HC Deb 17 March 1931 vol 249 cc1974-95

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a number of Air Forces not exceeding 32,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom at Homo and abroad, exclusive of those serving in India (other than Aden), during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1932.


I beg to move to-reduce the Vote by 30,000 men.

In moving this Amendment, which stands in my name and in the names of several of my hon. Friends, I confess that I feel—to use a metaphor—as if I were suddenly landing on the earth again. After the very interesting and delightful dissertation on the development of civil aviation, to which we have listened during the past three or four hours, it is rather difficult to realise that we are discussing to-night Estimates which come under the heading of Fighting Services. I should have been quite prepared to listen for a much longer period to the exchange of ideas and of compliments which we have heard, but one must come back to earth and realise that we are considering now Estimates for the Fighting Services. The intention in my mind in moving this reduction is, obviously, to draw attention to a method by which disarmament, and, in consequence, permanent peace, may be secured. I confess that I feel very much like a personified paradox. I am very conscious, indeed, of a whole host of criticisms which may come from various quarters of the Committee.

Personally, when I speak to this Amendment I am not speaking on behalf of my constituency, or of any considerable number of my constituents. I will be perfectly frank and admit that in my constituency the number who would be prepared to endorse what I am moving and suggesting to-night might be counted almost on the fingers of both hands. I also quite frankly admit that I am not now pleading for a method which has the endorsement of the Labour movement. The method which has that endorsement and which in the end is able to secure peace and disarmament, is a method of disarmament by agreement, rather than a method of disarmament by example. I would go further respecting my constituency, and with regard to other constituencies, too, and say that if it were really explained to the electorate of this country what this particular method really involved, and all that it implied, I am prepared fully to admit that it would be rejected by the great majority of electors in this country. I do not believe that it would be at all right and expedient for this Committee to pass such an Amendment as this without at the same time securing endorsement from the electors of this country.

I do not wish, personally, that the method here advocated, bound up as it is in the recommendation of what is practically the abolition of the Air Force, should be secured by a back-door method. I am convinced that any kind of subterfuge is entirely out of place with regard to the establishment of such a titanic and challenging method of securing peace as the one embodied in the Amendment which I am now moving. I realise all the difficulties and dangers which are implied in the method which I now commend. I appreciate to the full all the arguments that can be brought forward. I have not tried to ignore the other side of the case. I fully admit that at first it would seem that common sense is overwhelmingly against my Amendment, not merely from the standpoint of those who are cynical with regard to idealism, but also from the standpoint of those who are genuinely in favour of peace and of the great work which the League of Nations is accomplishing. From that standpoint, I can appreciate the argument that sanctions are required in order to enforce judgments, such as an institution like the League of Nations might be able to announce and to apply.

Having said that, and having expressed quite frankly and definitely my sensitiveness to the criticisms that can be offered, and to the arguments that can be used against the intention of this Amendment, nevertheless, I move the Amendment with sincerity, determination and reason. I do so because, after all, the Members of this House are not mere automatic delegates of the constituents they represent. I fully realise that it would be outrageous for any Member who persistently mis- represented the opinions of the party which he represented, and which had largely secured his votes, to continue in this House for long. Therefore, generally speaking, I believe it is expedient and right that Members who are here representing various parties should endeavour to express that party view. On the other hand, there are occasions, and this is one of them, when having made one's position perfectly clear, one must speak out the truth as one sees it, and become not merely a delegate but a representative of an idea, even though that idea may not be popular or acceptable to the great majority of people.

The basis of the Amendment which I am moving, is, obviously, that disarmament is highly desirable. That is accepted on all sides in a greater or lesser degree. I say that because there are some—I hope only a minority—who do not believe Disarmament is desirable, and who believe from time to time that a little bloodletting is very useful and valuable to the body politic. But I assume that the great majority, though extremely sceptical as to the near or far possibility of Disarmament, are nevertheless desirous of seeing at some time real and complete Disarmament accomplished. On the other hand I am quite certain that the majority of Members of this House who agree amout Disarmament also insist that Disarmament must come by agreement and not by example. It is plain that the great majority here who believe in Disarmament by agreement must, by that fact, admit that the drawing together, the conjunction and the identification of the military and violent side of aviation with the excellent functions of commercial aviation, is a thing to he deplored, and one which, in due course, must be brought to an end.

Nothing, surely, is so depressing, and nothing stirs one so deeply as the fact that many of the most ingenious instruments that the human mind has ever evolved are instruments, in the last analysis, of death rather than of life. Everyone must admire the aesthetic appearance of the aeroplane when it passes across the sky, and everyone must be impressed equally by the long development of thought and invention that has gone to make the aeroplane one of the most marvellous embodiments of human ingenuity. One cannot either avoid the fact that that same instrument, when one sees it in action, is an instrument which one knows can, within a few moments, be turned into an instrument which can deal death and spread torment and torture not only to combatants but to non-combatants also. One can admire even the devilry of the instrument, and at the same time regret the use to which it is put. A colleague of ours who brings into one of the rooms of this institution half the British Museum in the course of a single week, has brought not only living specimens but strange objects of a much more sinister character. From time to time he asks us to examine swords, daggers and scimitars which originally came from the mysterious East but which, I rather assume, came more directly from the more mysterious East End. We examine such instruments, and while we admire the meticulous work and the clasps, handles and blades we cannot do that for long without realising that these clever, ingenious and highly-finished instruments may be put—though we trust not by his hands—to a more degrading and terrible use.

So it is with aeroplanes. One reflects on aeroplanes and the tremendous possibilities that are inherent in them, of the gulfs that can be bridged and the way in which the vacant spaces of the world can be crossed, and lonely communities linked together. I am all in favour of the diminution of the world, so that instead of other parts being foreign, they merely become our neighbours—and our next-door neighbours at that. One cannot ignore the fact. that at present this new and marvellous instrument of communication is, as a matter of fact, also a potential instrument of destruction and torment as well. I mention that, because it brings me to the real reason and motive which has led me with, perhaps, some timidity and hesitation, but with determination, to move this Amendment. In other words, it is because I realise that war has grown to be an institution, and that nations have developed the habit of thinking in terms of war, that I urge that while peace through Disarmament by agreement may be possible—and I do not rule it out yet—equally it may break down. One knows that with two indi- viduals one can secure agreement for sacrifices, for alterations and adjustments, but one also knows among such individuals one of them may possess suspicion and a temperament different from the other and be over-weighted by fear, and in this way tilt the balance which is carefully being adjusted between the various partners who are seeking agreement. Among the nations of the world an effort is being and has been made by this Government and other Governments, past and present, towards securing an international mind and a realisation that law is above war. All that has my heartiest and warmest endorsement, but I realise that one nation may be hypnotised by fear and fascinated by suspicion and may tilt the balance and may give an excuse, if not a reason, to the other nations to cease to try to arrive at Disarmament by agreement, and, instead, start a mad competition in the instruments of war which, inevitably, increases the tension between nations, and ultimately plunges them into international strife once more. Yet it is certainly strange to realise that every one of the great Powers to-day in effect says, "We should be quite prepared to disarm if it were not for the other fellow."

In our own country, which Power is it that we fear to-day? Why is it that when Disarmament by example is possible and would lead to other countries following suit, inevitably there are many Members who say, "Yes, but we must count the cost, for we know full well that if we do that, other nations would not follow us, and we might have to suffer very severely for this extraordinary experiment." Precisely the same argument is being used by the other Powers. France is saying the same thing—"We would disarm and divest our Air Force of its violent and military features if only we could be sure other nations would do the same thing." So we have the strange sitution of the great Powers each accusing one another of insincerity while at the same time they meet round a table and quite sincerely protest that each one of them intends to take no more part in war, but, instead to seek peace and ensure it for evermore.

I suggest that in such psychological circumstances we have to realise that it may be necessary—I believe that it is necessary, and I put it forward for the consideration of other hon. Members—to make a clean break with tradition. It may be necessary to break through this entail of fear and suspicion. War has grown to be an institution. It was not always so. There was a time when it was perhaps a spontaneous expression of slumbering fear, anger and animosity that rankled in the breasts of men, but to-day it has become an institution. No great nation says that it wants to destroy or to be destroyed. No community says that it wants to engage in or to promote or be involved in the horrors of war, yet, in spite of that fact, Mars hypnotises millions of the children of men. We need to break right through and give a challenge, even a shock, to these hypnotising assumptions which rest on the souls of men and which paralyse their activities and even paralyse States and statesmen as well.

If disarmament by example is a dangerous method, is it not a fact that we are all engaged in it, more or less to-day? A number of States meet at some international conference. They do not speak at one time and in the same voice. It is left to some power to intervene. I am happy to believe that in some respects the statesmen of this country have given a lead and set an example. Our own Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has set an example. Our own Prime Minister during his visit to America, shortly after he had assumed his high office, set an example which met with a response. It need not be merely Labour statesmen who set an example. I believe that it is equally true, in some measure at least, of statesmen who belong to other parties. They know that if they set an example they will see a certain response from others who have been waiting for a lead.

It is well to realise that outside the realm of military, naval and aerial competition we are quite prepared to make considerable innovations. The nations of the world are continually rivalling one another in discovering fresh means whereby they may prove their mechanical, their scientific or even their ethical superiority. There seems to be too great a distinction between invention and innovation. They are prepared to invent but they are not prepared to innovate. There is no fundamental difference between the willingness of people to invent some new thing and set the pace for the rest of the world and, on the other hand, the willingness of the community to invent a new method and at the same time to expect other nations to follow suit.

Lastly, and may I state this very emphatically, I am not proposing this Amendment on the ground that it is wrong to kill in all circumstances; it may or it may not be. That is not my argument. I am not proposing my Amendment on the ground that it is wrong to restrain. I am simply suggesting by this Amendment that it is well for us to consider that whilst other methods may be possible and desirable and even effective there is yet another method, and that is the method of example which may be more effective still. It is a positive endeavour to realise what I would call the co-operative tendencies of the human race. As I see it, human nature is very much like a garden. Those who go into the garden to water weeds will produce a very fine crop of docks and thistles. On the other hand, those who are determined to weed out the docks and thistles and other foetid growths of the garden will fertilise and nurture nature. So in our human relations, the co-operative tendencies will produce a very much better harvest than the tendencies which I deplore.

Those who are always assuming that man is a ruthless brute willing and ready to pounce upon his fellow creature, by that very assumption, by the constant insistence upon that assumption, will encourage those very undesirable tendencies that are in human nature. On the contrary, those who assume that there are other tendencies, the co-operative tendencies, tendencies which in the end will lead men to realise that their highest interest lies not in strife but in concord and in mutual good will; those who realise that the other tendencies are there but still believe in encouraging the better tendencies, although those tendencies may be weak, will strengthen them and nourish them. The Amendment that I am moving is based upon that assumption. It is based, if you like, upon the colossal assumption, the ridiculous assumption that a great collective moral act by our nation would have a profound and far-reaching effect upon the rest of the peoples of the world. I realise all the criticisms that can be applied to this Amendment. I have considered them very carefully and I know how powerful they are, and, if you like, how inconsistent I am in accepting this position, riddled through as it is with inconsistencies, because I believe that many of us who preach peace merely want to allow the same passion for war to have a less developed expression.

I would put it this way, how can anyone who does believe in moral force having validity really accept the extraordinary assumption, which most people accept to-day, that only the method of agreement, only the method of collective adjustment, only the method which comes by the elimination of suspicion and force, only the method of blindfold justice will enable us at last to be free of the nightmare of another war. Those who believe that there are vaster powers in the universe than the normal man calculates, must believe that there is something in the argument which I advance. There is a great deal in it. Certainly, there is a challenge embodied in this Amendment, but it is a challenge which does not cast any reflection on those who are engaged in our Air Force at the present time. I know that they are just normal human beings like ourselves. I know that they, for the most part, do not wish to engage in strife any more than we do. I know full well, whether they be in this House or outside, that those who still support the Fighting Services, whether of this particular branch or of any other branch, do not want title day to come when these ingenious, attractive, marvellous instruments, devised by human thought and human skill, will be put to such terrible usage as that to which I have referred. I am casting no reflection nor am I assuming that I have some superior position. I merely suggest, and I can do no other, that, out of my own intuition, if you like, out of my own inner convictions, the time has arrived in this connection, as in history in other connections, when a voice must be raised and a challenge must be made to the suggestion pit forward that what we need is growth in the wrong thinking that has too long prevailed.

Except on one occasion when under a misapprehension I went into the "No" Lobby I have not voted against my Gov- ernment, and it is therefore with great regret that I shall have to vote not against my Government to-night but against a philosophy which my Government is forced to support under existing circumstances. I shall not vote against my Government but against a philosophy which is and which must be accepted by both sides until the people of this country are converted to the strange extension of faith I have endeavoured very faultily to express to-night. But in voting for the Amendment, I do so with sincerity and determination, and in the hope and belief that in some way the evidence and witness I make will pass beyond this House and register itself in the minds of the people of this country and help them to realise that there is another way, not practised very much at the moment but which may be practised on a larger scale in the future, by which this country by its powerful moral example will attract other nations into the same track and lead the way to certain disarmament and peace.


I do not know whether the hon. Member for Leyton West (Mr. Sorensen) will be able to square his action with his Government as well as apparently he can square his action with his conscience. Whether his Chief Whip will consider that in voting for this Amendment he is not voting against the Government is a matter which will doubtless be considered within the inner administration of the Socialist party. We have heard from the lion. Member one of those speeches which have such a certain charm of airy sentimentality and a great deal of impracticability, and we on this side cannot allow it to go without some answer. The hon. Member spoke about blood letting in the body politic. Apparently, he thinks that a little word letting does no harm and we can excuse the sentimentality of the hon. Member on that ground. I did not know whether he was going to vote for the Amendment or not; I did not quite gather whether his words were an apologia or an apology. I gather that finally they were an apologia, because he said that it was his determination to go into the Lobby for the Amendment. At any rate, if he prolongs his airy sentimentality to its logical conclusion in the Division Lobby we do not mind. I should like to ask him to consider for a moment what will be the effect of this reduction if it is passed. After all, it is a serious matter, and when you travel on your pedal extremities into the Lobby, you are doing a positive action. Suppose hon. Members followed him, what would happen to-morrow morning? So far as the Air Force is concerned to-morrow morning it would be to all intents and purposes non-existent. [Interruption.] Hon. Members who say "Hear, hear" to that proposal have been returned to Parliament to help to do away with unemployment and instead they would be putting something like 30,000 more people out of employment. Doubtless, their constituencies would thank them for such action. The whole idea is impracticable. The Government has expressed its desire in a logical manner. We on this side may think that they are going too far, but at any rate they are doing something for disarmament, and hon. Members opposite have no right to quarrel with the practical steps which are being taken by the Government, which are even more advanced than we on this side approve. The aesthetic appearance of an aeroplane flying through the sky are the words of approbation which the hon. Member was able to bestow on the Air Force. Some of those who appreciate the aesthetic appearance of an aeroplane flying in the sky would not appreciate the aesthetic appearance of an aeroplane hitting the ground.

It is absurd to treat the Royal Air Force as a toy for sentimental theories, to be ballooned about by hon. Members opposite who while dealing with these airy sentimentalities think they are doing some good. On the contrary, they do nothing constructive. They do not even follow the constructive lead of their own Front Bench. Again, there is that mental snobbishness so apparent in the speeches of hon. Members opposite, who think that nobody else is willing to stand by ideals, or good desires and no more war. Those who served in the War probably want war less than anybody else, and some hon. Members opposite are certainly not entitled to say whether they do or do not desire war on the ground of personal experience. We shall back up the Government in standing by the maintenance of security. We think the Government go too far, but that is a matter of opinion; but we shall back them up in maintaining national security, which is essential to-day until we get the world of idealism about which the hon. Member dreams. About 2,000 years hence his dream may come true, but if he wakes up during the next 50 years when our children are living in this land and his dream comes true he will find this country not fit for those children, but fit only for the occupation of those who will overrun our land.


I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) into the airy persiflage with which he has treated the subject and the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. I had the privilege of moving a similar Amendment on another Estimate, and I was amazed at the tremendous volume of correspondence I received from almost every civilised country in the world expressing agreement and sympathy with the point. of view which was put. We are being asked to vote £18,000,000 to the Air Force, making a total of £200,000,000 expended on the Air Forces of this country during the past 11 years. The irony of that is this, that after spending £200,000,000, for which money more useful and practical purposes could have been found, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary cannot claim, even from his expert knowledge, that we have an Air Force which is anything like the most powerful in the world. We are to spend £200,000,000 which we can ill afford in constructing a defective weapon which has not even the virtue of being a weapon that can compete on equal terms with that of at least four other countries in the world.

Even its most ardent defenders will not say that it is a weapon that can be used for defence, for it is a purely offensive weapon. The Under-Secretary, who replied to us very courteously and logically last year, made out an excellent case from his own point of view. He has always taken a genuine and sincere line. But even he would not claim that the Air Force is a defensive weapon. The best that he could say was that if anyone for some unexplained reason thought of launching an uncalled-for aeroplane attack upon us, that nation would be deterred from doing so by the fact that we had an Air Force which could retaliate in kind; if anyone committed the barbarous atrocity of dropping bombs on inoffensive people here, the Air Force could reply by killing an equal number of defenceless people in the country of our attackers. That seems to me a tremendously impracticable ideal when money is being stinted on every hand, when the Government, greatly against their will, are being forced to practise the most stringent economy in the ease of the most urgent social necessities.

There is not a single right hon. or hon. Gentleman on any of the Front Benches who will get up and give the slightest indication of how when or where this very expensive weapon of offence is to he used. I am not making any accusations of insincerity. While I disagree most strongly with those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen as to the best method of securing peace, I believe that every one of us is equally genuine in the desire to obtain peace. I emphasise my belief that not one of the occupants of the three Front Benches can mention any possible use against any possible nation to which they can put this expensive weapon. If they could do so the position would be even more ridiculous than it is now. I notice that hon. Members opposite are always very anxious that we should not copy Russia, but whenever they come to this one black spot on the Russian record it appears to be the one thing that they wish to copy. They cannot have it both ways. I do not think that any responsible member of the party opposite will get up and tell us that he wants to spend £18,000,000 on an Air Force this year with a view to using it against Russia. Such a statement would be left to more irresponsible Members.

10.0 p.m.

The absurdity of calling us impracticable is this: Hon. Members opposite may think that it would be a great tragedy if our Amendment were carried and if by some miracle the Air Force were disbanded. But what is the alternative tragedy to disarmament? It is to use the armaments that we are creating. We are not a council deliberating about airy sentimentalities, whether it be jingoism on the one hand or pacifism on the other; we are a council deciding where in the future safety lies. I suggest that safety cannot lie, never has lain and never will lie on the side of large and expensive armaments. Any safety that armaments can guarantee is automatically knocked out of existence by the fact that other nations endeavour to obtain the same kind of safety. No man or woman wants to declare war, but when every nation is messing about and spending money on armaments for the destruction of human beings, and when thousands of keen young men are being trained permanently in the use of destructive weapons, it is only human nature that eventually they will desire to use those weapons. If that is not the case the whole folly of training them is exposed.

If statesmen are sent into a conference with destructive squadrons of aeroplanes behind them, there is a tendency to use that last and deadly argument as it has been used in the past. For all these reasons, I put it that the practical business point of view is not to go on spending money that we cannot afford in preparing for an emergency that will destroy us, but to put aside these things and to concentrate our minds on a better and more generous way of obtaining national safety. I do not apologise for the vote that I intend to cast in the Division Lobby. It has always been very well understood in this party that points of view on this particular question cut across ordinary party definitions. Exponents of disarmament by agreement and disarmament by example both have the right on these Estimates to put their point of view. In that opinion, I believe the minority of the House to-day will be the majority in a very short time. I believe that it is the practical, the businesslike, and the ethical way out, and I hope the Lobby to-night will show an increase on the vote which we recorded last year.


We have just listened to a most illogical speech from the hon. Member opposite. I understood him to support the proposition that the Air Force should be reduced from 32,000 personnel to 2,000. In support of that he tells us that in the last 11 years we have spent £200,000,000 upon our Air Force, and he goes on to say practically that we have not spent enough during those 11 years because, as a matter of fact, we have not got a stronger Air Force than have some Continental nations at the present time. In other words, what he is telling us is that we ought to have spent considerably more than £200,000,000 during the last 11 years, and that we ought to have the best and largest Air Force it is possible to have.


I am sure the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent what I was trying to say, if I expressed it badly. I wanted to say that the alternatives were either to have the best Air Force, which could conquer any other country, or to have none at all, but it seems to me ridiculous to spend so much money on having a half-and-half Air Force. I personally made it clear that I preferred to spend none at all.


The hon. Member takes up the most extraordinary position. If he is going to say that every time we spend any money, we ought to spend so much that we shall have something better than anybody else, we must be in a much better financial position than anybody else to do so, and his argument is really ludicrous. I would remind him that the amount which we are spending on our Air Force has shown practically no increase at all during the last 10 or 11 years, and we have heard that during that period very large additions indeed have been made to the Air Force expenditure of most of the larger countries in Europe and the United States of America. I would remind the hon. Member opposite, who has, I believe, a very peculiar interest in the question of Russia, that even in that country to-day, I understand, they are spending approximately double the amount on their Air Force that we consider necessary to spend on ours.


On a point of Order. Is there any way of asking the hon. Member what he meant when he said I was peculiarly interested in Russia?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay)

I do not think the speech of the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Everard) was in any way provocative, and I do not think the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Beckett) is entitled to call him to order.


Why did he mention Russia?


When we are discussing the amount of money necessary to spend on our own Air Force, we are bound to take into consideration the amount of money which is spent by other nations in Europe, and I was merely pointing out that Russia, which is of such particular interest to hon. Members opposite, is spending very nearly twice the amount of money on her Air Force that we are spending on ours. I think that he and his friends would be far better advised to try to persuade nations like that to reduce their Air Force expenditure to something approximating what we spend in this country.


May I ask whether the Russian Government are not in favour of the total abolition of all armaments, and have made proposals at Geneva to that effect?


I do not know what the Russian Government are in favour of. All that I know is that the amount of money spent on the Russian Air Force is what I have already said. I would remind the hon. Member who has just spoken that the great bulk of the activities of the Air Force at present are not activities for destruction at all. I may remind him, in case he has forgotten, that last year a great many lives were saved at the time of the troubles between the North-West frontier of India and Afghanistan by sending Air Force planes to bring back women and children and men who might have lost their lives had there been no such facilities available.


Seeing that the hon. Member has mentioned the aeroplanes of the Indian Royal Air Force that went into Kabul, may I ask him whether they went with any arms at all or without arms? There is a White Paper issued by the Government which says that they went without any kind of arms and even without cameras, so that in a perfectly inoffensive way they could do an errand of mercy.


I am not interested whether these machines, which did not belong to the Indian Government but to the Government of this country, on that particular occasion carried arms or not. That is a matter of no importance.


That is the whole point.


What I am pointing out is that some of the personnel which the hon. Members opposite are endeavouring to do away with altogether were used last year in saving the lives of people, women and children, who would probably have lost their lives if there had not been those facilities available. The hon. Member knows that very well, and it does not make any difference whether those aeroplanes carried arms or armaments. They were military aeroplanes, and they were used for peace purposes. My point is that 99 per cent. of the work of the Air Force to-day is for peace purposes, and when the hon. Member comes here, with no effort at all to deal with the question of unemployment, and tells us solemnly that he is going to put out of employment another 30,000 people, who are doing excellent work and who are not any provocation to anybody, it is like coming and suggesting that we should do away with the police force in this country. I can quite imagine hon. Members like the two hon. Members opposite who have spoken to-day seriously coming before this House on the Home Office Estimates and suggesting that the police force, because on some occasion they may have hit somebody with a truncheon, should be abolished.

So far as we on these benches are concerned, we intend to support the Under-Secretary of State in order that we may keep the Air Force at this size. It is only a force for the defence of our air routes and for the protection of ourselves, and not only has it been of advantage from that point of view, but it has been of very great advantage to my hon. Friends who wish to avoid war, as we all do, in those parts of the country where, if troops had been employed, there would have been far more bloodshed than there has been by the use of aeroplanes.


My support of this Amendment, quite frankly, is because I believe aerial warfare to be the most barbarous instrument that has been devised by man. It would rank along with poison gas, but there is some discrimination in the use of poison gas that is not possible in the use of aeroplanes. One can fancy that in certain circumstances even poison gas may be defended. One can understand the argument that when bodies of men are facing each other, their object being destruction, any method of destruction may be excused. But it is difficult to reconcile with our ideas of justice the argument that because a raiding band of robbers has been responsible for some outrage, a village in which there are women and children should be bombed. Civilisation, in arriving at its present stage, has devised means of warfare which, years ago, would have been considered most unfair, and, if it were possible for the nations to agree no longer to use aeroplanes as a means of military offence, the world would heave a great sigh of relief and we would feel that a step had been taken towards real disarmament. Nobody is going to criticise this Government for their foreign policy and the efforts which they have made in the direction of peace, but when we are discussing disarmament by agreement it always appears to be that there are bodies of men who are haggling as to who will be best off at the end of the agreement.

I support the Amendment because I believe that, if we make a gesture of this kind we shall be in a much stronger position when we go into a disarmament conference, having already made a step in the direction of real disarmament. I emphasise the point that we have always justified the Army and the Navy from the standpoint of defence. The old naval three-power standard was based on the idea that we had an enormous coast line and the smallness of our Army in comparison with Continental armies was because it was not so important from the standpoint of defence. The argument of defence cannot be used of aeroplanes. They are no defence. They can only be used as a threat against the defenceless and, even if warfare could be justified, that is something which I could not support. Lastly, I do not think that the expense is worth while. I believe that if we could devote a little of this money to educating the people— Were half the power that fills the world with terror, Were half the wealth that's spent on camps and courts Given to redeem the human mind from error, There were no need for arsenals arid forts. To call for economy on social services when we can afford £18,000,000 for destructive services seems to me a contradiction and I support this Amendment because I think the whole idea of aerial warfare is wrong.


I occupy a peculiar position to-night in being in opposition to back-bench Members on my own side on this question, but I think the time has come when those of us who hold certain views on these matters ought not to shirk our responsibilities, but ought to speak out and state the reasons why we support the Estimates to carry on these services. I wish to say emphatically that while the world remains as it is I am for defending this country. I can speak with some experience. If anyone can say that the horrors of war have been impressed upon him I can say so. I am for disarmament just as much as anybody else and in what I say I do not mean to imply that other Members holding other views are not as sincere as I am. But I wish to point out why I cannot see the wisdom of seeking to bring about disarmament by example. If I thought that was practicable, I would willingly accept the idea, but I submit that we would be putting ourselves in a difficult position with other nations if we adopted that principle. We should simply become defenceless, and what would the citizens think of a Parliament which let the country get into that position?

The Mover of the Amendment, whose earnestness and sincerity I do not doubt, said that other countries would be willing to disarm if this country disarmed. We have shown, as the Naval Conference made clear, that we are willing to go a long way with other nations towards Disarmament. We must trust to the men in charge. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for War, and the Under-Secretary of State for Air are as eager for Disarmament as anyone. It is just a question of method, and those who support the Government wholeheartedly—and we do so, not through any pressure—are convinced that their present method is the only safe way to Disarmament. Although I never like to go against my friends who are with me on other matters, I felt that it was time that a back bencher let the Front Bench know that we are with them in the policy which they are carrying out. I urge them to follow the line that they have taken up of appealing to other countries to disarm, for they cannot leave the country unprotected while other nations are armed.


Perhaps the Committee will allow me to say a word upon the discussion of this Amendment, so that we can get to the other Votes. I have not the slightest reason to complain of the way in which this Amendment has been presented. The speech of the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) was a speech to which no one could object, although I am bound to disagree with the philosophy that he expressed. It was very moderate in tone; indeed, all the speeches that have been made in support of the Amendment have been of a moderate character, and the position has been put in a very philosophic manner. I understand the position of hon. Members who support the Amendment, and I cannot object to it being put down in the name of pacifist propaganda, because it is no doubt desirable to give periodically ideals an airing. The past speaker put the position which is represented not only by the Front Bench, but by the overwhelming majority in the Committee. If we could see our way to start disarmament by example we should be only too happy to start it. Those of us who are supporting this Estimate are just as peace loving as any section of the House—it is only a difference of methods; but there is one slight inconsistency, or what appears to me to be an inconsistency, in the attitude of my hon. Friends which I would like to point out. Hon. Members below the Gangway take the view that no defence is the best defence. There may be some philosophic justification for that view, but I cannot see that anyone can hold that view and immediately go on to talk about the bombing of defenceless villages and defenceless citizens, and about the aeroplane not being a defensive weapon but an aggressive weapon. If the best defence is no defence, that surely applies to the desert and the frontier as well as to London. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. If it is possible for British aeroplanes or the aeroplanes of any other country to bomb defenceless villages it is surely possible for the aeroplanes of our Continental neighbours to bomb a defenceless London.


Is that your defence?


I am putting my case. I am merely endeavouring to put before the Committee the view that the case which has been submitted is a little bit illogical. If it be true that defenceless people can be bombed, and that is the objection to the use of aeroplanes in aggressive warfare, then it seems to me that London is obviously just as much open to attack, and if London is defenceless it is in an inferior position. I put that view forward in no provocative way. I do not think the situation calls for a provocative speech from me. The Debate has not been provocative, it has been exceedingly interesting, and I have been long enough in contact with my friends and with the movement of which they are members with me to understand, perhaps better than hon. Members opposite, what their point of view is from the standpoint of the ethics of the situation. But that philosophy, which has been put forward so moderately and

reasonably, and I have no doubt with such sincerity, is not necessarily a Socialist philosophy. It may be held by anybody, whatever his political opinions may be, and in my opinion it is the anarchist philosophy, though I am not condemning it necessarily on that account. It is precisely the attitude of mind of the anarchists 40 years ago, who thought they were the left wing of the Labour movement of this country of that day. They said that if we abolished policemen we should abolish crime. Hon. Members below the Gangway say that if we abolish armaments in a unilateral sense we shall abolish aggression on the part of those who still retain armaments. I wish t could believe that that were true, and then I should be wholeheartedly in support of this Motion; but I cannot believe it and therefore I am afraid that I must resist the Amendment, although it has been put so reasonably and moderately

Question put, "That a number, not exceeding 2,000 all ranks, he maintained for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 12; Noes, 248.

Division No. 197.] AYES. [10.30. p.m.
Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham) Kirkwood, D. Wellock, Wilfred
Brockway, A. Fenner Longden, F. Winterton, G. E.(Leicester.Loughb'gh)
Buchanan, G. Masser, Fred
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Sandham, E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Kinley, J. Simmons, C. J. Mr. Sorensen and Mr. Ayles.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.) Ferguson, Sir John
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Carver, Major W. H. Foot, Isaac
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Cayzer, Maj.Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth,S.) Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)
Ammon, Charles George Charleton, H. C. George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)
Angell, Sir Norman Clarke, J. S. Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)
Arnott, John Cluse, W. S. Gibson, H. M. (Lanes. Mossley)
Aske, Sir Robert Clydesdale, Marquess of Gill, T. H.
Attlee, Clement Richard Cocks, Frederick Seymour Gillett, George M.
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Colville, Major D. J. Glassey, A. E.
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Compton, Joseph Glyn, Major R. G. C.
Barnes, Alfred John Cripps, Sir Stafford Gossling, A, G.
Barr, James Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Gould, F.
Batey, Joseph Croom-Johnson, R. P. Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central) Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West) Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South) Daggar, George Gray, Milner
Benson, G. Dallas, George Greene, W. P. Crawford
Betterton, Sir Henry B. Dalton, Hugh Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Birkett, W. Norman Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)
Bourne, Captain Robert Crott Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Groves, Thomas E.
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Dawson, Sir Philip Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W. Denman, Hon. R. D, Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)
Bromfield, William Dugdale, Capt. T. L. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
Brooke, W. Dukes, C. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Brothers, M. Duncan, Charles Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield) Ede, James Chuter Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y) Edge, Sir William Haycock, A. W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire) Edmondson, Major A. J. Hayday, Arthur
Burgess, F. G. Edwards. E. (Morpeth) Hayes, John Henry
Burgin, Dr, E. L. Egan, W. H. Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)
Burton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Elmley, Viscount Henderson, Arthur, junr. (Cardiff, S.)
Caine, Derwent Hell- Everard, W. Lindsay Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley)
Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Milner, Major J. Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B. Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)
Herriotts, J. Montague, Frederick Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Hoffman, P. C. Morley, Ralph Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Hore-Belisha, Leslie Morris, Rhys Hopkins Stamford, Thomas W.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.) Strauss, G. R.
Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester) Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.
Isaacs, George Mort, D. L. Sullivan, J.
Jenkins, Sir William Muff, G. Sutton, J. E.
Johnston, Thomas Muggeridge, H. T. Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint) Muirhead, A. J. Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas Murnin, Hugh Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Lang, Gordon Naylor, T. E. Thomson, Sir F
Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Noel Baker, P. J. Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Lathan, G. Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.) Thurtle, Ernest
Law, Albert (Bolton) Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston) Tillett, Ben
Lawrence, Susan Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley) Tinker, John Joseph
Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Palin, John Henry. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Leach, W. Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Todd, Capt. A. J.
Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.) Perry, S. F. Toole, Joseph
Lees, J. Pethick-Lawrence, F. W. Tout, W. J.
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Pole, Major D. G. Townend, A. E.
Lindley. Fred W. Potts, John s. Train, J.
Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Price, M. P. Viant, S. P.
Llewellin, Major J. J. Pybus, Percy Joan Walker, J.
Lloyd, C. Ellis Quibell, D. J. K. Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Logan, David Gilbert Ramsay, T. B. Wilson Wallace, H. W.
Longbottom, A. W. Rathbone, Eleanor Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Remer, John R. Warrender, Sir Victor
Lunn, William Richards, R. Watkins, F. C.
McConnell, Sir Joseph Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Watson, w. M. (Dunfarmi[...]lne)
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Riley, Ben (Dewsbury) Wells, Sydney R.
MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Ritson, J. Welsh, James (Paisley)
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Romerll, H. G. Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)
Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness) Rosbotham, D. S. T. Westwood, Joseph
McElwee, A. Rowson, Guy White, H. G.
McEntee, V. L. Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Lady wood)
MeKinlay, A. Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
MacLaren, Andrew Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.) Sandeman. Sir N. Stewart Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
MacNelli-Weir, L. Sanders, W. S. Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Mander, Geoffrey le M. Savery, S. S. Wilson, J. (Oldham)
Mansfield, W. Sawyer, G. F. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Marcus, M. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Womersley, W. J.
Margesson, Captain H. D. Shaw, Rt. Hon Thomas (Preston) Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)
Marley, J. Sherwood, G. H. Young, R. S. (Islington. North)
Marshall, Fred Shield, George William
Mathers, George Shiels, Dr. Drummond TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Middleton, G. Shillaker, J. F. Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. Paling.
Millar. J. D. Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)

Original Question put, and agreed to.