§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move:That this House endorses the view expressed in the Covenant of the League of Nations that manufacture of munitions of war by private enterprise is open to grave objection, regrets the absence of any international agreement to deal with this admitted evil., and is of opinion that this country should set an example by prohibiting forthwith all private manufacture of and trade in armaments by British nationals and by making provision for the production by the State of such armaments and munitions of war as are considered necessary.We have put down this Motion, although it is not very long since this matter was debated in the House, because a certain amount of additional information has come to light. I should like to make quite clear our position in regard to traffic in arms. It is no part of our case to say that the private manufacturer of arms is the sole cause or the biggest cause of war. We know that there are many contributory causes - national egoism, mass hysteria, nationalism and so forth. We think that the main causes are economic. In our view this is a natural result of capitalism and Imperialism operating in an anarchic world. We hold that the existence of powerful profit making interests is a factor making for international insecurity. We hold that vested interests work against peace and against the attempt to create a world order, and that the existence of these vested interests tends to frustrate the efforts of the wiser statesmen of the world to create a. world order.
I would give a parallel case, that of the slums. I do not suppose that anyone would claim that the slum problem is the mere creation of the slum landlords or the jerry builder. It is the result of a system which regards the providing of housing accommodation primarily as matter for private profit and which grew up at a time when there was very little regulation in a socially anarchic country. The effect of the vested interests of the slum landlord and the jerry builder in 'working against the efforts of Governments to deal with the slums, no one would deny, and no one can deny the influence of the slum landlord and the, jerry builder on the local councils, or even in the counsels of great political 1294 parties at their annual conferences. Our position as a party in this country does not enable us to change the system but it does not prevent us from urging that the Government should deal with this particular evil of capitalism. We think that Members of every party should join with us in trying to destroy the slums and we hope that Members in all parts of the House will join with us in an attack on the traffic in arms. I hope that Members of the House who agree with the view that slums could be better dealt with by taking away private profits from them will also agree with us that the same principle could well be applied in regard to the manufacture of arms.
The Motion is formulated on the Covenant of the League of Nations. Perhaps the world was much more conscious at that time of what war profiteering meant. We are demanding action, not inquiry. We are fully convinced of the evil of private property in armaments and we believe it is practicable to take action.
I want to show first the existence of the evil, secondly, the urgency of the matter and, thirdly, what we believe are the practical steps that should be taken. First as to the facts of the case. A little bit of the very ragged veil that has concealed the activities of war profiteers has been lifted in the inquiry by a Committee of the American Senate. It is quite possible to pooh pooh that inquiry, it is quite possible to take isolated statements and say it is hearsay, that here is a Senator dragging in the name of the. King, a ridiculous thing, but when you have done all that you do not get away-from the mass of evidence tendered as to the methods of armament traders. I am not going to go back over the evidence of the past, I do not want to go back to Mr. Mulliner or Mr. Shearer but, broadly speaking, there is nothing very new or startling in the revelations that have come out in the American inquiry. The activities of armament mongers have been well known all over the world for many years.
It may be suggested that the American inquiry only deals with American firms. As a matter of fact, it does not, it implicates British firms, and even if it did not the armament industry is so closely linked up, is so essentially an international concern, that it is quite 1295 impossible to believe that the methods of procedure adopted by American firms are not known to their British, French and German colleagues. For instance you have a large amount of evidence produced in America with regard to the Electric Boat Company. That company has an arrangement with Vickers whereby they divide the world. They are in constant correspondence and advise one another. If you look through the records of these big armament firms, you find that before and since the War, and very often during the War, there was close co-operation between the armament makers of different nations. In the American case we had a lot of evidence of extremely dirty work. It may be said that it does not all relate to English firms. It does not; but we have the unsolicited testimony of Mr. Allen:The Vickers crowd are the dirtiest opponents here. They have almost an entire embassy working for them, and use women of doubtful character freely.That, of course, is not prime evidence against Vickers, but it is the opinion of an American engaged in the trade, and he is estimating that his rivals are just as able to play the game which they play. He says:British prestige stands high in that particular game.I am not concerned to blacken any particular firm. In fact, the selling of armaments is a dirty business and you cannot get away from it. Mr. Jonas, an agent of the tear gas manufacturers, said:We are certainly in a hell of a business where a fellow has to wish for trouble so as to make a living, the only consolation being however that if we do not get the business someone else will. It would he a terrible state of affairs for my conscience to start bothering me now.It is not my case that the manufacture of arms is conducted by a group of extra wicked people, worse than anybody else. They simply adopt the methods which are followed generally. These people no doubt in their home lives are extremely respectable and admirable people. We have the opinion of Mr. Paul Young, who combines the business of a missionary with that of the vendor of poison gas. He says:Six or eight Indians showed a desire to follow the Lord and we prayed with them. Yesterday saw the Minister of War again and made arrangements to demonstrate today.1296 He is just an ordinary person. Sir Robert Hadfield, speaking at his director's meeting, said:We are devoutly thankful for present mercies, and for what we hope we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful.What is the case which we can bring against armament firms? First that they are a corrupting influence. Let me take up a matter which has already been mentioned in this House, that is the letter which was produced from Sir Charles Craven. I do not think that the First Lord's explanation took us very far. Let me read the letter again:I also think it would be worth while putting forward a tender for six boats, the total number to be built. I have had a word with the Director of Contracts at the Admiralty, who is a friend of mine, and who would like this. He, I know, tried to get us the order for all five submarines last year.What are the charges made against the armament firms? Mr. Nye's committee in America went to work very drastically. They got documents, rightly or wrongly, which they produced. Here is an ordinary business letter written by Sir Charles Craven. I do not suppose that he is bluffing, but he says that the Director of Contracts is a friend of his. It may not be corrupt at all, but there is a serious question, when you have firms like this, of the relationship of people in Government offices to the firm. If that stood alone there might be nothing in it, but we have abundant evidence of corruption from country to country. Sir Charles Craven advised the Electric Boat Company in their dealings with the Chilean Government. He says:I would not be too modest about the price. My own experience is that at the last minute something is always needed to grease the ways.He gives confidential information to his business partners, and he is a gentleman who ranks Geneva as being one with other troublesome organisations that may stop business, but we have quite abundant evidence here of the kind of thing that is done by armament manufacturers. We have evidence that the Turkish Minister of Defence in 1934 was going to get £2,500 from the Electric Boat Company in competing with the Italian firms to secure a contract, but he did not get it, so that the money was not actually paid. There is evidence again as to what 1297 happened in China. You find again the same thing with regard to Greece. Here is a remarkable document taken from the Export Company's files:I have succeeded in persuading the Air Minister (John Rhallis), through a common friend, to give his preference to your material. As, however, lie did not like to commit himself with a corporation like ours, we decided on the following:—You should address, by return mail, a letter to the Societe Financiere et Technique de Grece, 10, Metropole Street, and write them that on all orders of your material you will allow a commission of 5 per cent. At the same time you write me a private letter saying that on all orders for your material through the Societe Financiers et Technique de Grece or direct by the Greek Government you will allow me a commission of 45 per cent. I shall transfer this letter to the friend of the Minister in order to guarantee, him that he shall get his profits without this transaction being disclosed by thirds, with kind regards, yours sincerely.Then there is Captain Ball's letter. He is a general dealer in munitions of war on a very large scale, and, as I understand, is a contractor for getting rid of Government stores. I am not going to quote his letter-probably most people have read it. It is a very long and frank exposition of a point of view. He is quite prepared to recognise that you must have bribery.But if any palm oil is required, it has to be added to the price, and as our prices are at least 50 per cent, less than factory prices for the same arms they will stand a lot of grease,' and still be cheaper than the manufacturers' prices.Then you get references to China, where they say everything has to be done by bribes, although they sometimes hit on the wrong Chinaman. The bribery of officials is a dirty business. There was a celebrated case before the War in which a number of Japanese admirals were convicted of receiving bribes from Vickers in that country. In these reports again and again we find a close relation between armament firms of one kind and another and officials of Governments. Further than that, you find generals and admirals in munition firms. Are they selected solely on account of their business ability? I notice that very often they hold positions in which they have been able to influence contracts. I put the case to any business man here, if he were in a large way of business, and he found that after a few years his chief buyer had left him and joined the board of one of the firms which supplied him 1298 with a large amount of material, and a few years later another buyer got a similar position. There is the fact that there is a close connection all the time between Government Departments and these firms, and I think the existence of such firms is a standing temptation to corruption all over the world to public servants, soldiers and sailors who are trying to do their duty.
The second count in the indictment is that these firms deliberately work against peace and disarmament. Of course they do not like disarmament conventions. Sir Charles Craven described Geneva as "some fancy convention." Commandante Aubry, in Peru, an agent for the Electric Boat Company, who claimed to be appointed as the delegate of Peru to the Disarmament Conference, said:My flag will be no quota in submarines, and classify it as a defensive weapon.I am bound to say that it has always struck me as curious how these experts take such a long time in deciding whether weapons are defensive or not, when so many of us could make up our minds in half a minute.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
He failed to get it, but others were more successful. Then we have an elaborate plan to evade embargoes. The world meets together in a League of Nations. It tries to lay down rules for the prevention of war, and all the time the nationals of those countries are engaged in evading those embargoes to the best of their ability. We have an extract like this from the American Armament Corporation, which is the American agent of the Soley Armament Company, which contracts for the Government:We have heard that Bolivia wants anti-aircraft guns quickly, but we do not for a moment think that a shipment of sale to Bolivia could be made direct while that country is at war. If, however, an American armament firm of some standing bought the guns for eventual re-sale, things might be easier, or if the Colombian Government, who are not at war, bought the guns they could no doubt have them.There is the case of that little war which everyone must regard as a wretched war in the middle of South America, a war in which the population of either side is 1299 not concerned. It is a war between rival financial interests backed by financial interests, and described as a comic opera war. Here is an extract:I am firmly convinced that moral and financial support is coming and will continue from Argentina on behalf of Paraguay, and Bolivia will be required to find a similar support either through the Standard Oil Company…It is interesting to see how on one side you can have a State and on the other side a corporation.I am still of the opinion that before these two comic opera 'wars are finished in the North and South practically all of South America will be involved-so watch your step and play your cards accordingly.I have no doubt the official American representatives in the world are doing their best to have that wretched struggle stopped, and at the same time their nationals are engaged in fomenting it, and obviously hoping for its spread.
Then there is a disregard of any idea that the League has laid down anything with regard to the rearmament of the ex-enemy Powers. There is the rearmament of Germany. There is a record of the shipments going through Holland and elsewhere to Germany. There is talk of the air menace. In the first eight months of 1934 exports to Germany included 176 aeroplanes, two large planes and six two-seater mail planes. All shipments were approved by the United States Government, and were listed as commercial, but the information which one gets leads one to have doubts whether they are commercial at all. The rearming of Germany goes on through the nationals of the Powers who are parties to the Treaty against it. I want to suggest, first of all, the insanity of-the whole thing. The Governments work for peace and disarmament, and the armsmongers work for war and armaments. Ministers talk gravely of the problem created by the anarchy of China, but who makes the anarchy? It is one of the best fields for selling guns and munitions of every kind, and the nationals of a civilised world arm the bandits of China, and then, when China gets sufficiently disintegrated, they come in and pick up the pieces. In 1932 Vickers were advertising their tanks in German papers, in one case with a full-page illustration.
1300 Consider the hypocrisy of the whole thing. The League of Nations is out to prevent war, and the nations say, "But when people go to war, we had better make what money we can out of it." We got a very belated embargo in the case of Bolivia and Paraguay. The fact is that wherever trouble is blowing up, there are the armament firms' agents, and from what I can find out the armsmongers are quite clever enough to outwit any regulations.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
Will the hon. Member give an example?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am saying I do not believe that any of the regulations will prevent the sending of arms to another country. It can be done with regard to Bolivia and Paraguay by sending through the Argentine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] It can be done through a neighbouring State. The control of South America is very inefficient.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The evidence brought out that military aeroplanes have been shipped piecemeal to North Sea ports from the United States, Sweden and Great Britain, and have been assembled in Germany.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The evidence shows that military aeroplanes have been shipped piecemeal to North Sea ports from the United States, Sweden, and Great Britain, and have been assembled in Germany. The fact is that there is evidence here of the deliberate evasion by armament traders of the rules laid down by the League of Nations and of the action of Governments. The next point is, what can be done? We all want to see international action taken in the matter. I would like to see very vigorous action, and I do not think that our Government has been vigorous on this matter. There 1301 was a discussion of a draft plan for the control of munition manufacture. We were not represented there by a major delegate. We were represented by a comparatively junior official, not an official of the first rank. We want international action. I do not think that mere supervision will go far enough. I would have liked to have sided with those who propose the abolition of private trading in armaments, with France and Spain and Poland, and not with Germany and Italy. It is said that in France there is a Press largely controlled by armaments firms, but it is France which comes forward and asks for the complete abolition of the trade.
We say about the arms trade, "You must abolish it because it is wrong." Some people say, and the Financial Secretary to the War Office on a previous occasion expressed his approval, "If 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." I think that that is a profoundly immoral position. Take a parallel. Suppose we cultivated opium and heroin in this country and said, "Unfortunately there are people on the Continent who will take these drugs. Why should we not make a profit out of them?" But we have not come to that. Suppose that we had a white slave traffic in this country and there were a lot of people engaged in the business. Should we say "it is all very deplorable, but there is a demand there and why should we not make our profit?" That was not the line taken by our country in regard to the slave trade. One hundred years ago this country declared that the slave trade was wrong. As to the white slave traffic, we are all agreed that it is not a matter for regulation but a matter for abolition, for stopping it. But why should it be worse to make profits out of a breach of the Seventh Commandment than to make them out of a breach of the Sixth Commandment?
This armament trade is a trade in murder. Someone may say "You cannot do anything unless you get international agreement, and international agreement is impossible; so let us carry on." We did not wait for that in the case of the slave trade. We set our own house in order. I want to see this country set its house in order by dealing with this matter in the right way. But it is said, 1302 "We must keep an arms industry in order to be able to expand our munition supply in time of war." As a matter of fact the Great War proved that that was the very worst way of doing it. Reliance on private armament firms broke down badly in the War. The inefficiency and rapacity of the big firms are brought out in report after report. We had the report of the Lever Committee, which showed that the prices charged contained an excessive profit and that the organisation and management of the works were inefficient. A national body got to work and it was then found that the firms were able so to reduce the price of shells that at that time there was a reduction in cost of no less than £400,000 a week.
There is no doubt whatever about the rapacity of these gentlemen. I also attack their capacity. There is the fact that people had to come in from outside and organise the industry. From the point of view of national defence, it is entirely fallacious to think that it is necessary for some of these firms to do a trade abroad. The right way to organise munitions in this country is to nationalise the production, to have a nucleus that is able to expand, and expansion will be obtained not by having large firms dealing with foreign countries, but by having a great variety of firms engaged in all sorts of occupations and provided with the organisation and the machinery which is ready to be turned over to armaments. If you are out for that kind of defence, that is the way to do it. We do not believe that this private armaments trade is an advantage to us. I am told that my suggestions would throw 20,000 people out of work. It would be better to keep those people and find work for them.
Then we come to the good old test question, what are munitions of war? Last time we debated the subject it was suggested that nearly everything came under the heading of munitions—boots and cloth and motor cars and everything. If it is necessary to socialise these industries—it might be socialisation by the side door—it might come to a choice between socialisation and the next war. I should plump for socialising and hon. Members opposite would plump for the next war. Even if you cannot do the whole thing, you can go a very long way. In almost any matter with which you try 1303 to deal you will not be able to go the whole way. The Government are profoundly convinced of the evil of betting and gambling, and they would be delighted to go the whole way, but they have found that to go the whole way they would have to deal with football pools. They claim, in spite of that, that in their Bill they are making a great onslaught on the betting evil. You can do something if you cannot go the whole way. There is a vast number of munitions of war as to which there is not the slightest doubt of the use for which they are intended.
It may be asked, "What would happen to the unfortunate or fortunate countries that have not any munition factories themselves How are they going to arm?" That question is put by people who are living in a past age, who are living in pre-War days. What we are asking for with regard to armaments is, that if we cannot get full disarmament there should at least be programmes by regulation. If you get 'agreement as to the regualtion of armaments, there would not be this running around of private armament firms. The idea that there must be private enterprise in 'armaments belongs to a past world, and those who entertain it do not recognise the new world in which they live. There were hon. Members who jeered just now when I suggested that to socialise the industry might be Socialism by a side door. Those hon. Members are also living in an archaic world. We are coming to-day into a more regulated world, although it is not always regulated as we should like it. We hold that this country can set an 'example in this matter. It is not suggested that we are all alone. Big nations have already declared themselves. I do not claim that nationalising is going far enough. I want disarmament all round, and I say that the only arms and armament factories should be run by a world authority.
Let me turn to the Amendments on the Paper. The right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) has put down a Liberal Amendment asking for an inquiry. I do not want a mere hush-hush inquiry. I do not want a merely pious expression of conviction that international action is needed. I want to declare against profit 1304 in armaments. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will say whether or not Liberals think it is right to make profits out of armaments. We believe it is wrong. I do not think we have need of this inquiry. We have abundant facts available, and the matter should be made absolutely clear to everybody in the modern world. The Amendment on the Paper in the name of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) comes rather disappointingly from him. It seems to me like whitewash. I believe in international action, but there is great difficulty in getting it, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that. We must first set our own house in order. We must set an example. There is nothing so good as an example in these matters. I have already said that from the defence point of view we should be stronger and not weaker without these firms and we certainly should be cleaner. Finally, as regards the American inquiry it has certainly brought out interesting details but it has not got at anything that we did not know already about the existence of this arms traffic, its corrupting influence in the Press and in business circles and we should like to see our own country, as in the days of the abolition of slavery, leading the world to put it down.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The Government were very glad, notwithstanding the necessarily crowded state of business at the end of the Session, to find time for this Debate. The subject is a most important one. It is widely believed to be closely associated with the most important thing in the world and that is world peace; and it is a subject which is occupying and disturbing the hearts and consciences of many people of deep sincerity and conviction. Moreover, it is a subject which is particularly suited to examination by Parliamentary Debate because here the considerations can be presented from more than one point of view. Outside this House this question has very often been treated, indeed I do not go too far when I say that it has been exploited, as though it were quite a simple issue in which a conclusion can be reached almost automatically by anyone who is neither a 1305 fool nor a knave without examination of difficulties which are scouted as imaginary or far-fetched.
There is one further feature about this subject which makes it, I think, most suitable for Parliamentary examination. This is an issue which offers a special and peculiar temptation to confuse the denunciation of certain evils, which I join in denouncing just as much as anybody else, with the claim that you have found a complete cure for those evils. I must add and it will be my business in the course of what I say to endeavour to prove that it is moreover a question which recently has been made the subject outside this House of flagrant misrepresentation against the Government. I was very glad to hear the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) just now say, and say with truth, that this issue, important as it is, cannot possibly be regarded as though it were the major or the main cause of war. That is what one would expect from the hon. Gentleman. At the same time, some of us have good reason to know from our correspondence and other information that there is an active campaign going on, in which immense numbers of perfectly honourable, devoted, sincere people are being industriously persuaded that the issue which is raised in this Debate is really the thing into which they have to throw the whole of their devotion because thereby they are going to deliver the world from war and the evils of the present regime.
Before we examine this thing in any more detail, we must be clear as to the basis upon which we are proceeding, and I would ask the House to see if we cannot agree that there are two things which it is essential to assume for the purposes of this discussion. The first is this. We are proceeding, are we not, on the basis that this country must be provided with some defence, defence expressed in the form of the possession and the supply of munitions of war? If that be not the assumption, then the whole Debate is meaningless because, of course, if you take the view which is taken by some people and which I think even the hon. Gentleman opposite in one passage indicated that he would like to have regarded as his view, then it is not a, question of prohibiting the private manufacture of arms. It is equally a case of prohibiting the public manufacture of 1306 arms. I listened with great attention to the analogies which the hon. Gentleman gave. He pointed out that there were cases and indeed that there are cases in which the moral law requires resolute action by a self-respecting State without fear of consequences. One of them, I thing, was the white slave traffic. Let me ask the hon. Gentleman: is it his view that State brothels are right but private brothels are wrong?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The point which I made, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman had followed me, was this, that profit should not be made out of the selling of the bodies of women whether it was done either way. I never suggested that any profit should be made out of arms. I say, take the profit-making out of arms, however the arms are made.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite will find that I am at least as straightforward as they are. The illustration unfortunately cannot be saved by that correction. If it were a good correction, then the conclusion would be that it would be proper to provide for the lusts of men, as long as you did not make a profit out of it.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
Then does the right hon. Gentleman say that marriage should be abolished because it is one of the recognised ways in which men—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
§ Sir J. SIMON
I leave that as it is. I will take another one of the hon. Gentleman's analogies dealing with a subject which I have had some reason to study with attention and the deepest sympathy. The hon. Gentleman referred to the abolition of the slave trade. Why, Sir, the proposal which was carried, to the glory of this House, 127 years ago, that we should make indulgence in the slave trade a criminal offence and a felony was directed towards abolishing the slave trade altogether. It was not directed towards securing that there should be a State monopoly in the slave trade. It is true that the act of this Parliament at that time set an example. Yes, but it set an example because the Navy of Britain was in a position to see to it that if the slave trade was really put down and abolished in this country 1307 it would surely be repressed in the course of years elsewhere. I say, then, without fear of contradiction, that we have to proceed upon the basis that there are going to be arms possessed by the State and held for the defence of the State and the question is not whether we should have arms but how they are to be provided.
There is a second assumption which must be made for the purposes of this Debate, and it is this. We are not to-day discussing whether the amount of armaments which this country needs is great or small, is sufficient, is too much or too little. We are proceeding upon this assumption that for the purposes of to-day the country has to be provided adequately with armed forces in order that it may be in a position by those means to defend itself in case that emergency arises. I read the other day with great pleasure a statement made by Mr. Clynes, I think at the Labour Conference two months ago at Southport, when, after calling attention to the war-like preparations which are taking place throughout the world and appealing to his audience there to remember that we must live in the world as it is, he went on to say:Is there a man here who will rise and say that the moment has now arrived when we ought to cease the manufacture of these implements of war? If so, he knows that he would not speak as a representative voice.The question which we have to consider here is the question which indeed is the only concrete proposal in this Motion, namely, whether we should prohibit forthwith in this country, whatever other people do, all private manufacture of and trade in armaments by British nationals and make provision for the production by the State of such armaments and munitions of war as are considered necessary. I must say though I followed closely the speech of the hon. Gentleman it did not appear to me that nine-tenths of his speech were addressed to that issue at all. In order that we may form a judgment we must first pass briefly in review what our existing system is, and, if the House will allow me, I will occupy two or three minutes in endeavouring to summarise it. I am not for the moment arguing whether it is right or wrong. I only ask you to see what it is. Our existing system is one which combines a 1308 nucleus of State production of necessary armaments with a supplementary supply from so called armament firms and private shipyards though in fact, these armament firms and private shipyards are for the most part engaged in peace time in the production of things that are not munitions of war at all.
That is our present position. A nucleus of State factories is useful, not only for the weapons that they themselves produce, but as a check on the prices and qualities of those produced by private companies. So much for the State factory. The private armament firm, on the other hand, has its skilled staff, its organisation, its machinery—some of it extremely heavy and important machinery—with which it is producing a certain quantity on the armaments side of its business. That side of its business could not in fact be maintained without foreign orders. Now if we are plunged into the calamity of war—and, after all, that is the assumption upon which this Debate is based, that we might be plunged into such a calamity some day—then these armament firms and these private shipyards, owing to their previous organisation and their acquired aptitudes, are able to switch over rapidly from their level of peace production to their maximum of war production. That is the essence of this arrangement, and only by that means is it possible, having regard to the limited output of our State factories, to bridge the gap, which would widen at a, terrific rate if war again were to visit the world, between peace precautions and war demands. But even so the strain which modern war puts upon the productive powers of a nation is stupendous, and supplementary efforts on the vastest scale have to be provided. I ask particularly the attention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) to the fact that, but for the suddenly increased contribution of private armament firms and private shipyards when these devote themselves entirely to armament production, it would be quite impossible to meet. the sudden demands on the nation.
What is it which this Motion proposes? By Act of Parliament there are to be no armament firms, there are to be no shipyards accustomed to build ships of war. The Tyne, the Clyde, the Mersey are to get no employment from this source. I see opposite the hon. Member for 1309 Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood). We have all felt much satisfaction and rejoiced with him at the laying down and launching of the "Queen Mary," but perhaps he will excuse me for saying that under this system you must not expect a "Queen Mary" every year. We are to rely then upon the dockyard plant.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The Noble Lady opposite, though she may not be in favour of State monopoly, undoubtedly holds the view that the place she represents is better entitled to be considered than anywhere else. If we start a State monopoly in the building of ships of war and the provision of armaments, there will not be one Member who thinks that, but the whole place will be filled with them. It is evident, therefore, that there would have to be, on this assumption, more dockyard towns.
§ Sir J. SIMON
We had better confine ourselves to the proposal of the Opposition, which is that we should do this in this country, whatever other people do. It would be for the State to keep and to train a sufficient staff, in every grade, from the designer to the "black squad," to take up, in the ultimate event of war, which we are all trying to prevent, the immensely increased burden which war throws on such production. I would ask the attention of hon. Members opposite to this, that whatever else it does, it will most certainly mean that in time of peace—let us hope in generations of peace—this heavy burden must be cast on the revenues of this country, when the present system avoids it. It is this need for sudden, almost unlimited expansion which makes the conception of a Government monopoly difficult to apply, but I would ask the House to be good enough to let me put an illustration.
I do not see my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General in his place—perhaps he is enlarging the telephone service—but we have a monopoly in the case of the Post Office. A State monopoly operates best and most efficiently if it is engaged in providing a service, preferably a comparatively simple service, as to which the demand is fairly regular. If the need for 1310 the sorting and delivery of letters might change with the European situation till suddenly it became of vital importance to multiply it 10 or 20 times, then a State monopoly for sorting and delivering letters could not work. The very reason why it works is because the service is one which is within reasonably constant limits, and consequently you are able to form an organisation and a staff which can be employed throughout the years. It is quite true that there are occasions when there is an extra pressure on the Post Office, such as Christmas, and it is true that that has to be provided for. How is it provided for? By bringing in the services of men who are not on the established staff, and if it were the case that these things did not happen at fixed intervals, and instead of Christmas coming once a year—if it only came at irregular intervals and you hoped to heaven it would not come at all—it is obvious that the argument from an efficient State organisation would fail.
I am going to appeal to my right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon on this subject. I read—and I hope it is the case—that he may be taking part in this Debate before it closes. No one has described the intenseness of the pressure for increased armament production, when a country like ours is unhappily involved in war, so vividly as it is described in the second volume of an unending series of works which are now being produced by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and in that second volume, which deals with the history of munitions in the War, my right. hon. Friend pays a most handsome tribute to the right hon. Member for Swindon, for it was not in that connection that his former chief was so unkind as to observe that:in my judgment and that of all my colleagues be was making an utter mess of it. I had to dismiss him because he was incompetent.The right hon. Gentleman received, and no doubt deservedly received, a very high encomium there, but the story of the Munitions Department, as told in that book, does not give much encouragement to those who would put all their trust in a State Department to provide what is wanted to fight the enemy. I forbear to quote the lurid language of the right hon. Gentleman on that subject; I will only say that his sentiments of disgust 1311 at the difficulty of getting the State services to expand are expressed in language more extreme and more vehement than the comments which he makes on almost everybody else, alive or dead, who had any active part in the conduct of the War. No doubt it can be said that the Munitions Department—the right hon. Gentleman opposite was there—achieved an astounding task in supplementing the efforts of State Departments by bringing into play the immense field of private enterprise, but is the right hon. Gentleman, when he speaks to-night, really going to tell us that he would have accomplished his task with equal or greater ease if, before the War, and it might be for a long period before the War, all private armament firms in this country had been shut up by Act of Parliament, if no ships of war had been built perhaps for a generation in any private dockyard, and military aeroplanes were as exclusively a Government product as, shall I say, postage stamps or the coinage?
Whatever might be the lesson which ought to be drawn from that tremendous, organised, and successful effort in the Great War, it certainly cannot be that we can put our trust in State factories and wait until we are in war before anybody else is called upon, and consequently that we lose the staff, the organisation and the experience which may very well be the only salvation of the country? If it be said—and that perhaps will be the right hon. Gentleman's answer—"Oh, well, though this is a very good thing to do in time of peace, of course we would not do it in time of war," what a moment to choose for so tremendous a transformation. If it is going to be done at all, at least let us show some measure of prevision on a matter of such enormous importance.
But there is a further point. I acknowledge, of course, that the hon. Gentleman opposite, though he urges that we should set an example, would like other people to do the same. But observe that, if that be so, you are not only providing that there will be no such supplementary supply from our own armament firms, but that we shall be quite unable to get any purchases from foreign sources. One State cannot provide State armaments from its own arsenal, when it is at peace, to another State which is at war without 1312 involving itself in the war, and that is a consideration which I cannot think has been sufficiently regarded.
One thing more. States which have no internal production of arms would not only be obliged to set up their own factories, which they do not do now, but they would have to accumulate great stocks in order that under the new system they might be in a position in which they felt more secure against their neighbours. I have not attempted to put this argument with any idea of dealing with it exhaustively. My object has been to show the House that most serious considerations have to be weighed before this matter can be glibly decided. May I point out that it is not a new question at all. Under Article 8 of the Covenant there was set up in Geneva a commission which examined this question. I have a report of the commission here; it is a public document. May I ask the attention of the House to the way in which the report was made? It is a report of the committee which was appointed for the very purpose of examining the proposal to abolish the private manufacture of arms and for countries to confine themselves to State production. Will the House kindly observe these points? The committee did not reach any conclusions in favour of the abolition of the private manufacture of arms. It did not, so far as I know, collect evidence on the subject. It set out a series of considerations which, as it truly said, were very strongly urged against the system, of private manufacture. Some of them have been put very effectively by the hon. Gentleman to-day. Then the committee goes on to say that it is unable to reach a conclusion. I will read the words:It cannot at the present stage of its deliberations either recommend tile abolition of private manufacture or advise upon the particular steps to be taken to control it should it be decided that on the balance of advantage private manufacture must be allowed to continue. The Sub-Committee must content itself for the present with indicating some of the difficulties which confront the total abolition of private manufacture and some of the problems which will have to he faced before a complete code of regulations can be recommended. Accordingly, the following observations are offered with reference to the two courses of prohibition and regulation.Then there follow over the next page a series of eight reasons which are stated, not as conclusions of the Committee, but 1313 as considerations of the greatest weight, which no man taking the subject seriously could possibly fail to measure and deal with before he decided. The date of the document is 1921. The first reason has to do with the language of the Covenant; I will say a word about that in a moment. The second reason is that a recommendation that private manufacture be abolished would doubtless be objectionable to States which do not produce all the munitions that they need. Such States would probably feel that it would be more difficult to get the necessary supplies from foreign governments than from foreign firms.
The next reason is this:As international law stands to-day the supply of munitions or implements of war by a neutral government to a belligerent government would constitute a violation of neutrality. In time of war, therefore, a belligerent would have to depend upon its own production and upon what it could get from its Allies. This might mean that all governments would feel themselves called upon to prepare for the eventualities of war by storing up large stocks of munitions and by equipping themselves with large munition funds.The next point is:The abolition of private manufacture might result in the establishment of many new armaments plants by the governments of non-producing States. Such governments could, of course, undertake to manufacture munitions to meet their own needs, there being no restriction on the export of iron and coal.The next point is:Governments might—in some countries—find it more difficult than private firms to reduce their armament establishments on the cessation of war owing to the Parliamentary pressure exerted by the representatives of labour engaged in the production of armaments.The next point is:Few industrial enterprises work exclusively for the manufacture of war material. For the most part the great armament firms are establishments of a composite nature whose activity in normal times is chiefly directed to peace industries.The last point deals with the difficulty of defining war industries. I should like to know—perhaps the right hon. Member for Swindon will tell us—what under the plan which hon. Members are proposing they are going to do with the production of military aeroplanes? Are they going to have a State monopoly in respect of the military aeroplanes of our Air Force? I find it impossible to conceive of any 1314 plan, unless indeed it is the Socialist plan to nationalise not merely the provision for war but a very much wider range of industries. That is the character of the report which was made after this subject was examined at Geneva, and it is enough for me to say that, with the knowledge of that report before us, no honest man can possibly think it wise or right for the public to be invited to reach a conclusion without having both sides stated. I have here a green pamphlet which some hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well, the authorship of which is concealed under the convenient phrase, "The Union of Democratic Control."
§ Sir J. SIMON
The Union of Democratic Control may, for all I know, have served a very useful purpose in the past, but that does not excuse the grossest misrepresentation. I should be greatly surprised if I am contradicted when I say that hundreds of copies of this book have been sent across to America. My correspondence shows that it has reached the hands of hundreds of decent people who only want to do the right thing, and that every one of them has been grossly misled by this production. I am going to call attention to the very sentence with which the document begins. It refers to the very report of the League of Nations Committee which I have been quoting, and the House will remember that that committee reached no conclusion and set out at length eight serious considerations against State monopoly and the abolition of private enterprise.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Yes, 1921. The pamphlet begins in this way:In 1921 a League of Nations Commission which had been appointed to inquire into the problem of the private manufacture of arms came to the following conclusions.The first point is that it came to no conclusions. It then sets out, as being the conclusions, the six points which were impartially recorded in the Commission's report as being the main arguments used in favour of the abolition of private manufacture. It then goes on to say: 1315These are definite charges, and it is a pity that the evidence on which they were based has not been published.The whole thing is, of course, a complete misconception. They were not charges, but they were contentions that were set out on one side. Will the House believe that, having done that, the authors of the pamphlet deliberately suppress everything else that is to be found in the report of the Commission—the statement of this impartial Commission at Geneva which, for the reasons it gives, was unable to recommend the abolition of the private manufacture of arms—and they suppress the smallest reference to any one of those eight considerations which follow on the next page in the report. If anything could make that more disgraceful, it is the preface of this precious document, which actually has the impudence to assert on the page opposite to this falsehood:Where the facts have been already published, they have been carefully checked before being repeated, and the source of every important statement and fact is indicated either in the text or in the footnotes.I do really think, and I think the House will agree, that it is perfectly outrageous that an issue should be presented in such a form by those who are endeavouring at all costs to further a particular policy. I am bound to say that, although differences of opinion may be held about it, I do think the risks of misunderstandings or misapprehensions involved are very great.
In the ballot that is now being organised by a body—I do not say it is the League of Nations Union, but it is carried on from the same address—the risks of misunderstanding in that matter are extreme. They propound a question which they hope every householder will consider—Should the manufacture and sale of arms for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?It is a very proper question, but it is not a question on which, without reasonable information of the arguments on either side, the verdict of the uninstructed person should be invited. What is the method followed by the National Declaration Committee to get an answer to their questions? They sent round notes with the five questions on the ballot paper, and when I come to their 1316 notes on this question 4 there is not a word which suggests that anybody has ever considered these difficulties to be serious. It carefully abstains from mentioning what the difficulties are. It is obvious that that is done for the purpose of getting, by hook or by crook, a particular answer to that question. Some members of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union felt so strongly about this that after that had been done they proposed, I do not know with what success, that at least something else should be said and circulated, and this is the comment that they suggested should be added:This is an exceptionally complex subject, the difficulties of which are obscured in the question. No explanation is offered of how the object is to be obtained. The alternative of control of the international trade in arms is not even mentioned. The question is framed to secure a particular answer, not to invite a reasoned verdict. In our opinion this is emphatically a question which ought not to have been put without mentioning the various issues which arise out of it. We mention only one or two of those considerations. The absence from this question of any definition of the armaments concerned; the immense extension of national arsenals which would at once become necessary, and the increase to taxation this would involve; the impossible position in which small nations without armament factories would be placed, and their consequent, dependence on the foreign governments upon which they would have to rely for their means of defence.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask whether that leaflet has been published and circulated by the committee which is conducting the ballot and of which Lord Cecil is chief?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
As I was one of the members of the executive committee of the League of Nations Union alluded to in the preamble to that pamphlet, I would like to say that the undertaking given by the National Declaration Committee was that wherever they circulated their Green Paper they would circulate this document, which is printed in Blue Paper. I am informed that sooner than circulate the Blue Paper a large number of their branch organisations are circulating no reasons at all.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
When the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) wished to assist my hon. Friend, the Speaker ruled that he should conduct his own speech. The right hon. Gentleman knows nothing about that, 1317 else he never would have read it, because it was agreed that it should not be circulated, and this is an excellent opportunity of getting it circulated in a sort of roundabout manner.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The right hon. Gentleman himself says that neither the one leaflet nor the other is being circulated.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I rather gather that my right hon. Friend may have an opportunity of speaking, and I do not wish to pursue that point further, except to say that I am sure we shall all agree that if this question is to be fairly and impartially examined the main considerations on both sides should be put forward. I say so because I have here two copies of the official paper of the League of Nations Union, called "Headway." A great many of us in this House belong to the League of Nations Union. We are asked, very often, to take part in League of Nations Union meetings, and, speaking for myself, I gladly do so when I can. I acknowledge most fully the enormously valuable work which that union has done in popularising the idea of the League of Nations, but I must say, if we really are agreed when we say that both sides should be put, that the articles which have appeared in the official journal of the non-party League of Nations Union are extremely surprising. I have here a leader, published in September, 1934, and headed, "Common sense is enough," the object of which is to ridicule the idea that anybody should honestly desire to put any of these objections and difficulties to the voter, and it proceeds to say that these matters are candidly explained in supplementary literature. More than that, in the November issue of "Headway" I find an article on "Democracy and the Declaration"—in this non-political, nonparty organ of the League of Nations Union—and I read in it the statement:If 20,000,000 people in this country were to answer the questions in the affirmative, they would give an overwhelming mandate to all future British Governments to pursue a policy by which peace can be secured.The hon. Member opposite admitted just now that important 'as this issue was it 1318 really was not a fundamental issue. The article in this paper—this non-party, nonpartisan official organ of the League of Nations Union—goes on to say:The Labour party has always stood in national and international affairs for democracy, brotherhood and co-operation.We are all for co-operation provided that we do really agree in our desire for peace that we should form a right judgment after a fair consideration of the arguments on the other side.
Speaking for my part and for the Government, I say that as a matter of fact we have less reason than any country in the world to be reproached as though in this matter we had failed to do our best. We are convinced, as a matter of fact, that the practical way to deal with this matter is not by national legislation, which seeks to abolish private manufacture, but by regulation and control, which ought to be in accordance with an international treaty negotiated at Geneva and signed and observed by all the States participating. Article 8 of the Covenant does not say that the private manufacture of armaments should be ended. This Motion seems almost to suggest that it does. It does not do anything of the kind, but says that private manufacture of arms is felt to be open to grave objection, and goes on to say that therefore the burden falls upon the Council of the League to devise measures by which these shortcomings may be stopped—a quite ridiculous assertion if you are going to abolish the private manufacture of armaments. It finishes by pointing out one of the special difficulties, namely, the undoubted difficulty of the small nations which have not got armament factories, and whose course of life would be entirely changed if something of that sort were done.
Before I sit down I wish to state quite categorically what steps we do take in this country in the matter of control. We have the most complete and stringent system of controlling export of any country in the world. No consignment of armaments can leave this country without a licence to export. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend cast doubts on that. Anyone who has experience of it will know that the service which is discharged at our ports by our Customs officials is incorrupt, that the organisation is adequate, and that there is no possibility 1319 whatever of arms being exported from this country without a licence.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman must not suggest that I said anything of that sort. What I said was that it was perfectly possible to export from one country to another country and so to another country and eventually to get to the belligerents. I said nothing about the ports.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I will deal with that point, which is equally wrong. In the first place the British exporter has to establish to the satisfaction of the appropriate department the real destination of his goods. Again, we give no licence except for export to Governments, a thing which is worth noting. In the next place, we refuse the benefit of our export credits system to the export of munitions of war, and, so far as I know, we are the only country in the world which does so. Further, we never subsidise a private firm to produce arms—never. If I may refer to the service of the Foreign Office and make a perfectly simple statement about it, we never allow our diplomatic or consular representatives abroad to act as travellers or canvassers for armament firms—never. Our diplomatic help is given only when a foreign State has announced its intentions to purchase from abroad. Then our service naturally does its best to secure that the British firms should get a proper opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If I may offer a little illustration of this, outside the formal terms of a Foreign Office statement, the other day, when playing golf, I happened to be in the company of a very distinguished man, whose name would be known to everybody here, who has been one of our diplomatic representatives, mostly in South America, for 20 years. I said to him within the intimacy of friendship, and with a most certain assurance of his character, that I wanted to know not what the regulations were, but what the facts were with reference to this branch of our diplomatic service. He replied that in the whole of his 20 years' experience as secretary, counsellor, minister and ambassador, he had never known a single case in which any member of our diplomatic service had ever acted otherwise. I say that with some pride, knowing that in South America anyone who wants to assure you 1320 that he is really speaking the truth tells you that he assures you of a fact on the word of an Englishman. I accept that declaration, and I think we are entitled to use this opportunity to show that, as a matter of fact, our own regulations are far stricter than those of other countries.
What can be done in this connection at Geneva? The idea that we are really going to do any good by setting an example by unilateral action on the part of this country is really an absurdity. Let the House remember what happened when this country did attempt unilateral action in respect of the export of arms to the Far East. I came down here and I did my very best for it. I was not welcomed by some critics who seemed to think it was quite right for private manufacturers to export arms to China but quite wrong to export them to Japan. But though we set that example nobody in the whole world was prepared to follow it. The hon. Gentleman has referred to Bolivia and Paraguay. It is this Government which took the initiative about an embargo in the case of Bolivia and Paraguay, and what was the difficulty? It was not that our regulations were not sufficient, but that other people's regulations were not. The hon. Gentleman referred, quite rightly, to the fact that there were difficulties on this subject in the United States. That is because, we are informed, the United States Government have not complete control of exports at the ports, on account of the terms of their constitution, and we had the greatest difficulty in getting satisfactory arrangements to restrain the sending of American munitions to Bolivia and Paraguay. But it has been done as the result of a very strenuous and continuous effort, and we are able to say, as I told the House the other day, that 28 countries, at our instigation originally, have now announced that they have taken the necessary steps to prevent the supply of arms to Bolivia and Paraguay—and all those are exporting countries. If those steps are taken, as they are being taken in this country, then we shall be able to see what everybody desires, the starving out of the belligerents in that miserable war.
The view that we take of a Motion of this sort is that it is really of no value for calling attention to the very grave considerations that are associated with this problem. I think the whole 1321 House will agree that it does not carry the solution of the problem very much farther. A problem of this moment cannot be solved by some easy, confident formula which says that there shall be no private manufacture of arms in this country. God knows I feel the horrible nature of the consequences which we are trying to restrain and prevent, but I feel also that a great disservice has been done to the decent citizen who is deeply moved and desires to reach a fair conclusion, by the attempt to exploit those feelings and that passionate desire for peace by pretending—and it is only a pretence—that the question is a perfectly simple one. Every artifice, not only of emphasis, but of suppression, has been used in order to pronounce a view upon imperfect and distorted information. His Majesty's Government, like previous Governments, are not able to agree with the view that the remedy for this situation lies in State monopoly. Neither national security nor the overwhelming needs of peace can be served by this method. The true method is by international agreement. We have done, and are doing, our best most energetically to promote such international agreement and strict regulation and control by every State in which arms are manufactured and exported. It is certainly right to call attention to these evils so that as far as possible they may be avoided, and so that an effective embargo by collective action may be put into operation when we have a case such as that with which we have been dealing in regard to Bolivia and Paraguay.
I have made a perfectly plain and simple statement of the situation and if anybody can sugest ways of improving it we are very ready to listen. If there are well-thought-out proposals for a modification of the system which will help to remove more objections than they raise we will welcome the co-operation of others for that purpose. It is noticeable that the Resolution moved by the Opposition does not ask for an inquiry. Hon. Gentlemen opposite no doubt considered that matter very carefully and decided that it would be wiser not to do so. An inquiry would necessarily mean bringing out the overwhelming difficulties, which I am doing nothing whatever to build up but which are there, and which would, therefore, obstruct the course which they wish to recommend.
1322 Something has been said by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) as to specific cases. He referred to a matter raised recently and upon which a statement was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty. I think the House will agree that the First Lord dealt with that matter in the manner in which the House would wish it to be dealt with; he gave a perfectly plain statement of what happened. He told the House how the misapprehension had arisen and added that anybody who wanted a further investigation on that point was welcome to have it. There has not been a murmer in response to that invitation. The hon. Member for Limehouse referred in his speech to the inquiry which has recently taken place in America. I should be the very last person to fail to recognise the importance of those investigations in another great and friendly country, and I speak with due respect, but I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say that some of the methods of arriving at conclusions adopted in that inquiry are not such as commend themselves to our English practice. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), as he said, for the purpose of clearing up the point, referred the other day to the perfectly preposterous story that a British minister or ambassador in a South American capital had actually been corruptly guilty of getting the police force of that country to come here in some connection with armament manufacture. The House will remember my answer, and I do not think anybody will doubt the accuracy of what I said.
I will take one other instance. I do not suppose that the House realises that so wide was the range of that senatorial inquiry and so slender was the basis of some of its information, that this happened: A telegram was produced which had been sent by the unsuccessful agent of an American armaments firm to his principals in which he excused himself and explained his failure to secure an order for arms from the Polish Government. This telegram was produced and read. The telegram proceeded to assert that no less a person than His Majesty the King had sent for the Polish Ambassador to this country, M. Skirmunt, and had pressed upon him the importance of purchasing whatever it was that the Polish Government wanted from an English firm. Of course this is perfectly 1323 and entirely grotesque. I noticed with interest that the hon. Member was making constant use of his convenient synopsis of this American inquiry published by the Union of Democratic Control. When I turn to the passage which ought to give this surprising piece of information I find that, from a scruple which we all respect, what is said is: "He intimated that it fell through because of the intervention on the part of Vickers by a highly placed British Government personage." I take leave to say that His Majesty is not a Government personage at all. He is the Sovereign of this country who has the loyalty and respect of all of us without any distinction of party. We know him to be perfectly incapable of having any connection with this silly story.
I wonder whether the story is not told in this interesting yellow pamphlet because it would obviously show the dangers of a fishing inquiry.
If we desire to examine this serious problem, not by a fishing inquiry dealing with every rumour and detail that can be found about the conduct of a trade which is not confined to this country, but by an inquiry which really studied the proposal of State monopoly from the point of view of national security and the like, the Government would have no reason to have any difficulties about it. This Debate is not going to make very much difference to those difficulties—and the subject is horribly difficult. It really rests upon my conscience that we should not fail to do what we can here, but I do not believe that after the Debate today it will be found that the solution proposed would be a justifiable course. I do not believe that the tremendous moral and human issues that, lie behind this subject are to be determined by a Debate however important on what I may call the mechanics of munition production. It is underlying fear, suspicion and Animosity which are the potent influences that make or mar the prospect of peace. What is so deplorable is that the agitation that has been worked up on this subject outside is manifestly designed to exploit the universal passion for peace to serve a merely partisan purpose.
It suggests that the difficulties with which we are struggling—the Lord Privy Seal and myself, Heaven knows! have 1324 struggled with them continuously and honestly—and the obstacles to better understanding which we are striving, not always unsuccessfully, to remove, are the creation of Government policy or a proof of Government indifference. If we here on this bench were not throwing our utmost energy into the cause of peace we should not merely be foolish and ignorant beyond belief, but we should be stark, staring lunatics. It was the Lord President of the Council who said that another great war would be the end of our civilisation. There is hardly a home in our land which next Sunday will not mourn its dead. I sit in a MOM in the Foreign Office, and the window that faces me looking out on to the Square is the window where Sir Edward Grey stood on 3rd August, 1914, and as the night fell he said to an intimate friend: "The lights are going out all over Europe; they will never be lit again in my lifetime." It is intolerable that with these responsibilities pressing upon every honest man in, the land this Debate should be conducted with the obvious purpose of snatching a particular conclusion in order hereafter to belabour the Government. I will ask hon. Members who may not feel that my observation is a just one to turn back and look at what I think is, upon the whole, the most moving single sentence in modern English literature. This is how the chapter in "Vanity Fair," in which Thackeray has been describing the battle of Waterloo, ends:No more firing was heard at Brussels. The pursuit rolled miles away. Darkness came down on the field and city: and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart.Do us the justice to know that we, too, are inspired by this common feeling, that we know better than any the enormous intensity of the horror which would come if this were repeated. I ask that, as a result of this Debate, we should receive, not the condemnation, but the encouragement of the House, and we shall go on with our duty as well as we can.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have met here this afternoon to discuss a question which is occupying and disturbing the heart and conscience of a great many people of deep conviction and 1325 sincerity; and yet I find in the course of his speech, in which he appealed to us and appealed to his fellow-countrymen to believe in his own sincerity, hardly any acknowledgment of the sincerity of those who differ from him. He condemned those who use every artifice to stir up an agitation of which he disapproves, and yet for an hour and ten minutes he has been using every dialectical artifice, dragging in the housing record of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison), ransacking obscure pamphlets, creating every prejudice against those who are working honestly, even though they may riot agree with him, for the cause of peace. These people who, he says, are disturbed in their heart and conscience—are their fears and their apprehensions going to be allayed by his attacks upon the League of Nations Union, which, rightly or wrongly, they regard as a sincere body of men working for peace?
The right hon. Gentleman, in using his dialectical artifices, quoted from a particular article in "Headway." My recollection may be at fault, but I suggest to him that it was one of a series of three articles. The House will remember that he made great play with the fact that the author of this article said that the Labour party had always been for international co-operation and peace, and he suggested that this was a most unfair partisan statement in a professedly non-partisan newspaper. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman—I may be wrong, if I am I hope he will correct me—that that article was one of a series of three articles, one of them written by a Conservative, Lord Cecil; one by a Liberal, Professor Gilbert Murray; and the third, from which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, by a member of the Labour party, Professor Noel Baker. I think the House will agree that in those circumstances Professor Noel Baker was amply entitled to make the claim he did for the party to which he belongs. The right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me, has spent the greater part of his speech, not in dealing with the things which are working on the consciences and the hearts of his fellow-countrymen, but has been using the time of the House, as he is entitled to do, to attack a particular proposal which has been put forward from the Opposition Front Bench to-day, and has hardly spent any part of his 1326 speech in dealing with what I believe are the real practical difficulties and the real dangers with which this country is confronted if no further measures are taken for the control and suppression of the armaments traffic, which is poisoning international relations throughout the world.
For my own part, I regret the form which the Motion of the Labour party has taken. We on these benches have put down a Motion in another form, which we think gets to closer grips with the practical difficulties of the situation with which we are now confronted, and I will give the House the reasons why I take that view. We agree whole-heartedly, and I gather that the whole House does, with one qualification which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has added, with the statement in the first part of the Motion on the Paper, quoted from the Covenant of the League of Nations, that the private manufacture of armaments is open to grave objection. There is, I think, agreement in the whole House on that point. But we think that the reference in the Labour party's Motion—its despairing, untimely, and, I think, unjustified reference—to the absence of any international agreement, and its reference to the immediate establishment of a State monopoly of armament manufacture and trade, are not grounds upon which public opinion in this country, and still less in other countries, can be rallied and focused on the urgent need of exterminating the evils of the international traffic in arms.
It is a sheer illusion to imagine that the withdrawal of Great Britain from the traffic—which I imagine to be the object of hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches—would kill it. On the contrary, it would enhance its value to the other arms-exporting countries. Far from weakening the armament rings, the withdrawal from that traffic of this country—where, it must be frankly admitted by us all, the official control of the export of arms is more strictly exercised than in other countries—would merely strengthen the position of the armament rings, and tighten their hold over the importing nations. Until universal disarmament is secured, nations without munition plants must either incur great and wasteful expenditure in providing themselves with munition plants in their own countries— 1327 in which case the effect of the Socialist policy would be the multiplication of munition plants all over the world, each plant a nucleus of militarism—or they must buy from those nations which export. Unfortunately, other nations, with the possible but by no means certain exception of the United States of America, would be only too ready to welcome the expansion of their business which would follow from our withdrawal. There is no arms-exporting country in the world, with the possible exception of the United States of America, in which public opinion has matured to the recognition of such a gesture as noble and inspiring, and, as a matter of fact, we have made such a gesture. We have in fact attempted to ratify the Arms Convention of 1925—
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate why I used the word "attempted." I accept his correction, however, and will say that we have ratified the Arms Convention of 1925. But an insufficient number of other countries have ratified it to bring it into operation, and, therefore, it is not in operation. If other countries will not follow that very reasonable and moderate lead, how are we to hope that they will be inspired by our example to follow this greater lead? If we want to influence other nations, we must do it, not by mounting our high moral horse, but by working with them, facing up to all the practical difficulties, allying ourselves with the sane progressive forces in other nations, and throwing the weight of our influence behind all those who are working whole-heartedly for the effective control and eventual abolition of the international arms traffic.
Accordingly, we have put down on the Paper an Amendment; and I must here say that I wish that the right hon. Gentleman, particularly as he discussed in a few sentences at the end of his speech the proposal for an inquiry, had waited to hear the case; but he chose the course of speaking before the case could be expounded. We have put down an Amendment to the Labour party's Motion, in which we ask the House to record its conviction that the only way of suppressing this traffic is by inter- 1328 national action, and we demand a special commission of investigation into the international arms traffic. These, as I hope to show the House, are not two disconnected proposals, but two integral parts of one policy. The main difference between our Amendment and the Labour party's Motion is that, whereas they regret the absence of international agreement, we ask the House to strive for it and adopt a policy calculated to achieve it. We refuse to regard international agreement on this matter as merely an idle dream; we regard it as the indispensable and the attainable condition of a practical solution of the problem. I say "attainable" because already there is substantial progress to record, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman had told us a little more about it. That, I think, would have done something to allay those misgivings which he observes are expressed by his countrymen, by men and women in whose judgment he has confidence and whom he respects. Why did he not tell us a little more about it? He tells us nothing about the work he has been doing. He puts his hand figuratively on his heart and tells us he is sincere and is working conscientiously. We do not doubt it. I have never thrown any doubts upon that, and I do not like to be numbered among the people keen on these questions who are supposed to rate the sincerity and intelligence of the right hon. Gentleman low. We rate them high. But he has not told us what he is doing; he has not told us what he intends to do about the very important work which is being carried out by the Trade in Arms Subcommittee of the Disarmament Conference. Let us consider what has been done.
It is curious that it should fall to me to make this statement; I should have thought that it would have come very much better from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on whom the responsibility for all these things rests: but, as he has not made the statement, perhaps the House will be indulgent to me and will listen to me on the achievements of this Sub-committee of the Disarmament Conference. A report has been. made to the President of the Disarmament Conference, and circulated by him to all the Governments represented at the Conference—a report by the Subcommittee on Trade in Arms, on which 1329 20 countries were represented, including many arms - exporting countries—the United Kingdom, Czechoslovakia, France and Japan, Poland and Russia—which are not arms-exporting countries—and the United States of America. The report contains recommendations for the assumption by every State of the final and complete responsibility for the production of and trade in arms in all the territories under its jurisdiction, and it further provides that this responsibility is to be exercised by a system of import and export licences or visas. Under this plan there would be a system of publicity which would enable every piece of armament to be observed at every moment in its life, and would also afford full knowledge of impending production. The plan would, of course, be worked by an international commission, and every nation would know exactly what its neighbour was doing in the way of armament manufacture and sale, and what it was intending to do.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Baronet give us the date, or the reference to the particular Committee?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
It is a report of the Trade in Arms sub-committee of the Disarmament Conference. It was either approved or sent to the President of the Conference on 2nd July.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
If this report was adopted, and put into force by the Governments of the world, the whole atmosphere of rumour, fear and suspicion which now poisons the relations between nations and drives them on to ruinous competition in armaments would be dissipated. Here, I suggest, is a great and hopeful policy. It is not by any means all we want, but it is a substantial advance along the right road to the suppression of the evils of this traffic, and I think it is lamentable that the Labour party should at this juncture rush off at a Socialist tangent with their demand for a unilateral nationalisation of armament manufacture and sale in this country and indulge in untimely and, I consider, unjustified regrets about the absence of international agreement. All the forces that want to suppress the evils of this traffic should throw the united weight of their influence behind the solid, and indeed I might almost say solitary, 1330 achievement of this sub-committee of the Disarmament Conference and urge the adoption of its proposals upon the Government.
I hope we shall be told whether the Government accept these proposals. If they give us that assurance, as I hope they will, we shall have to confront and overcome two practical difficulties before an effective international convention on these lines can be concluded. The first is that, in the form in which these proposals have been adopted by the Committee, they are dependent upon the successful completion of the labours of the Disarmament Conference. Indeed there can be no final solution of the problem of the arms traffic except on the basis of some measure of universal disarmament. But, reluctant as I am to make so disheartening an assumption, even for the purpose of meeting hostile argument, I feel that I must answer the question. What will you do if the conclusion of the Disarmament Convention is long delayed? My answer is that the recommendations of this sub-committee ought, if necessary, to be lifted out of the Draft Convention—they ought to be accepted by the Governments with such modifications as that operation would require—and that an ad hoc organisation should be set up by the Governments to exercise the powers which under the Committee's scheme would be entrusted to the permanent Disarmament Commission, the constitution of which is provided for in the Draft Disarmament Convention.
Now I come to the second practical difficulty, how to prevail upon the governments represented on the Disarmament Conference to accept the findings of this sub-committee. There is only one way to move them, and that is to arouse public opinion. The impact of the revelations in the United States inquiry upon public opinion in this country shows clearly that the influence of a thorough and fearless investigation stretches far beyond the bounds of the country in which it is held, and the report of such an investigation conducted in this country, with full power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the discovery of documents, would be a powerful weapon in the hands of the Government and of all supporters of the Committee's proposals here and in other countries. It is idle to say that the case against the 1331 armament manufacturers has been proved to the complete satisfaction of public opinion. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate made the interesting, eloquent and able speech which we are accustomed to expect from him, but I could not help thinking that it might perhaps have gained in persuasiveness if he had, to buttress his case, the report of a well conducted inquiry into this traffic sitting in this country instead of the passages that he quoted from the report of the United States inquiry.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That is what I am arguing for, and that is what he has refused to ask for. That is what we ought to demand and, unless we demand it, we have not the weapons by which we can move public opinion. I listened with respect and attention to his speech, but I do not believe it will move public opinion. A report by such an inquiry as I am suggesting would. It would be a powerful weapon. Many people have never read the case against the armament firms. In the mind of other people who have not closely studied it the case has been prejudiced by exaggeration and distortion and weakened by the dissemination of obviously false and grotesque stories. One of the duties of the, Commission that we propose would be thoroughly and objectively to sift the allegations made against the armament firms.
I am confident that an inquiry held in this country would give fair play to all who appeared before it. It ought not, for example, to allow a man to be cross-examined without giving him a full opportunity to put his own case, either by way of a statement or by way of re-examination by his own counsel. The weapons of the reformer should be forged from the flawless steel of truth and not a jumble of unverified rumours and suspicions. The constitution of such a Commission by the Government would be an earnest of goodwill and the work of the Commission sitting in this country would awaken public opinion here and in Europe and focus it accurately upon the problem of the arms traffic.
What should be the objectives of such an inquiry? We have made certain suggestions in our Amendment. Of 1332 course they are not intended to be comprehensive. The actual terms of reference to a special commission would obviously be a matter for careful adjustment. Let me explain what our proposals are. The first object of the inquiry would be the manufacture and trade in munitions of war, including existing methods of promoting their sale. The charge made against the armament firms is that, in order to expand their markets, they have fomented revolution and internal disorder in Germany, China, Cuba and other States, that they have stirred up strife between nation and nation and intensified international rivalry in armaments by using their sales in one country as a stimulus to make a neighbouring country buy more armaments from them, and that they have exerted their influence, in some countries through the control of newspapers and in most countries through their secret financial and industrial organisations to thwart the work of the peacemakers. Naturally they are opposed to disarmament, and they ally themselves with all the opponents of disarmament in powerful positions in every country, and bribery and moral corruption of public servants, not in this country—there is not a shred of evidence of that—but in other countries, are the means employed to promote their trade. Further there is evidence to show that British firms are actively engaged in this trade and are employing the same methods as their foreign rivals.
These are the charges. They are elaborated in books and pamphlets. Many of them have been written by public men of authority and integrity in this country and, if hon. Members have not read them, they are in the hands of thousands of their constituents and young men and women are deeply stirred. The volume of evidence is being swollen by the United States inquiry, which I may remind hon. Members is not yet completed. British firms are implicated and are mentioned by name. It would be wrong and foolish to accept the evidence given against them without giving them a chance to answer it. But public opinion is becoming impatient, and when the United States inquiry is resumed in a fortnight, public opinion will become restive and the case against the British armament firms will go by default, unless they are given a chance here in this 1333 country to answer the charges made against them. The Americans are not afraid of inquiry, and we ought not to fear one. Shed the white light of publicity upon this secret traffic and let the public have the facts.
Then let the boasted efficiency, of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke just now, of our present methods of control be investigated. The Government say we are the one country with an effective system of control over the export of armaments. But is it really completely effective? Is it really impossible for arms, and spare parts of arms, to find their way out of this country. We know that our officers cannot watch every single consignment. Is it not possible for them to find their way out? Can the Government be sure that consignments intended for one country do not, in fact, get to another? When they are making up their mind whether or not to permit a particular consignment, are there not many voices saying to them, "If we do not permit this consignment someone else will make the stuff," or, "Think of the employment it will give to our people," or, "If we do not let these people sell some of these arms, they will go out of business altogether, and we shall have one munition plant the less on which to rely in case of war."
The right hon. Gentleman says we never export except to Governments. Does that apply to aircraft and aircraft engines? With the exception of Abyssinia, I think their export is free to any part of the world. It must be very difficult to work these regulations effectively and it is, in my belief, impossible for the Government by itself to check the abuses of the arms traffic in this way. We are coming back to the necessity of international agreement. Let us, at any rate, investigate how far the present methods are successful in checking abuses.
Another subject of inquiry would be the desirability of creating a Government monopoly of armaments sales and manufacture. The right hon. Gentleman said the public ought not to reach a conclusion without hearing both sides. It is just an impartial inquiry which would bring out both sides and enable these difficulties to be frankly faced. We on these Benches are strongly in favour of prohibition of the private manufacture 1334 and sale of armaments in all countries, and we believe that is the goal at which we should aim—disarmament down to a level at which that will be a practical policy. It depends largely on the scale of international armament how far that is a practical policy, but that is the goal at which we aim and that is the policy of the League of Nations Union. There was nothing in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion to show that he had even considered the immense practical difficulties in the way of immediate—perhaps that is not a fair statement. I do not think, at any rate, that the hon. Gentleman met in his speech the real difficulties of immediate and unilateral disarmament by this country. Other methods of control should also be put to searching and critical investigation, such as the plan for an arms manufacturing board which has been elaborated with care and thoroughness by the League of Nations Union. It is too early to tie ourselves to the one panacea of nationalisation.
Lastly, the relations between the armament firms and Government Departments need to be fearlessly probed. The statement of Lord Welby has often been quoted in this House before. Here was a great public official who, as Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, had the supervision of the whole structure of our Civil Service—ramifying through all the great Departments of State, and he gave it as his opinion—We are in the midst of an organisation of crooks. They are politicians, generals, manufacturers of armaments, and journalists.This is also the aspect of the problem on which the First Lord of the Admiralty has already offered an inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman said that nobody had accepted it, or offered to accept it. As far as my friends and I are concerned, I can give him the answer. Somebody else will no doubt speak for hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. We knew that this Debate was coming off. We did not want a little inquiry into a particular incident like this. If there is to be an inquiry, let it cover the whole field, and certainly this should be an important branch of it.
The reports of the United States inquiry are full of disquieting allegations against British firms which certainly 1335 ought not to be regarded as proved until they are tested, and which certainly ought to be probed. The relations between British and foreign firms appear to be so close that not only do they divide up territory and use the sales of one firm in one country as an argument for pressing the sales of another firm in another country, but British armament manufacturers are exhibited as giving confidential information of the Admiralty's intentions to the firms in other countries with which they are in close relationship.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
It is certainly stated in the evidence taken before the United States inquiry. I have said that it is not proved.
§ Mr. HANNON
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman present to this House this evening one shred of evidence that manufacturing firms in this country have acted as is suggested
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
No! no ! I do not want to be taken up at that point. That is not the whole of what I am going to say. I have no evidence now which ought to be accepted as conclusive in 'any fair inquiry, but I have evidence which the hon. Member can read for himself in the reports of the investigation before the United States Senate which shows that these things are alleged, and those allegations are serious and ought to be the subject of a fair inquiry.
These, then, are the chief objects of the investigation which we demand. The last question with which our Amendment deals is the form of the inquiry. The vital consideration here is that the investigating body should have full powers—that is the essence of it—to compel the attendance of witnesses, to take evidence on oath and to call for the production of documents whether in private hands or in Government Departments. It should be a small body of men of experience, integrity and impartiality who would act with energy and expedition. We have considered the possibility of a Select Committee or a Royal Commission or a tribunal set, up under the Tribunal of In- 1336 quiry Act, 1921, but there are objections to all three, and we therefore ask the House to follow the precedent of the Parnell Commission of 1888 arid pass an Act to set up a special Commission.
The demand for an inquiry as fearless and as public as that which is now being held in the United States of America is growing in force and will not be fobbed off, not even if the Labour party support the Government's hush-hush policy. The grave disclosures in the United States have already stirred public opinion here and in other countries. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said, that these matters are occupying and disturbing the heart and conscience of a great many people of deep conviction and sincerity, but he says to us that they are victims of a campaign in which matters of detail are being misrepresented by ignorant propaganda. They are being exploited, he says. Well, in that case, let us have this fair, impartial, detached inquiry at which those things can be tried and tested and then there will be no fear of these people being exploited by ignorant propaganda. Now is the time not to blanket and thwart public opinion, but to enlighten it and direct it, and that is my chief criticism against the speech to which we have listened this afternoon. It was dialectical, negative criticism of the actions of people who are in favour of the reform. of the abuses of international arms traffic. That, of course, could not be bettered from the most brilliant advocate in Europe, but nowhere was there an effort to enlighten and direct public opinion on lines of useful and constructive action for the suppression of the evils of this trade, and we therefore ask the House of Commons to act now.
In conclusion, let me turn to the Amendment which is to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), an Amendment which rolls and purrs across our mental vision like a well-sprung Rolls Royce which lulls its occupants into unheeding and untimely slumber. It is not necessary to be a connoisseur of Parliamentary draftsmanship to detect the master hand. We are to recognise the importance of the steps already adopted in this country to control the arms traffic. Let me state at once to the right hon. Gentleman that it 1337 would be dishonest not to do that. We are to be confident that His Majesty's Government will continue their efforts to secure international agreement. That is not good enough for the people of this country in the disturbed mood to which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has already alluded. We cannot agree to express such confidence. What are we to vote for? No specific action at all. Where is the basis for this confidence? The right hon. Gentleman did not even think that it was worth while to tell us what the Trade in Arms Committee was doing at Geneva. It is not in the record of the Government, for on this, and other subjects they strive to express in their policy diametrically opposed opinions. There are those in the Government who hate the arms traffic, and they have succeeded in persuading them to adopt measures of control in advance of those accepted in other countries. On the other hand, there are those who feel no such hate and there are signs that they are demanding their share in influencing policy.
There is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I am sorry he is no longer in his place, because it was he, speaking as the mouthpiece of Government policy, who wound up the Debate on this subject in February of this year. The speech was brilliant, witty, eloquent, fearless and uncompromising, but it contained not one word of condemnation of the international traffic in arms and represented the activities of armament manufacturers and salesmen as being none other than patriotic and useful and from which the uninstructed observer might have supposed that no problem existed worthy of the concentrated study of the representatives of every government in the world at Geneva. Meanwhile, as the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion pointed out, there has been no leading representative of the Government working on this Trade in Arms Committee. There is a minor delegate. I have no doubt that he is a very able official, but, at any rate, we think that there should be a Member of the Government pushing on this vital work at Geneva, and that there should have been efforts by the Government to draw attention, in this Debate, obviously, but at other times, too, to the vital and important work which this Committee has been doing. In short, to give it support 1338 in influencing public opinion not only in this country but all over the world.
It has been my duty to indicate frankly to the House the grounds of my disagreement with the Motion of the Labour party, but I must make equally clear my revulsion from the complacent terms of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and from the speech which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered this afternoon. I believe that that speech and this Amendment will shock and horrify public opinion in this country, and especially the opinion of young men and women. They will never agree that the destruction of human life and the corruption of public morals which are alleged on evidence which the Government refuse to test—as far as I understand from the few words which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used on this subject in the concluding passages of his speech—by public and searching inquiry—they will never agree that they are proper sources of private profit, and that we are to stand idly by and express no opinion as to the policy which is to be pursued in order to suppress the evils of this traffic. Therefore, unless the Government grant a full, immediate and expeditious inquiry, with full powers—and the powers are the essence of our demand, and without them the inquiry would be futile, and we would be no party to it—unless they grant this investigation and assure the House of their whole-hearted acceptance of, and support for, the recommendations of the Trade in Arms Sub-Committee of the Disarmament Conference, we shall feel bound, as our Amendment, I understand, will not be called, to vote against any alteration of the Motion which can be interpreted as expressing confidence in the Government.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. MABANE
It is obvious that this Debate is one which tends to develop a considerable amount of heat, but I wonder whether that is the sort of spirit in which a Debate on this topic is best conducted. I feel that this is a subject on which the country is not looking for party points but for peace. There is one thing of which we can be perfectly certain. There is no matter with which the great mass of the people of this country are so deeply concerned as the subject 1339 of our Debate to-day. Because people are interested in peace, it does not mean that they are losing their virility. The people of this country, I am certain, are prepared to defend their liberties, freedom, and rights against any aggressor whether he comes from within or without just as vigorously now as they have ever done. Nevertheless, the people of this country are moved with a fervour which may be described as almost religious, in their desire that at all costs not only this country but all countries of the world shall he saved from the disaster of another war. That desire is not confined to any one class or party; it is universal and overwhelming. The people are anxious that we should not avoid any effort to prevent war. The people of this generation desire that when they have to face the judgment of the next. generation, that generation may at least be able to say that they did their best.
International traffic in armaments is suspect, and that suspicion is harboured not by those who owe adherence to any particular party. It is to be found where-ever we go. The operations of those who are engaged in the manufacture and sale of armaments have from time to time for many years past been the subject of startling revelations, some more, some less, authoritative. The more sensational passages from the evidence given before the United States Senate inquiry are familiar to many Members of this House and have become familiar to many people in the country. I agree with the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) that it would be improper for us to express any opinion on that evidence. It would be wrong for us to take sides or to pretend that we know the truth. Having considered the evidence given before the inquiry I do not feel prepared to say that I know the truth, but I do sincerely desire to know the truth, and I believe that it is vital in the public interests that the truth should be known.
Without in any degree wishing to be concerned with the truth or otherwise of the allegation made before the United States Senate inquiry I am perfectly satisfied that the plain man in this country is impressed by the callous attitude of many of those engaged in the armaments industry; a callous attitude which is evidenced in many of the documents 1340 put before that inquiry. It is not for us to blame those who are engaged in that industry for adopting that callous attitude. The sale and manufacture of armaments is their job. Society has forced it upon them. Doubtless in the same impersonal, objective manner the mediaeval torturer would engage in devising new and more terrible instruments of torture. Yet if society is itself threatened by the nature of the work it has entrusted to the armaments industry, it would deserve destruction unless it sought the means to remove that threat. There is no purpose in quoting at length from the evidence given before the United States inquiry. Considerable quotations have been made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and reference has been made to the evidence by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland. There was however one quotation that particularly impressed me and that was the document penned I think by Mr. F. S. Jonas of the Curtiss Wright Export Corporation of America, which ends by saying:We are certainly in a hell of a business where a fellow has to work for trouble so as to make a living. It would be a terrible state of affairs for my conscience to start bothering me now.I do not think that any question of fact is involved in that quotation. The quotation does no more than illustrate the terrifying and horrible mentality that may be developed by the best of men by connection with this particular industry. For the sake of these people who are driven to seek profit in "trouble" no less than for the sake of society itself it seems to me that there is prima facie evidence that society should make some attempt to do its best to alter a condition involving such consequences.
I must confess myself disappointed that the Government have refused, as I take it—although there was an ambiguous sentence at the end of the speech of the Foreign Secretary—to undertake any form of inquiry into this matter, and I am certain that that disappointment is shared by the overwhelming majority of the citizens of this country. It is not as if sensible people held any dogmatic views about it. Sensible men do not jump to the easy conclusion in general terms that the private manufacture of arms could be at once completely abolished. I am sure that the great majority of our people will recognise the 1341 recklessness of the Resolution brought before the House to-day by the Labour party, a recklessness which has been exposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland. I do not think that the people of this country would be prepared, save as a gesture, to support the Resolution. If I understood the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland aright, he is only prepared to support the Resolution as a gesture, and for no other reason. Although the great majority of the people of this country would not be prepared to support the Resolution, they would like an inquiry. If discreditable facts were revealed as a result of the inquiry they would prefer to face them and take action. If, however, everything was proved to be all that was desirable and nothing discreditable were revealed, the country would be the more satisfied because it would be the more reassured.
In my humble opinion the Government have fallen into a grave error of judgment in refusing to respond to this desire for an inquiry. The opportunity was not difficult to take, and the example was at hand. It is little more than a week ago that the First Lord of the Admiralty made a brave and frank statement with regard to certain allegations that were made before the United States Committee of Inquiry. He offered any sort of inquiry into those allegations. The effect was immediate. The hon. Member for Limehouse has suggested that the effect of that frank offer of an inquiry did not dispel the fears aroused by the statement that provoked the offer. I think he is wrong. The statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty had an immediate effect upon the country. It reaffirmed and reassured the confidence of the country in the integrity of the Department headed by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Had he refused an inquiry merely because he himself was satisfied that there was nothing to conceal, I am sure that the effect would have been different. Reticence would have provoked suspicion, and, instead of the confidence that we now all have, there might have been lurking fear and suspicion. The analogy is complete. Had the Government to-day proposed an inquiry they would have stifled all the accusations of their detractors. By refusing an inquiry they have added fuel to the 1342 fire of those whose first purpose is to bring about the downfall of this Government.
It is not necessary to harbour suspicion in order to demand an inquiry. I should be the last to say that the Foreign Secretary or any Member of the Government have anything to conceal. None of us imagine that the Government or any Members of the Government are subtle instruments of an armaments ramp. They are as anxious to seek peace as we are. My only complaint is the methods that they employ in their search. By employing these means they are in danger of alienating from themselves a very large body of opinion which would very willingly rally to their support rather than to the support of those who have put the Resolution before the House to-day. It is not difficult to justify that opinion. I will refer to the merits of the Resolution. It is in comprehensive terms and demands that the private manufacture of armaments shall be prohibited. These generalities are easy and they are misleading. One of the valuable results that might arise from an inquiry would be to reduce these generalities to definite terms. Those who have given careful thought to this subject have been driven to the conclusion that unless the term "armaments" is confined within a very narrow definition no sort of practical effect can be given to any proposal to prohibit the private manufacture of armaments. Any inquiry would reveal to the public mind the same sort of difficulties that have been revealed to those of us who have given our private attention to this particular problem.
Recently I have had an opportunity to justify this point of view. I made an experiment in order to discover whether I was right. In my constituency there is an organisation of young people who, being young people, are intimately concerned with this question because in the event of war they would be the first active participants in it. I should say that the members of that organisation are almost to an individual in favour of the prohibition of the private manufacture of armaments, when that proposition is stated in general terms. I thought that I would do my best to discover exactly what they meant and I said to them: "Will you please reduce the general proposition to which you agree to particular 1343 terms." I wanted them more closely to understand and appreciate their position. They are young people and, as I have said, they will be thrown into war if it breaks out. When they got down to this problem I was astonished by the remarkable result. I asked them how they would achieve the prohibition of the private manufacture of armaments. I drew their attention to the main considerations which had to be borne in mind—the question of definition, the question of the expansion of production in time of war, the problem of compensation to private firms and so on. The result was illuminating. When they brought their young and active minds to bear upon the problem they found that they would have to be content with something far smaller than they ever dreamed of when they first set out upon their general proposition. On this most important matter of the definition of armaments they surprised me by the moderation of their requests, when faced with the practical difficulties. The modesty of their demand was the measure of their sincerity. Their definition, which surprised me when they gave it to me, was that by armaments they meant small arms, projectiles and the instruments for discharging projectiles.
The people of this country are essentially practical and not theoretical, and, if an inquiry were established, it might have a very valuable effect in settling this practical point and other kindred practical points. People might discover that if you are going to have anything practical done you must limit your definition as closely as I have suggested. Then we might have an end of this propaganda, to which most of us object, and an end to purely doctrinaire resolutions such as we are considering to-day. I am not the only Member of this House who would wish to appeal to the Government to accede, even at this late hour, to some sort of inquiry in response to the request that has been voiced in this House, 4nd which is far more powerful and general in the country than many imagine, for a close and careful inquiry into the whole business of the private manufacture and sale of arms.
This is a question on which many of us feel very deeply indeed. In an earlier Debate the Lord President of the Council made an appeal to the younger genera- 1344 tion to take care that the destruction of war did not fall upon them. I am not sure whether I belong to the younger generation or whether I have passed out of it, but at any rate I belong to another generation to that to which reference was made at a luncheon outside the House last Monday week—the lost generation. Many of us in this House belong to that generation. We know that the best of our generation lies buried in untimely graves scattered all over the world, and the memory of these men, friends and comrades of ours, never leaves us. There is no need to be sentimental or priggish, but I speak my most sincere mind when I say that I have always felt that those of us who are left have a duty to those who have gone. We know what war means. That does not mean that we are afraid to face it again. There are others in this House who know earlier forms of war, men like the right hon. Gentleman for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in whose books we read of wars which were not so blind, so impersonal, so mechanical. We only know the war that is a shambles. Much of our generation is lost in body. It will also be lost in spirit unless it does its utmost to save the generation coming on from a repetition of our experience. We ask those who are older than us and who are still in control, if their professions are sincere, to make sure that not in the minutest degree shall there be any danger that once again men shall be sacrificed for money or the blood of sons be the price to be paid for the profits of the fathers.
I wish I was able to support the Government to-day. With the utmost reluctance I have to say that I am unable to support the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I am a sincere supporter of the new political ideal which the Government have in their charge, but on this topic I feel that I cannot offend my own convictions. Three proposals are put before us to-day, one by the party opposite, another by hon. Members below the Gangway and the third by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Of the three it appears to me that the one put forward by hon. Members below the Gangway is the most reasonable and should command the greatest measure of support in the country, not 1345 because we want to muckrake in order to find out unpleasant things but because we want to show that there are no unpleasant things to be found out. I appeal to the Government even at this late hour to accept if not in the precise terms, yet nevertheless in the spirit, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland. If that were done nothing would give me greater joy than to support the Government as a humble back bencher, but, if that is not done, then I must say frankly that I cannot support the Government with my vote on their Amendment to-night.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:bearing in mind that Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, while recording the view that the manufacture of munitions of war by private enterprise is open to grave objection, does not prescribe its abolition, recognises the importance of the steps already adopted in this Country to control arms traffic, and is confident that His Majesty's Government will continue their efforts to secure international agreement and common action on the whole subject.I am sure that those who have heard the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) evoke the memories of his war years would not for a moment doubt his sincerity or that he was expressing how deeply they were embedded in his memory, but I beg him not to suppose that those who oppose an inquiry, or those who certainly oppose the Motion moved by hon. Members opposite, are less moved by their sense of duty to those who ought to have been with us still but who are buried in the graveyards of France and Flanders, Mesopotamia and Palestine or under the oceans and the narrow seas. It is one of the great services which this House can render to the country that it can on the occasion of a Debate like this, on a question of the very gravest importance and at the same time of the very greatest difficulty and complexity, take the discussion out of the atmosphere of emotion partisanship and propaganda which habitually affects its discussion in the country, and without imputations of motive can discuss the matter on its merits; and that we can find men in this House who 1346 can put both sides, unlike the campaign outsid6 from which one side of view is to the utmost excluded and where those who are canvassed are asked to make up their minds without hearing anything said on the other side. That is my objection to the so called National Declaration.
I am a member of the Executive Committee of the League of Nations Union. For the last 18 months—I apologise for dealing with this personal matter—the task laid upon me as a member of the India Committee made it impossible for me to be anything but a sleeping partner in the union. I offered to resign and should have been glad to do so, because I could not do the work and did not wish to accept the responsibility. This was decided in my absence and without my knowledge. When I heard of a certain green paper which was being circulated with the ballot paper, putting the case on one side and saying nothing on the other, some of my hon. Friends and I made a protest. We made our protest to the Executive of the League of Nations Union. They were no longer in charge; it was the National Declaration Committee, on which the union is represented and on which many other bodies are represented, which was carrying on this propaganda. As a result of the representations made, it was at that time agreed by the National Declaration Committee that wherever they circulated the green paper, which contained arguments on one side, they should circulate a blue paper putting some considerations on the other side. I did not know that the National Declaration Committee had decided not to circulate either of these papers. Perhaps the leader of the Opposition has better information.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The committee with which I am associated, and which is represented on the committee, were informed that as a result of a disagreement about what should be circulated that no more copies were going out of the paper for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible and no more copies of the other declaration, and that the whole thing was to be left just to the ballot paper with the questions. I understood that neither document was to be distributed, but a large number had gone out before the disagreement came to a head. My information is that no more were to be sent out.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman and I apologise for having contradicted him earlier in the Debate. I ask the House to see the position. A paper is being circulated. The National Declaration Committee agreed that wherever that paper is being circulated a statement of the arguments on the other side should be put forward, and then without one word to the people with whom that engagement had been reached, without a word to my hon. Friends or myself, they decide not to circulate their own paper for fear of having to circulate ours. What did they do? What information has the voter to enable him to make up his mind if he does not feel that he is in possession of all the facts? There is an industrious canvasser who goes round. Do you suppose that he puts fairly the different arguments, that he calls attention to the arguments set out by the Impartial Committee of the League of Nations for and against? Not at all. I am informed that he is now supplied by the Declaration Committee with a paper in which our arguments are dealt with, in order that the canvasser shall be able to counter those arguments if by chance, and in spite of the National Declaration Committee's attempt to suppress them, they should have reached the man whose vote is being asked. I confess to a feeling of some indignation. If it were merely a personal matter I should not venture to bring it before the House, but I think it shows in what spirit and by what methods a verdict is attempted to be snatched from the country on these complicated issues, and how carefully those who have the chief responsibility are refraining themselves from putting both sides of the case and doing their best to prevent others from doing so. That is all I have to say about that.
Let me come to the question before the House. I am in a little difficulty in relating the passionate speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) to the course which at the end he decided to take. He denounced with vehemence and passion, only one degree lower in temperature than that which he applied to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the attitude and course taken by the Labour party in endeavouring to snatch a verdict for the particular nostrum favoured by that party, not merely for 1348 the traffic in arms but for other forms of production. And then he said that lie was going to vote for the Motion. All this time he was shaking a menacing finger at other Members of the House, all of whom had come here by the same means as the right hon. and gallant Member and who are just as representative as he is, telling them what the country would not stand. When an hon. Member says what the country will not stand he is in the same position as the counsel who was advised to abuse the attorney for the other side. I am not impressed when I am told by a Member of this House who has no more representative character than myself, what my constituents will or will not stand. If the right hon. Gentleman had his way, they would not stand me. If the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite had their way, again they would not stand me. They very nearly did have their way. But where is the right hon. Gentleman's party? I wish he would tell me who he considers to be the principal members of the Liberal party in my constituency. I have searched hard to find them, for I wanted to make a national platform at the last election. But they do not grow. It is an exotic article which I have to import.
But let, us leave that type of taunt and get down to realities. Of course, the right. hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his party, are in favour of the nationalisation of the production of arms. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) would have liked to begin with the banks, and produce at once that financial crisis which the blessings of Socialism will bring in its train—and I foresee a little rivalry for first place when that party comes into office. They are in favour of nationalising all the means of production, and therefore, naturally, in favour of nationalising the production of armaments. But that raises a problem. In some countries the nationalisation of production has gone very far. We need not refer to names, but there are countries which openly proclaim that their system rests, as the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would have ours to rest, on the socialisation and the nationalisation of all the means of production.
There are other countries which have a, State organisation so complete and so 1349 rigid that while private enterprise may continue they are in fact masters, to a greater or less degree, of every factory in that country, though not themselves the nominal owners. Take the case of the country which has socialised its industry. It will be a long time before the right hon. Gentleman persuades this country to do that. In the meantime every factory in that country with a socialised. industry would be 'a Government factory, which might be maintained as a reserve for war production. Where factories have not been socialised only those arsenals in the hands of the Government could be maintained in a position, or ought to be maintained in a position, to turn out munitions of war in case of emergency. That is not a possible position for us to take. All the manufacturing resources of a country following one system of national economy would be potential arsenals, or if they wished actual arsenals, while other countries which have adopted the same system are limited to a few arsenals.
More prejudice—honest prejudice—has been brought into this discussion outside and even here to-day than into most discussions. I heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) talking about profiteering. That is not the issue which we are discussing. Profiteering in war, profiteering out of the necessities of the country, is not confined to armament firms. It arises out of circumstances which disturb all the ordinary market rules and which need to be controlled by exceptional measures dealing with that exceptional situation. We had our Excess Profits Duty and other exceptional measures. Whether arms are manufactured privately or by Government monopoly, this problem will remain, and it will have to be dealt with in another way.
What is to be the position? How do the hon. Gentleman and his friends envisage the position? Assume that they have carried their Motion; immediately, the Government responsible for the safety of this country—'and after my experience at Geneva I am not one of those who think that we serve the cause of peace by rendering ourselves defenceless—any Government, must define what it thinks to be an adequate defence for this country and provide it. What number of arsenals do you contemplate 1350 creating, how many new dockyard towns do you propose to establish? And do you think that politics would be purer when Governments are the vendors of arms, and their constituents the makers of them? The hon. Member for Limehouse said he had no objection to the Government's selling arms. The Foreign Secretary has 'already pointed out that we only sell in peace-time and that if a Government sold arms even in peace-time to one party to a dispute and refused to deal at all with the other it is taking sides. If it sells to one party and not to the other in time of war, it is breaking its neutrality and taking belligerent action which would justify the country that suffers from its action in declaring war. The situation is serious enough for us, too, for we could not with our Allies have carried on the Great War as it was carried on without being able to draw on resources which were neither in our territory nor in theirs. It is death to a small country which has not those manufacturing resources and can only get its supplies from some other country.
These things are an appeal to our hearts, profiteering and the horrors of war; the difficulties are not faced; they are deliberately put on one side and you attempt to snatch a verdict. The hon. Gentlemen opposite have one little bit of the policy which they propose to apply to every method of production in the country. They believe in one particular principle which they present in this form to the country at large. This, they say, will stop war; if you want peace vote for a monopoly for Governments in the production of arms. It will no more stop war than my talking will stop war. It is part of the deplorable results of the concentration of public opinion here and elsewhere on armaments in all their shapes and forms that people are really beginning to believe that if you limit armaments you can remove the cause of war. You have causes of war which lie much deeper. These are only means to an end, more or less useful, more or less appropriate, more or less happily chosen. It is really deceiving people to represent this as if it were a case between those who are anxious to preserve peace and who loathe war and those—
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The right hon. Gentleman says that we are deceiving people. I started off by saying on behalf of my 1351 party precisely the same thing as he is saying now, that it would not stop war.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman thought that the observations which I was making were in any sense personal to him. I was referring to the method of the presentation of this question outside at present. He did a useful service in disclaiming that idea. I say that in debating this particular proposal you are running your heads against a brick wall; you are trying to go up a road which is blocked again and again. But there is another road by which you can reach your purpose, a road which is not open but which can be opened and by which there is a much better prospect of reaching your objective than there is by proceeding by the way of the suppression of the private manufacture of arms. It has been publicly stated by the delegation from the United States that the constitution of the United States makes it impossible for them to control or even to license the internal production of arms. Well what does it matter for this purpose, provided that you have secured agreement to an international limitation? It is a very big proviso. What does it matter if those arms are supplied not from the country itself but from outside if there were such a limitation? The country could only possess the arms to which it would be entitled. If there be no such limitations, I admit, different considerations arise. But surely the easiest way is not by trying to force on the American people a change in their constitution but by seeking some method which, without changing their constitution, may enable them to combine with us in controlling the trade. That is the way that the British Government have chosen. It is not to limit the production but to control the export. I believe that to be the only hopeful line of procedure.
I do not believe that within the time that any Member sitting in this House will live to see, you will get all the manufacturing countries to agree that they will make the private manufacture of arms an offence. If you direct all your energy to securing an international agreement for the control of the international traffic, you will deal with these abuses. You will not have made corrupt Ministers incorruptible; you will not have made 1352 squeeze an unknown thing in a country where squeeze is not uncommon; you will not by that abolish graft in countries where graft is commonly employed; but you will control the passage of arms from one country to another; you will know what that passage is, and by international agreement you can prevent at any time the passage of arms to people who in the light of the world are obviously preparing to break the peace and seek those arms not for defence but for aggression. I believe that to be the right way. I am not impressed with the plea for an inquiry. I do not say that I feel very strongly on the subject. The right hon. Member for Caithness suggested an inquiry like the Parnell Commission.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The composition of the tribunal was the one good thing about it. If you have to ascertain facts, not to determine the policy that you are to pursue, I would as soon take three judges of our own High Court as any tribunal in the world. But I wanted to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what he, I thought, was going to disavow—any idea that the Commission should rove over such a vast field as the Parnell Commission did. I think I was in the House at that time. At any rate I remember it all very well. That Commission was admirably composed for the ascertainment of facts. When the Piggott letters were brought before it they crumpled; the truth was brought to light at once. It was a long inquiry fishing for evidence almost. Did it carry any weight? Did it affect public opinion? Not one bit. The right hon. Gentleman was not active in politics in those days. The gentlemen with whom I acted in those days, I myself in my humble way with men of greater experience and ability and with far more power than I could use, really tried to make the country give attention to the report on the general, course of agitation in Ireland. They did not care about anything except the charge against Parnell. That was disproved; Parnell was cleared and they had no more use for the Commission.
If you are going to set up a roving Commission, not to investigate particular charges which some responsible person 1353 formulates, but a roving 'Commission to fish for any prima facie evidence which they can carry further by sending for persons, papers, records or whatever it may be, where are you going to end? Long before your Commission comes to an end the whole country will be weary. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this inquiry would not only educate public opinion here but would really snake the whole world see what are the dangers we have to meet and help a long way to agreement, then I say, high as I put the influence of my colleagues in the Councils of Europe, I think the right hon. Gentleman has over-estimated it. I am very much afraid of a rambling Commission. If there are charges of weight on the kind of authority with which you start a prosecution, if they involve offences at law by particular firms, by all means let us have an inquiry; but if it is a rambling inquiry into the whole methods of doing business, I believe it would once more distract attention from the matter at issue.
My last words are a question. In my opinion there is something that would be effective if applied to-day, and it is not open to the objections which can be urged against other remedies. It is international control of the international traffic. What is the attitude of the Government to the Draft Convention? I want to hear from the Secretary of State that, subject to its careful examination, subject to whatever may be the necessary adjustments if prepared as part of a general scheme for the limitation of armaments it is brought into force before that limitation takes place, whether the Government are supporting it, whether they have yet officially expressed their opinion upon it, and what action they propose to take at Geneva in regard to it. It is not by the setting up of an inquiry, it is not by asking people, when other nations are not willing, to abandon private manufacture, but by pressing all nations to make an effective international agreement about the traffic in arms as distinct from its manufacture, that we shall best advance the cause of peace as far as it can be advanced by any Measure of that kind.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I am sure that other Members of the House will share with me a certain amount of surprise and dis- 1354 appointment at the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). He joined with the Secretary of State in imputing base motives to those with whom he does not agree. I mean no offence when I say that we expected less from him than from the Secretary of State. I am indeed surprised that he should have chosen to couple in that condemnation those workers in the cause of peace who are giving their time and their energy to promoting a national declaration. It is time that the people of this country faced the realities of the situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that that statement commands such general agreement. No one is doing more to bring those realities into the light than the people who are handling this national effort.
In my view it is a little unbecoming that the attack which has been made to-night should have been launched. What right has the right hon. Gentleman to think that those of us who are convinced that the private manufacture of arms for profit is a menace to peace express that opinion for motives other than the apparent motives? We express our opinion because we are convinced that it is true, and that seems to me sufficient reason for expressing it and doing one's utmost to get something done to remove the evils which we see. I am indeed surprised that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham should join the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on that line in dealing with a subject of this magnitude. It is not sufficient for the Secretary of State to cast doubts upon the evidence given at the United States inquiry. It is his usual habit to discredit the creditability of witnesses, and it is a habit which has become so profound with him that he even attempts to use it when it has no relevance at all, as he did with one of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. The fact remains that the evidence given before the United States inquiry is only additional evidence of what is obvious and must be obvious. It is not merely that there are somewhere in the world corrupt officials and undesirable persons concerned with this trade. They are only extraneous matters.
The real substance of our case is that the private trade in arms must be un- 1355 desirable by the very nature of the instruments which are sold. The people who manufacture arms have to sell what they produce in order to keep their businesses alive, and in order to sell what they produce they have to persuade Governments to buy as much of their goods as possible. It naturally follows that they are driven to adopt precisely the same methods of salesmanship as a manufacturer of bicycles or motor-cars or clothing or any other kind of goods. The only difference is that those methods, applied to the ordinary articles of commerce, are harmless, but when applied to the sale of the instruments of death they are of such a nature as to become a menace to the whole world. In order to sell the maximum quantity the necessary conditions have to be created in which armaments are required. It is not at all surprising that from time to time the veil of secrecy which covers this business very successfully is pierced, and that we see the hand of the armament interests manufacturing propaganda and creating war scares in order that their potential customers should be in a coming-on disposition. It is the usual custom as in other trades, that there shall be international trustification and cartels, and that the area of trade should be divided up and wasteful competition eliminated.
What the right hon. Gentleman seems to have overlooked is that while this is going on, and it is not denied that it is going on, that very fact nullifies the efforts which are being made to get a peaceful settlement of international disputes. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was not the sole cause of war. Nobody ever said that it was. We have always claimed that the real fundamental cause of war is economic. It is to be found in the economic frictions set up as a result of the capitalistic system. But nobody who looks at the case dispassionately and with a desire to find the truth, could deny that the fact that there are powerful interests operating to secure the sale of the maximum amount of munitions and arms is a factor which causes economic disagreement to break out into war.
One would have expected the Secretary of State to have devoted his speech to proving that it was impossible to accomplish what this Motion asked him 1356 to accomplish but on that point he did not touch. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham did just touch upon it. The main argument was that if the factories and the plant necessary to produce armaments were no longer in private hands, the nation would be incapable of producing a sufficient supply of munitions in time of war. Is that true? What happened during the Great War? Although we had in existence then this elaborate system of private manufacture of arms, although we know that the operation of the armaments interest was one of the causes which brought about the War—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] Surely hon. Members have not forgotten their history so soon? Surely they have not forgotten the Mulliner story and the various scandals before the War and the use of the international armaments ring for the promotion of war scares and mutual misunderstanding.
§ Mr. WILMOT
I rely upon facts which have been proved and accepted. Surely the hon. Member will not say that the existence of an international armaments ring before the War had no effect whatever on international relations?
§ Lord E. PERCY
I do not think that it had any effect whatever but as the hon. Member has put a question to me, may I put another to him? Does he think that the chief influence in promoting German armaments was Admiral von Tirpitz or some private armaments firm?
§ Mr. WILMOT
I did not say that it was the chief influence. Indeed I have been denying that throughout but I do say that the representations made to the German Admiralty that the British were constructing more ships than that they admitted, and the representations made to the British Admiralty that the Germans were constructing more ships than they admitted constituted a factor which inflamed relations just about that time. But in spite of the fact that we paid a very heavy price for the existence of this traffic yet when the War came the private manufacture system broke down and those who least believed in private enterprise, those who were most reso- 1357 lutely opposed to anything that savoured of Socialism, found themselves compelled to set up a system of State manufacture and control otherwise we should have been starved out of the War because of the breakdown in the supply of munitions.
If the proposal of my hon. Friend were adopted the factories would still exist and the men would still be there but the State would have command of the factories required to manufacture those supplies which it is necessary to keep going and in the event of war the Government would step in and take charge of the supply precisely as it did in the last war. The Secretary of State referred to a document, I think a League of Nations document of 1921, and pointed out that the difficulties in the way were insuperable and rather intimated that nobody but a fool would ever have raised this question again. He omitted to remind the House that it is only a year since the Governments of France, Denmark, Poland and Spain submitted a memorandum to the Disarmament Conference in which they asked the other nations to adopt the very measures which my hon. Friend suggests in this Motion. He omitted to explain to the House that as a result of the movement in the direction of the complete suppression of the private manufacture of arms an enormous amount of detailed work was done in various committees of the Disarmament Conference. I do not wonder that the Foreign Secretary forgot that remarkably important development because I do not think that his conscience can be too dear as to the part which his Government played in that matter. I wonder whether he could put his hand on his heart with the same conviction as he showed to-day and assure the House that the British Government, which in this matter could have exercised an influence which would have turned the scale, did everything it could to secure international agreement to the complete abolition of the trade in armaments and in the instruments of death.
The case which we make is not based solely upon the belief that private trade in armaments is the only cause of war. Neither is it based merely on the shreds of evidence, important though they are, with regard to British firms, which have come out so far in the American inquiry. It is based on the obvious reasonableness 1358 of the proposition that it cannot be a healthy state of affairs to have a vast, powerful, wealthy, industrial interest whose profit and success depend entirely upon the world remaining in a state of unrest and incipient war. That cannot be a healthy state of affairs, and any friend of peace on. the benches opposite must see, however clever his advocate on the Front Bench may be, that we shall never get rid of the danger of war while there is the incentive of profit-making in the instruments of war. One step which must be taken and in my view should be taken without further delay is to remove this obstacle to a peaceful settlement out of the very difficult path that we have to tread.
I suggest that the Foreign Secretary has not done his party or his Government or indeed our nation a service by the sort of speech which was made this afternoon. He attempted to make cheap party capital out of a genuine desire genuinely expressed to remove from this nation this accursed traffic, which, in my view, and in the view of hundreds of thousands of people in this country, is one of the most potent causes of misunderstanding and strife between the nations. I should have thought that this Government would have welcomed the opportunity either of embracing this proposal or of explaining why it was so difficult to carry it into effect. They have done neither and I can only conclude by saying that those Of us who believe that there will be no move forward on the path of peace until this Government have gone may indeed be right.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir JONAH WALKER-SMITH
The question of inquiries, as a subject which ought to engage the attention of the House in connection with this matter was brought to mind during the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) and we found further reason to consider the question of inquiries when listening to the very brilliant and eloquent speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair). I concluded at the end of his speech that there was no good reason why there should not be an inquiry of the character which he indicated and I was also inclined to think that as far as eloquence and vigour of expression was 1359 concerned the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had nothing to learn from the hon. Member for Limehouse. At the same time I was bound to appreciate the fact that he certainly had a good deal to learn in the matter of political sagacity. Although both hon. Members are doing their best to eliminate private enterprise, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness thinks that that would be assisted by an inquiry whereas the hon. Member for Limehouse knows that nothing of the kind would result. Therefore he was eloquently silent upon the question of holding an inquiry.
The main point in his speech which concerned me on this subject was his reference to the Senatorial inquiry at Washington which I believe is still in progress. Various references were made to the report on the proceedings of that inquiry so far as they have gone. References were made by the hon. Member to certain suggested activities of the firm of Messrs. Vickers and in particular to some correspondence in which the managing director of Messrs. Vickers was concerned. I do not hold any brief for Sir Charles Craven and I am sure he would not desire me to do so. Those who are aware of his remarkably successful industrial administration know that no one needs to hold a brief for him and certainly I do not hold any brief for Messrs. Vickers. I am not myself particularly favourable to the nature of the big business which characterises firms such as Messrs. Vickers, except in this respect that they are a means of providing an enormous amount of useful employment for very skilled and industrious workmen at the highest wages and under the best conditions that industry can be made to yield.
It is necessary to consider what sort of inquiry this Senatorial inquiry in America is. It is not the sort of governmental inquiry to which we are accustomed in this country. The methods employed savour of ganster methods rather than of governmental methods such as those with which we are familiar. Unlimited money is placed at the disposal of those conducting the inquiry and they promptly appoint investigators who are armed with powers to seize and impound documents and private files and private correspondence whether of Government Depart- 1360 ments or private firms or bodies of any other kind whatever. The documents having been impounded by these gangster methods, they are put under a microscope and examined in the absence of those who have been particularly concerned in the correspondence which has been impounded.
It is necessary then to consider the relationship of the parties between whom this correspondence was conducted. Apparently Messrs. Vickers are licensees of certain patents which are held in America, and they manufacture under an arrangement of paying royalties, and apparently this arrangement has been in existence for a good many years. That is the relationshhip between Messrs. Vickers and the Electric Boat Company of America. It must be obvious that in the course of their business in that relationship a. good deal of the correspondence must be of a private and confidential character, and it is necessary to have some sort of idea of the activities of the managing director of Messrs. Vickers in order to appreciate the atmosphere in which his correspondence is conducted. Sir Charles Craven has been managing director of Messrs. Vickers' works at Barrow for the last 10 years, and during that time he has increased the amount of employment in those large works at Barrow from about 5,000 to a figure approaching 11,000. In his capacity as managing director of Armstrongs, he has reorganised the works on the Tyne at Elswick and the shipyards at Walker, and I have no doubt that in due course the Tyne will see the same sort of benefits arising from his re-organisation that Barrow has felt. Further, in his position of managing director of the English Steel Corporation, he has expended in Sheffield £1,500,000 in re-organising the production works in that district from which similar beneficial results will accrue in due course.
I mention these facts briefly in order that hon. Members may have it in their minds that he is responsible for the employment of about 30,000 men, and that it is necessary for him to obtain work to a very considerable value each year—perhaps a matter of £10,000,000, but I do not know. In these circumstances one can appreciate the sort of correspondence that a man of that kind must have. He must dictate hundreds of letters every day, many of which he will never see 1361 again, not even for signature. Many of those letters will be of a private and confidential nature, and one does not trouble very much in one's private and confidential correspondence about meticulous phrasing nor the polishing of one's periods as long as one is convinced that one's friends will regard these letters as of a private and confidential nature. In all these circumstances, just consider what has been revealed.
The hon. Member for Limehouse said there were certain revelations as a result of this Senatorial inquiry which were of a somewhat disgraceful character. During the afternoon I have been searching into these matters and trying to follow some of the references that were made, and one reference that I found was entirely incorrect. One letter which suggested that one should not be too squeamish in regard to price was alleged to be a letter from Sir Charles Craven to America, but it was just the reverse; it was a letter from the American, Lieutenant Spear, to Sir Charles Craven. That is merely one indication of extraordinary inaccuracy. The hon. Member for Limehouse made very great play with one letter which had been the subject of a question in this House, and he said that he was not entirely satisfied with the reply of the First Lord of the Admiralty. As a matter of fact, I myself was not too satisfied with that reply, though perhaps not for the same reason as the hon. Member for Limehouse. The letter which was referred to appears to have been this: The chairman, in examining his witness, said:I have before me a letter written by C. W. Craven addressed to you, Lieutenant Spear, dated 7th October, 1927, and again marked, 'Absolutely personal and confidential.'One would scarecly expect the whole of one's absolutely personal and confidential correspondence to be impounded by those gangster methods to which I have referred. Some Members may not object to their correspondence being seen in this way, but I should not be particularly anxious to have the whole of mine so dealt with. One would expect, with a roving commission of that kind, some extraordinary revelations, but so far as I can find there are absolutely none, certainly nothing whatever of which the managing director of Messrs. Vickers should feel in the very least degree 1362 ashamed. The only point which seems to have aroused a little concern is the sentence which indicates that the Director of Naval Contracts was anxious that Messrs. Vickers should obtain the contracts for the whole of six submarines, just as he had been anxious to obtain for Messrs. Vickers the contracts for the whole of five the previous year.
§ Commander MARSDEN
Might it not be that the Controller desired Messrs. Vickers' submarines because they were the best submarines?
§ Sir J. WALKER-SMITH
It might well be, and I agree with the hon. Member for Limehouse that the reply of the First Lord upon this subject was not entirely satisfactory. If the evidence given before the inquiry in Washington were examined, you would find in the very forefront a glowing testimony to British manufacturers and particularly to Messrs. Vickers. The first witness explained to the Senatorial Committee that Messrs. Vickers were able to manufacture in such an extraordinarily efficient manner that they could outbid any American manufacturer of submarines. That is true. They can outbid any American and any British manufacturers of that particular armament, for this very good and sufficient reason, that they have had 14 years' intimate experience of it, and during that time they have accumulated an enormous amount of experience and very remarkable facilities for the output of naval vessels of that type. That is why the Director of Naval Contracts wished to get the whole of these contracts for Messrs. Vickers: The First Lord's reply does not reveal that Messrs. Vickers' tender was very much lower than the others, but it is clearly implied, because the First Lord goes on to say:Indeed, one of the chief objects of the allocation in each year was to enlarge the number of firms upon which the Admiralty could rely for submarine building and to prevent anything in the nature of a monopoly, and tkie Board accepted extra cost in order to achieve this object."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st Oct., 1934; col. 196; vol. 293.]There you have it. The Board of Admiralty, consisting of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Controller, and the Financial Secretary, in the proper discharge of their Admiralty policy, looked beyond the mere question of costs. The Director of Naval Contracts was not 1363 entitled to do that, and if he had had his way, looking after Treasury interests alone, I believe that the whole of those submarines would have gone to Messrs. Vickers, because it would have meant a considerable saving to the Treasury. Here the First Lord revealed that for the purpose of preventing all these submarines being made in one place, they spread the contracts and placed some in other localities at a higher cost. So far as this incident in the Senatorial inquiry is concerned, I am satisfied that all that the Board of Admiralty did was rightly and properly done and that all that the Director of Naval Contracts did was rightly and properly done. Whatever the motives were, I am sure they were honourable and strictly proper, and whatever Messrs. Vickers did was, I am sure, beyond reproach. There is absolutely nothing whatever in anything that has been revealed in this Senatorial inquiry in Washington of which Sir Charles Craven need feel in the least degree ashamed.
I wish now to refer to what is the real object of the Socialist Opposition in placing this Motion before the House. It is clear that they desire to make this a further step in the pursuit of their policy of eliminating private enterprise altogether and substituting nationalisation and State control and production, and their policy would be just the same, whether it was regard to armaments or anything else. They seize upon armaments because they can add to their ordinary arguments just a few trimmings that make their case seem a little more specious. I am sure they would never make such a suggestion if they had had the very long experience that I have had in Government Departments and also in private enterprise. No one who has had experience of that sort would ever suggest that private enterprise should be eliminated in favour of governmental, departmental enterprise. Anything more absurd than that, it is almost impossible to conceive. It would be fundamentally unsound economically, so far as the manufacture of such technical commodities as armaments are concerned and technically it would be suicide.
The capital costs involved would be enormous, and the costs of production would be very much greater in the case of governmentally run works. I doubt 1364 if anyone would suggest that the oncostings would be any less than they are in the case of Admiralty administration. In the Admiralty Estimates I find that the Admiralty's on-costs are twice as much in terms of production as they ought to be for a department similarly constituted. Therefore, it must be obvious that there is much less incentive to energy, initiative, and enterprise if these matters are left with a Government Department than if there is the urge of private enterprise. Even though it be no more than for the making of profit, to put it on that extremely low basis, there is the further argument that unless they have highly efficient technical people in the home and world markets, they will very promptly go into bankruptcy.
I am sure one illustration will satisfy the House about this. The on-costs, which in manufactures of this kind are very considerable, would be at least double in the case of manufacture by a Government Department, and the House will observe that the only orders which they can look for in a Government yard are those that come direct to the Government. Therefore, they have either to set up an expensive, extravagant department of supervisors, management, and designers, or else they have to have a comparatively small one, just sufficient for the net amount of work which the Government require to be done. On the other hand, so far as private enterprise is concerned, part of their orders comes from the Government and part from other countries. In addition, they do a certain amount of commercial work. Carrying these three lines of production, they are able to reduce their on-costs below the possibility of any on-costs of governmental administration. Therefore, it is clear that there is the great advantage in the present system of always having available and always having maintained in a high state of efficiency a large managerial and designing staff which is capable of considerable and immediate expansion. That, as has been pointed out by the Foreign Secretary, is precisely what we should want in case of need.
The Socialists desire us to adopt this proposal by way of example, as though there had not been sufficient examples and gestures of that kind which have had 1365 extremely little response. The Foreign Secretary has explained to the House—I think it must be to the satisfaction of everyone—that so far as the control of the export of arms is concerned, the example which we have set is a great and wonderful example to every other country in the world, but very few have responded. He explained, too, that the example which we set in the Convention of 1925 was one with which very few countries complied and which the majority of countries ignored. Recently we set another example in the case of the embargo upon the export of armaments to the belligerent nations of China and Japan. I will not say that no other country took any notice of it, but no other country followed that example. The notice that they did take of it was promptly to jump in and help themselves freely to such orders as were going. It is notorious that our gestures and examples in the matter of our own disarmament have regretfully fallen upon deaf ears throughout the world.
Although I am satisfied that if the manufacture of armaments were a monopoly of the Government it would lead to obsolescence, inefficiency, extravagance, apathy and lack of any progressive thought, and leave us hopelessly trailing behind, I would willingly agree with it if I thought it likely that all other countries in the world would adopt the same measure of apathy, indifference and incompetence. What do we see, however? We see our near neighbour France armed to the teeth, and Germany rearming with great vigour. We see in Russia a standing army of colossal size and preparations for armaments manufacture and such armaments as aeroplanes in unprecedented quantities. We see that in Japan, a country with three times the population of ours, they are extremely well satisfied with the results of their departure from the League of Nations. We see them flush with their success in what is practically the annexation of Manchuria, and we see them approaching the termination of the Treaty of Washington in not quite the spirit of pacific accommodation that we would like. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, is it in the least degree likely that we should not suffer profoundly by a position of unpreparedness?
I do not think that in the face of all these difficulties we dare run the risk. 1366 It may be that some would willingly run the risk, but I am certain that if we were again faced with the same conditions as those of 1914, nothing in the world would prevent the youth of this country from striking a blow for our homes, our people and our liberties. Will anyone say that the youth of the country must sacrifice itself and be mowed down armless and defenceless I There could be no excuse for that. It would be just criminal folly. If my Socialist friends will give me their attention for two or three minutes, I think I shall be able to explain that the object which they seek would be better attained by permitting private enterprise to proceed with the manufacture of armaments rather than by eliminating it entirely and substituting a State monopoly. It must be agreed that the country must have a certain amount of armaments. It must be agreed that if we must have armaments other countries must have them too. It is regrettable that it should be so, but we must face the facts. Such is human nature and the state of civilisation that unfortunately we cannot do without armaments. It may well be that by a process of increased education, enlightenment and culture we may greatly improve, but we have to accept human nature for what it is, and this country and every other country must have a certain amount of arms. That being the case, we must agree that the less of the world's wealth and labour that is expended upon the manufacture of armaments the better.
I would ask my friends to perceive that in this country manufacturing technique has advanced to such a state that we are able to manufacture far more efficiently, expeditiously and economically than almost any other country in the world. Within our own country there are places where various armaments can be made with greater efficiency than in any other part of the world. For instance, there are places where rifles and small armaments can be made, and other places, such as Barrow, where submarines can be made more efficiently than any other place in the world. It follows that where rifles and small arms can be made best they should be made, and in places where submarines can be made best they should be made in order to lower the cost of manufacture. It is desirable, therefore, that other countries should not 1367 be induced to set up their establishments for manufacturing arms which they cannot do so efficiently as it can be done in this country. It is much better that they should be manufactured in this country.
In that case we should prevent the establishment of a great number of munition manufacturing establishments in various parts of the world. If we could not supply arms and other countries could not supply them, every country would have to supply their own, and the productive capacity in arms would be increased beyond what is needed. If we permit private enterprise we shall do something to maintain the manufacturing efficiency of this country and to keep our people employed. If my Socialist friends will think of this for a few minutes, they will see that no purpose is to be served by eliminating private enterprise and substituting governmental control. It is not a desirable thing to turn a cold shoulder to these armament firms. We remember that very early in the War many anxious and grateful eyes were turned upon these firms for our absolutely necessary products. It is undesirable that they should be eliminated. Each should be retained as a valuable nucleus capable of being expanded efficiently, effectively, economically and very rapidly if and when—and please God it will never happen—we should ever again be placed in the position in which we were in 1914.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
There has been introduced into the Debate some reference to the national canvass that has been undertaken by the League of Nations Union, and as I also happen to be a member of the executive committee, I desire to make some comments on the points that have been made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) gave some account of what has occurred. What actually happened was this. The Committee decided unanimously, all the Members representing different parties being in agreement, that the national canvass should take place. The right hon. Gentleman was not at that time an attending member, and he only heard of it and brought it up after the decision bad been taken. Every possible effort was made to conciliate his 1368 views, as we appreciated enormously his co-operation on the executive of the Union. In order to meet him and some of his friends, another paper, known as the blue paper, in addition to the green paper, was to be issued to various people throughout the country putting the opposite point of view. What happened next was a revolt on the part of the people who were to answer the questions in the country. They said, "We do not want a great mass of literature in the country. We cannot read it and we would like to have nothing sent to us at all." That was the reason why in a number of cases, in spite of the recommendation of the Declaration Committee that both papers should be sent to the local committees, they decided they did not want any papers. In order to meet cases of that kind another paper—a pink paper—giving a neutral sort of statement, not really expressing views on one side or the other, was issued advising people what to do in connection with filling in the forms.
The right hon. Gentleman has been treated throughout with the utmost consideration by Lord Cecil and other Members of the committee, and he really has no grievance of any kind. It is true that he was always hostile to the declaration and, consistently with carrying out the unanimous purpose of the executive, we did all we possibly could to try and carry him with us. The executive committee of the League of Nations Union is composed of Members of all three parties. There are differences, but we manage in the main to pursue a steady forward course. At the same time, the Union is not the slave of any party or Government, and it reserves to itself the right to express its views on great questions of foreign policy, whether the Foreign Secretary of the day likes it or not. On the question of whether the private manufacture of arms is a suitable subject to submit to the electors, I think we ought to decide in the affirmative. The question submitted to them is:Should the manufacture and sale of arms for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?I submit that that is a perfectly clear and simple proposition, which anyone in this country can understand. People are not asked to say when and how it should be done, but it gives them the oppor- 1369 tunity of expressing the view that it is undesirable, and I cannot see the slightest objection to a broad proposition of that kind being put to the people. The Foreign Secretary, in speaking this afternoon, for the first time threw off the mask and—I presume on behalf of the Government—declared war on the whole of the peace movement in this country. There is no doubt that is what he did. That is how it will be interpreted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] The speeches made to-day will do immense harm to the National Government, who will rue the day when such a provocative and offensive speech to those working for peace in this country was made.
I say, further, that the right hon. Gentleman adopted a method which was definitely hitting below the belt. He quoted from an issue of "Headway" of November, 1934, of which I have a copy, a passage at the end of an article which made reference to the Labour party and its support of the national declaration. Surely the inference to be drawn from that was that "Headway" was an organ pushing and advertising the Labour party and generally working in their interests. Will it, be believed that this same issue contains articles by two Conservatives and a member of the Liberal party? It provided one of the fairest possible opportunities for representative men in all three parties to put their views on the subject of the national declaration. Names were mentioned earlier, and to those already given I would add those of Lord Cecil, Lord Lytton, Mr. Noel Baker and Professor Gilbert Murray; and I must say that I am astounded that the Secretary of State should so demean him- self in his great office as to make use of the unscrupulous argument he did.
Although the Foreign Secretary and others may not approve of the national declaration and may think it improper and wrong, there are other people who think differently. Messages in support of the national declaration have been received from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Chief Rabbi, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the President of the National Free Church Council, the President of the Assembly of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, the Moderator of the English Presbyterian Church, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great 1370 Britain and Ireland, and a large number of influential and well-known national organisations are co-operating on the declaration committee in the carrying out of this important work. It has been made perfectly clear that although the Conservative party is the only political party not actively and officially co-operating, there is no objection to Conservatives doing so locally, and in many cases they are most effectively doing so. We welcome and desire their co-operation whole-heartedly. At the meeting of the National Union of Conservative Associations at Bristol on 3rd October, Colonel Herbert said:The executive committee wish me to point out that they have made it clear to local constituency associations that they are entirely free to take what action they think hest.I venture to hope that the declaration, in spite of the violent opposition of the Foreign Secretary, will go on. I believe those interested in it will redouble their efforts after the offensive attack made to-day, that it will be a great success, and that it must, in the years to come, profoundly influence for good the peace policy of the Government of this country. It is true that the subject with which we are dealing to-day is only a small part of the great question of the preservation of peace, but it is an important part and deserves careful attention. I think the case for the inquiry has been fully made out by my right hon. Friend and by others who have spoken, and I shall not argue it again. It is clear that if it is to be of any value it must be of the widest possible nature, with the strongest powers. Personally, I think its greatest value will be from the psychological standpoint. By the revelations which are bound to come out it will create a motive power in this country which will drive forward the political organs to achievement, and I believe the result of the inquiries of such a commission can only be to point out the necessity for the removal of private profit in arms altogether.
I am interested to know that on the question of the appointment of a commission and the removal of private interests in 'arms I have a powerful supporter on the Treasury Bench. The Prime Minister, in answering a question the other day, assured me that however unreliable the ordinary Press organs of 1371 this country might be, the "News Letter" was always to be relied upon to state the truth about anything. I was therefore particularly interested to see in the issue of 29th September, this year, of this, the Prime Minister's personal organ, the following words on this subject:The Americans have now given us a lead which we should not hesitate to follow. From our own carefully edited newspaper accounts it would appear that British firms were hardly concerned in this inquiry, but the fuller reports of American papers give a very different picture. That many of our firms are involved is not a question of doubt, and too much has been said to allow the matter to rest where it is. We hope that the matter will be actively pursued (if necessary, by an inquiry) in this country—in which, it is fair to add, a Government licence for the export of arms has always been rigorously required. As to a solution, there is no easy way, and there are too many glib suggestions of 'nationalising' an industry the bulk of whose work has nothing whatever to do with munitions. But that private profit should be taken out of this business is essential, and it is no excuse for us to say that other countries are not yet willing to do likewise.The Prime Minister's organ is supporting the official motion of the Labour Opposition. Let us get that quite clear. It is wholeheartedly behind it. He is coming back to them. He is making tracks for the Front Bench on the other side. The paper goes on:We must forgo our profits if they are made at the expense of pursuing methods of salesmanship which are at once dishonest and dangerous.That is from the "News Letter" and the Prime Minister has assured me that is always accurate and to be relied upon. Even if we do not get an inquiry I do not feel that it really matters so very much, because however much might be proved as to bribery and improper methods in the arms business that is beside the point. Even though the business were carried on in the purest possible way it would be equally objectionable, the objection being that it is a system which makes private individuals, which makes ordinary business men, the merchants of death. That is the position into which they are driven in order to make money. Some reference has been made to various extracts from the evidence given in America. There was a reference to the case of Commandante Aubry of Peru, who tried to get the job of Peruvian repre- 1372 sentative on the Disarmament Conference, in which he was not successful because although he was the agent of an American armament firm at the time he tried to get the job they were not willing to pay his expenses, as he asked, and therefore he did not, on the whole, think it worth while to go over there. Reference has been made to the letters from Sir Charles Craven who, for his distinguished services—and I have no doubt they are distinguished—was recently knighted by the Government. I notice that one letter, which has been already referred to, but which I quote because it deals with a very important point—it is exhibit 22—says:All that you and I gain by the transaction will be that we shall know that if the ship is built Vickers will get the order. If, on the other hand, Geneva or some other fancy convention decides that large submarines have to be abolished no definite contract will be placed and the Admiralty can retire gracefully without having to pay anything.In Exhibit No. 23 he used very similar words. He said:In other words they will have the right to withdraw their promised order for the second ship if Geneva or any other troublesome organisation upsets the large submarines.There you have, shown with the utmost clarity, what is most objectionable from the national point of view, the interest which is aroused by armaments being in private hands. You have powerful armament interests working against the policy of the British Government. While the British Government were trying to arrive at an arms or a disarmament convention in Geneva, the armament interests were saying in their private letters that they hoped that that trouble-some organisation at Geneva was not going to upset things.
§ Sir J. WALKER-SMITH
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if the letters he has read are not confidential correspondence?
§ Mr. MANDER
The hon. Gentleman had a very long innings just now, and there are other hon. Members who wish to speak. If he permit me, I will proceed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) expressed the hope that the Government would go on in the good course that they are pursuing at Geneva—or words to that effect. Let us see 1373 what the Government have been doing at Geneva. I want to give them full marks for the initiative shown by the Lord Privy Seal in the case of what is now the agreed and settled embargo on the supply of arms to Bolivia and Paraguay. His action was admirable, and he deserves to be most heartily congratulated on the success of it. I wish one had fuller opportunities of congratulating the British representatives upon work of that kind. Looking carefully through the minutes of the different committees on this subject which sat during the time of the Disarmament Conference drives one to the conclusion that no British delegate at any public meeting has ever lent support to proposals for the abolition of private manufacture from whatever quarter the proposals have come. On the contrary, the British delegation have led the opposition to these proposals, and in particular to the proposals put forward by France, Spain, Denmark and Poland. Our opposition was carried to such a point that at one moment the French were reduced to begging us to state our case in order that they might have something to answer. At one moment we strongly opposed a proposal for a questionnaire concerning the scale, etc., of existing private manufacture.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
Is the hon. Gentleman quoting from a document?
§ Mr. MANDER
No; from some notes which I have made. They are a resume of the situation as it appeared to me after having gone through the minutes of the sittings of the various committees of the Disarmament Conference. When our opposition was defeated, we urged that the conference should suspend its work on the subject until the answers to the questionnaire were received, that is, a period of three months. When the answers were received, the British Government declared in their return that there were no undertakings in the United Kingdom which could be strictly described as engaged chiefly or largely in armament manufacture. The British delegation have not given active support to any proposal for the drastic control of the international trade in arms, even when other great Powers such as France, 1374 Russia and the United States have been laying great emphasis on the matter.
I come to the last point, upon which several questions have been asked to-day, and I hope that before the Debate closes some representative of the Government will be good enough to state exactly what position we are to take up with regard to the agreement of 2nd July on the arms traffic. It was very surprising that the Secretary of State made no reference to it. I venture to urge the Government most strongly to support it and to press for general agreement at Geneva, because, although it is a very long way from the abolition of private manufacture for which some of us hope, it would be a big step forward and would be very well worth while. I noticed that the President of the Disarmament Conference issued a statement the other day saying that while there are a good many matters that still require further elucidation there are certain things that can be dealt with and are ready for framing in a Convention at once. Among those was the agreement of 2nd July to which I have referred. I hope that the Government will support the President of the Disarmament Conference in going forward with this step. Although this is only a small part of the problem, it is one which deeply touches the public conscience. It outrages the sense of decency of the ordinary human being, and most people feel that it is desirable to bring under public control in some form a trade which, if left in private hands, is a menace to the whole world and to the future of our civilisation.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY
I wish to speak for a very few minutes chiefly because of certain allegations and propaganda which are taking place within the ranks of the Opposition, which I have had to meet throughout the country, and which I think is prejudiced on a very important public issue. I cannot speak, as did an hon. Baronet, for a large volume of opinion, but only for my own small party and probably not for all of them. I may be speaking entirely for myself. It is not only in this Debate but in previous Debates during the last 10 days that some of us have had to stand here and listen to remarks, insinuations, innuendos, and half-baked truths from the Opposition benches which had to be con- 1375 tradicted by Members of the Government. There was no apology and no withdrawal, and those remarks have gone out into the country. I go to various parts of Scotland and the north of England, and all I hear is that this Government is a war-mongering Government. It is not doing good to the cause of Democracy for that kind of irresponsible statement to be made, as it is at the present time. It is all very well in this House. We have listened this afternoon to a legal examination of a case, and how hon. Members opposite can still advance the case for nationalisation as the answer to the arms problem defeats me. The modern conception of Socialism in the Labour party is "When in doubt, nationalise and damn the details."
We have had a perfect example this afternoon from the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). I listened extremely carefully to every word that he said. I respect his knowledge on certain home questions in which he and I have had some previous experience, but not once during the course of his speech did he give any sort of indication of the kind of machinery which would be built up to deal with the nationalisation of armaments nor did he attempt to give a definition of armaments. If he does not do that—if he does not tell us where phosgene and chlorine cease to be in common use for peace, and begin to be useful for war—if he simply repeats this parrot cry that the traffic in arms is a wicked traffic and must therefore be run by the State, in the long run he is not going to get the support of this country. If one firm in this country has an arrangement with a firm in the United States, if it has to do with armaments there is a sinister plot, but if it is rubber, teak, sugar, tubes or rails, then it is a cartel. It is an ordinary, common method of international trade, and, to my mind, one of the more orderly movements in international trade which is making for greater security and peace in the world. If there is an arrangement between Mr. Dupont and Imperial Chemical Industries, immediately there is something sinister; but if there is some question of sharing the markets in various parts of Europe between firms in Germany and in this country, and if it is a question of iron or steel, or any other basic raw material or commodity, then 1376 it is an ordinary international arrangement. Shared markets are perfectly familiar; but if there happen to be any armaments concerned, it is a sinister plot.
We have had this picture conjured up before us this afternoon. The hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Wilmot) won an election by absolute misrepresentation on this point, and I know it because it was at this time last year, when I was beginning to find—although, fortunately, people in Scotland were a little more hard-hearded, and did not give way to this panic cry—that this same sort of scare was being put about the country. I do not think that the generation which my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) mentioned, and which is my generation, is going to sit down under this misrepresentation. I have been a member and Secretary of the League of Nations Union since almost the first day after the War. In East London it was unpopular then. Afterwards it became very respectable and everybody in the country joined it. In East London we had to fight it from the left, not from the right, and I do not propose to lend the support, for what it is worth, of myself and some of my friends to the use of an organisation which was originally intended to work out the details and popularise the conception of the League of Nations, in the way in which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) is not only using it, but, as he has just said, is proud to use it in the cause of peace. He said just now that the Foreign Secretary has now come out into the open and declared war on the peace movement in this country. He then went on to mention practically every Church in the country, and to say that these were now going to be the enemies of this Government.
Mr. MAND ER
No. What I said was that, although the Foreign Secretary was opposed to the declaration, all the most distinguished people in all the Churches of this country were in favour of it. They were not necessarily against the Government, but they were in favour of the declaration.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
I am perfectly prepared to accept the emendation, but I think that the sense which I gave of what my hon. Friend was saving was 1377 quite accurate. Is that really quite a fair way to tackle what everybody this afternoon has admitted to be an immensely complicated problem? I stand here as one who is, I suppose, as much a pacifist as anyone else. No one who has been through the War has any desire to do anything else but spend the rest of his life in trying to work out the details of the machinery of peace. But what is happening to-day—and it is not by any means confined to the question of nationalisation of armaments, but it applies to every single question that comes up—is that the party to which I, for at any rate 10 years of my political life, belonged, is simply doing shoddy things; it is not tackling the details, and is leaving it for reaction to walk in unless somebody does begin to get down to the details of what it is pleased to call Socialism, which is a very wide conception of any notion of Socialism that I have ever read about or seen worked out in practice.
That does not mean that we here, on these curious cross-benches, are satisfied. I am not satisfied, and I do not suppose for a moment that the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary is satisfied. But because you are not satisfied you are supposed to go about in this easy way. Only a few days ago I heard a distinguished Member of the other House say that you had only to mention armaments and nationalisation, and the audiences of this country were with you. That shows what is going on; it shows the sort of propaganda that is going about in the country. That is not true. I cannot speak, as the right hon. Baronet did, for the whole country, but wherever I go there is a profound anxiety; but why the hon. Member should immediately equate that profound anxiety with a particular remedy which he and his friends favour, I cannot for the life of me see, and I think it is doing no good service to peace to follow that line of argument.
There are questions which I should like to ask of whoever replies from the Government benches. I think we are entitled to know—and I think I shall carry my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton with me here—a great deal more about the whole system of licensing. He may know, but I should like to know more. We were told not long ago that so many hundreds of 1378 licences had been given in one year, and that they had gone to so many countries. What are the criteria in giving licences in this country at the present moment? Is it true to say that, except where specific arrangements have been made, as with Paraguay and Bolivia, and it may be in the case of China, or where there is some special arrangement, these licences are given more or less automatically? I do not believe that that is so; I believe that there is a pretty adequate machinery which goes into these questions, and that the action taken is taken on broad principles which are laid down by the Cabinet. But the country does not know that. The country does not know the details.
The only two authorities quoted by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton were himself, in the very illuminating extract which he gave in the latter part of his speech, and the "News-Letter"; and half the speech of the hon. Member for Limehouse was based on a Yellow Book, from which he quoted extract after extract. Is this country going to rely, for accurate information as to the relations between Vickers, Imperial Chemical Industries and the Government, on bits of information that come out from an American inquiry? As a very great friend of America, I have not the slightest respect for the method or the details of such inquiries as they have been conducted, not only in the case of armaments, but in several other cases within the last 10 years. Clearly, we cannot have that sort of roving, fishing inquiry in this country. I sympathise with hon. Members opposite in their desire to know more facts. I am all with them, and I believe that there is a consensus of agreement in this House, and that, to my mind, is why this artificial dilemma which has been put up by the Labour Party to-day clouds the issue, as it so often does.
The case against nationalisation of the whole of the armament industry has been made by at least five speakers. We must know from some one who is going to reply what precisely is meant by armaments, where it begins and where it ends and if they are prepared to go right through. We know that in times of war we have to go into the coal and cotton and several other industries. We must have something precise and defined. The Union of Democratic Control has been quoted by the Foreign Secretary.
1379 I remember the Union of Democratic Control when they used to dig out facts which would make opposition sit up. There was a time, in the days of Morel, Norman Angell and the Prime Minister, when the Union of Democratic Control dug up some very awkward facts for any Government. At the present moment—I have read these things carefully—they have dug up so-called facts which you cannot prove, which I have tried to prove, which I have gone to Government offices and armament firms to prove, and they are based on no evidence whatsoever. On the front of the book is written that evidence can be brought for every fact in it. That is not the way they used to conduct business. The fact is that the present opposition to the Government is feeble and irresponsible. I say that avowedly, because, having on us a responsibility for democracy, when we go back to our people and tell them the sort of facts that I have to deny week after week in Scotland and in the north of England, they are doing no good service to democracy. That is what is happening on a scale that is quite unusual in this country.
If those facts are true, as I believe they are, the great mass of the people want further light and further evidence. I appeal to the Government to give us some more evidence about licensing as at present conducted, to tell us whether it is not possible perhaps to license individual manufacturers as well as the export, though I realise that there are great difficulties there, and I should also like to see the case examined and some board or public authority which will come between the manufacturers and the consumers for the buying of all armaments as far as they can be defined. The hon. Member for Limehouse made great play of the fact that we are not living in the old days of unregulated, private enterprise and that regulation is necessary.I give him the point. Let us have greater regulation. Let us examine the case, if you will, for an armaments board. But that is utterly different from repeating this parrot cry of nationalisation of armaments. That is a thing which is worth working out in detail, and worthy of much more practical examination by the Labour party and others. I am not speaking because I have any practical suggestions myself—that is why I am 1380 going to vote with the Government—but a great many people have anxiety. The Government can go a long way in taking the country further into their confidence, and if there are any special difficulties, such as the one raised a few days ago when the Government immediately offered an inquiry, I think they will gain in the confidence of the country.
Finally, there is the policy which is being pursued at present by this country and no other. I can understand the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who goes the whole hog. I can understand people who say you will have to tread the via dolorosa for humanity and be disarmed. I can understand the out and out pacifist, but cannot for the life of me understand the party which is now the major opposition whose great contribution to this ghastly problem of peace and war as far as this Debate is concerned is to nationalise armaments as they exist at present, and to do that in the face of an armed world. The hon. Member for Limehouse said the whole business was insanity and hypocrisy. The kind of policy which he has put forward is not only insanity and hypocrisy. It is impracticable. In 1915 it was an utterly different question. If 1915 came again we should have to do it again, as we shall probably hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison). That is a totally different question. What you do in the crisis of war, when you have to summon up all your resources against the common enemy, is an entirely different thing from what you do when you are trying to minimise and regulate armaments in the cause of international peace. The only thing the hon. Member can say is that we had to do it in 1915. That is not logic. it is not good sense, and it does not help us in arguing this case out. If hon. Members opposite would speak their own mind, I believe there is an overwhelming majority in the House and in the country for further enlightenment on the present relations between armament firm and the Government, and also for continuing to pursue the policy of international regulation in the cause of peace.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. HICKS
I think the Labour Party may very well be congratulated on having placed this Resolution on the Order Paper and evoked the discussion that we 1381 have had. I listened with very great attention to the reply of the Foreign Secretary, and I felt it was particularly thin. There was hardly anything in it at all in reply to the general statement that had been made. I have listened to other speeches, and it seems to me that there has been a greater desire to score points than to tackle the problem. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay) devoted a lot of time in his speech in order to show the chances he missed when he was in another party. I am sorry that that party did not utilise their opportunity to enlighten the hon. Member better than they have done. Someone must have been at fault. It must be obvious to all that the private manufacture of arms is a grave and menacing danger in any part of the world. The militarists are already trotting and stamping about Europe and Asia rattling their cutlasses, and some are drilling infants in the arts of war. I saw a picture in the papers the other day of a Prime Minister of a certain state parading in front of children and presenting them with small rifles in order that they should be trained in the arts of war.
Every Power in the world to-day appears to be engaged in a passionate endeavour to build faster and more deadly bombing planes, to manufacture the most devastating poison gases, and generally to collect the most potent instruments of death and destruction. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Russia?"] I say all the countries in the world. All the Powers in the world seem to be engaged in that connection. If that be the fact, is it not sufficient to excite the attention of representative men and women to a consideration as to what we should do in such circumstances? It is much more important to be considering these matters than to be merely engaged in making debating points. The private manufacture of armaments—and I speak as I feel on this matter—is a positive danger. It may be said that the private manufacture of other things may not be desirable. It is very remarkable that, as soon as we on this side of the House urge the importance of having something like national control, we are immediately chided and told that it is only another phase of the Labour and Socialist party in the attempt to nationalise one industry after another, and that we are not sincere in our apprehensions of the danger 1382 of war, or of the manufacture of the instruments of war being in private hands. It is said that it is simply some more of our propaganda in order to try to influence the country and to bring more industries under national control.
The private manufacture of arms is a positive danger. Private manufacturers are prepared to produce and distribute arms in all parts of the world providing there is a demand for them, and they have an opportunity to do it, as they did in the case of Japan and China, with careless abandon. There is no morality in this matter. I am not blaming the individual manufacturer any more than I am blaming the workmen engaged in producing armaments. We ought to consider the condition at which the world has arrived and our responsibility in order to see what can be done to minimise the danger of an international conflict. There is not the slightest doubt that private manufacturers would utilise the newspapers—some of them are already financially interested in the newspapers—to create and raise scares and to ferment enmity in order to create a market favourable for their manufactures. I do not think that I am overstating the case. Surely, we are living in a world of unreality if we do not recognise these things. We are grown up and are old enough, and have sufficient experience, to formulate our own opinions.
International combines have been formed in order to monopolise raw materials and hold Governments in such a position as to compel them to pay the prices demanded for armaments. The other day a statement was printed in the "Daily Herald," a very reliable paper, from a speech which was to have been broadcast by Professor Haldane, but which the British Broadcasting Corporation evidently denied him the opportunity of broadcasting. He said that common sense told us that when we found an evil we should inquire who was making money out of it. Then we should not be far off its cause. If we wanted to catch fire-raisers we found out who was making money out of the fire. If we wanted to catch war raisers, we should find out who was making money out of war and rumours of war. I have only quoted that in order to reinforce the statement that it is the desire of the manufacturers to dispose of the muni- 1383 tions of war which they produce. They are cumbrous things and must be disposed of somewhere, and they are anxious to find a market for them. Britain is a great exporter of arms. It is an extremely dangerous proceeding for us to export arms at all to anyone not economically, socially and politically bound up with the destinies of Britain in the present state of the world. I heard this afternoon an argument about Vickers Maxim making submarines for America much better than the Americans could make them, a much better type of machine, cheaper and so on. In the event of such a calamity ever arising as to force us into international conflict those machines would be used against us. There is no doubt about that. Unless countries are bound up with the destinies of Britain it is extremely dangerous to export munitions of war to them. The ally of to-day may be the enemy of to-morrow.
There can be no question that the private manufacture of arms is a dangerous contribution to the causes of war. I do not think there is anyone on this side of the House who would say that the private manufacture of arms is the cause of war, but we have all said that wars have their realities deep down in economic and commercial rivalries between countries. Those are the basic causes of international conflict. If everybody was fully employed, if factories and money were fully employed, there would be very little discussion about international conflict. It is when countries have their workers and factories and money unemployed that there are possibilites of war. I see no reason why that danger should exist as far as this country is concerned. The whole business should be the direct concern of the State and kept carefully within public control. There is no doubt that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) takes part in the Debate later on we shall hear a good deal about the munitions muddle which existed during the Great War. He is more familiar with the details of that matter than I am, and it is not my purpose to take up the time of the House in dealing with that aspect of the question. To permit a condition under which groups of private individuals have power to cooperate and to frustrate the intentions 1384 of the State is a situation that should not be tolerated.
The difficulties of getting private firms to do what the Government wanted at the time of the Great War were such that we are most of us familiar with them. Difficulty was experienced, cooperation. was not easily obtained and frustration was a very big factor at that time. In dealing with the forces of the country there are no armaments manufactured to-day which the State through its arsenals, workshops and dockyards could not produce for itself. Perhaps means are not at the moment available to the Government for the purpose of adequately meeting all these requirements through their present agencies, but the Government have the means within their power of extending their factories, workshops, arsenals and so on in order to be able to meet the requirements. I believe that the arsenals, the workshops and the dockyards could he made to produce all the things which the Government need. If there is such a position existing that it is vital to the public interest and the public welfare in defence that immediate steps be taken to deal with that situation, then it rests with the Government. That proposition is per fectly fair. We ought not to be held up to ransom by private interests and by failure to co-operate at the critical time.
The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) made reference to the possibility of Government factories and workshops being under the control or under the influence of the people who worked in them, and he thought that the purity of public life would be to some extent diminished as a consequence of having arsenals and factories in various constituencies. I do not know what may be the experience in other constituencies, but it is my privilege to represent in this House—I am not wanting to advertise it—the greatest and oldest arsenal in the world. Although the people employed in that arsenal are manufacturing munitions of war, I am perfectly satisfied that they would be much happier manufacturing instruments of peace. I can say very definitely that I 'am sent to the House of Commons from that constituency, the greatest and oldest arsenal in the world, to fight for peace. Therefore, I should not be apprehensive about the purity of public life if great factories were set up in various parts of 1385 the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Sir J. Walker-Smith) represents a private armaments constituency, very largely, and they have sent him here to represent them. That should be an argument in favour of extending arsenals rather than private firms for the manufacture of armaments.
Some of the finest workmen and ablest technicians in the world are to be found in our arsenals. I do not say that of my constituency alone. In Enfield the same remark would apply, and in other centres. In the research establishments and workshops at our arsenals we have some of the ablest technicians in the world. Therefore, from the point of view of capacity and organisation there is Available certainly a very substantial nucleus which could be extended. The manufacture of armaments should be under the control of the State, in the supreme interest of the State and for the State Alone. In the manufacture of armaments in our arsenals there is no idea of making armaments for other countries. The men there are simply obeying the wishes of the State, working for the supreme interest of the State. It is not a question of private interest or gain.
I would urge the Government to act in accordance with the principles of our Resolution and I would ask hon. Members opposite who are in favour of peace and whose hearts are attuned for peace, to support us. We claim no monopoly in our desire for peace. The agency to which we have called attention was not the most efficient when we have called upon it, and with the troubled conditions of the world to-day it is a definite aggravation. I would urge the Government to put a final and complete stop to the private traffic in arms. We put severe penalties upon shopkeepers or chemists who in moments of forgetfulness pass over the counter a little poison. I wish we were able to be more severe with those who traffic in poison gas. We are also very stringent with the pedlars in dope. I wish we were a thousand times more stringent with the pedlars of death. In support of the arguments I am advancing I would say that the world is in such a feverish state to-day that it requires all the calmness of approach and all the common sense that we have to meet the situation. We require political and social doctors. 1386 Industrial depression, economic chaos, unemployment, flooded markets, intensive economic nationalism, the growth of trade rivalry, which is fiercer to-day than it has ever been in my lifetime or in the lifetime of any one present, make the position very serious. All this tends increasingly to engulf us in another international situation. If all the people could be employed, if all the raw material could be used, if unemployment could be reduced to vanishing point the danger of war would not be there, but to-day with all the countries in the world suffering from industrial depression and unemployment, with economic nationalism, we are in very grave danger.
I am aware that our proposal would mean drastic changes, but it would be in the interest of the country that the Government should recognise the principle of our Resolution. Instead of private interest controlling the manufacture of armaments the public interest should be the dominant note. There are many who make public interest a matter of private profit. We want to remove those conditions to a very great extent. Our proposition is feasible and practicable. It is necessary for defence and security that the manufacture of armaments should be under public control and ownership. It would have to be done in the event of another war, and it would have to be done then in the stress of conditions that would make the approach to the problem and the machinery for dealing with it rather difficult to evolve. It would be more in accordance with practical common sense first of all to remove the temptation to those who are engaged in the private manufacture of armaments to utilise them for any international organisation. The State itself is the prime agency responsible for security and defence and for ensuring its own protection. Steps in that direction would have to be taken should the emergency arise, and it is common sense to agree to our proposal and to do it now.
§ 9.15 p.m.
Mr. EM RYS-EVANS
The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane) in his speech touched on a question to which I desire to refer. He talked about the phantom generation. The time has come to stop talking about the phantom gener- 1387 ation. We have a very good second eleven on the Front Bench, and let us judge them by their batting. They have behind them a great deal of experience, gained very early in life. This evening the Socialist party have again brought forward their case for nationalisation. They wish to nationalise all the means of production, and that fact detracts somewhat from their argument. We are dealing with a limited question, the question of armaments, which is not necessarily related to questions of Socialism, and the nationalisation of the means of production. Weapons of war are only a small part of the work of factories which make munitions. In times of peace a great part of their products are peace products, and it is only during times of war that they expand. That expansion takes place not only in definite armament factories but in all factories throughout the country. If the nation is to take over these factories it must face very heavy expenditure and make up its mind that it is essential to keep up a highly trained technical staff. This staff will not always be fully employed, and a partially employed staff is not a very effective staff.
The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) brushed away the very important question of the problem of those countries which do not possess the raw materials to enable them to create their own munitions, but it is a question which must be considered seriously. Industrial nations are in a strong position. If we are to be prohibited from supplying arms to nations which have not the raw materials we place them in a very inferior position, and under modern conditions of development such conditions would not be fair or just. If the whole manufacture of munitions and armaments are nationalised, we are placed in a new position in regard to the competition in armaments. It would not be a competition between private firms but the much more dangerous competition between Governments to supply those portions of the world which cannot make their own armaments. When we consider the question of the nationalisation of armaments we must pay some attention to the present position of Germany. The present German Government is national, but it is also Socialist; and it exercises an authority and power over private enterprise which causes a great deal of 1388 anxiety. The position of the private manufacture of armaments is not satisfactory at the present time, but I do not think it can be attacked on the lines suggested by the Motion; it is one which must be looked at with new eyes.
We are in the presence of an entirely new problem. In the days of Napoleon an army marched on its stomach and we heard little in those days of munitions. They played their part, but it was a comparatively small part. It is the developments which have taken place during the last 50 years which are important from the point of view from which we are dealing with the problem to-day. Scientific developments and inventions have changed the whole aspect of the armaments and munitions problem. Immense quantities of munitions were required during the last War and much greater supplies will be required in any future war. At the battle of Loos, an early and comparatively small affair compared with later actions, more munitions were fired away than during the whole course of the Boer War, only 12 years before. This question cannot be treated in the light of past experience, even of recent experience, and in attacking it we must clear our minds of the cobwebs of the past. The question divides itself into two categories, the internal question of armaments and munitions, a problem every country must consider, and the external problem of the traffic in arms. I believe that a solution can be found for both the internal and external problem by a full publicity, but this full publicity cannot be obtained unless there is international agreement.
It is no good saying that this country has to set an example. The day of gestures is past and the day of realities is here. I know that there are technical objections to full publicity, that there are considerable dangers which are put forward by the technical advisers of the Government, but let us understand this clearly, that in times of peace the front line is diplomacy and foreign policy, it is there that you see the bigger picture and however important may be the advice given by the technical advisers to the Government they can only see a small portion of the picture. In looking to the future I do not think that we shall be able to overcome this problem unless we treat it as part of the larger problem instead of a mere question of dealing 1389 with armaments and munitions. It is part of the whole problem of disarmament, and we shall not be able to solve it by adopting a policy of safety first or drifting into those uncertainties and doubts which led us into the difficulties which brought us eventually into the Great War. This question cannot be solved by the pre-War mind. It can only be solved if the Government are prepared to take greater risks than they have taken in the past. I know it is dangerous to suggest risks but I think it is much more dangerous to stand still and hope that the position will get better. We shall only get out of our difficulties by a definite lead on the part of the Government facing risks and making sure that at least we have given a lead to Europe, a lead which I believe would soon be followed.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. RICHARD LAW
I should like to say a word in support of the last remarks of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans). I, too, am one of those who would like to see the Government taking a more definite lead in foreign policy than they seem to have taken up to the moment. Let me refer briefly to one or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. K. Lindsay). My hon. Friend pointed out with perfect truth that there was a great deal of half-baked propaganda emanating from the Socialist benches; and he also pointed out, what is equally true, that there is at the moment profound dissatisfaction in the country generally with the foreign policy of the Government, and that there is a feeling in the country that the Government is not really as wholehearted in the pursuit of peace as some other parties.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock connects the two things completely—the half-baked propaganda with the unpopularity which has come to attach to the Government in this respect. There is no doubt that the propaganda of the Socialists has had a great effect on public opinion. But I refuse to believe that the majority of people in this country are as half-baked as the Socialists who make this propaganda. I am very strongly of the opinion that there is some other reason besides the Socialist propaganda for the reputation which the National Government have to- 1390 day in this respect. I believe that this Debate has given us an indication of what that reason is. In the Debate this afternoon we have had, as we always do have in these Debates, a most remarkable speech from the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary enjoyed, as he always does enjoy, a Parliamentary triumph, and I have always noticed—so it seems to me—that these Debates on foreign policy, or at any rate on that kind of policy which comes within the purview of the Foreign Office, always take a similar course. There is a great deal of criticism, a Parliamentary triumph on the part of the Foreign Secretary, and then on the next day there is a definite falling off of the stock of the National Government in the country.
No one can deny that the right hon. Gentleman when he speaks in these Debates makes a very strong case, but I think there is a feeling which is very widespread in the country that he is making a case, and not really trying to get at the fundamental truth of the subject under discussion. I do not mean by that to imply that the right hon. Gentleman is in any way insincere. What I do feel is that whenever any topic like this of the nationalisation of armaments, or an international police force, or economic sanctions, comes up in our Debates, the only thing the Foreign Secretary does—and he does it very completely—is to point out the enormous difficulties which surround the policy, whatever it may be. It is, obviously, quite right to point out the difficulties, but I would be more satisfied that the Government really were going into these problems as deeply as I think they ought to be gone into, if he would point out sometimes some of the advantages which must in any reasonable contingency accrue from these policies.
In foreign policy, as in any other form of policy, you have got to take a balance of advantages and disadvantages. In every policy there are disadvantages, and in most policies there are advantages. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would only be justified in his purely negative attitude if he could show to the satisfaction of the House and of the people that his own policy was entirely free from disadvantages. But that is manifestly not the case, and indeed one can say without undue harshness that his policy has one very great disadvantage which 1391 does not attach to some of the policies which have been discussed and turned down by the Government. It has this disadvantage: it has been tried for three years and has not been very successful. I do not say that this is the right hon. Gentleman's fault. I do not say that anybody else might have done better. But the fact is that the situation in Europe and the world to-day is not very much improved on what it was when he took over the Foreign Office. I do not think he is entitled just to point out the difficulties and the weaknesses of any other policy proposed, unless his own policy is a good deal more free from criticism than in practice it is.
The right hon. Gentleman in these Debates always makes these speeches, extremely convincing at the moment, to show exactly why nothing can be done. He always ends up with the plea: "Well, if anyone can show me anything better that I can do, I shall be glad to know of it." I am sure he means that, but it is rather difficult for any private Member to make a concrete suggestion on foreign policy of a kind that I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has in his mind. But I would like to take the advantage of his invitation to make one suggestion which I must admit is neither a concrete nor a definite one. I would ask him to have a little more courage, and a little more faith than he seems to have. I cannot explain what I mean without some kind of analogy. There does come a time in the lives of individuals and in the lives of States when some risk has got to be taken, and when we have got to accept that risk in the faith that, dangerous as it is, it is in fact safer than the course which seems to be safer and easier.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever, among his other activities, been a yachtsman. If he has he will know that if he is at sea in a small boat, perhaps cruising along the coast, and if the weather is thick and wind and sea get up, he may feel: "Well, I had better get nearer to dry land. I am better near the shore where even if the boat is wrecked I can swim ashore." If he thinks that, he would be a foolish sailor. He would know that however unpleasant it may be in these circumstances, the only thing he can do is to put out to sea and face the gale and see 1392 it out. If he tries to run for harbour it may seem safer, but he will undoubtedly be lost. It does seem to me that his attitude towards these great problems of foreign policy is rather like that of the timid yachtsman. He is afraid to put out from the coast for fear of being lost in the sea, and seems never to pay any attention to the possibility that he may be driven on to the shore and irretrievably lost in the breakers which crash over the wreck of his ship.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I can speak only for a very few moments, and I had not intended to address the House or to trouble it with any words of mine to-day. But I feel impelled to trespass on the indulgence of the House for a very short time, because this Debate has left upon me, I confess, a feeling of intense disappointment and depression. I think that perhaps the fundamental reason is this: The House has felt itself to be behindhand with public opinion in the country. That is to say that discussion of this subject has been left behind by propaganda conducted by one side or the other in the country. We have spent a good deal of time in discussing whether certain features of that propaganda are justified or not. I find myself in the same position as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I feel with him that this national peace declaration has been conducted in some respects in a very deplorable way. But I leave that on one side. That perhaps is the fundamental reason.
It is all very well for the Foreign Secretary to spend so much time in talking of the pamphlets of the Union of Democratic Control and proving them to be, as they are, thoroughly dishonest, but, after all, the reply is, what has his Department been doing to counteract that propaganda and to put the other side in the country? That is the first reason why this Debate has been so unsatisfactory. The other reason is that there is no contact between the two sides in this Debate. Neither side really wants to address itself to the arguments of the other. That is especially true about the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The depressing thing about the speeches from the Opposition to-day—I wish they would realise how a person like myself. belonging to that War generation, feels about them—is that they represent a 1393 state of mind which has led to every war of which I have ever read in the history of this country.
One hon. Member—I am sorry if I interrupted him unjustifiably—said that the War was due in part to the activities of private munition firms, and when I challenged him he produced the story about Mr. Mulliner. That concentration on the tittle-tattle about what Mr. Mulliner may have said in 1910 or 1912 weighs a great deal with him, and weighs a great deal in the propaganda that he conducts in the country, but he ignores absolutely the whole history of 20 years. He is exactly in the position of the men who, at the time when Germany was starting her naval programme, would not look at the facts of Europe but spent their time in tying to prove that Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was concerned in Army con- tracts. That is the kind of blindness -which has led to every war in the past—the lack of a sense of proportion. At the same time, on the Government side of the House there has been hitherto no real effort to meet what is the uncomfortable feeling in this country. Here are men engaged in a business in which none of us would very much like to engage. It is not a business that tastes nice.
Lord E. PER CY
The hon. Gentleman precisely represents that class of person of whom I have been speaking. He can see nothing but profits, profits, profits, and he does not know that what leads to war is the ambition of power, for which he is far more responsible, the ambition of power and the hatred which that ambition leads. Let him remember that when he speaks about profit. But I do not want to make a controversial speech. I was saying that on this side of the House there has been no real effort to meet that uncomfortable feeling in the country. This may be a necessary business, but it does not taste nice and it does lead to abuses. It is open to certain obvious dangers.
That, I know, is the whole of the case of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They do not realise what the history of the world has proved over and over again, that the capitalists' power of getting improper action by Parliament through the Press is as nothing to the power of the electorate at the poll in getting improper 1394 action by the Government. Those two dangers have to be weighed against each other, the danger of socialised production of munitions and the danger of private enterprise in munitions. You can make a comparison with the very analogy that the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) gave us—analogy of the slave trade. You can compare the effects of State monopoly in the slave trade and the effects of private enterprise in the slave trade. Apart from the fundamental evil of the slave trade itself, the State monopoly was for a time the more dangerous and the more difficult to eradicate. If the Government had been dealing only with private enterprise in the slave trade, that trade would have been abolished very much earlier than it was.
Those are the two dangers with which we are dealing. We know that we cannot convert the Opposition. We know that they are past praying for. But, after all, if we talk about profit their errors are too profitable to them politically to be easily given up. To the Government we surely can say this: You have a policy. It is true it has not been stated from the Government Benches today, but it has been stated by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham You have a policy. In itself it is a good policy, but it lacks two things; it lacks the completion in detail which such a policy ought to have, the control of the traffic in arms by the governments of the world. It lacks also the sense of drive and determination behind it which a government ought to evince in a matter like this. Let the Government show that drive, that conviction in the truth of their own policy, and then they will not need to engage in dialectics with the Opposition, because their policy, with that drive behind it, will ride over the Opposition's perfectly hopeless policy—ride over it, horse, foot and dragoons.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I must confess that I share with the Noble Lord a considerable measure of disappointment at the course of this Debate. I agree with him that a lot of it anyhow has been rather remote from the tragic realities of the case. I should have been as glad as he to have seen evinced from the Government Bench some of that drive and determination which he is so disappointed at not 1395 finding. The speech of the Foreign Secretary was as is usual with him, a brilliant forensic performance. He had a good deal to say about bogies which he carefully put up and effectively and eloquently demolished. Then he had a good deal of criticism of this party and that party which had, he said, misrepresented the Government. He was even ingenious enough to drag in something which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said about me in 1929 and he pointed out that it did not accord with something that he had said more recently. I do not myself belong to the advocate species, but I understand that it is the practice when acting for the defence to get if you can a few splashes over the plaintiff's attorney and I suppose that is the reason why this matter was dragged in. Otherwise, it seems to have no relation to the subject of the Motion.
Then the right hon. Gentleman was very much annoyed with some party or other—I was not clear what party—which had published a green pamphlet and with some other party which had or had not—I was not sure which—published a blue pamphlet. I was asking myself all the time what had these Pecksniffian castigations to do with the Motion. The relation appeared to be extraordinarily remote. I am afraid that I was unkind enough when listening to them to have recalled to my mind what some gossip said, I believe, of the right hon. Gentleman and some of his performances at Geneva. It was said that he had secured convictions against so many other people that he had altogether lost sight of his own. He was followed in much the same vein by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) and a good deal was made of the difficulties which were mentioned, and quite properly mentioned, by the committee set up at Geneva 13 years ago. But that was 13 years ago. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has been able to think of something since then. Why should he have to rely solely upon the difficulties which were presented 13 years ago? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham referred to the difficulty of inquiring into what were munitions and what were not. I agree that the definition of munitions might present 1396 certain difficulties. It would. There is, for example, the chemical industry. We required in the last war vast masses of nitrates of a different character from those ordinarily produced in peace time. But as far as I am concerned I feel there should be no difficulty in dealing with these problems and questions of practice all of which are all capable of being tackled by sensible people with the will to tackle them. Instead of that these two right hon. Gentlemen made me think of some lines which I may adjust to their case:And thus the native hue of resolution, Was sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought"—in their case by the thought of all these difficulties—And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard, their currents turned awry, And lost the name of action.
§ Dr. ADDISON
In one lucid interval, if he will allow me to use that term without discourtesy, the right hon. Gentleman really did approach the subject matter of the Motion, and it is to what he said then that I would ask the House to give some attention. I am not going to take any part in casting aspersions upon munition makers. As far as I know, and I knew lots of them very well, they are just a fair average of the rest of humanity—good, bad and indifferent. A man who makes rifles naturally wants to get customers just the same as the man who makes boots, and under the present system you cannot blame him for that. In this case, of course, the article manufactured is a very dangerous article to humanity generally and, therefore, it is necessary to look at that kind of manufacture in a different way from that in which we regard others. But as a mere business proposition the three statements which the right hon. Gentleman made on this point are as remote from the realities that we experienced during the War as the rest of his speech was from the Resolution.
He made the usual case that we have to maintain private manufactories, with their capacity, their staffs, their machinery and all the rest of it in order that they may be usable in time of war. He said that this need for almost "unlimited expan- 1397 sion" required the maintenance of these private firms. Then, addressing me particularly I think, he asked if I could have done my work at the Ministry of Munitions if the organisation and experience of private firms had not been there to be drawn upon. I think that fairly represents what he said. Now the experience of the War, and I am bound to refer to it, because it has been called in question, showed to me and I think to everyone else intimately concerned with that dreadful business, that not only was the existence of private firms, upon which the Department had quite naturally to depend for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman stated, not a source of strength but that it was a source of weakness. As a matter of fact the dependence of this country upon private munition manufacturers nearly lost us the War and it was not until we broke that tradition and emancipated ourselves from the shackles which it put upon us that we were able to meet the needs of the men at the front.
Let me examine as fairly as I can how that came about. The first thing was that the Departments naturally came to rely upon groups of private manufacturers. In that connection I do not think the First Lord of the Admiralty need be upset if the managing director of a great firm has had n talk, even a friendly talk, with the director of contracts. That is inevitable. Under that system the director of contracts is necessarily in continual conversation and having meetings with the heads of the great firms with which that Department is doing business. That is inevitable, and it is right that it should be so long as this system continues. But there are certain undesirable features which we are bound to recognise which have sprung up in consequence. I think the practice of recruiting the Boards of some of these firms from members of the staffs in the Great War Departments is undesirable. It is difficult to see how it could be prevented in existing circumstances, but it is certainly un- desirable. The condition was that owing to this system we depended mainly, out- side the Government Departments, upon the skill and personnel of these firms.
The result, in the first place, was that there had grown up—and we were confronted with it—a sort of specialist frame of mind, a frame of mind which thought 1398 that nobody else could do the job. We found as soon as we had to deal with it that we could get 'as good master gauge-makers out of the watchmakers in Clerkenwell, and who also could make as good fuses as anybody else. There was no particular monolopy about it. There was more quackery mixed up with this business than anything I have known. It was largely a pretence. There was this further drawback attached to the system, that the firms naturally employed by the Department were given increasing orders as the conditions of the War made them become necessary. Human nature is the same more or less all round, and the firms, finding themselves snowed up with this glorious array of orders, naturally—I not blaming them—took as many as they could. The result was that others who could contribute and had the appropriate organisation were not called in to contribute, and the nation was confronted with the perilious position in which masses of orders had been given out which could not physically be met. We found ourselves met with millions and millions of things in arrears, and the system utterly broke down. It broke down because of the dependence of the State upon these firms, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to think were capable of "unlimited expansion."
The system completely failed, and not only so, but there is this other criticism which applied then, and I do not doubt that, if ever we were mad enough to allow ourselves to be rushed into war again, it would probably apply again. Nobody anticipated the character of the demand. The character of the demand was quite different, on a different scale, and different in its ingredients, from anything that anybody anticipated, and the rigidity of the anticipations of the so-called experts was one of the greatest difficulties that we found in responding to the new demands.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I am speaking of private experts as well as of Government experts. The Departments necessarily came to depend on the experts, and the whole system engendered a rigidity of mind which led to a dependence on the experts in these firms, which prevented our responding to the new character of the 1399 demand as readily as we ought to have done. It was certainly a great source of weakness for more than 12 months, and the point that I was going to make was that the character of the demand was quite different from any anticipation. The Foreign Secretary seems to think that somehow or other selected groups of firms should be kept in being and would be capable of unlimited expansion. If ever disaster should overtake us, we may be certain that it will be something different from what we have been expecting, and that the character of the demand will be quite different also. Nobody would have anticipated, for instance, that we should have to hunt the country and the world over for phosphorus and other materials which were unlooked for at the time of the outbreak of war.
Apart from the fact that the system, by becoming set and hidebound, was difficult to expand, it was ruinously expensive. Some hon. Members opposite suggest that if we had the system which is advocated in the Motion, it would mean that we should have to take over lots of factories and run them. We paid for the factories over and over again in the prices that we were paying. Until we adopted a national system, we did not have any conception as to what we were paying. I will give one illustration. The character of the war demand brought about an immense requirement of fuming sulphuric acid, quite beyond the commercial sort of supply, and naturally they were called upon to supply the goods. On the question of price, at the date for which I took out the figures yesterday, namely, October, 1916, when this return was made to me, the average market price of this commodity, obtained by contracts, was £12 a ton. We had then built a factory which had had a year's running. We had paid for the whole factory in nine months, and the price of the oleum, including the amortisation of the whole factory in nine months was not £12 a ton but 55s. I am not speaking of profiteering.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am not disputing the right hon. Gentleman's facts, but if this resolution had been enforced before the War, would that have been scheduled as an armament industry to be conducted only by the Government, or not?
§ Dr. ADDISON
That is a trifling point. Of course it would. Oleum, the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, is used in a limited way for a certain number of commercial manufacturing purposes, and for such purposes it would be used, but we should not have been dependent upon the producers, the private manufacturers, of oleum to meet the war demands, so far as they were required, of that product. We would make them ourselves, as we did, [An HON. MEMBER: "In peace time?"] The real point was that the private manufacturer was unable to meet our requirements, and when we began to meet them for ourselves we found that we were paying for the factory times over, indeed every year, so that I say the present system is necessarily expensive. There is another matter which is very material. We set up our own national factories wholly and solely because the private manufacturers, the armament makers, had failed. They were required, and we found that although they were improvised in a few months, within a few months of working, namely, at the end of 1915, they were producing 18-pounder shell-cases at from 10s. to 12s. a piece, whereas the average contract price, even with the most experienced of the armament firms, was 20s. There is no doubt about it—it is not open to question—that it was only the institution of large scale methods of production that enabled us to supply the needs of the troops.
§ Sir JOHN PYBUS
Was not the cost of Woolwich more than 20s.? The right hon. Gentleman is pointing out that while the price of the armament firms was something over 20s. for 18-pounder cases, they were making them in the national factory for something over 10s., but what was Woolwich doing all this time? That is a national factory and its cost was the highest in the country.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Why was that? It was because Woolwich made a mere handful of these things in the first instance, and as soon as we got the factories, instead of making a handful at Woolwich we used it for filling and testing and other purposes. [Interruption.] I can understand hon. Members not liking these statements, but if you have an improvised factory turning out these things for 10s., whereas the private manufacturer, who prides himself on being 1401 essential to the well-being of the State, cannot make them for less than 20s., it is not a testimonial for private manufacturers.
May I go on to a further point which relates to another undesirable feature of this system, which I am not mentioning with any at all; I am only mentioning it as an illustration of the kind of thing that necessarily attaches to this system where a department is dependent for its supplies on a limited number of favoured firms. At one time I was possessed with the idea that I should like to look into the cost of the manufacture of cordite, and I set a number of capable accountants to make a report on the subject. They reported that the cost was much higher than it ought to be. They reported, for example, that one great firm, whom we had helped to finance in the provision of a factory, had paid for the whole thing in less than 18 months, and was still getting 33⅓ per cent. profit. They said that the price of 2s. 3d. per lb. was too great. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord will not think I am mentioning this in any way to cast aspersions on anybody. It is inalienable in the system. I received a message while these negotiations were going on from the Admiralty exorting me not to press too hard on the firm's willingness to increase the supply of cordite by seeking to reduce the selling price too much. I asked those concerned to leave it to us and promised that we would do the fair thing. I asked them not to be too sensitive but to let us deal with it, and they did. It was all done in good temper, and we reduced the price of cordite 7d. per lb. As a result we saved £3,900,000 on that one year's supply. That remonstrance, that representation would never have been addressed if this kind of thing had not been the practice in the past under the present system. This illustration and scores more prove that there is a difficulty in the initiation and development of supplies of war materials under this system, and that it proved to be ruinously costly.
May I mention in passing one other consideration which was very frequently brought to our notice, and which we quite fairly took into account. We were told over and over again when we were examining the prices that we must take account of the higher overhead charges 1402 of the great firms. I admit I was not too particular as to inquire what those overhead charges were, but still, I dare say one might have surmised what some of them might be. Here let me mention the case which was brought out, and I understand is not disputed, in the American inquiry. I am not making much reference to it because we have abundant material of our own near at hand. In the case of the Electric Boat Company I find that they have an arrangement for a sub-division of territory of the world for the supply of submarine boats. It was said in the evidence at the inquiry that this firmreceive a certain percentage of net profit accruing to them on such business"—that is, submarines built by Vickers for the account of the British Government—and during the entire period of such construction, running over 20 years, our average profit has been £28,467 per boat, and the profit of Vickers accruing on this business has been larger than our proportion.It means that wrapped up in the overhead charges in the Department that supplied submarines is £28,000 for the Electric Boat Company, and that amount sooner or later is paid by the British taxpayer. The witness, Mr. Carse, was asked by the chairman:That is substantially correct, so far as relates to your relations with Vickers, on British business? In any event, you made a percentage on all of the submarine building that Vickers did for the British Government?Mr. CARSE: Yes, Sir."
That system has grown up. It is part of the arrangements which are made between the different great concerns in supplying munitions. It necessarily includes overhead charges, and we have only to peruse the evidence at this inquiry to see what other causes there are inflating overhead charges. I do not see how, under the existing system, we can ever escape from these inflations of prices. It is really inevitable so long as we continue the present system. Apart entirely from the worst of the revelations, out of which I make no capital, it is inevitable that the great firms concerned, seeking business all over the world, must necessarily incur very heavy expenditure and must necessarily inflate their office charges in consequence, and sooner or later the Contracts Department of this country has to pay the bill. My suggestion is that, so far as an examination of this system shows that it is not a success, on 1403 mere merits, as a business proposition, it is an undesirable practice, and it failed us in our time of need—such a time of need as is fresh within the memory of many men in this House.
I have tried to address myself to the realities of the case suggested by the Foreign Secretary as a justification for this system. I say that as a business proposition there is no justification for it, and when we look at it from the other point of view there is no case at all. One cannot imagine a case from the other side, because with every desire not to exaggerate the position I must point out that this business, if it is to flourish, can only flourish upon the giving of orders for armaments; can only flourish if it uses its agents up and down the world to obtain orders for armaments to the best of their ability; can only flourish if it encourages, directly or indirectly, by any sort of influence it can muster, propaganda which will lead to the giving of orders for armaments. It must be so. And then, of course, an influence like this, which is so penetrating, as it is, so persistent, so pernicious, ought to be removed, apart from other considerations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, having been driven to invent a difficulty in the last ditch, invented this one. Apart from all these difficulties, which were conjured up 13 years ago, and which, during his tenure of the office of Foreign Secretary for three years he has not attempted to deal with, the last difficulty he presents to us is that if Great Britain took the lead, which we suggest, we should be lonely, that we should give a lead which nobody would follow. Even that prospect need not dismay us, if it is the right thing to do, because I have tried to argue this case, and we do present it, not as a part of a mere doctrine of Socialism but as something which the experience of the nation has proved to be a source of weakness, and which is undeniably a danger to the peace of the world. I question very much whether Great Britain would be lonely. I think the nations of the world would open their eyes with wonder if they saw the National Government and the right hon. Gentleman giving a courageous lead in a matter of this kind. I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). I wish 1404 this Government would try to get away from the fog of tradition and come into the light and lead the nations.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
At the beginning of my observations, I should like to say with what pleasure I listened to the thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Hull (Mr. Law), though I did not find myself in agreement with all he said. He has an hereditary right to speak in this House. I agree with him that in many ways this Debate has been unsatisfactory, because the matter of the Debate is very strictly limited by the terms of the Motion. When you get into any Debate that deals with armaments or with questions that bear on foreign policy, the subjects that are near men's hearts are those eternal subjects of peace and war, and they have to be discussed from the aspect of what it is possible to do to-day. What is this Motion? Itregrets the absence of any international agreement to deal with this admitted evil, and is of opinion that this country should set an example by prohibiting forthwith all private manufacture of and trade in armaments by British nationals.That is the subject of our Debate, and it is constricted. We have had the good fortune to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) give us some of his recollections of the Ministry of Munitions, and I would make two observations on them. He said, in other words, that he took over that responsible duty in conditions absolutely unlike any that had ever existed in the world before. His facts were right, but his deductions, I think, were wrong. It may well be that he found what he complained of among the private manufacturers, but we were entering at that time into a world unfamiliar to everyone, and in which no one could foresee his way. It was at a time when no one had foreseen the extent of the armaments that would be required or that the regular soldier would ever imagine that the Territorial would be fit to fight as he did in the time that he took to train, when the most experienced artillery officers believed that the training Of a gunner was a matter of years and when the skilled workman said that it was impossible for women to work in munition works. We have seen all those things. 1405 We were all wrong at the beginning of the War, and we only slowly came to see the truth.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
After the recollections that have been given, to the great interest of the House, I will give the House my recollections of the Munitions Department. I will only give two. Before I entered on an official life, I was connected with a steel works which switched over parts of its. work to munitions. When we first started making shells we had no idea what to charge for them, because we had never made them before. We had no idea what they cost. We knew nothing about them. We asked advice from a very clever gentleman who come down from, the Ministry of Munitions, and the advice we got was: "Charge what you like for them."
§ Dr. ADDISON
I challenge that statement. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to produce any statement to show that a free opportunity was given like that, without it being said that it would be costed afterwards.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman will recollect that the last right hon. Gentleman who addressed the House got a very good hearing. He may have been interrupted once or twice, but now there is continual interruption. One thing I will have is a fair hearing for both sides.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
My other recollection is this I remember that a 15 per cent. increase in wages was given, and I remember that most mysteriously the wages of labourers, certainly in South Wales, were above the wages of skilled engineers, which very nearly led to a strike all through South Wales. Concessions were made to the engineers at some considerable expense—an expense which, at that time and in those circumstances, was justified—to smooth the matter over.
1406 I wish now to come back to the second part of the Motion, and then I propose to say a few words on the first part, which suggests dealing with an admitted evil by international agreement. Some of what I propose to say has been said already in the course of the Debate, but I wish to put briefly some considerations which I think are worthy of being taken into account, certainly by those who would naturally be opposed to this Motion, and also by those who will vote for it, and who some day may have it in their power to bring it into effect. I am quite sure that everyone who votes for this Motion must have thought out very carefully all its implications. I want to help them by drawing attention to some points which seem to me to be worthy of attention.
First of all, we have learned one thing in the course of the Debate to-day, and that is that the actual making of munitions is not necessarily morally wrong. That is interesting, because I thought that possibly that view might have been taken, but it has not been taken. That, of course, was a view which mutatis mutandis,, was taken in 1915, when, as the right hon. Gentleman, who, I think, became Minister of Munitions in that year, will remember, a scheme very nearly went through—and it received some support from the party to which I belong—for practically the nationalisation of the brewery trade. That scheme, however, failed. It failed because of the views of the extreme teetotallers, who said, "No; the brewery trade is an evil thing, and we will not have the Government dealing with an evil thing. The Government will make this evil thing respectable, and the last state would be worse than the first." I admit frankly that that ground has not been taken.
I wonder what the ground is. Is it the old objection of the Puritans to bear-baiting? It will be remembered that the Puritans objected to bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators. Objection is taken to the private manufacture of munitions, not because it is a bad trade, but because people make money out of it. I have never heard any complaint that there is anything immoral in an employè taking his wages for making munitions even though they be high; but evidently it is wrong, in the view of hon. Members opposite, that anyone should make a profit out of munitions. 1407 I will come back to that question in a minute. Do hon. Members wish to get rid of it because of the alleged scandal? That is a tenable proposition, but I shall try to show; before I sit down, that the scandal can be dealt with, and dealt with thoroughly, by international control.
I was puzzled before the Debate began, because I thought, from some of the propaganda literature I have seen, that hon. Members would advocate the abolition of the private manufacture of arms on the ground that it would make for peace. No one, however, has, I think, put that forward, and I think that that reason, if reason it can be called—in inverted commas, let us say—has been put on one side. I am very glad to hear it. I think probably it is an attempt to get the principle of the nationalisation of industry accepted until such time as you can get control of all means of production. Our sole object, and the sole object of Governments hitherto, has been to secure the necessary armaments of this country, an object which by the terms of the Motion we know is an admittedly proper one for a Government to prosecute.
But my greatest objection to this proposal is my firm conviction that, just as prohibition in America had many unexpected results, unforeseen by millions of honest and earnest people who brought it about—it led to fresh forms of crime and fresh forms of drinking—so I believe that the prohibition of private manufacture, with its consequent corollary of only Government manufacture, would lead to an enormous increase of armaments not only in this country but throughout the world. I will try to develop that for a few moments. We have very little to guide us in the way of actual practice, but my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) touched with great discretion—I am going to use less discretion for I am going to mention names—on what is going on in the world. The only country which has a completely national manufacture of arms is Russia, and the production of arms in that country, particularly of tanks and aircraft, is prodigious. I am not finding fault with that. That is not the point of my argument. The point is that Government manufacture does not necessarily make for a reduction of arms. The country which has more practical 1408 Government control over the manufacture of arms than any other is France, and France is not a country which stands out at this moment as being distinguished for a reduction of arms. So the small amount of experience that we have today in State control, either complete or partial, shows that, at any rate, State control is perfectly consistent with a very large manufacture of armaments.
Are we quite sure that there would be no improper practices—I use a wide phrase. I am not so sure of that. Let us consider the question for a moment. Would Governments sell arms themselves? Governments, of course, in these days have one constant care—the employment of their people. I can think of other countries, without mentioning their names—I can think of our own—which would be very anxious to find employment for their people. There are a number of countries which make no arms at all. Is it proposed—these things have to be thought out—that the Governments of the armed States should say to those countries, "No, in no circumstances shall you be allowed to make arms or to have them," or will they sell to them, or will those countries themselves say, "No, we cannot depend on buying from a Government lest when we are belligerents we should get no arms. We will make arsenals for ourselves"? Until countries, say, in South America, have their own arsenals, think what the competition would be for any ships that might be going. Who would not be glad to have a cruiser from the Tyne or the Clyde? Or Italy might like to have a cruiser. What would the competition be? Suppose one of these countries that controls the manufacture of arms said to one of these States, "You can have a loan on condition that you place two cruisers with us." What would our Government do?
Does not that bring into the already complicated world of economic stress of competition between the nations one still more dangerous form of competition than there is to-day? I see grave difficulties there to which I have never discovered a solution, but doubtless hon. Members who have decided to vote for this Motion know exactly what the solution will be when the circumstances arise. Consider the situation envisaged in this Motion. I do not wish to go into any detail or 1409 dwell at any length over what has been said in the course of the Debate to-day. I will be as short as I can. The great difficulty that strikes me is this. The work dovetails very much between work which the firms do for armaments and work for peace. You have, on the one hand, say, for the Admiralty, propelling machinery of great dimensions and size which can be made in no dockyards, armour plate, big guns, big gun mountings, those are things, of course, peculiar to the Service. When you come to the big forgings for the big guns, those again are the same type of forgings used for hydrogenating plants, and steel of nearly all kinds in ships and plates can be used for many kinds of armament manufacture, as they can for boundless services in private life. The whole of the explosives practically are made in private works where they are made equally with explosives for quarries, for mines and for sport, and, as far as the Air Ministry goes, practically everything is made in private works. There, again, you have the aeroplane engine, and who can tell always whether an engine will be going into a Service plane or whether it will not? There, again, the one advantage which you have at the moment, with many keen brains working in rivalry and competition, is that you get quicker development than you would at a Government factory by reason of that very rivalry, newer types, better engines in a work which is still in its infancy.
There is one other thing to be remembered before we consider how we are going to make the change. There are two great shocks with regard to munition work. There is the shock of war when you have to expand, and almost the equally formidable shock of peace when you have to disband. There is no doubt in my view, that—I say this because of what was said from the opposite side of the House—the first is felt by armament works and the second is felt by private works. The absorption is more elastic in private works. There is a firm which during the War manufactured cartridges and afterwards turned to the manufacture of lipstick. It would mean, of course, a permanent number of discharges from Government works unless the Government works also were able to turn themselves into civilian industries, which, of course, they would do if hon. Members 1410 got what they really wanted, the nationalisation of the whole industry of the country.
Even from that sketch hon. Members will see how gigantic the problem is, and how incapable of solution without complete nationalisation. You will have to make up your mind at what point you will stop. Whatever point that is, whether you take in much or little, the expenditure is going to be colossal and the number of men for whom you will be responsible will be very great. If you allow on your establishment sufficient staff to help to stop the time-lag in the turn-over to war conditions, then a fortiori your problem becomes much more serious. In the nature of things you cannot have constant work in providing armaments for the services of this country. They are bound to fluctuate, however good the management and the regulation. It depends so much on the mood of the country, the mood of Parliament, the temper of the people, the outlook abroad and a hundred other things. Are you going to make stock or are you going to discharge men? These are practical problems, and I have no doubt that you have thought them out. Are you going to discharge your men right off the staff or are you going to put them on unemployment benefit to stand by against the time that you want them, and forbid them to get employment in private firms?
Now I come to another matter, and that is what is going to be the position of a candidate for Parliament vis-a-vis an armaments industry that is controlled by the Government It is not going to be easy. I could not help thinking this, when I saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Dr. Addison) the other day being returned for one of the constituencies for which I should be proud to sit, because it is full of Great Western men, who are the best men in the world; men of my old line. Suppose those men had been in a Government munitions factory. Suppose they were faced with a very close election, and one of the candidates said, "If I am returned to Parliament I will see that another 50,000 of you get a job." What a difficult argument to answer.
§ Dr. ADDISON
There were 400 men who got the sack one day not many weeks ago under the existing system.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I have no doubt that that played a large part in bringing my right hon. Friend back to this House. That is my point. It would be perfectly impossible, even with reasons which made it necessary to reduce the number of workmen employed, because were were overstocked or because perhaps the Foreign Secretary was going to make a fresh appeal at Geneva at the Disarmament Conference, for any candidate to have the remotest chance of winning in any constituency controlled by munition workers if he went there and said: "For the good of the country I am going to have 5,000 of you put out of work." You would open the door to one of the most difficult and subtle forms of political corruption for the unhappy candidate, and God knows we have enough to worry about at elections without that.
§ Mr. HICKS
The right hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I made a slight contribution to the Debate. A point was raised earlier in the day in regard to possible political corruption by having in a constituency arsenals or factories for the manufacture of munitions. I told the House, for what it was worth, that my constituency, one of the oldest arsenals in the world, sent me here to fight for peace.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am sure that it is done, and so shrewd a man as the hon. Member will realise that he has a good many companions. I have known the hon. Member for many years. We met in less happy days, in 1926. I am sure that if the hon. Member is once returned for a seat nobody can turn him out; you have only to look at him. But no testimony of that kind will make me doubt that here is a terrific danger, a danger to which we ought not to submit the country. I strongly oppose the proposition put forward on the grounds which I have briefly indicated, and, particularly, on the last ground, which I think is vital. We have at present what is, on the whole, the best system to provide for national defence at as little cost as possible to the taxpayer.
Having done my duty, briefly, to that part of the question, let me say a few words on the question of control. Control sounds a very easy and simple matter, but it has not always proved to be so in the past. While I shall never complain of hon. Members urging the Gov- 1412 ernment on or complaining about our being too slow, I do sometimes resent a little the criticism which is directed against us as though we were in a position among all the nations to do at any time exactly what we would. There is no better instance of this than the instance of the restriction on traffic in arms. No one in this House is more anxious than I to deal with this traffic and control it effectively. I had the honour of being Prime Minister when the 1925 Convention was arranged at Geneva. Many attempts had been made—I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite tried just as hard in their time as we did for many years—but the most important initiative undoubtedly was the Convention for the Supervision of International Trade in Arms, commonly called the 1925 Convention.
We signed and ratified that Convention as a Government, and it is one of the things upon which I look back with pride as having been allowed to take some part in it. That was nine years ago, and that Convention is still waste-paper because it has never been ratified by any considerable number of the nations among whom it was agreed. If those provisions had been put into force they would have proved an important contribution towards meeting the very anxieties which have been expressed to-day; if the Convention had been in force for the last nine years, nine-tenths of the charges which the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) quoted in his speech would not have been made because they would have been non-existent. I acknowledge that rebuffs like that are depressing. An enormous amount of work goes to the achievement even to get a Convention on traffic in arms. Your Foreign Secretary goes to Geneva, your staff from London are going backward and forwards, the whole thing is settled and you sign and ratify—and there is an end of it. But we are going back to Geneva to take up this matter again, and we are determined to get an effective Convention. We shall do our utmost to see that other nations sign and ratify it as we do ourselves. It may be of interest for the House to know that we have been considering this very matter within the last few days. We have been in touch with the President of the Disarmament Conference. We have expressed our views to him, and I am de- 1413 lighted to find that our views are in very close accord. And we are going to Geneva in the hope—the not unreasonable hope—that we may be able to accomplish something.
I wish that it had been possible to have widened, perhaps, the scope of this Debate, because these are anxious days in which we live. But I should like to assure the House, and particularly my own friends in the House, that in spite of all the disheartening events of the last year, we never lost sight of what must be the principal object—and I say this to bring no credit to ourselves—of any British Government, as it must be the principal object of every Government, and that is to maintain peace. There are many circumstances to-day which make it difficult. We are not always helped when conferences are taking place by criticisms and premature disclosures that are made. Things that look so small sometimes cast suspicion in the minds of those dealing with the subject, and your work may be set back for months by
§ some reckless word or criticism. I only mention that as one of the difficulties inseparable from working in a true democracy as we do.
§ I say that we are seeking peace, and I see no reason why the peace should not be maintained. I am no panic-monger; I am no scare-monger; I am no warmonger. And yet we have so great an heritage to maintain. We stand for so much in a world where from the West of Europe right across the continent of Asia there are great peoples whose cultural ideals are poles asunder from ours; and at a time like this while seeking peace, and while as I believe securing peace, we must never forget, while attacking no one, that we have a marvellous heritage to defend and hand on. In no circumstances must we fail in that trust.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 68; Noes, 279.1415
|Division No. 391.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Gardner, Benjamin Walter||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Banfield, John William||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Paling, Wilfred|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, George A. (Yorks,W.Riding)||Parkinson, John Allan|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Groves, Thomas E.||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cape, Thomas||Harris, Sir Percy||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cove, William G.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)|
|Curry, A. C.||Janner, Barnett||Thorne, William James|
|Daggar, George||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||West, F. R.|
|Davies, Stephen Owen||Kirkwood, David||White, Henry Graham|
|Dobbie, William||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Leonard, William||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lunn, William|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McGovern, John||Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Burghley, Lord|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie|
|Albery, Irving James||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Burnett, John George|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Butler, Richard Austen|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cadogan, Hon. Edward|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Boothby, Robert John Graham||Caine. G. R. Hall-|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Boulton, W. W.||Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)|
|Apsley, Lord||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Assheton, Ralph||Boyce, H. Leslie||Carver, Major William H.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Castlereagh, Viscount|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Brass, Captain Sir William||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Chamberlain,Rt. Hon. Sir. J. A.(Blrm.,W)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Brown,Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Browne, Captain A. C.||Clarke, Frank|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Couper||Buchan, John||Clayton, Sir Christopher|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ramsay T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Iveagh, Countess of||Ramsbotham, Herwald|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe)||Ray, Sir William|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Jennings, Roland||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger||Remer, John R.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Knight, Holford||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Rickards, George William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Law Sir Alfred||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)|
|Dickie, John P.||Lees-Jones, John||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)|
|Doran, Edward||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock)||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Drummond-Wolff, H. M. C.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Salt, Edward W.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Llewellin, Major John J.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Dunglass, Lord||Locker-Lampoon, Rt.Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow.in-F.)|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||McKie, John Hamilton||Smith, Sir Robert (Ab'd'n & K'dine, C.)|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Smithers, Sir Waldron|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Spens, William Patrick|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Storey, Samuel|
|Glyn, Major Sir Ralph G. C.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Martin, Thomas B.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.|
|Granville, Edgar||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Graves, Marjorie||Monsen, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Moreing, Adrian C.||Templeton, William P.|
|Greene, William P. C.||Morgan, Robert H.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Grigg, Sir Edward||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Grimston, R. V||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Munro, Patrick||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Nall, Sir Joseph||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||North, Edward T.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Hartland, George A.||Nunn, William||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||O'Connor, Terence James||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ormiston, Thomas||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Orr Ewing, I. L.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter||Patrick, Colin M.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pearson, William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Peat, Charles U.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Hopkinson, Austin||Penny, Sir George||Womersley, Sir Walter|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Percy, Lord Eustace||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Petherick, M.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bllst'n)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Powell, Lieut,Col. Evelyn G. H.||Mr. Blindell and Commander Southby.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Eleven, of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.1416
§ The Orders of the day were read, and postponed.