§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, the private manufacture of armaments in the pursuit of private profit is contrary to the public interest and should he prohibited, and this House calls upon His Majesty's Government to take immediate measures to this end.I make no apology for raising an issue which has disturbed the public mind in this and other countries for some years past. There are, indeed, very good reasons for the nervousness that is felt in this connection among those who desire peace; and I feel sure that whatever may happen to this Motion, those who are pursuing peace between the nations of the world will not rest satisfied until the private manufacture of arms is abolished, at any rate in this country. This issue had begun to disturb our people at home some years prior to the Great War but, during the War and since, some of the ugliest transactions in the commercial relationships of Europe have emerged. The charges against private manufacturers of arms became so insistent some years ago that the League of Nations set up a Commission to inquire into the allegations. If nothing else is said in favour of my Motion, I feel sure that the wording of Article 8 of the Covenant supports my contention to the full. This is what it says:Members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objection.
§ Mr. DAVIES
If hon. Members will remain silent, I will read on; I intended reading on. I want to make out a case for the Motion without introducing any heat or propaganda into my speech. The Article proceeds:The Council shall decide how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can be prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those members of the League which are not able to manufacture the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety.I do not think there is anything in the latter part of the Article to support the views of hon. Members who are opposed to my Motion. The first part is indeed a 1936 very serious declaration from the Council of the League, representing as it does so many sovereign States in the world. I am not going to say, what has been said by some propagandists in favour of my point of view, that the allegations presented to the Mixed Commission were all proved. I think a mistake has been made by some people in regarding those allegations as if they had ultimately become the findings and the declarations of the Commission. It is worth while having this Debate therefore were it only to clear up that single point.
Allegations about bribery and corruption of Governments were floating about the whole of Europe for some time, and the temporary Mixed Commission appointed by the League was called into being to inquire into them and, in order to do so, asked that they should be put down in writing. It is more than likely that the officials of the Commission collected those allegations and reduced them to writing. When the Commission came to consider them, they were divided in their views, and they issued a majority and a minority report: but both came to the conclusion that there was a great deal of truth behind every one of those charges. If those charges have the slightest foundation in fact—and I believe we can prove that they have some foundation—it does not matter who sits on the Disarmament Conference, or what declarations Governments may make in their official capacity in favour of disarmament, so long as armaments are made for private profit no disarmament conference of any kind can have much hope of success. This issue, therefore, is one of the most serious confronting the countries of Europe to-day. It is so important that the lives of millions of people, in Europe in particular, may depend upon what is done with this problem of the private manufacture of arms. The general allegations therefore are that armament firms have attempted to bribe Government officials both at home and abroad—
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am always willing to give way to any hon. Member, but I must not be interrupted every few minutes. The statement goes on to say that armament firms have disseminated false reports concerning the military and naval programmes of various countries in 1937 order to s[...]mulate armament expenditure, that armament firms have sought to influence public [...]inion through the control of newspapers in their own and in foreign countries; that they have organised international armament rings through which the armament race has been accentuated by playing off one country against another, and that armament firms have organised international armament trusts which have increased the price of armaments sold to Governments.
I shall soon be told that my duty is to come back to our own country and handle the problem so far as it affects our own situation at home. I propose, therefore, to deal with that aspect of the question for a moment. Let me add in fairness to our own country that I think that, in so far as these general allegations are concerned, it is understood by everybody who has studied the question without bias that the charges made may be said to apply less to our own country than to some other countries in Europe. It ought to be added, however, in that connection, that this does not imply that some of these things may not be true of our own country. I ought to add something else, that in the very nature of the case, all these doubtful practices can ensue here at home. Do not let us be critical of that men who sell these deadly weapons, because once you begin to manufacture an article for private gain you must stand the consequences of selling that article for the one specific purpose for which that firm is established, and that is, for private personal profit. Once you accept that truth the men who represent these firms either in China or Japan, in France or in Italy, or in the Balkans or elsewhere, do their level best to sell their goods, and they will sell poison gas with as much enthusiasm as they would a box of biscuits. We have therefore to understand that that is how the business is conducted.
Some hon. Gentlemen in this House will say that that is the ordinary and proper way of conducting business. I would say in answer to that, that I am personally opposed to the manufacture of anything that can destroy human life. I object profoundly to deadly weapons being manufactured merely in order to fill the pockets of a few individuals in our own country. It is upon that basis that I am proceeding to argue my case. We can- 1938 not, therefore, by the very nature of the case be free here at home from some of the criticisms which are made in connection with the private manufacture of arms. Let me take one case. Some hon. Members have studied the problem very much more than I have, and I admit at once that this sphere of study is a little outside my ordinary ken. I have, however, personally come across statements which prove the contention that our own manufacturers of armaments are not free from guilt in connection with these charges. There is one classical illustration known to those who have studied this issue closely. There is the case which occurred in 1908 of the manager of the Coventry Ordnance Works, whose factory was equipped for the manufacture of naval guns. He succeeded in persuading our own Admiralty that Germany was accelerating the building of her dreadnoughts. The result was that his firm induced our Government to proceed to build dreadnoughts more rapidly here. He pitted Germany against our own Admiralty and secured some substantial orders as a result. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members cheer that statement. I should like to know what the widows and orphans of men who fell in the Great War would say to those cheers.
Under the present system of production our own private manufacturers fall into the same category as everybody else. It is known that our own makers of these weapons have pitted China against Japan. They inflamed the passion of one country against another; and I do not think that I do them an injustice when I say that they would as soon sell their goods to the comitadjis in the Balkans as they would to the Fascists in Vienna, or the Communists in Paris. It does not matter to them who buy their goods. All that concerns them is that they can sell for a profit, and we on these benches object to that process and to those types of commercial transactions.
The gentleman from the Coventry ordinance factory was a very clever commercial traveller. He was indeed something more than that. He secured admission into the Cabinet of the day. Just imagine an ordinary commercial traveller, pushing his wares, being admitted to a meeting of the British Cabinet at Downing Street, the centre of the greatest 1939 Empire in the world. That ordinary commercial traveller not only was admitted into the Cabinet, but he persuaded that Cabinet that it was time they woke up. Let me pursue the point a stage further. The strange thing about that is that the Cabinet had obviously no confidence in their own paid officers and advisers; they had greater confidence in an ordinary traveller sent to them by a private firm. If there is one case above all which indicates that some of the allegations against the private manufacture of arms are well founded even in this country, this case, in my view, is a good one. It supports that contention. These gun makers draw no distinction at all between the requirements of our own country and that of the foreigner. As a matter of fact, if they could get a better price for their goods in Germany or in France, they would not care what was necessary at home by way of arms; they would sell to the highest bidder, anywhere. Consequently we are opposed to that system of carrying on this traffic.
I do not think that I shall be treading on very dangerous ground when I say that this issue is becoming very much more important as the years go by. We are not talking to-day only about the private manufacture of battleships, guns and aircraft. Let me come a little nearer home. The next war, as is commonly understood by all, will not be fought on the high seas or on the battlefields. It will be carried on in the main by the scientific inventions of the chemists; and I venture to forecast that, under the present system, the Imperial Chemical Industries, who will manufacture most of the poison gas probably for the whole of Europe, will sell that poison to our own Government, to the French Government and to the German Government all at the same time. This firm will probably supply poison gas to all the combatants in the next war irrespective of their nationality. If it gives them a decent profit they will on top of all that manufacture gas masks for the population to prevent them from being poisoned, and they will profit by that process as well. That is not an overdrawn picture at all. That method of conducting business is indeed a reprehensible one.
I shall be told on that score at once that the State could not produce these 1940 commodities as effectively as private trade. I do not think, ii the light of the experience of the late War and of what transpired in the Ministry of Munitions, that the argument' that the private manufacturer is more clever and alert than the State will ever hold good again. I have figures to show what State factories did during the late War. When hon. Members complain that we are trying to abolish private enterprise in the manufacture of arms they have to remember that during that war they were nearly all wiped out by the establishment of State factories. It was then found by the State that, in its greatest extremity of all, the private manufacture of arms was not up to requirements in our own country. If hon. Members laugh at that, let me give them the facts. The State factories during the last War produced the following percentages of munitions of war. Empty shells, 28 per cent.; filled shells, 86 per cent.; rifles, 50 per cent.; small arms ammunition, 25 per cent.; trench mortars, 4 per cent.; trench mortars ammunition, filled, 28 per cent.; high explosives, 42 per cent.; and propellants 47 per cent. Therefore, there can be no argument that the State cannot do the job.
I can assure hon. Members that I am not arguing in moving my Motion that the manufacture of armaments ought to be taken up by the State merely because I am a Socialist. I want the State to take over the manufacture of armaments—I hope the House will consider that I am absolutely sincere on this point—because I do not want the State to be influenced in its diplomatic relationships by the urgings and persuadings of private manufacturers. I want the amount of munitions of war, of poison gas, of aircraft, guns and bayonets produced in our own land to have some relationship to the diplomacy of the Government of the day. Let me put it this way. If the Government of this country are pursuing a peace policy at Geneva—I think I am right in saying that its last Note to the Disarmament Conference was an attempt in that direction—there is neither rhyme nor reason why the people of this country should at the same time allow groups of men to form themselves into private companies to manufacture arms on their own account and to undermine our diplomacy by selling them sometimes to nations who may be our enemies next year or the year after.
1941 Let me show how ridiculous the situation is from time to time. I am sure that I am right, in saying that there were men employed in the engineering firms of this country from 1910 to 1913 who moulded with their own hands the huge guns that they captured later on from their enemies. I think I am right in saying too that there were men who were blown to their doom by the very guns that they had themselves machined in the workshops of this country. That sort of transaction is offensive to the best instincts in our nature, and I object to this method of carrying on business. I shall be told that if we ourselves do not carry on this business other nationals will do it and will sell these [...]ns abroad. Let me a[...]yse that position. The argument is that, if we do not produce these arms in Great Britain to sell to China, Japan, the Balkans, France or Germany, some other country may do so. Let me say quite frankly that I am willing to pay the price of losing such business. I feel sure that the vast majority of the people of this country would be willing to say that they would prefer to have nothing at all to do, either through the State or through private manufacture, with a business which is responsible for so much destruction. I am afraid indeed that this nefarious traffic is responsible in part for the terrible calamity that has recently befallen the beautiful city of Vienna. Therefore our people would I feel sure be willing to pay the price of not having anything to do with the doubtful transaction of selling arms abroad.
One hon. Member asked the President of the Board of Trade to-day the value of arms we exported, and the reply was that we export about £3,000,000 worth a year. That may be a large or it may be a small figure according to the way we look at the problem, but one thing is certain and that is that we as a nation ought to set an example to others. I have travelled a great deal in the last few years, and whoever I have consulted on international affairs I am glad to say that they all agree that this nation is still a powerful influence in the councils of the world. There is no doubt about that, but the question always arises whether that influence is wielded for good or otherwise. Without going into that delicate issue let me say 1942 that if this nation, which stands so high in the councils of Europe, declare that this infernal traffic should end within our own shores, it would then have clean hands to ask other nations to follow suit. There is no reason why we should not do that. We were first in the field with some of the most humanitarian laws that were ever passed. We were first in factory laws, and we are now, in spite of my criticisms on occasions, the best nation in the world for social services. We have many things that we can teach the world. We have a right to feel proud of our institutions in spite of many criticisms; but although we may be the best in many respects it does not follow that we cannot do better. The reason why some of us are here is not that we think we are not better than other nations but because we believe in our [...]ts that what we are doing now can [...] improved upon. It would indeed be [...] great improvement in the life of this great country if this business of the pri[...] manu[...]acture of arms were banished once and for all from our land.
Let me now turn to one criticism of the Government's recent action. On the proposal for abolishing the private manufacture of arms our Government is not by any means the leader in Europe. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I do not claim to know as much about the technicalities of this subject as other hon. Members, but, so far as I understand it, the last Note that His Majesty's Government sent to the Disarmament Conference was criticised because it leaned too much in favour of Germany. Criticism has been made in some very authoritative quarters that it would have gone a long way towards modifying French opinion if we had agreed with the French on the abolition of the private manufacture of armaments. The French have always declared that they stand definitely for the abolition of the private manufacture of arms. It is said that we could have secured a great deal more agreement for our disarmament proposals on the part of France if we had put in our recent Note to Geneva a point in favour of the abolition of the private manufacture of arms. Be that as it may, the case that I am making out is that the private manufacture of arms is open to several objections inherent in the case itself.
1943 There is considerable apprehension among the people of this country that our arms factories here have been rather too busy lately. Some hon. Members might like to see them busier still, but I would prefer to see other industries improving instead. I would prefer to see the coal and textile trades improving. I would like to see the peaceful factories of Lancashire humming once again. I definitely dislike the notion that chairmen are able to stand up at the annual meetings of private firms and say, as one gentleman said recently, that "the shipyards both at Barrow and Newcastle are being maintained in the highest state of efficiency and, despite the condition of the industry as a whole, we have at present on order nine warships of various types."
§ Mr. DAVIES
They may on may not be Perhaps I may tell the hon. Gentlemen that our own shipyards in the past have built a large number of bat[...]eships for foreign Governments, and it may interest him to know too that it is on record that some of those very ships in wartime have tried to sink some of our own ships. Of course, hon. Gentlemen would regard that as business, I suppose. I do not.
I do not want to weary the House, but I must say a few words about the Amendment supported by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams). His Amendment, in fact, is nothing but a reply to some of the arguments which he thought I would put forward. Welshmen think alike on occasions, but not too often, I hope. The Amendment tells us that the number of employés of the State would be increased if the private manufacture of arms were abolished in this country. I am not sure about that. If the Disarmament Conference succeeds at Geneva, I should imagine that the natural consequence will be that the number of persons employed in the manufacture of arms in this country and in the world would decline. Then we are told in the Amendment something like this: You had better look out if all the munitions required by this country are to be manufactured under State control. Every Member of Parliament then will demand that a munition factory shall 1944 be established in his own constituency. I am not sure if that is right, because the people of Croydon are so genteel that they would not have a munition factory in that district even to produce materials to defend their own country. They do not like ugly factories there; they like them to be situated somewhere else. Then we are told that the representatives of dockyard towns would be pestering Government Departments unduly.
§ Mr. DAVIES
There is probably a point to be made on that score, but however insistent a Member of Parliament may be for his constituents who are employed by the State, I am sure that, by comparison, their efforts would be of very little avail when you compare the pressure brought upon Governments in connection with Import Duties. The tariffists in this country have been pestering Government Departments since 1931 to an extent which has almost brought shame to the public life of this country. I say, therefore, that that point will not avail the hon. Gentleman when he is moving his Amendment. After all, what are the points which are raised by Members of Parliament representing dockyard towns? The points which are raised continually in this House by those Members have more to do with the conditions under which the men are employed than in asking for more contracts for them. In any case, their action does not seem to have succeeded very well, because the private firms seem to get away with it nearly every time, and private firms are given contracts when it is known, on occasion, that the State factories can do the work better.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman intended to deal with this point before he sat down, but I am anxious to know whether he desires merely to prohibit the manufacture and sale of these arms by private manufacturers and to transfer the foreign trade to the State factories, or to prohibit all foreign trade in arms.
§ Mr. DAVIES
To be frank, so far as I am personally concerned, I would not admit to the State, if it took over the work, the right to sell any of those 1945 weapons to foreign countries. I think that I made that clear. I do not want to dwell unduly on this very serious and interesting subject. There is so much matter in connection with it, that I feel sure we shall have a very good discussion on the Motion. I might, therefore, be allowed to conclude. It is just 10 years ago that I won first place in the Ballot before my success on this occasion. It fell to my lot then to move a very serious Motion in this House. It was a Motion in favour of the establishment of widows' pensions, and I went into the Lobby accompanied by a very small group. I pay tribute to the hon. Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), who, I think, was the only Conservative Member of the House then who voted in favour of my Motion.
In spite of the fact that my Motion in favour of widows' pensions 10 years ago was defeated ignominiously by a huge majority, I lived long enough to see the very people who treated it with scorn and contempt translating my ideas later into the law of the land. I do not know that any Member of this House who was here then will ever regret giving a widow a pension, and there is never a man anywhere in this land who would be bold enough now to say that he would abolish widows' pensions. I am hopeful, therefore, in spite of what may happen to my Motion to-day. I have been in this House for 12 years, having been re-elected six times consecutively. I am hoping to see another Parliament—in fact, more than one—when reactionary Members, like the hon. Member for South Croydon, may not have as much influence as they possess to-day, and I am hopeful too that what I ultimately experienced with my first Motion may eventuate in connection with this one also.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MITCHESON
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House would deplore a system which would increase the number of employés of the State having a vested interest in the increase in the production of instruments of war and would increase the number of Members of Parliament engaged in pressing the defence department to provide jobs for their constituents, and which would further deprive large numbers of work- 1946 people of employment in the manufacture of goods for export, and would lead inevitably to the establishment of munition factories in many countries which have none at present.I rise to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and to propose the Amendment, although, no doubt, with the extraordinary brotherly love which exists between Welshmen, the hon. Member had not noticed that I and not the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) was the proposer of the Amendment. May I say at once that, while paying tribute to the hon. Member's sincerity, his ability and love of debate, I do think the Motion he has proposed shows a complete lack of understanding and appreciation of the fact that, were it carried by this House, it would only have the effect, particularly in view of the explanation given to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), of furthering the dangers of strife between nations which I give him credit for desiring to avoid, no more and no less than any other Member of this House. While I am in favour of democratic government as a whole, it has its weaknesses, and one of those weaknesses is that it enables irresponsible utterances to go forward with all that backing which a responsible address like Westminster might imply. With the aid of the world's Press, which seeks to publish, and often exaggerates, the sensational rather than the conventional, it is quite possible that the purport of the hon. Gentleman's Motion might have an effect abroad which would prove very harmful, and very disadvantageous to this country.
The gist, of the hon. Gentleman's Motion is that the private manufacture of armaments in this country should be prohibited. Well, we have reduced our Navy as a gesture, hoping others would follow. We have reduced our Army as another gesture, still hoping. We have kept an inadequate Air Force, again hoping; and my hon. Friend would now suggest that we stop the private manufacture of armaments, still hoping that this time the world will say, "What a nice little country! What a very nice people! They do not want to protect themselves. They do not want to resist attacks. They do not want to support their Allies. We need not fear anything from them." What could be the only result? Could we retain and increase the 1947 respect that the world has for us? Could we command the peace of the world? Could we hold in check those who would cross swords with us? Emphatically and definitely, No. On the contrary, we should only invite the certainty of attack, and our ultimate defeat and degradation. I am, in fact, surprised that my hon. Friend now limits himself to the desire to prevent the private manufacture of armaments. Why not go the whole hog? I wonder why he does not logically develop his proposal and ask, for instance, that we should give up all our possessions. Why not give up our standards of life which, while admittedly not perfect, I agree with my hon. Friend are at any rate the highest the world has yet known? Why does he not demand that we should give up those things which most of us are so proud to have achieved in case they may create envy, covetousness, jealousy in the minds of other countries not so far advanced as ourselves?
No doubt one way of obtaining peace would be to cast away all such possessions as may be the envy of others and slink into obscurity retaining nothing which would make us even noticeable. Is that what my hon. Friend wants? By the same principle why does he not advocate the entire removal of the police force, the police courts, the judges and the magistrates and the doing away with prisons? If he is satisfied that the private manufacture of armaments is antagonising other countries, does he not think in the same strain that our prisons, police courts, judges and magistrates may be antagonising the criminal members of our community? Again, I assume that, logical as he would be, my hon. Friend never locks the doors or the windows of his own house at night in case this may antagonise some constituent of his with burglarious intentions.
My hon. Friend, of course, ignores the fact that aims are just as necessary for defence as they are for attack. Does he appreciate that the one country which has since the War advertised itself above all others as the great moralist and peace lover has only preached these doctrines for the consumption of other countries and not at all for itself? These "love thy neighbour" and "peace at any 1948 price" doctrines forced on others by that country are probably more responsible than anything else for the chaotic state of affairs throughout Europe to-day. Thank God the standard of morals in this country is not only talked of but believed in and lived up to by the great majority. The standard is the same for ourselves as it is for other people.
I noticed that my hon. Friend shifted from armaments to arms. The Motion refers to armaments and I ask: Who is to judge what are armaments? Surely every form of machinery is a form of armaments. Certainly every motor vehicle must be considered armament. The chemicals used in the production of dyes are also the most powerful explosives. How will you distinguish between these materials when used in industry and when used in warfare? Were there any greater armaments in the last War than spades and barbed wire? What about glycerine? One of the most important of warfare commodities, and yet used to an enormous extent medicinally, commercially and in other innocent fashions. My hon. Friend must logically desire to close down the plant of the great Unilever and other manufacturers of glycerine, thereby robbing thousands of people of their employment and the whole country of a very necessary commodity.
What about cotton? Surely it is one of the great important necessities in armaments. Would my hon. Friend desire to hit Lancashire more than it is already being hit by putting a check even on its present production? It is extraordinary to me that many of those who claim to be the real champions and protagonists of the interests of the working-classes should be so ready to propose measures which would rob them of employment and should so rarely bring forward any sound constructive suggestions which would be of real service to those for whom they claim to be fighting. In the recent upheaval in France great quantities of marbles were scattered broadcast and formed a very successful armament and defence against cavalry charges. Will my hon. Friend rob the children of their marbles? Because all of this may be classed as armaments.
§ Mr. MITCHESON
I did not understand that. Are the schools in my hon. 1949 Friend's constituency to be told that marbles and other armaments are prohibited strictly? If so, when he went to his constituency would they come and say, "Hail, hail—but it would not be Ale, ale—our great benefactor, who robbed our children of the right to play marbles in the gutter"? There have been cases where pepper has proved a very successful weapon of attack as well as of defence. Pepper. Armaments. Bang goes my hon. Friend's pepper pot, and, again, it is historical that during the upheaval in Italy just after the War the most successful armament used by Mussolini's men was castor oil. It was castor oil that gave the loyalists their victory. It was castor oil that gave their enemies time to collect their senses. If my hon. Friend dares to interfere with the supply of castor oil he may make friends of a few children but their mothers will he after him and that is the last thing I am sure that he desires. One could go on enumerating those instances indefinitely, but surely even my hon. Friend will be satisfied as to the impossibility of defining the materials and manufactures which he desires to prohibit in the cause of self-protection, and so his Motion falls to the ground.
During the last week-end I was passing a village green on which was an enormous field gun, a relic of the War. A number of children were playing round about and on this gun. One little mite had climbed on to the gun and was sitting over the mouth with the heels of its little shoes holding on to the inside. Surely this to-day is a harmless toy and not a terrible weapon. This gun was giving pleasure and entertainment and mothers were happy in the fact that their children were playing round and in this terrible gun. It is not the gun, it is not the armaments; it is the mind behind the gun and the mind behind the armaments that matter. All the armaments in the world will serve no antagonistic purpose if there is not an antagonistic mind behind them.
Again, we must remember that armaments are not only required for attack but are equally necessary for defence. May I ask my hon. Friend what would be his position—and he has answered this before I ask him—what would be his position if some country which it was our duty, our right or even our necessity to protect were attacked by some other coun- 1950 try and if that other country had free supply and access to every kind of materials supplied by its allies? Would he still desire that we should not support our ally by the manufacture and supply, privately or otherwise, of every form of armament necessary for the protection of our friends? If it were thought by other countries that we would act otherwise, believe me this country would very soon have lost the last of its friends. Again, it is surely better that private manufacturers should be the suppliers in such a case, so that the Government, as a Government, is not forced into open partisanship.
Perhaps some of my hon. Friends have thought of some scheme of discrimination whereby you could mark the pepper for war and the pepper for domestic use and that would give an opportunity to put a few more thousand inspectors on the job. Perhaps you know the story of the poor old decrepit man who was wandering along a dark and dismal road and saying, "Help, help." A great big burly fellow comes up and says, "What is the matter?" He replies, "That man going along has stolen my tie pin." He says, "Why do you not run after him?" "No," says the old man, "I cannot run because I am too old." "Cannot you shout for help louder than that?" "No," he replies, "My voice is done." "Then," says the other, "Here goes for your blinking watch!" No intelligent person desires war but every intelligent person will desire to prepare himself against attack. It is, however, well to remind ourselves that our very bodies are battlefields on which war is waged continuously between the germs of health and the germs of disease. It is the strong army of health germs that keeps the bad germs at bay, and there can be no compromise in this fight. The moment we as individuals are born we are fighting death, until our strength gives way to greater power.
If we want peace we must be strong enough to demand peace. There are many who believe that if this country had taken a firmer and more open hand in the early part of 1914, and had disclosed its intention to Germany in certain eventualities, the Great War might not have taken place. Let us remember that we are still the greatest nation in the world. We have achieved more than any 1951 other country. Even if we have not yet reached the ideal, we have a higher standard of living than any other people. Obviously and sensibly we must be the envy of many other countries, but we are obligated not only to ourselves but to humanity to keep up and continue to lift up our standard of living and morality and integrity and civilisation. We have a duty not only to ourselves, but to the world and to posterity, to create and keep intact such forces and such means as would give the ability not only to retain the position that we have gained, but if necessary to lead other nations to march on with us in our ambition to raise still further the standard of the lives of the people. I appeal for such a majority in favour of the Amendment as will leave no doubt in the minds of others as to the self-respect of our country, and her will to protect the interests of herself and of those allied with her.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
I hope that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) will not leave the Chamber at this moment, because I want to make one or two comments on his speech. He did not supply us with very much information in support of his wild and whirling words. If his allegations are true, no disarmament convention can succeed. He did not give any details about the allegations, and he did not establish his proposition, and yet that was an important part of the case that he sought to set up. At one stage I tried to intervene in order to ask him a question. For some reason he would not give way, though I never fail to give way to him. He said that armament firms have sought to bribe Government officials at home and abroad. I wanted to ask him whether "at home" meant in this country, or whether it referred to the "at home" of foreign armament firms. I do not believe his statement if it refers to "at home" in this country.
The hon. Member based his case on the fact that those who make armaments privately are making them for private gain. Those who work at Woolwich Arsenal are making armaments for private gain. What is the difference between Arsenal wages and the remuneration of any other person. They may differ in amount, but they do not differ 1952 in principle. Those who have them usually spend them exactly as they think fit. Why bring in this element of prejudice? It is pure prejudice. It would not have been brought in unless it was pure prejudice. After all, the aggregate sums paid in wages for the manufacture of armaments must be at least eight times as great as anything paid in profit. Therefore, the profit gained in wages is something very much greater than the profit gained in dividends.
The hon. Member mentioned the case of the Coventry Ordnance Company in the year 1908. He ridiculed the idea that a commercial traveller should ever obtain access to a Cabinet. I know a co-operative official who not only got access as a visitor, but was the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was on the other side of the table from the traveller. But what about the Coventry Ordnance Company? I believe it does not exist now, as a separate entity at any rate. Did that traveller tell the British Cabinet anything that was un-true? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Did he not establish what was very well established 12 months later, when Mr. McKenna, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was responsible for a very much larger shipbuilding programme? What is the history of the events? Lord Cawdor, the First Lord of the Admiralty in the Conservative Government of 1905, proposed a programme of four capital ships per annum. He said that if that programme was persisted in the risk of danger to this country was reduced to a minimum. In 1906 a Government of another colour took office. In the first year they cut out two ships from that programme. In the second year they cut out another, and in the third year they cut out another.
Protests were made, not by officials of armament companies, but by well-informed people who had no interests of a private nature whatever in the production of armaments, that Germany, basing herself on her Naval Law of 1900, with its well-known preamble, was deliberately seizing the opportunity when we were reducing our rate of construction, to accelerate her own rate of construction. It was because of that accelerated rate of construction that in 1909 a famous by-election in Croydon was fought on the issue "We want eight and we won't wait." The people of Croydon 1953 have no interests in armaments directly. Though there are 300 factories there, none of them is in any direct sense an armament factory. What is the use of saying that the increased programe of naval shipbuilding in 1909 was due to the fact that some official in Coventry succeeded in humbugging the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who is much too competent to be humbugged by a commercial traveller from Coventry.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Member for Epping was a member of the Cabinet, and was responsible for carrying on a steady and enhanced programme on these lines.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I do not know whether he humbugged Mr. Balfour or not. Mr. Balfour was not Prime Minister of this country at the time. He was the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
It may have been the case that Mr. Mulliner overstated the facts. There may have been a measure of mistake, but nothing alters the fact that in substance what was happening in Germany between 1906 and 1908 was something very serious to the safety of this country. It was the realisation that those things had happened that induced the Liberal Government, which during the years 1910 to 1914 was maintained in office very largely by numbers of the Socialist party—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Socialist party could have turned the Government out. I have rather a good memory, so allow me to state the facts. The election of 1910 resulted in the return of 273 Conservatives, 273 Liberals, 44 members of the Labour party, and the balance were Irish Nationalists. The Nationalists com 1954 bined with the Liberals were in a position to give the Liberal Government a slight majority over Socialists and Conservatives combined. Nevertheless there was a substantial period when the Nationalist party had not been fully squared, when their allegiance was uncertain, and the co-operation of the Socialists with the Conservatives on a selected issue could have put that Government out. That is the truth. Therefore the Socialist party was responsible for permitting the continued existence of a Government which, quite rightly in my judgment, entered on the production of armaments on a very large scale; and whatever Mr. Mulliner and the Coventry Ordnance Company may have said or done—what he said in the Cabinet we do not know—in the main there is no evidence whatever of any corruption, no evidence that the Liberal Government of 1908 were corrupted by the commercial traveller from Coventry. There are certain right hon. Gentlemen in the House who were members of that Cabinet, and if they were corrupted they would be able to inform us as to how it was done.
Our Amendment does suggest that the vested interests of State employés will be substantially increased if the private manufacture of armaments is prohibited. Is it not notorious that what are known as dockyard Members are always trying to get contracts for their constituencies to an extent far in excess of any pressure brought to bear on this House by private contractors?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have studied the public life of this country and the proceedings of this House over a period very much longer than the Noble Lady has done. The activities of the dockyard Members are notorious. I was a member of an Economy Committee, and a great friend of mine was also a member of it. We worked in separate compartments, and the compartment that he was in did not deal with shipyards. When the facts came out he was naturally very angry. I did not blame him, because his constituents were bringing great pressure to bear on him. I remember an hon. Member for Pembroke, Sir Charles Price. I remember the difficulty he found himself in when it was decided more or less to close Pembroke Dockyard. Then we had 1955 all the troubles about Rosyth when the War was over. Various Members of Parliament from that district were constantly bringing pressure to bear for the Government to continue in existence on a large scale a naval base which was unnecessary at that time on such a large scale.
What is the use of pretending that dockyard Members and arsenal constituency Members are not continually pressed to see that large contracts are given to their constituencies? We all know that that is true. I remember that when the War broke out, that delightful person the late Mr. Will Crooks, whom we all liked so much, went to his constituency on the very day that the War started, and in talking to one of his supporters, an Arsenal worker, said: "This is a terrible business, this Great War." The man replied, "I don't know; I have just bought a piano on the hire-purchase system." That story happens to be literally true, and it shows the curious mentality you may get in the minds of those employed in State arsenals. There have been cases in which employés of arsenal companies or persons indirectly hired by them, have engaged in undesirable activities.
I well remember the great difficulties experienced by Lord Bridgeman and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in 1927 at the Naval Disarmament Conference at Geneva. I know that the right hon. Gentleman was not actually a delegate, to that Conference, but, as Foreign Secretary, he had a general responsibility. In those negotiations the prime problem with which our representatives had to deal was presented by the United States delegation. That delegation, judging by what happened afterwards, was apparently saying one thing across the council table, and then arranging that the Press should say a different thing for consumption in the United States. The activities of Mr. Shearer were not, I agree, very creditable but he was not an inhabitant of this country. He was an inhabitant of the United States, and we are now discussing what should be done in this country. But what happened in 1927.. Here were our delegates working under appalling difficulties, not because they were being dishonest, not because there was any intrigue affecting them, but because intrigue 1956 was affecting people at the other side of the table. The reason the Conference failed was because of the American delegation and yet you had people in this House backing up the point of view of the Americans against our own Government.
Does not what happened at that very Conference point to the danger of private enterprise in the manufacture of armaments? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that if we got an international agreement against the private manufacture of arms, it would stop just the sort of thing which happened at Geneva on that occasion?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
What it does show I think is the undesirability of negotiating with the United States Government when you do not know who you have on the other side of the table.
Does the hon. Gentleman think that one of the greatest ways of securing a universal world peace would be for the British Empire and the United States to work together; and if so, should he not be a little more careful in the statements which he makes about America?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think it would be a splendid thing if the League of Nations would give us a mandate for the United States, but, apart from that, I do not think we have much to learn from the other side of the Atlantic. Certainly we have not much to learn so far as self-discipline is concerned. This matter has been under examination by a Committee of the League of Nations which published a report on 3rd June last. That document sets forth the views expressed on the one side by the Governments of Denmark, France, Poland and Spain, standing for the principle that the private manufacture of arms should be abolished, and the views expressed on the other side by this country, Belgium. Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. On behalf of those countries cogent reasons are set forth why the proposal to abolish the private manufacture of arms is open to grave question.
Some time ago the Government of this country wanted to make one of those gestures to which reference has already been made, and in view of the conflict which had developed between Japan and China it was decided to prohibit, under 1957 powers of licensing, the export of arms from this country to those two countries then in a state of semi-war. That was intended as a gesture to the other countries. It is interesting to note that the four countries which apparently do not desire the private manufacture of arms to continue did not follow that example. They had the chance then to take administrative action to prevent the export of privately-manufactured arms but they did not take that chance. As they did not take it, I am not unduly impressed by the views of the Governments of Denmark, France, Poland and Spain on this subject. If people believe in certain things and go to international conferences and express that belief, then when the chance comes to give effect to their declarations, why should they not take that chance? Quite frankly I doubt the sincerity of a great many declarations made by Governments at international conferences. I think if we were a little more candid in our international relationships at times—not necessarily always in public—we should make more progress in the direction of peace than we have made.
Let me examine briefly the question of trading in arms. The Mover of this Motion sought to horrify us by suggesting that certain of our men in the Great War were killed by guns which they themselves had made. I think on balance that is improbable but assuming it to be true, it would still be true even if the hon. Member's Motion were adopted. I agree that he made a declaration to the effect that if his Motion were adopted and given effect to, he would desire to see the prohibition of the export of arms made in State arsenals. But you might have obligations to other countries and in the course of the fulfilment of those obligations those other countries might accumulate stores of arms which at a later stage might be used against us. Even taking the worst conceivable case, the only guns I think that could have been used against us in the War were those supplied to Turkey and if Turkey had not bought those guns here they would have bought them somewhere else. The guns would have been bought by them in any event. Therefore, that argument of the hon. Member which at first seems dreadful is after all an argument of prejudice and not an argument of intellectual merit, and we have to judge these arguments on 1958 their intellectual merit and not on prejudice.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in answer to a question by me has furnished a statistical statement showing the magnitude of the trade in the export of arms. Unfortunately, in drafting my question I omitted aeroplanes, and the other armaments of the air. In certain circumstances every aeroplane can be used as a bomber. Ordinary aeroplanes may be rather primitive for the purpose, but they are all potential bombers and all aeroplanes must be regarded as arms. Leaving out aeroplanes, the export of which I think represents about £2,000,000 a year, the statement shows that in the last 10 years we sold on an average about £2,200,000 worth a year of arms and munitions including vessels of war to Empire countries, and a little less than that to foreign countries. So far as the exports to Empire countries are concerned, they are, in substance, exports to the Governments of those countries, and that is a trade which it seems ought to continue so long as we regard the British Empire as a political unit.
To-day, we have developed the most amazing constitution in the world, but nevertheless this is one Empire. Although some people fondly imagine that one part of the Empire can be at war while another part is at peace, I think in practice events would render that idea impossible. We must regard the Empire as a unit for purposes of defence. That does not mean to say that we have a common Army, Navy and Air Force, but ultimately the Empire must be regarded as a unit for these purposes, and therefore the export of arms from this country by private firms to Empire Governments does not raise the issue dealt with by the hon. Member opposite. What of the £2,100,000 worth which on the average is exported annually to foreign countries? The bulk goes to countries which, if they did not buy here, would have to buy elsewhere because they have not the requisite factories within their own boundaries.
The Mover of this Motion read certain words from Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and was about to comment upon them when some of us protested that he ought to read the remainder of the Article. This docu- 1959 ment was drawn up by human beings and is not necessarily inspired. It was the best they could do, but we are not compelled to accept everything in it as the final truth. I, for one, have always viewed the activities of Members for dockyard constituencies, and incidentally of Members who have belonged to the Services, as bringing far greater pressure to bear on this House than has ever been brought by anybody connected with the private manufacture of arms. But I would point out that Article 8 of the Covenant goes on to say:Due regard being had to the necessities of those Members of the League who are not able to manufacture the munitions and implements of war necessary for their safety.We have to bear those people in mind. If we do not, ultimately they will start their own arsenals and we shall have scattered about the world more centres of armament manufacture than exist to-day. Hon. Members who think that that is promoting peace may be right but I think they are wrong. I never could understand why the Socialists should call themselves the party of peace. The most militarist-minded people in the world to-day are those who held that gigantic parade of troops and tanks and so forth in Moscow recently. There is no more militarist minded country in the world at present than Soviet Russia. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Germany."] I think Russia is even more militarist than Germany. The Germans at the moment have their internal political troubles. The other people have dealt with all their political troubles. They have wiped them out.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am dealing at the moment with the Socialist mentality in these matters. I will come to the Liberal mentality in a moment. Whoever is to blame at the present time, there is a lot of Socialist war going on in Europe. In Austria and in France we find the Socialists "scrapping" with the best of them—not talking peace but talking war and actually shedding blood. It may be said that they are doing it in their own defence. Others will say that they are doing it for offence. But there is not 1960 the faintest indication that the Socialist is a peaceably-minded person—certainly it could not be said of the Socialists who pulled young girls off their bicycles on 1st May, 1926? Now what about the peaceably minded people who sit on the other side of the Gangway opposite? When the War started on 4th August, 1914, an article was published in a newspaper. It appeared on the very date, 4th August, but it had been written before war started, and it contained the following passage:If we remained neutral we should be, from the commercial point of view, in precisely the same position as the United States. We should be able to trade with all the belligerents (so far as the war allows of trade with them).The only limitation imposed by The Hague Convention is that governments of neutrals must not sell armaments. The article went on to say that:We should keep our expenditure down; we should keep out of debt, and we should have healthy finances.There was a real good old "boost." Let the others "scrap" and let us sell everything to them that we are allowed to sell. Well, that article appeared in the "Daily News," the only Liberal organ left that is published in London with the exception of its evening child, "The Star." I hesitate to mention "The Star" because I did so at 20 minutes past 11 o'clock the other night and I had a leading article yesterday. I think it was Disraeli who said, "I do not care what they say about me so long as they say something." To-morrow I shall hopefully buy the "News-Chronicle." It does not do newspapers any harm to be criticised, because they spend all their time criticising everybody else. As I say, we have the party opposite who, judging by the company they keep, are a militarist party, and we have the party on the other side of the Gangway who, judging by the company which they keep, believe in trading with belligerents. We are asked by them in the name of high morality to pass a Resolution which would have the effect of throwing about 25,000 of our workpeople out of work. That is the plain truth. I am not going to vote for 25,000 of our people being thrown out of work, and I hope nobody else will.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) had 1961 something to say about the Liberal mentality, and I shall have something to say about the mentality of the hon. Member, but at least this claim can be made for the Liberal party at the present time, that we are the only party which can still claim to support private enterprise, and we resist alike Socialist propaganda from the Opposition Front Bench and Socialist legislation from the Government Front Bench. In spite of that, I believe that the arms industry is on an entirely different footing from other industries, and I want to support the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies). We all listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. I do not think it had very much to do with the Motion before the House, but we all hope that the germs to which the hon. Member referred will in his case for many years continue a successful struggle. The main object of his speech was to show that it is very difficult to distinguish between armaments and materials that may be used for armaments. I agree that it is a difficult distinction, but I would refer the hon. Member to a paragraph in the French Memorandum to the committee on this question, which reads as follows:The sole object is to reserve to the State that part of industrial production whereby a product undergoes the first transformation which renders it unfit for pacific purposes and destines it exclusively for military use.Perhaps that will make a little clearer the aim of those who support the Motion. The hon. Member for South Croydon spoke about the pressure that is brought to bear by Members for dockyard constituencies. I do not know whether he was present at Question Time to-day, when a question was put as to the orders for warships given respectively to Barrow, the Clyde, and the Tyne. Hon. Members, only to-day at Question Time, were doing their best to bring pressure to bear on behalf of the private firms who are building warships, and doing all they could for their particular constituencies in that matter, so I submit to the House that there is absolutely nothing to choose in this matter between the Members for dockyard constituencies and the Members for private shipbuilding constituencies. Then the hon. Member for South Croydon referred to the fact that the bulk of our exports go to 1962 countries which must buy elsewhere. I do not think that is quite correct. A number of our exports go to countries which at present buy elsewhere, but I think it is true to say that under the influence of the prevailing economic nationalism, those countries are more and more tending, even as things are at present, to set up their own armaments factories. Finally, the hon. Member referred to a quotation from the "Daily News" in 1914. If he will read the "News-Chronicle," as it is now, to-morrow, no doubt he will see that that newspaper has advanced since 1914, and I am only sorry that the same thing cannot be said of the hon. Member for South Croydon.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion that those who, in various publications, have attacked the private manufacture of armaments, have overstated their case and have represented the allegations brought before the League of Nations Commission in 1921 as if they were the findings of that commission. It is possible to meet arguments of that kind, but when all is said and done, making every possible allowance for over-statement, I still believe that a very powerful case can be made out against the private manufacture of armaments. In the first place, who are the people who are bringing the charges against this practice? They are not extremists or men of that kind. They are not, to adopt the elegant phrase first used, I think, by the Foreign Secretary, "bloody-minded pacifists." Many of them are citizens of this country of very high standing, whose opinions most people would be prepared to accept. May I remind the House of a very familiar quotation from Lord Welby, who was for many years Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, and who before the War enjoyed, I believe, an almost world-wide reputation as an expert in financial matters? This is what he said in a speech in 1914:We are in the hands of an organisation of crooks. They are politicians, generals, manufacturers of armaments, and journalists. All of them are anxious for unlimited expenditure and go on inventing scares to terrify the public and to terrify Ministers of the Crown.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Member give me the date of that quotation? Was the speaker trying to pretend 1963 that war was not likely to come that year? Was he suggesting that the threat of war was not serious?
§ Mr. FOOT
I do not know what the tenour of the whole speech was, but he was speaking about the rise in the Naval Estimates, which was due, as has been shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton, very largely to the activities of Mr. Mulliner. If I may quote an authority whom perhaps the hon. Member for South Croydon will not challenge, that of Lord Cecil, who, after all, is more entitled to speak on questions of peace and disarmament than probably any other of His Majesty's subjects now living, Lord Cecil, in an article a few months ago, said:We have not forgotten the scandalous trade whereby civil war was kept alive in China, and later Chinamen and Japanese were killed to swell the profits of the munitions makers of Europe. Nor are these spectacular events the worst part of the story. The plain truth is that in almost all the principal countries of the world we have great industrial and financial organisations whose prosperity depends on wars and rumours of war. They batten on the suspicions and enmities of mankind. I have very little doubt that the existence and activity of these industries have seriously retarded international disarmament.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
That is all opinion. Neither Lord Cecil nor the Mover of the Motion has given us any evidence. I want evidence, not the opinions of Lord Cecil.
§ Mr. FOOT
I am coming to that, if the hon. Member will allow me. I asked, in the first place, "Who are the people who bring the charges against this traffic?" and I am trying to point out that they are people whose opinion is entitled to respect. Perhaps the hon. Member will take the opinion of the League of Nations Union, which is not a very revolutionary body, but a perfectly respectable body, which only in December of last year passed this Resolution:Recognising the evil effects arising from the private manufacture of armaments, the General Council believes that it would be contrary to the public interest that arms should be manufactured and sold for private profit.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Certainly not all the members of the Union or of its committees would agree to that.
§ Mr. FOOT
I quite appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman was not committed by that resolution, but it was the opinion at any rate of the majority of the General Council, and for that reason I think it is an opinion which is entitled to respect. Then there was the petition of the various ex-service men's organisations of Europe, presented in March, 1933, at the beginning of the Disarmament Conference. All the ex-service organisations, including the British Legion, were represented at that time. I believe the spokesman was Colonel John Brown, chairman of the British Legion, and the delegation, which went, 700 strong, to the Disarmament Conference, represented some 8,000,000 ex-service men. They also demanded the suppression of the private manufacture of arms and effective mutual international control. Finally, may I quote one admission which I think even the hon. Member for South Croydon may be ready to accept? It is an admission made by Lord Hailsham on the 8th December, 1932, speaking in the other place. I admit, that he did not accept all of the allegations made against the private manufacture of arms, but he did speak in favour of a system of control, and he went on to say:We believe that that control would be adequate to remove the evil effects of the private manufacture of arms which are referred to in the Covenant.There you have at any rate an implied admission that there are evil effects arising out of the traffic in arms. The point that I am trying to make is that you can bring a most formidable body of witnesses, some of them expert witnesses, speaking on this matter, who have formed the opinion that this is a dangerous traffic, which ought to be suppressed or very strictly controlled. Then the hon. Member for South Croydon said there was no evidence, or that none had been given by the Mover of the Motion. If you take the three great Powers alone, you find that in each case there has been an example of the sinister machinations of the armament manufacturers. There was the case of Mr. Mulliner, and, although the hon. Member made great play with Mr. Mulliner and with the record of the Liberal Government at that time, he did not deny, I think, that the information that was given at that time was false information and that it was shown by the march of events that Mr. Mulliner was 1965 wrong. The hon. Member and the House can form their own opinions as to why the chairman of an armament firm wished to give information, which turned out to be false, to the Government in the hope of getting them to increase their armaments programme. Then there was the case during the War of the Briey Basin, in France, and there was also the case, to which the hon. Member himself referred, of Mr. Shearer. He admitted that Mr. Shearer's activities were not very creditable. The aim of this Motion is to try to put an end to the activities of Mr. Shearer and of everybody who engages in the same kind of activities. I submit that it is clear that you have here a conflict between the public interest and the interests of the armament firms, and I would remind the House of a speech that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council on the 10th November, 1932, when he ended with a peroration, which I think no Member of the House who heard it has ever forgotten, about the dangers of bombardment from the air, and said:It is not a cheerful thought to the older men that … we are going to defile the earth from the air."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 637, Vol. 270.]I have here a quotation from a recent speech by Mr. Sopwith, the chairman of Hawker Aircraft:We have supplied more foreign countries with military aircraft, exclusive of training types, than any other British firm. I am pleased to put on record that the experience of those countries with Hawker aircraft is comparable to that of the Royal Air Force. We anticipate that our foreign markets will increase during the next 12 months. I attribute this satisfactory state of affairs at home and abroad to the excellent team work that obtains throughout our factories.I would ask the House to contrast those two statements, that of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who speaks about defiling the earth from the air, and that of the chairman of Hawker Aircraft, who speaks of "this satisfactory state of affairs" when he is anticipating an increase, "both at home and abroad," in the manufacture of the very instruments that are to carry out that defilement.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Does the hon. Member suggest that the people who bought these aeroplanes bought them because of the team work of this firm? Was not the decision to buy made independently of Mr. Sopwith? The pur- 1966 pose of the hon. Member's quotation is to show that he influenced people to buy more aeroplanes than they otherwise would.
§ Mr. FOOT
If the hon. Member had listened to what I said, instead of to parts of it, he would realise that I was trying to make the point that there is a clear conflict between the public interest and the particular interest of these armament firms. I was saying that the public interest is to prevent the increase of military aeroplanes, but it is clear from this quotation that Mr. Sopwith regards with satisfaction the increase in the number of military aeroplanes. We heard some months ago of an advertisement placed in a German newspaper by a British armament firm and we had the satisfactory assurance from the Government that no armaments would be allowed to be exported to Germany. May I ask the hon. Gentleman who is to reply whether, if by the Disarmament Convention some form of rearmament is allowed Germany, the withdrawal of that prohibition will be included and our private firms be allowed to benefit from German rearmament There again we should have a plain conflict between the interest of the firms and the public interest, because there is no Member of the House who would not deplore the fact of German rearmament.
Is it merely a coincidence that if we look across the Channel to France we see that the newspapers which were always opposed to the policy of M. Briand in endeavouring to bring about Franco-German relations, and which persistently attacked any move towards disarmament, are the very newspapers that are under the control of M. de Wendel, the president of the Comité des Forges? It will serve a useful purpose if we can hear something of the intention of the Government on this matter, because the record of the Government on the question of private manufacture is not one of which some of us can feel very proud. In September, 1932, the committee was set up to investigate the question, and the remit was:To submit proposals to the Conference immediately on the resumption of its work in regard to the regulations to be applied to the trading in and the private and State manufacture of arms and implements of war.1967 The French representative, as the House knows, put forward a proposal for the total suppression of the traffic in armaments, and he was supported by the representatives of Spain, Poland and Denmark. What was done by the representative of the British Government, who was, I think, a Mr. Carr? In the first place, he objected to the competence of the committee to deal with the question at all. I am very glad to say that that submission was over-ruled by the legal section of the Secretariat.
Then the Danish representative suggested that a questionnaire should be sent out. As I understand it, it was to discover, inter alia, undertakings engaged in the manufacture of arms and the sales of Armaments; whether soldiers or persons actively connected with military administration were allowed to hold paid posts in private armament firms; and the purposes of the manufactures for which licences are permitted. The Danish representative who suggested this questionnaire was the chairman of the committee. The British representative opposed the sending out of the questionnaire and finally opposed the suppression of the traffic altogether. It was not a question of international agreement. I can well understand that there are numbers of hon. Members who would not be in favour of our suppressing this traffic unilaterally, but who would be in favour of it if it could be done all round. On this committee it was not a question of obtaining international agreement, but from the first point the British representative always tried to stand in the way of any progress towards the suppression of the traffic. I hope we shall learn to-day something of the future attitude of the Government, and I hope that it will reveal an advance on their previous attitude.
I would like to quote a statement by Lord Hailsham in the House of Lords on the 8th December, 1932. As far as I know, it is the only statement that has yet been made upon the British attitude on this question by any Member of the Government. He said:His Majesty's Government are perfectly prepared to accept and to enforce further control of the private manufacture of arms going beyond the control which at present exists, provided that some equitable proposal for such control can be worked 1968 out and that similar control is enforced in all arms-producing States. Obviously it would be impossible for us to enforce regulations which were not enforced elsewhere. We think the most equitable scheme would probably be found to lie along the line of control by licences and publicity of manufacture operated under the authority of the various national Governments rather than by some international authority. We believe that that control would be adequate to remove the evil effects of the private manufacture of arms which are referred to in the Covenant.I would like the hon. Gentleman who replies to be a little more explicit than that and to tell us what form of control the Government would be ready to accept, and whether the British Government are prepared to put proposals to that end before the Disarmament Conference. Are they prepared to bring forward proposals themselves or are they going to wait for some other country to give a lead? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also tell us what he thinks of the proposal for a national armaments board which is put forward by the League of Nations Union. This board would be, like the Electricity Commissioners, in a position free from outside influence and its members would be appointed for a term of years. Under that arrangement the manufacture and sale of arms would be prohibited except by the order of the board. The other features of that scheme are that the contract departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force would come under the control of the board; all purchases by foreign countries would have to be made through the national board and payments by them would have to be made by the board; and, what is most important, all private firms would be prohibited from offering designs of arms, patents for arms or the results of any experiments on arms to any public or private body other than the national board of the country to which they belong. That proposal comes from a responsible body and perhaps the spokesman of the Government will tell us what the attitude of the Government is towards it.
I do not say that this scheme will abolish all the evils referred to in this Debate, but it will abolish the system of touting for orders in all parts of the world, and it may be sufficient to prevent the spectacle of the League of Nations endeavouring to stop war in China or in Manchuria or in South America while at the same time the States which make up 1969 the League supply through their private manufacturers the munitions and the arms which make it possible for the wars to go on. After all, the difference between this industry and other industries is that the demand for armaments grows by what it feeds on. If you supply one country it means that other countries are ready to take your product as well, for if one country increases armaments it makes other countries feel insecure. It might also be sufficient to prevent a repetition of the kind of thing which we heard from the hon. Member for Westhoughton, the spectacle of British troops being mown down by British guns. I referred just now to the peroration on bombing from the air by the Lord President of the Council, and, in closing, I should like to remind the House of what he said on that occasion. He referred to the young men and said:When the next war comes, and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will be and by no force more than by that force, then do not let them lay the blame upon the old men. Let them remember that they, they principally or they alone, are responsible for the terrors that have fallen upon the earth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1932; col. 638, Vol. 270.]I have read that passage many times, but I have always found it a little difficult to follow the reasoning of the right hon. Gentleman. How many of the young men whom the right hon. Gentleman had in mind have been able to force their way into the cabinets of the great Powers? If the evils which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind do in fact come to pass, it will not be the fault of the younger generation; the responsibility will lie with those who had the opportunity but who neglected to remove the causes that make for war.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
We have listened to some very interesting and able speeches in this Debate, and I hope that the House, when it comes to a decision, will distinguish between the appeals to sentiment and passion and the appeals to reason. I think they will find that much of what has been said by the hon. Member who has just spoken and the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate has very little relation to the Motion which they ask the House to accept. For my part, I have no more desire to see a renewal of a war in which this country 1970 would be engaged, or in which any other country would be engaged, than either of the hon. Members who have spoken, but I cannot see that the adoption of this Motion could in any way serve the cause of peace. On the contrary, I believe that we are directing our attention to the wrong point and are neglecting to press for that which might really be made effective. I am not going into all the past history, or what is given as history in the course of this Debate—it does not seem very germane to the issue—but I want to ask on what the hon. Member based the allegation that our soldiers were killed by arms supplied by our own country?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
That is what I supposed the hon. Member meant. The hon. Member who opened the Debate used the same incident for a general appeal which he couched in the words, "What would the widows of these men have thought if they had known that they lost their lives through guns supplied by British manufacturers?" Would their lives have been spared if British manufacturers had not supplied these guns? That is the point. Is what we are asked to do going to lessen the dangers or is it going to transfer the supply of weapons from one source to another source? No one in this Debate has ventured to offer any definition of what is an armament firm. Does it mean any firm which does supply armaments? Presumably so. Does it mean any firm which supplies any part of any armaments? Does it mean any firm which has machinery used in the course of its civilian trade which could at once, or with very little difficulty, be adapted to the manufacture of arms if they were required?
These questions have to be faced and answered. Unless you mean by your Motion to cover all three classes you really do not attain the object which you profess to have in view, and if you do cover all three classes then what, indeed, is left for Socialism? Industry will have 1971 been socialised already, so wide is the scope of the firms covered by such descriptions. I do not believe that is a practical policy. I do not believe it is an effective policy. In the present state of the world it would merely mean that our people would be deprived of one way of earning a living which is open to every other arms-producing country. I would add that there is nothing in the declarations or the actions of the American Government—for co-operation with which I am as anxious as the Noble Lady opposite—to lead us to suppose that they either are in a position under their Constitution to control the private manufacture of arms or would be disposed to take steps to obtain powers to control it.
What I invite the House to do is to look at a much easier and more effective form of control which, I think, would be quite as efficient for the purposes we have in mind. I refer to the control not of the manufacture of arms but of the international traffic in arms. We have in this country at the present time a system under which no arms can be exported without a licence, and the Government does not give its licence in any case except for the export of arms to the order of a Government with which we are in friendly relations or when it is satisfied that that Government approved the placing of the order and the delivery of the goods. If we could have an international system controlling the supply of arms from one country to another by a licence granted at the request of the importing Government, and if that were coupled with publicity for such transactions, we should have taken effective steps which really would reduce enormously, and probably almost completely remove, the kind of evils which are imputed to private manufacture, which if sometimes tainted, though I think but very little in this country—for as far as the incident of 1908 is concerned I am quite certain that there was no intention of deceiving the Government of that day, of which I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite was a Member—
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me that it is only to the credit of the Cabinet Ministers of that day that they obtained what they thought was good proof of a breach, or at least of an alteration, of the German plan, and that they were not acting upon loose rumour brought to them by an interested party. I suggest that the practical method is the control of the international traffic in arms. If with that we could couple a disarmament convention, or a convention for the limitation of armaments, putting a limit on the armaments which any country can possess, and had a system of international control to see that that convention was kept, as is proposed in the plan put forward by His Majesty's Government, we should have removed the last danger that armament firms would be enabled by agitation, by the purchase of newspapers, or by any other improper method, to start a new race of armaments. If we cannot get such a convention as that, the abolition of the private trade in arms will not stop the race in armaments, but merely increase in every country the number of Government arsenals, which will have to be large enough not only to supply the peace needs of those countries but, above all, to keep up supplies under any expansion which they would contemplate in war. I believe the suppression of the private trade would he not a step in advance but a backward step, immensely increasing the immediate expenditure of Governments on national armaments and the means for their production, and that all the effective action that we can hope to take we can get through the regulation of the international trade.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. MAINWARING
The House ought to be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having lifted the Debate from the exceedingly low level at which it had been left by the speakers on the other side of the House. Previously we had been treated to a long recitation, and it was only the good sense of hon. Members which permitted the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, to spend more than 20 minutes in reading a speech which had been compiled at some time or other before he came here. The speech of the hon. Member for South 1973 Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) had at least the advantage that he invited us to judge of the arguments advanced on their intellectual merits. If that be done there can be no question that the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) must receive the united support of the House, because as yet no argument of any determined character has been advanced against it. The right hon. Gentleman rightly drew attention to the difficulties surrounding this question. There is no doubt that to enter into a definition of the term "armaments" and all that surrounds the production of arms would lead us far afield, because it would cover a wide number of industries and an enormous number of productive units which in peace times do not make arms at all. The force of that argument must be faced and admitted, as I admit it now; but, after all, what the House is being asked to do is to express an opinion upon a very simple problem which it should have no difficulty in understanding. In the words of the Motion, it is asked to express the view that:The private manufacture of armaments in the pursuit of private profit is contrary to the public interest.Is there any doubt at all about that principle? What does the Amendment propose to put in its place? The Motion suggests that there are in this country private individuals who make profits at the expense of people in other parts of the world. The suggestion in the Amendment is that instead of there being certain moneyed people in the country who are seeking to add to their profits, large sections of the working class might make a profit out of armaments if private manufacture were ended. Surely it does not follow that one more man would be employed in the manufacture of armaments if the State took over the work than is the case now, when the production of armaments is done partly by the State and partly by private firms. It does not at all follow that the numbers employed in the manufacture of arms would be increased, and that the interests created would become a danger to the State in consequence. Again, I fail to see why it should be suggested that a large number of Members of this House would become directly interested in maintaining the manufacture of arms if that were done by the State. It is more 1974 likely that the number of Members interested in supporting this form of industry would be reduced. It is an attempt to prejudice the issue to suggest that more members of the working class might come to have a special interest in armaments.
Let us come to the question upon which the House has been asked to express an opinion—that the private manufacture of armaments for private gain is against public interest. Is that so or not? Why do we say that private interests pursue a course which is inimical to the national interest? First of all the manufacture of armaments does give rise to a financial interest in the creation of armaments, and also creates an interest in actual warfare. There can be no doubt that firms which produce arms and implements of warfare become interested in actual warfare. Further, they become directly interested in fostering warfare. About that there can be no doubt. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the end at which we are aiming might he achieved by controlling international trade. It is the same thing. He agrees with us in so far as he suggests that the end is the necessary and desirable one of controlling international trade. The desirability of controlling it can only arise in so far as there is an actual danger of warfare as the result of the trade. Is it not surprising that no individual in this country is allowed to carry arms unless he has a very good reason for it, but that we permit any number of our citizens to make the most deadly weapons and the most destructive chemicals and dispose of them to the country's most deadly enemies? If I were to express an opinion concerning the form of Government and the conditions in certain parts of Europe, I have no doubt that Mr. Deputy-Speaker would immediately draw my attention to the fact that I was out of order in expressing opinions in regard to Governments with whom this country still maintains friendly relations, and I should immediately be prohibited from expressing the very strong convictions that I hold concerning some of them. Nevertheless, no effort can be made to prevent our own people from supplying those Governments with munitions in order, it may be, to come over here and blow us to wherever they want to put us. That is the sort of contradiction in which we always seem to be.
1975 Private firms are always ready to supply arms in any part of the world to any people who may require them, whether to responsible Governments or rebel forces, who can with equal ease be supplied. The armament firms are prepared to supply any country which is making ready for war, whether that war be right or wrong, because those firms are wholly indifferent as to what country may apply to them so long as the means of payment are at hand. They will sell armaments to Governments in cases where our own Government dare not supply them. Why should we? If our own Government dared not supply munitions of war to Japan quite recently, why do the Government permit munitions factories in this country to supply Japan? Why should individual firms be allowed to carry on a course of action which the Government would be bound to refuse? Why should individual firms be allowed to prejudice the general national interest? There is no doubt that private armament firms use their economic resources, inside the country too, in order to bring political influence to bear upon the Government and upon this House to determine the amount of expenditure upon armaments. Of that there is no doubt. This and other countries would provide an abundance of evidence to show the machinations of armament firms along those lines. That they traffic in the blood of nations cannot be denied. They traffic in and profit by the misery and misfortune of people throughout the world.
The League of Nations have recognised this, and every sincere and honest public man recognises the danger in the situation upon which we are asking the House to express an opinion. The fact that we are asking the House to do so does not necessarily mean that we are bound, to-night or in the immediate future, to discuss all the ramifications and to work out in every detail exactly how the matter is to be dealt with. The conscience of the country is certain to respond to the appeal now made, which is: "Do we as a people believe that we ought to give freedom to a certain number of people to make the means which can set millions of people killing each other in various parts of the world?" Remember the contradictory position in which we were recently. On numerous occasions, the Foreign Secretary was questioned in this House 1976 about the dreadful situation in China. Japan was invading China and flouting the declared opinion of the world. If our Government had responded to the clamour of public opinion it would have interested itself and would have prevented Japan from going on with that business, but if the British Government had interfered with Japan's efforts to destroy China, the British Army or Navy would have had to face armaments made in this country.
The figures given to-day of the export of arms from this country show that some of them went to Japan and were used by Japan in China, and, when we were clamouring that our Government should use their influence to prevent Japan taking action against China, our countrymen were supplying the means of enabling Japan to do that very thing. That is the position. No drawing of false trails ought to be allowed to obscure the issue, which is a very simple one: "Is it, in our opinion, in the general interest, and is it a right principle, that we should permit individual private firms in this country to produce material which they can dispose of for profit to other nations, and in doing so create situations which might involve not only our own country in war, but any two nations of the world?" That is a principle which the conscience of the House of Commons ought to support.
§ 5.53 p.m.
I have listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) and with special interest, because I am in complete sympathy with the principle outlined in his Motion. I do not think that any of the four objections embodied in the Amendment in any way affect the principle as to whether private trade in armaments is right or wrong. I was far more deeply impressed by the arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) than with the arguments of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment. The question that we are discussing is one of the very greatest importance to all peoples and countries who have a desire for peace, as I believe we have. The principle is especially important to nations who are members of the League and who have signed the Covenant, which includes that important Article to which reference has already been made—Article 8. If that is so, we 1977 must be constantly asking ourselves: "Are there not further steps which we can take in conjunction with other nations, or alone if necessary, which will not only be beneficial to ourselves, but would represent a step forward on the path of peace?"
Many attempts have already been made at Geneva to come to some satisfactory arrangement with regard to the private production of armaments, but those attempts have so far not succeeded, the reason always being that the requisite number of States have never been able to agree upon the same thing at the same moment. I believe that most of the great manufacturing countries have shown an interest and a willingness to do something in the matter, and I believe there is now a Draft Convention waiting to be signed or considered. The arguments against retaining this trade in private hands have been so well set out that I need not repeat them. The position boils down to what has just been said by the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) and that is, "Do we or do we not think that it is in the interests of peace that this traffic in arms by private firms for private profit should be allowed to continue?" If the answer is: "No," we must further ask ourselves what we are prepared to do about it—not what are we prepared to do do if some other country does something else, but what are we prepared to do on our own.
The Government have certainly shown on several occasions their sense of responsibility in this matter. We all remember the occasion upon which the Government tried to limit the export of arms to China and Japan, but the veto had soon to be removed, because it was conditional upon other nations following suit, and we all know that those other nations did not do so. Only last week in this House the Lord Privy Seal said—and this was emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to-day—speaking of the difficulties of taking over the armament industries, saidthere should be a rigorous control of the export of armaments from all manufacturing countries which will enable us to keep a control and knowledge of the trade as it takes place,"—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 6th February, 1934; col. 1104, Vol. 285.]Isolated action is not the best method of dealing with this question. Short of 1978 taking over the armaments industry, a task which I realise would be extraordinarily difficult, owing to the many ramifications of modern industry and invention. Surely, our Government could, without international agreement, exercise more definite control over all exports of arms and ammunition from this country. Undoubtedly, it makes most of us shiver to realise that while our statesmen are working at Geneva for peace among nations, they are at the same time granting licences for the supply of munitions to foreign countries for carrying on war with one another, and perhaps some day with ourselves.
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether, at one time, licences were not granted for the export of arms and munitions not only to China and Japan but to Paraguay and Bolivia, while, in each case, those countries were at war with each other. Perhaps the Financial Secretary would also expound exactly how these licences are granted and what the system is, through whose hands the applications go before they are issued, whether they are viewed by the heads of the Department or whether the matter is only a mere formality? I should also be glad if he would be good enough to say in his reply how many, if any, of the licences have been refused, except in the case which I have mentioned of China and Japan. If the Government would insist upon publishing some regular monthly list with all the details of armaments, and the quantity and destination of the exports, that would, I believe, go a long way to awakening public opinion and accomplishing something more definite.
Otherwise, to all intents and purposes the licences are perfectly futile. I know the many difficulties and the complicated arguments that are raised in connection with this matter, but the principle of the thing is quite simple, direct and easy to understand, namely, that private profits should not be made from the manufacture of arms for the purpose of killing our fellowmen. I should like to see a great Press campaign in which the "Times" and the "Daily Herald," as well as other papers of intermediate shades of opinion, would give publicity to the matter. We enjoy the benefits of an unfettered Press, and such joint action would therefore be possible, which is not the case, I understand, in all foreign 1979 countries. The campaign need not and should not cast any aspersion upon individual firms or shareholders.
After all, the private production of armaments has been the accepted method for a very long time, and, that being the case, these firms must in the nature of things be viewed as ordinary businesses, which are obliged to consider good business and profits as of first importance. Obviously, as far as I can see, good business for armament industries can only mean one thing—wars, bloodshed, and the fear and hope of more wars. It is interesting to read the Debates of over 140 years ago, when this House was discussing the abolition of the slave trade, and to find that the arguments used for and against that trade could be applied with equal weight, and with scarcely the changing of a sentence, to the question we are discussing to-day. Wilberforce, in his original speech introducing the question for the first time, used these words;I mean not to accuse anyone, but to take the shame upon myself, in common, indeed, with the whole Parliament of Great Britain, for having suffered this horrid trade to be carried on under their authority. We are all guilty, We ought all to plead guilty, and not exculpate ourselves by throwing blame on others; and, therefore, I deprecate every kind of reflection against the various descriptions of people who are more immediately involved in this wretched business.I do not intend to draw any lurid pictures of the many evils attendant on the private trade in arms and munitions. The very unpleasant incidents which have occurred in all parts of the world are well known to Members of the House, though, unfortunately, not so well known to members of the public. I realise, as other Members of Parliament must realise, how little is known by the great mass of the electors about White Papers, draft Amendments, aidesmemoire, and things of that kind, the object of which is, I know, primarily to inspire confidence, but which in actual fact more often arouse suspicion. It seems to me very probable that only a small percentage of people know of the seriousness of this private trade in armaments and its many ramifications; I think that if people knew more about it they would take it more seriously. It is the widespread ignorance of our unsuspecting public that convinces me of 1980 the necessity for a campaign to arouse opinion on this matter. With regard to our waiting until we can take action in agreement with other nations, I cannot do better than refer again to the antislavery Debate which took place in this House over 100 years ago, when many Members were arguing that, if we stopped that trade, France and other foreign countries would get all the benefit by increasing their trade. To that argument Fox replied:The great blessing of having a fixed and established government such as ours was to be able to look our abuses in the face and correct them with deliberation and safety.These sentences, and many others, show that difficult things have not proved beyond the power of this House to overcome in the past, and I would beg the Government, while they are seeking at Geneva for an international agreement on this question, to give a lead by taking some definite action here on the home front, thereby showing that we are at least serious, both in our adherence to Article 8 of the Covenant and in our condemnation of this trade as it is carried on in our country to-day.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), whose speeches are always listened to with respect in this House, stated that he had heard most of the speeches which had been made in the Debate to-day, that most of them were based on sentiment, and that what we had to do was to apply reason. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the most powerful influence in the world to-day is still sentiment. Reason has been used a good deal; people are able to give reasons why we should carry on the vicious system which is responsible for this Debate; but my humble opinion is that we can neither have peace nor disarmament under capitalism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It cannot be done. It is because of capitalism that the world is a seething mass of war to-day; Europe is an armed camp after 2,000 years of the preaching of the Gospel of Peace.
If there is one industry in this country that could be easily nationalised and taken over by the Government, it is the making of armaments. There are only 1981 three armament firms in Britain—there is only one left in Scotland, and there are only two in England—recognised by the Government. I happen to know something about this business. I am representing here the men that make the armaments, and I worked at making armaments till I was 40 years of age. I worked at the making of armaments during the War; I did all I could to stop the War, and I would do the same again; but I want to face facts, and the facts are these, that every time war credits come before this House I vote against them, no matter what Government is in, but, when this House decides for armaments, then I try to get the armaments to the Clyde, as far as I can.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
This House is a fortunate House in our day and generation. During the War the leaders of those who were against nationalisation, who were against municipalisation, who were in favour of private enterprise, were the Liberal party, who are conspicuous by their absence from the House at this moment. Their greatest spokesman in my time, bar nobody, was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). During the War, when he was Minister of Munitions and dealing with the armament firms, before he could get the munitions he required he had to get control of the armament factories, and the shipyards that were building the battleships—they all had to come under Government control. Why? Because those individuals who were in control of those factories and shipyards at that time took advantage of the circumstances by which they were surrounded, took advantage of the patriotism that was abroad, in order that they might get huge profits. I am now repeating what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs—the statement is not mine—that those individuals were more interested in their own individual firms and aggrandisement than they were in their country. Further, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs stated that he had more trouble in dealing with the employers of labour than he had with the workmen. These are reasons why the time is ripe and it would be in the interests of the Government and the 1982 country that this industry should be controlled by the Government—that it should be nationalised, instead of being as it is at the moment.
It has often been said against us, when we advocated the nationalisation of any industry, that it was impossible to expect that, if you took away the incentive of the private individual in his concern, you would not take away the inventive genius and the great organising ability, and that, therefore, the work would not succeed. Again this industry of armaments gives the lie to all that. One of the very biggest armament-making firms in this country is owned by the Bank of England. The Bank of England sacked the owner of the great armament firm that bears his honoured name, dispensed with his services, would not allow him a seat on the board of management, sent down a nominee of their own to be chairman of the firm, took over a one-time General Secretary of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain and put him on the board of control, took a chartered accountant from London and put him on the board of control. The only individual in the Beardmore firm who has any connection whatever with the manufacture of armaments is the manager at Dalmuir, a local man, and the only one that is on the board. All the others are nominees of the Bank of England, and all the transfer that would be necessary here is from the Bank of England to the Government. That firm could not have carried on had it not been for the guarantee of the Bank of England behind it, and, further, the Bank of England could not have carried on but for the guarantee of the British Government behind it. These are facts, andFacts are chiels t winna ding,An' downa be disputed.It is the easiest thing in the world. Again—I expected it to be trotted out here, because there are individuals in this House who are very much interested in the manufacture of armaments; there is no doubt about that—who have tens of thousands of pounds—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Do you want me to name them?—who have tens of thousands of pounds invested in armament firms. As I am being pulled up on this, let me say to the individuals who are posing here in a white sheet that 1983 they need not do that to me, because I have been an armament maker. I have been a gun maker; I have worked on things of that type, and my folk did before me. Society demanded that we engineers should make those machines of destruction; it was our means of livelihood. But those who have their money invested in property where folk of that kind live, those who have their money invested in factories which cloth the soldier or the sailor, those who are making boots or shoes and all the things that go to provide for the Army and the Navy, those who grow the food for them, are just as much interested, and are in the same category as those who are producing guns or battleships. People had better examine and see if their money is invested in something else which is reaping the benefit of the conflict between Paraguay and Chile. It is farreaching. You cannot have peace and you cannot abolish armaments under capitalism, because it is interwoven. It is in the very framework of capitalism. The Prime Minister and I have taken an active part in bringing this question forward. I stood by him when he had not a friend, when everyone chased him, as they may chase him again. See what they have done with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. They sucked him and squeezed him like an orange, and then threw him adrift, and they will do the same with anyone whenever it suits them. Listen to what the Prime Minister said, speaking with me in 1917 at Leith, when he was an outcast:What they ought to have done when they conscripted labour was to conscript wealth.That is my case. I never was a pacifist, and I am not a pacifist yet, because I would defend the Socialist Republic if necessary at the point of the bayonet, although I always defended the pacifist, and will still to the best of my ability. But I am not under any delusion, and my comrades are not under any delusion. Think what is going on in Vienna, and not a move is being made. [Interruption.] Hon. Members laugh when men, women and little children are being blown to fragments. They are nothing but yahoos. They laugh at the very idea, but my blood boils. I have been in Vienna and seen these places where 1984 people are being blown to fragments simply because they take a different point of view from the majority, and this House makes no mention of it.
I hope that the Government will take this Motion into serious consideration. I put a question to the Prime Minister in December asking him whether he would put into practice what he had preached with me for 30 years, not only to nationalise the manufacture but also the sale of armaments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham called it trafficking in armaments, but I call it the sale of armaments. We ask that that should be done, believing that it would be in the interest of all concerned. I raised it again with the Prime Minister when he went to America on the Peace Mission. We were building a cruiser at Beardmore's, at Dalmuir, and, as a gesture to the world, the Prime Minister stopped the building of it. I wrote to him in America, but I had to wait until he came back. I told him it was all right for him to make this gesture, but what provision did he make for my constituents who were thrown into the street? His reply was our incomparable social services—15s. 3d. a week for my son. I asked him if he thought that good enough for his son. The Beardmore firm was compensated for the cruiser being stopped. The Bank of England was compensated. They got the cash, but the ordinary workman was thrown out into the street. If they had been horses, they would have been kept in proper condition, but, because they were human flesh and blood, they were simply thrown out and worried for their rent.
Under our ideas these things would not occur. The worker would be treated humanely. He would not be used simply as merchandise, as pig-iron or any other commodity used in the manufacture of armaments. He would he treated as a human being with all the rights of a human being. It is because we believe that this is an industry that could be easily taken over at the moment by the Government and run in the interest not only of the country but of the workers that I support the Motion.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Duff Cooper)
The hon. Member always brings eloquence to 1985 our Debates, and I think he often brings a greater sense of reality than others, though sometimes the fervour of his eloquence obscures the soundness of his reasoning. The case that he has made out is one that I am not prepared to answer. His case, as I understand it, is that under Socialism and only under Socialism could this new era to which he looks forward be introduced. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies), in order to narrow the field of the Debate and not to disguise the real nature of the Motion, forwent any claim to the advantages that he would naturally expect to follow from the introduction of a system of Socialism, so we are not discussing that great question to-day.
The hon. Member who has just spoken also said that he, like all of us, is against war and the increase of armaments, but, if there are to be armaments, if this House wants armaments, he is going to see that as many as possible come from the Clyde. That is the attitude of a great many other people. I do not suppose that there is any body of opinion, I hope there are no individuals in the country who want war or like to see the nations preparing for war, but there are a great many people who say that, "If the nations will fight, if they will have these terrible weapons, and they are certainly going to get them, we may as well provide them as anyone else and give our people work." I was also interested to hear the hon. Member confess frankly that, if his principles and his party were attacked, he was prepared to defend them with the bayonet. There are other people who care for their ideas and their opinions as sincerely as he cares for the Socialist party, and they will be prepared when the time comes to fight for their ideals with the bayonet or with more terrible, more modern and effective weapons if they are able to command them.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Westhoughton for raising this question, because it is one that wants discussion. After the War there was throughout the world so universal a desire for peace, such an outcry went up in every corner of the globe for peace at any price, that, ever since, people in a hurry have been trying to find some quick road, some back door, some easy way of obtaining what, if it were obtained, would be the greatest change in 1986 human affairs of which we have any knowledge, the abolition of war between civilised countries. They have thought to do it in this way and in that. It seemed simple. They have tried the pact, the protocol, one thing and another, treaties of this kind and treaties of another kind. They seem to me to be proceeding rather as the alchemists of the Middle Ages proceeded in their search for health. They tried by magic to find the elixir of life, believing that then there would be no more trouble. All their efforts were doomed to disappointment, and only now do we realise—at least I think that most people do—that there is no elixir of life, and that only by proceeding slowly along scientific lines can we prolong life and improve health.
It is, I believe, only by proceeding slowly along well-thought-out lines that we can diminish the danger of war, and I see no reason whatever why we should not, in the fullness of time, eliminate it altogether as a means of settling disputes between civilised nations. But the particular matter which we are discussing this afternoon has seemed to many people to be an easy way. To the people who drew up the Covenant of the League of Nations, who, as the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) reminded us, were, after all, only men and fallible, it seemed to be so unpleasant, as it seems to all of us—the spectacle of human beings making their living out of these instruments of destruction—that they entered it in the Covenant of the League as one of the things about which they were going to think seriously because they did not like it. As far as I am aware, this is perhaps the first time we have had an opportunity in this Chamber of discussing the merits of this very proposal by itself, namely, the prohibition of the private manufacture of armaments in Great Britain. That, it must be remembered, is what we are discussing.
The first accusation which is brought against the private manufacture of armaments as a system is that it tends to produce an interest in the country which is in favour of more and larger weapons and which, therefore, is an element opposed to peace, and that such an element has a sinister, hidden perhaps, but disastrous effect upon the policy of great States. I submit that, after the evidence 1987 we have heard this afternoon, that bogey has been exploded so far as this country is concerned. I am not here to answer for Mr. Shearer, for the attacks made upon the French Government, and for the sinister influence of the Comité des Forges, but I would say that when hon. Members in the same breath quote France as the one country where the armament influence is at its worst, and point out how many newspapers are owned by the Comité and how the Government must be under their influence, they cannot, at the same time, point out to us that France is the one country that was willing to abolish the private manufacture of arms, and we were the one country against it. If this influence is so strong, how came it about that at the Committee in Geneva, France was the country which first agreed to abolish the private manufacture of arms, and we were the country which held out against it? They cannot have it both ways.
The only miserable scrap of evidence which has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Westhoughton and which was repeated with even greater conviction by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot), was the old story of the gentleman who came from Coventry in the year 1908 and persuaded the Liberal Government that the Germans were building a bigger navy. I am not impressed. If it be true that the Liberal Government—and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was sitting by his hon. Friend's side when this extraordinary accusation was made, and although it happened to be the year before he actually joined the Cabinet, he was certainly a Minister at the time—really relied upon commercial travellers from Coventry for their information—and it was not a Government for which I had very great admiration—it was a much poorer Government than I had ever supposed. If the evidence given by this gentleman proved inaccurate in detail, was it really so very false? Was the gentleman from Coventry quite wrong? Were the Germans not building a big navy, and had they no desire to go to war? I have read the history of that period, and it seems to me that the gentleman from Coventry was largely right, and if he produced that effect upon the Liberal Government, as the hon. Member for Dundee evidently supposed he did, 1988 that single instance was the greatest benefit to England that ever an armament firm conferred on this country. So much for the exploded bogey of the black hand, the hidden influence of the great financier who is supposed to pull the wires behind the screen of the Cabinet.
What was the next objection? The difficulty of deciding what are armaments and what are not. They say, "Abolish the private manufacture of arms" but nobody has attempted to define what armaments are. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was good enough to tell me exactly the number of armament firms in this country, and exactly the number in Scotland. He has sources of information which are closed to me. I have asked my Department—and they have consulted with other Departments—how many firms in this country can be said to be manufacturing arms, and they found it quite impossible to give a definition and to state the number, because it is almost impossible to say what are armaments and what are not. The French Government have come forward with the definition that when certain objects are rendered unfit for peaceful purposes that is the moment when these objects become armaments.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
When I spoke about armaments, of course I included all, as the hon. Gentleman heard in my speech—clothing, etc.—but there are only three armament firms in this country—and the Government know it—which are in a position to make armour-plate and big naval guns.
§ Mr. COOPER
Armour-plate and big naval guns are not the only forms of armament. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's information will not prove as valuable to me as I had hoped it would. I am quite prepared to accept the sincerity of the French Government but I should like to warn the House that before agreeing to what you are going to abolish you should find out exactly what the definition of it really is. I was at Geneva some years ago as a representative of His Majesty's Government in a humble capacity, and a proposal was brought forward there for regulating the traffic in alcoholic liquor and it was submitted to a Committee of which I was a member. I was naturally thinking of 1989 one of the great industries of the country from which the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs comes, and I was opposed to any interference of the kind. I thought that I should be able to rely upon the support of my French colleague realising what was one of their principal exports. On the contrary, I found that he was strongly in favour of it, but he pointed out, as the Debate with regard to definition went on, that of course neither beer nor wine were alcoholic, and from his point of view he doubted whether the term could properly be applied in French to old brandy. But on the question of defining exactly what we mean by armaments, I have before me a document prepared by a sub-committee set up by the League of Nations in order to inquire into the private manufacture of arms. This is one of their conclusions:It would, however, be impracticable in present conditions to eliminate private profit from all stages of the production of arms and munitions. Nothing short of complete nationalisation of industry into each State combined either with the prohibition of international cartels or the Internationalisation of the control of raw materials could wholly eliminate private profit in the manufacture of the implements of war.Surely that should prove sufficiently to the House that we are discussing something which, with the best will in the world, we could not bring into effect.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I think that it is right, in quoting from that document, that it should be clear that a proposal made at a later stage was whether effective control by the nation over private manufacture can be exercised.
§ Mr. COOPER
I was not discussing control. I would remind the hon. Member that we exercise control already over manufacture, and we are practically the only country which does so. It is generally agreed that it is impossible to eliminate private profit and, therefore, as long as it is impossible, you still have this sinister influence going on. Suppose you take over steel plates, or whatever it may be, at a certain period of manufacture, and take them to a Government factory, the firms which make them—as the hon. Member pointed out with regard to firms who make clothing for war purposes—still have an interest in war and rumours of war. Even if it were possible to eliminate all that, and even in the millennium of the Socialist party with the 1990 whole thing under the control of the State, there would still be hundreds of thousands of people interested in the manufacture of armaments dependent upon them, not for dividends or profit but for their daily bread, and for their wages. When we are told about the sinister figures of high finance, who only exist in fiction, and who, owing to their interest in armaments, buy Cabinet Ministers and buy Governments, we know that Cabinet Ministers and Governments are much more easily affected by the thought of 100,000 votes than by the thought of £100,000. The more people engaged by a Government making armaments, the greater the pressure would be likely to be on Governments in order to increase the number of those armaments.
What would be the first effect if we were to attempt to put into force the principle which lies behind this Motion? In the first place, it would mean the ruin of a large number of private firms which are not now making vast profits out of the manufacture of armaments, because no firms are able to do so. No firm can be accused of even having the larger part of their output concerned in the manufacture of armaments. The principal firms which would be affected are those which are engaged in the engineering and shipbuilding industry. Does anybody think that those industries are doing so well at the present time that we can afford to play about with them? These are the industries which have been carrying on during these last years with their lives in deadly and daily peril, making losses year after year, just keeping their heads above water, and allowing for themselves that margin of profit which they sometimes make, and sometimes fail to make, by the trade they get either from this Government or other Governments in the way of supplies which may be used in case of war. It would mean the ruin of those firms, and the throwing out of work of large numbers of men. The hon. Member for South Croydon estimated that the number thrown out of work would be 25,000. I do not think he over-estimated it by any means. I think that probably it might be far higher. At the same time, you would be driving out of those industries the talent which is at present engaged in them. We have had a great many appeals to our emotions this evening so far as weapons 1991 of war are concerned. Nobody likes the idea of warfare and nobody likes the idea of using the most terrible weapons, but if we look at the matter with sense and not with sentimentality, we have to realise that so long as we have an Army, a Navy and an Air Force they must be equipped with the most modern, the most terrible, and the most revolting weapons that science can possibly invent. At the present moment there are vast numbers of people in this country engaged in one way or another in some industries connected with the manufacture of arms. Their interests, their minds are given to the production of terrible weapons.
Only a week or two ago we were celebrating, or we might have been celebrating, the centenary of a great inventor of armaments, who was also a great humanitarian and a great philosopher, Alfred Nobel. He discovered dynamite and one thing after another, each more terrible than the one before, and he always said that he believed his work would help to finish war. He hated war as much as anybody in this House. He left a huge fortune for furthering the cause of science, literature, and peace, but he did not believe, as some of our sentimentalists are inclined to believe, that you will get rid of war by saying that you will not use a certain type of weapon, that you will get rid of war by making it pleasant, or that people would not go to war if they thought that certain terrible things would not be done. Who would not prefer to go to war with a battle axe and a bow and arrow rather than with a gas mask and a Mills bomb? Alfred Nobel thought that his discoveries would make war so terrible that it would become unthinkable, and I cannot but think that he was right, and that it would be wrong for us to believe that by shutting down inventions in this country, by employing less people in it, we should thereby be furthering the cause of peace.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot) was very shocked at Mr. Sopwith having exported a large number of fighting aeroplanes to another country. I do not know why he need be shocked. He might have been shocked at the other country buying them, but does he suggest that if Mr. Sopwith had not supplied those machines, the country concerned would not have bought machines at all? Does he not know that that country would 1992 have applied elsewhere and would have got them? Would he have felt any more satisfaction that that particular country would have been just as well prepared for our destruction or the destruction of any other country by obtaining the machines elsewhere instead of obtaining them from us?
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
Does the hon. Member not agree that if you sell fighting aeroplanes or any other kind of armaments to one country it is much more likely that other countries will buy them in the future?
§ Mr. COOPER
If another country supplies fighting machines, then the country that wants them will buy them. I cannot follow the hon. Member's argument. There are some countries that manufacture no war materials at all. The fact has been lost sight of—the hon. Member for East Rhondda (Mr. Mainwaring) seemed to be unaware of it—that in this country, where we exercise control, we have set an example to the world in reducing our armaments; an example that no other country has followed. We have set an example to the world in the control of our armaments, and we are quite prepared to consider, together with other nations, other measures of control. The hon. Member for Dundee asked if I am in favour of a national armaments board. That is a big proposal and not one that I can consider at a moment's notice, but it seemed to me an extremely dangerous proposal. He described it as an independent body. I never know what an independent body is. I do not know what an independent man is, or a man without a prejudice. His proposal would mean handing over to a so-called independent board the control of a very important part of the nation's business. I think it much better that the Government should continue to exercise control, although I am sure the Government would be quite prepared to consider any system for improving it.
Hon. Members who support the Motion also forget that while, as the hon. Member for East Rhondda said, we sent munitions to China and Japan, we were the only country in the world to put an embargo on the sending of munitions. We set an example in that respect, but not one country attempted to follow it. Of the four countries that agreed to the 1993 abolition of the private manufacture of armaments, not one gave the slightest response to our gesture. Therefore, in a fortnight we took off the embargo, but during those two weeks we lost a great many orders. China and Japan did not get less munitions because of our embargo, but the men in this country got less work, less food, less employment as a result of that embargo.
The hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) asked me if we had supplied arms both to Paraguay and Bolivia. We were neutral in that dispute and I do not know wnat she would have had us do. I do not know whether she would have had us support one side or the other. I do not know whether her sympathies are Bolivian or Paraguayan. Short of withdrawing munitions from both as we did from China and Japan, I do not see how we could have acted otherwise than we did. I would also point out that there was a Convention signed by this country and many others in 1925 by which we undertook not to supply weapons to primitive countries or to certain private firms and individuals, because it would increase the danger of civil war in those countries. We ratified that Convention but a sufficiency of other countries have not ratified it and it has not come into force. Once again we set an example but nobody has followed it.
If we were now to abolish the private manufacture of arms in this country we should tremendously encourage and increase the private manufacture of arms in every other country in the world where no control would be exercised over it. Would not the world be far worse off than it is to-day by the fact that these same weapons would be manufactured, that numbers of firms would be set up to manufacture them, would take advantage of the encouragement that we should give them? These firms would not go necessarily to the most highly civilised countries, not to those most prominent, those most active at Geneva and most under the influence of European civilised opinion, but they might go to remote and primitive countries where the manufacturers could do exactly as they wished and where they could supply arms and weapons of all sorts to whoever came first and whoever made the demand upon them. The real reason why it is essential to us to 1994 maintain the private manufacture of arms is that our whole system of defence is based upon the principle of maintaining the very minimum of armed forces, by cutting down everything to the lowest possible point, and we can only do that so long as we feel that in an emergency there is the possibility of expansion. In the late War we realised that danger and we took advantage of the possibility of expansion, but we know how limited our means of expansion were.
If we got rid of the private firms who manufacture arms—none of which is to-day living entirely or mainly on the manufacture of arms—it would mean that we should have immediately to increase, and increase very largely, the public, the Government, the State manufacture of arms. We should have to increase our stores, our arsenals and our dockyards. We should be building things and we should not be certain that they would be wanted, things that might prove useless—ships, weapons, munitions, that might never come into use. We should be expending that public money and at the same time in spending it and increasing the expenditure of the State we should be losing revenue, because while those private firms exist they exist for the benefit of the State. They support people, and they pay taxes, whereas the revenue that we should then be compelled to spend in the country's wellbeing would have to be spent upon possibly unneeded munitions of war, which would be thrown away for they would be of no purpose.
The sentimental appeal is very strong, but it is time that we should face facts. We are not going to get rid of war by any of these easy methods. We are living in a dangerous world. It is not growing less dangerous, but more dangerous every day. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has reminded us of the things that are taking place in Europe to-day, events that we have seen within the last few weeks and within the last year. There is not a better feeling, but a less good feeling of confidence between nations. There are not more peaceful conditions, but less peaceful conditions abroad. We have seen revolution in Spain. We have seen the worship of force magnified in Germany. We have seen Frenchmen shooting Frenchmen in the streets of Paris and Austrians killing Austrians in Vienna. When civil war can 1995 break forth so easily, can anyone pretend that we are safe from international war? In these circumstances, what should our policy be? Our policy should be to pursue peace. I am quite sure of that. That should be our first principle, our main principle, our guiding principle, because the only real security for the British Empire is the maintenance of peace. That will come about only by a better understanding between the nations and only by a change in the minds of men. When that takes place disarmament conferences will be unnecessary. Until it takes place disarmament conferences must be tinged with insincerity.
Disarmament conferences are at least an outward sign of inward grace. They are an evidence of a desire which is general to obtain peace. But we must face the possibility that all our efforts will end in failure, that our efforts to preserve peace will prove in vain and that war may break out. There is no man who will deny that that is a possibility. How are we to face that fearful catastrophe otherwise than by having the best Navy, the best Army and the best Air Force that our country can afford. Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen can do little, indeed they can do nothing, unless we provide them with the weapons of war. We know how it was possible for our soldiers, no less brave and no less valiant than their adversaries to be slaughtered because they had not the munitions, the guns, the shells with which to defend themselves. God grant that we may never see that again. We can only make sure that that will never happen again by preserving our reserves. Our reserves are as important to our fighting forces as are the men in the front line, and our reserves are those very private firms to which reference has been made to-night. We do not want to waste money that we sorely need on piling up reserves of munitions which cost much to look after and which may at any moment become obsolete, out-of-date and mere scrap-iron. We do not want to waste money in that way, but we should be pledged to do so if this Motion were accepted as the only alternative to having those reserves which we have at the present time. If we acted on this policy we should increase unemployment, increase the manufacture of arms in every foreign country, increase 1996 our own ostensible supply of arms, which some people think is provocative, and we should decrease and perhaps strike a fatal blow at our own real security.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The hon. Gentleman seemed to me to be torn between two emotions, which appeared in almost every alternate sentense of his speech. I was glad to find at the end that he expressed the views that we and most decent people feel with regard to war. The hon. Gentleman, however, did not make out a very good case against the Motion. He began by working himself up to a state of bellicosity compatible with his office and with his function to-night. He said that he would avoid party prejudice as far as he possibly could, but he has failed to remove from his mind that political bias which should be kept out of a discussion on a subject like this. He said that we were not discussing Socialism to-night. He missed the main point of the Motion. The Motion calls for the abolition of private profits from the manufacture of armaments, and, when the manufacture of peaceful commodities is carried on without private profits, that is a state of Socialism. A kind of national control is proposed and not an immediate state of prohibition, the intention being to remove the incentive to production with all the dangers which have been referred to in various parts of the Debate.
The hon. Gentleman said that we are not under Socialism to-day, and then went on for half an hour and longer, in one of the most eloquent appeals that I have ever heard in this House, to show the danger in which the whole world stood at present, not under Socialism but under Capitalism. In every capitalist country in the world to-day there is revolution and the threat of revolution; civil war; unthinkable, inconceivable horrors lurking behind the face of things, because the capitalist system cannot preserve peace. This speech will prove to be, when closely examined, the best piece of Socialist propaganda to which the House has listened for many years. It is a confession of the utter breakdown of peaceful relations between the peoples of the world. He said that before abolishing war we must be content with gradual progress towards the institution of peace. He said that he did not believe that the 1997 elixir of life could be discovered by political action or the concerted action of mankind, but that progress must be made gradually along well-thought-out lines.
What we ask for is quite consistent with the kind of progress which the hon. Gentleman has in his mind. Our Motion is consistent with what he suggested as an ideal. Long before the Great War of 1914, there were signs of this private organisation for the production of armaments. Mr. Mulliner was only one of many such men; his name can be multiplied a hundred times over. There were countless examples of men who acted in the same way as he did; who secured the audience of Governments—not perhaps of this Government, but of every other Government in Europe, and enjoyed private influence over statesmen, diplomats and cabinets. This is not a new danger, and because it was not new, one of the first duties of the League of Nations was to provide against it. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) read the extract from Article 8, paragraph 5 of the Covenant, embodying the conviction of all the nations who were signatory to the Covenant that manufacture by private enterprise of armaments and implements of war was open to grave objection. This grave objection was known before the War of 1914 and was in evidence during the War itself. It is an undeniable fact that war implements, armaments, shells, projectors of all kinds were used against our own people in almost all the theatres of war. Torpedoes made by British firms sank British ships. It is because of the wide prevalence and great danger of this vested interest, the incentive to profit that underlies private manufacture, that the League of Nations expressed condemnation of this trade.
The hon. Gentleman said that he did not agree at all with some of the things that were said by the mover and others, and that they were unduly stressed. He minimised the effect of propaganda and said that the danger of propaganda of this kind bad been long ago exploded. He tried to find some justification by referring to the position of France in this regard in connection with the Comité des Forges. This organisation is one of the most dangerous elements of French political life, and every 1998 serious-minded French politician would like to withdraw the political life of France from its influence. The Comité des Forges is not satisfied with being a steel-producing concern or even with making armaments; it has subsidised newspapers in France and other countries. The activities of similar bodies in Germany are very well known. There has been assiduous and constant worldwide propaganda, and it is no use the hon. Gentleman saying that there is no danger from it at the present time. There is propaganda in this country and everywhere. The hon. Gentleman himself almost made a propaganda speech. People have sometimes been innocently drawn by their fear of war into playing the part of publicists for these organisations which are designed to make profit out of armaments. Once a state of fear has been created, these organisations profit by it through manufacturing some kind of protection against the dangers that people fear. It is no use the Minister saying that Mulliner was only a commercial traveller, and that the incident was not worthy of notice and could be laughed out of court in this House. If any Minister in this House says that there is no danger in this covert, subtle propaganda that goes on to-day, stirring up strife in order that more armaments may be sold, he is only exposing this country more completely to that danger.
The hon. Gentleman said that it was a very difficult thing to decide what are and what are not armaments. We agree; nobody in this House believes that it is a simple thing to say exactly, "Here is a workman making armaments, here is another, and here is another, and the total is 20,000 people working on armaments in 1933." He said that there were admittedly about 20,000, but there are not 20,000 workpeople working exclusively on the manufacture of implements of war or their concommitants. They are working in conjunction with other people in productive enterprise, part of the fruits of whose labour is destined to be used for armaments. In South Wales men engaged in steel production do not fashion the implements of war themselves, but they produce the steel which at some later stage goes to another works to be fashioned into warlike implements. Nickel is not a munition of war, but it is a necessary in- 1999 gredient of certain kinds of steel for machines of war which the the Air Minister well knows. That does not justify the hon. Gentleman in speaking against the Motion. Once the principle of the Motion is conceded it will be his duty and the duty of all others to try to work out a scheme whereby this private profit, which we condemn and which is an inducement to the stirring-up of strife and to the creation of a demand for armament, upon which people live and which to the shareholders of the armament firms is just as much an investment as the wages of the men who make them, be finally abolished. While we agree that the Minister has difficulty in defining our terms, we do not find that to be a sufficient and final reason against our Motion.
The hon. Gentleman then argued that many of the firms in this country were working at a loss. He rather weakened his case by saying that they were not making profits at all, but losses, by producing these munitions. That statement cannot be borne out. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should not try to induce the House to believe it. Everybody knows that the manufacture of armaments is a profitable business. I would challenge the hon. Gentleman or any hon. Member to prove that munitions have been sent abroad from this country at a loss.
§ Mr. LOUIS SMITH
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether it is a fact that owing to the very heavy capital expense, being met with a corresponding capital advance, the firms that have been supplying the Government with armaments are, now that the demand of the War has ceased, met with such heavy overhead charges that they are making losses to-day?
§ Mr. D. GRENFELL
I cannot accept that suggestion without seeing figures. It is a highly profitable business, and they would not be conducting it in the manner they do if there were not much money in it. There is an occasional loss, because they supply people who cannot pay. There may have been Chinese generals who failed to win their place in the struggle in China, and the obligation they have undertaken cannot be met. Occasionally the armament manufacturer 2000 fails to get paid, because the venture for which he supplied the armaments has not been successful.
§ Mr. L. SMITH
May I not remind the hon. Member that one of his own supporters has told the House this afternoon that a certain firm of armament suppliers in his district has been taken over by the bank practically bankrupt owing to the fact that it over-spent during the War supplying armaments to the Government and for that reason has lost so much money that it is unable to carry on?
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I am sorry I did not hear the speech. I was having a cup of tea. I cannot listen to all the speeches of my own party. I am sufficiently occupied in quarrelling with Members on the other side of the House. I think the hon. Member was weak in his reference to the people who make profits. If there were no profits, there would be no dangers; it is in the profits that the danger lies, and we say that the private profit should be eliminated. The hon. Member said war was getting more and more terrible, and gave us a most gloomy and terrible picture of the possible means of war in which we may be involved. I hope his summary of world conditions will not be vindicated by events, and that he, too, is suffering from the pessimism that sometimes overtakes all of us, and that events will not turn out as badly as he appears to think. But if war does break out in the world, this is a thing that must he admitted straight away. War will break out between the peoples of the world not because of Socialism, but because of the difficulties into which the capitalist system has driven itself. It is because of the failure to provide for human needs and the so-called excess of production. We are certainly free from any responsibility. I hope capitalism will not end in cataclysm or war, but will give way to a better system without any violent transformation.
The hon. Gentleman gave us an idea this afternoon that he himself is convinced that a fight must take place, and when my hon. Friend expressed sympathy with ordinary citizens in Vienna whose rights are invaded, whose homes are invaded and who are fighting for their lives against the oppressor, the hon. Gentleman said that if Socialists 2001 could fight in Vienna there were people who could fight in this country. I am a pacifist, but I am not without my fair share of British pugnacity. It is my intellect that drives me to acknowledge pacifism as the ideal, and I say the Socialists of this country would fight, and so would any man worthy of the name, for the indispensable conditions of social and national greatness which we uphold. But I would like to believe that we are going on fighting our battles over the table, and not underneath the table. We will have to face the difficult question of our relation to the great machine of war, and the great and intricate system of production for war which has grown up in the world.
I feel quite sure that we are perfectly justified. We are going in line with the League of Nations and the Arms Traffic Convention to which the hon. Gentleman referred, not yet ratified by other countries and therefore not yet in force. We have spoken of the extensive propaganda that is an indisputable fact, and has been going on and is going on. The hon. Gentleman knows the figures given to the League of Nations in 1925 showing that no less than £10,000,000 was spent on death-dealing instruments, something sent out to destroy life, to destroy some poor human beings with whom the makers and users of those instruments have no quarrel. When a life is lost by these weapons, we who supply the instruments are accessories before the fact. We permit this sort of thing, and the Government that gives a licence to send death-dealing instruments to any part of the world is responsible. But we in this House also are responsible for the lives of those individuals who are killed. It is a terrible thing that in the Great War it cost us £3,500 to kill a man. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) is a great mathematician; I do not know if he can tell us what was the profit made on that £3,500.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
The profit was about one-twentieth of the amount paid in wages to produce these instruments.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I will put it at one-tenth of the cost, and we can say that it cost £3,500, and there was a profit of £350. Once you eliminate this idea of profit you eliminate the incentive, and remove from yourselves the responsi- 2002 bility for the deeds committed. We ask this House to prevent that incentive from operating, and to free itself from the terrible responsibility which falls upon it. The Motion is a very simple one, the Amendment less simple. I listened to the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment, and I think he had prepared his speech before the Motion was put down, perhaps soon after the General Election, when he had not recovered from the election fever. We have heard from him that this is a Motion that would mean loss of employment, and he could not support it. The hon. Gentleman is very much concerned with employment; he does not care how it is found. But suggestions have been made on this side of the House since he has been here. An hon. Friend of mine who represents the building industry has made a demand that the Government should carry through schemes to build houses. That would be beneficial, but the hon. Gentleman does not support that. He has no use for such a scheme. He says: "Let us make guns and high explosives and give employment to our people in death-dealing instruments, not life-dealing."
The hon. Member for South Croydon has sometimes shown good sense, but to-day he fell into the same trouble in seconding the Motion. It has been often urged against Socialists, and I have been taunted here, though less commonly in this House than years ago, with the statement that Socialists are unpracticable people who have no idea as to how things should be done. It was frequently said against them that they advocated nothing more constructive than taking in each other's washing. I have heard to-day something much more comical and ludicrous than that. I have heard two hon. Gentlemen moving and seconding an Amendment which means that they would find employment for the people of this country in flying at each other's throats. The hon. Gentleman had a good opportunity to-day. He made a bad use of it, but that is not my fault. The Minister, I am sure, is not insusceptible to the finest appeals anyone can make to him. I have not the eloquence which I would like to command at this moment, but I would like to make a most serious appeal to the Minister responsible and to the Government which he represents. He could not represent that Government 2003 unless he maintained the ideal of efficiency in the services he represents, and adequate preparation and protection in the case of war. I do not expect from him a declaration such as I would make myself, but I expect him and those associated with him in the Government in these difficult days to view afresh and cast their eyes over the homes of the people of this country.
There is nobody here who wants war. There is no man, woman or child who does not dread and abhor the idea of war. There is no body of people in this country who would not sacrifice for peace and endure the temporary inconvenience of the loss of their jobs in the cause of peace. Let this House give effect to the desires and wishes of the people. Look abroad and see in this troubled world the condition of people who are striving in bewilderment and confusion to find a fresh start in life. See these people in their innocent and harmless occupations being marshalled against their will, very
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 173.
|Division No. 105.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Bonfield, John William||Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Bernays, Robert||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, George H (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Buchanan, George||Hicks, Ernest George||Paling, Wilfred|
|Cape, Thomas||Holdsworth, Herbert||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Janner, Barnett||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||John, William||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury).|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Smith, Torn (Normanton)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Leonard, William||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Mabane, William||White, Henry Graham|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mainwaring, William Henry||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Kirkwood and Mr. Wilmot.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Albery, Irving James||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Burghley, Lord||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Burnett, John George||Denville, Alfred|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Butler, Richard Austen||Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Doran, Edward|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Drewe, Cedric|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Christle, James Archibald||Eastwood, John Francis|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Clarke, Frank||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Cook, Thomas A.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Cooper, A. Duff||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cranborne, Viscount||Fleming, Edward Lascelles|
|Boulton, W. W.||Craven-Ellis, William||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Crooke, J. Smedley||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Goff, Sir Park|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Sinclair, Col T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Martin, Thomas B.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Munro, Patrick||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Nall, Sir Joseph||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Harbord, Arthur||North, Edward T.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nunn, William||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Stones, James|
|Hornby, Frank||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Steurton, Hon. John J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Strauss, Edward A.|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Penny, Sir George||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Jennings, Roland||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Radford, E. A.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ray, Sir William||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Lees-Jones, John||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Levy, Thomas||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock)||Remer, John R.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Robinson, John Roland||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Ross, Ronald D.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|McCorquadale, M. S.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wise, Alfred R.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Womersley, Walter James|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Salt, Edward W.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Mr. Mitcheson and Mr. Herbert|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Scone, Lord||Williams.|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ often to be prepared for a great conflict which must come, unless in this House, or somewhere in the world, something is done.
§ The hon. Gentleman holds an important position, but there is an equal responsibility on all of us to make a declaration that we do not stand for a system which is going out for private profit by the destruction of life in any part of the world. I would like the Minister to declare to-day that he will accept this Motion, because in it there is a beginning of that journey he hopes to accomplish by deliberate progress on well-ordered lines, to take the first step by eliminating private profit from the manufacture of arms, and removing incentives to gain at the expense of humanity.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."2005
§ Proposed words there added.
That this House would deplore a system which would increase the number of employés of the State having a vested interest in the increase in the production of instruments of war and would increase the number of Members of Parliament engaged in pressing the defence department to provide jobs for their constituents, and which would further deprive large numbers of workpeople of employment in the manufacture of goods for export, and would lead inevitably to the establishment of munition factories in many countries which have none at present.