us fail to recognise 139 what the people of this country have done. That I do claim to be a most amazing and quite unprecedented achievement; and I believe it to be the fact, though I cannot assert it positively, that no other country in the world has increased its industrial productivity to anything like the same extent.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is something of which we can all be proud. That is the other side of devaluation. I have no doubt that any of our banking friends who recognised that whether we liked it or not, in our circumstances devaluation was necessary, would say that we have taken the opportunity to make good in those circumstances. I wish to add this serious word, because I want to be a realist. On the top of that difficult position comes the Korean situation, and the rearmament programme. I have no doubt that that is going to give rise to serious difficulties. A short time ago I remember wondering what would happen to the Lancashire cotton industry, in which I used to be closely interested, when the situation arose that owing to a shortage of dollars we could not buy any more cotton. The problem that may arise now with regard to the cotton industry is that we cannot buy any more cotton because there is no more to buy. That, of course, is the result partly of the war programme and its inevitable stock-piling. The same thing applies to many base metals, but the cotton shortage is also partly due to the fact that the last cotton harvest was unfortunately very small. The same shortages which I have mentioned in regard to cotton apply to many other important products. It shows more than ever that, as we all know, we are really all "members one of another," and in these days it is no good one country thinking it can disregard the needs of others.
Incidentally, I am interested to find that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, plainly indicated that he would remove purchase tax, at any rate, on some of these things. I am always in favour of removing taxes from anything; there is nothing I dislike so much as taxes. But I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If I were Chancellor of the Exchequer I should possibly view the noble Marquess's 140 suggestion with disapproval, unless he followed it up with another suggestion as to the tax to be put on to make up for the loss which would so result. When the noble Marquess gives me the answer to that question, I promise him faith-fully to pass it on to my right honourable friend.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble and learned Viscount must wait for an answer to that question until I am Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I would say this. When the Government first came in they took off a great deal of direct taxation from the lower income group. No doubt that was a very desirable thing, and it made life easier for those people. But it seems to me that they are now replacing that taxation in an indirect form on exactly the same people. Purchase tax was originally put on to prevent people from buying goods. Now it has become an ordinary method of taxation, and one which hits the poor very hard.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will not enter into a discussion on that now, but I will convey the remarks of the noble Marquess to my right honourable friend.
I will deal with the other matters briefly. With regard to the reference in the gracious Speech to leaseholds, I understood the noble Marquess to say that this was apparently another illustration of our "soaking the rich." I believe he said that he was not at the Conference at Blackpool. If he had been at the Conference at Blackpool he would have found that the Conference passed a resolution suggesting that this leasehold problem should be dealt with. When I come to propound my temporary solution—it is only that—of the leasehold problem, I shall rely on his support.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not say that I was against a measure of leasehold reform. I only said that I hoped the Government would consider not only the great difficulties of the tenants, but also the difficulties of the owners, many of whom were very poor people who had invested their savings in property of this kind.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I quite agree with the noble Marquess that land-lords, by and large, are a most deserving section of the people, but so are the tenants.
141 The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, asked me some questions about river pollution. I will certainly bear in mind the observations he made, but I think I should be out of order if I were to anticipate legislation by providing the answers. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, asked me about the Courts-Martial Bill. If I had been given notice I would have found out exactly when the Pilcher Report was received and when it is to be published. So far as publication is concerned, I am sorry that this was not done long ago. I know nothing about it, but so far as I know there is no objection to publishing the Lewis Report and the Pilcher Report. I will look into the matter and communicate with the noble Marquess, and let him know the answers to the questions he has asked.
Now a word or two about foreign affairs. The question of Korea was mentioned by several of your Lordships. In case we have not stated it sufficiently plainly in the Speech, may I say here and now how much the whole world owes to the prompt and resolute action of the United States, and to President Truman in particular. His courageous and forth-right decision has done much to save the world from a shocking and terrible disaster. May I, speaking on behalf of all your Lordships, say how cordially I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, said about how thankful we are that the dastardly attempt on the life of the President was frustrated?
There is one other aspect of Korea which was mentioned, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, and certainly by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. That was with regard to reports which had found their way into reputable organs of the Press and which give one ground for supposing that there have been shocking atrocities committed not only by the North Koreans upon the South Koreans, but by the South Koreans upon the North Koreans. It goes without saying that we and the American Commander of the American Forces are determined to do everything we possibly can to investigate this matter and see that it is stopped. I venture to say that I believe the Germans made no greater mistake from a military point of view than in their brutal treatment of the population in Russia. If they had treated them in a humane and decent manner, those people might easily have become friends of the Germans, instead 142 of which they were so revolted by the German conduct that they played no small part in the wiping out, of the German forces. If we are going to get a happy, united and democratic Korea, surely to goodness every sensible person must agree that the sooner these atrocities stop the better. I can assure noble Lords that we will do everything we can to bring that desirable result to pass.
I was asked a question about Spain, and here I should like to see that I do not stray beyond the paths which are mapped out for me Your Lordships know that this matter has been before the Committee of the Assembly. We abstained on a similar Resolution in 1949, and we abstained this time. We abstained because it was thought that a vote in favour of a Resolution of this sort would be interpreted as a vote in favour of the Franco régime—a régime to which we were opposed and are still opposed. But our friendship with the Spanish people remains as strong as over. With the other countries who voted for the 1946 Resolution, we have continued to have diplomatic and commercial relations with Spain. The question of whether or not we have an Ambassador in Madrid is a matter upon which we have always said we would be guided by the view of the majority of the United Nations Assembly. The Committee in question, by more than a two-thirds majority, have recommended that the old 1946 rule be rescinded, and I have little doubt that the General Assembly will take the same line. I think that answers that question.
Now I come to an even more important question. I am afraid I have little to add, because the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, will realise that at the present moment discussions are taking place in Washington. I think it is inevitable that we should realise that Germany must play her appropriate part if we are to have an effective Army in Western Europe. It is not a question, as I see it, of countries being first over-run and then rescued; they must be able to resist so that they are not over-run at all. I agree with Lord Altrincham that it is no good blinding our-selves to the true position—a position which calls for care, tact and great understanding. Perhaps it is much easier for us to take what I understand is the sensible attitude than it is for our French friends. After all, they are thinking: "We have 143 the peril of Russia to-day, and it may so happen that we all stand together to-day. Then perhaps the peril of Russia will fade away and perhaps the United States of America and Britain will fade away, too, and there we shall be." It is no good blinking it: it is a very real problem. It is that precise problem which we are trying to tackle to-day in these negotiations in Washington.
I am very happy to tell your Lordships that the understanding and good relationship between this country and America has, I believe, never been closer than it is to-day; and that is surely the foundation of all our hopes for the future. There was the celebration yesterday of the memorial to Sir John Dill, who perhaps laid the foundations of this close co-operation, an achievement for which Mr. Lewis Douglas—who has been Ambassador here but whom, unfortunately, we are shortly to lose—is also, I cannot help thinking, responsible. The work that those two men, and many others, have done is bearing most satisfactory fruit. We have now reached the stage in our relationships where we can agree to differ; and that is always the best test of friendship. When we take different lines and have different opinions everybody understands that there is nothing sinister about it, and that we are each voicing our own point of view. We do not always adopt the formula, "When father turns we all turn." We are not in the least subservient, and they would not desire that we should be.
I am sorry that I cannot tell you any more about rearmament than Lord Hall told you yesterday. He told you that the contracts for £122,000,000 have been placed, and I can tell you that we believe that the effect of the work to be done under those contracts will make itself felt during this financial year—that is to say, we shall get some of the produce before next April. The balance of the second £100,000,000 is now under consideration, and some orders have been placed under that. The total plan, as your Lordships know, is for £3,600,000,000. With the best will in the world, we can always say that we will do everything we possibly can, and will take every step to arm ourselves in the most efficient way. On the other hand, it would be no good our doing that to such an extent as absolutely 144 to bankrupt ourselves, because then we should be deprived of the sinews of war. In Washington we are discussing now what contribution others can make, and how they can help us to be thoroughly armed. I could not agree with Lord Swinton more when he said that this is an urgent matter. There is not a day to be lost. We must do this with the most extreme vigour.
I must tell your Lordships that, although in the days when he was Minister of Fuel and Power hard things were said in this House about him. I am quite satisfied, from my own personal observations, that my colleague, Mr. Shinwell. as the Minister of Defence, has been doing an exceedingly good job of work; he has worked most happily with the Americans, and is certainly not letting the grass grow under his feet.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
It does not rest with Mr. Shinwell, does it, to place orders or to give instructions for priority as between civil and military work?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, it does not at all. What has been done—I cannot say more—is that provisional plans have been worked out, and in accordance with those provisional plans Mr. Shinwell has given orders. But it is no good giving orders unless you give them in pursuance of a great plan; and the whole plan for £3,600,000,000 or it may be much more, is now actually being worked out, subject always to settling the shares which everybody will take. But there is this useful aspect about the whole matter. Whereas in the past it used to be done on the basis that every country more or less did what it wanted to do, or could do, looking for aid and help from America, now the thing to be regarded is a unified plan, and the scheme is that everybody is going to do what best he can, according to his ability, to contribute, not to his own defence but to the defence of the area as a whole. I wish I could say more about this matter now, but I suggest that we might have a debate on it again soon, and I hope that after the Washington talks I or some other Minister may be able to say more than I can to-day. Things seem to be shaping well. I have endeavoured, I hope not at undue length, to deal with some of the matters which have been discussed before your 145 Lordships, and I am most grateful for your Lordships' attention.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, the said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.