§ [18TH ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES, SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATE, 1936.
§ CLASS I.
§ TREASURY AND SUBORDINATE DEPARTMENTS.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £13,262, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and other Expenses in the Department of His Majesty's Treasury and Subordinate Departments, and the Salary of the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The MINISTER for the CO-ORDINATION of DEFENCE (Sir Thomas Inskip)
This is the third occasion in eight weeks in which I have been required to make some statement upon which the Committee or the House could form an opinion as to the discharge of the responsible duties which have been entrusted to me. It is gratifying, at any rate, to think that the Opposition are so keenly interested in putting our defences in order as to ask for this Vote to be put down for discussion. But I think I may re-echo some words used on a former occasion by a First Lord of the Admiralty who deprecated what he described as the habit which was then growing up of expecting that every speech made on a Navy Estimate must contain some momentous announcement. My right hon. Friend who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty, exactly 12 months before the outbreak of the Great War, went on to say:There is, in certain quarters, such an insatiable appetite for new programmes that we are expected to produce them, not once or twice, but three times in a single year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1913; col. 1465, Vol. 55.]I commend those observations to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). These Estimates have already been discussed in Committee, but there 58 are three new Supplementary Estimates which have been put down for discussion later to-day if time permits. They are evidence of a swelling tide of production. They are pointers to fresh developments of the Government's programme. My task is to try to give a balanced account of what has happened since I last spoke. I have to try to give an impression which will be an accurate one. It can be no more than an impression, for if I picked out the high lights they would be deceptive. I hope I am as unwilling as anybody in the Committee to desire that a better impression should be produced by my choice of what may be regarded as the bright spots. On the other hand, it would be wrong if I were to lead the Committee to think that there is nothing except that which is grey or black. I will try to give the Committee such an account as, I hope, will represent the true position.
I may refer, first of all, to the naval programme, and I believe that I am justified in saying that there is general agreement as to the satisfactory character of the steps that have been taken up to the present time. Both in ship production and equipment, and in personnel the reports are satisfactory, and while maintenance and replacement have been proceeding in the normal manner, addition and expansion on a growing scale are constantly taking place. I am not aware of any anxiety in any quarter of the Committee as to the naval position. Here certainly is cause for confidence in all parts of the Committee. The party opposite certainly cannot complain or protest about the naval expansion, for are not they the people who have been contemplating a naval blockade?
When I last spoke I referred to the War Office as having started on their programme later than the other two Departments, but it was through no fault, of course, of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. But, in the course of the last two or three days, an announcement has been made which I am sure interested the House, and is one of considerable importance, the announcement that Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Brown was to be appointed as the Director-General of Munitions Production—a title almost as magnificent as my own—in the War Office. May I try to correct one impression that has been produced 59 namely, that his appointment is intended to relieve me or to extend to all three Services? He has been appointed, indeed, to help to carry the heavy load imposed upon the War Office, a load performed with so much devotion by the distinguished soldiers and the heads of branches in the War Office, who most certainly have not spared themselves in the performance of their arduous duties. The Director-General will take over what I may truly describe as a going concern. He will find that the regular sources of supply are being used to their utmost capacity. It is quite a misapprehension, which I find sometimes prevails, that until the deficiency programme was entered upon, there had been no normal production. It is true there was production on a small scale, but at any rate now, what I describe as the regular sources of supply, the professional firms and others, have been and are in receipt of orders on a yearly basis which will strain their capacity to the utmost.
New sources have had to be opened. It is not as easy as some hon. Members think to open new sources of supply for munitions. I say that not to excuse any delay, but in order that the matter may be seen in its true proportion. If I may take as an example one set of munitions, which I mentioned last time—shell and shell components—there are certain firms, of course, that are accustomed to produce them. They know the technique, they are familiar with the processes, they have the plant, they have received orders in the past, and they need no education. But the new firms which are to undertake the completion of what is really a formidable programme have not only to be inspected, but they have to be classified. They have to be examined for their capacity, and they have to learn to understand and to operate the processes shown in the manuals that have had to be prepared. Draft heads of agreement have to be considered, and any hon. Member who thinks that you can immediately increase the output of shell and shell components by running over the country giving an order to any engineering firm of experience, can be but little familiar with the processes to which I have referred.
I am happy to say that these preliminary stages, inevitable and elaborate as they are but still only preliminary, 60 have been passed. Fifty-two new firms have been offered contracts for the supply of ammunition, and of those 52 firms, at any rate up to 10 days or a fortnight ago, 14 have accepted term contracts. The rest are in process of making the technical examination of the processes and lay-out of plant which will enable contracts, I hope, in almost all, if not all, cases to be finally accepted, and when that is so, with the production of the Government factories, which, of course, are in production the whole time, the regular sources of supply and the new firms, seven-eighths of the total requirements of the Government in shells and fuses and cartridge cases will have been provided. That, indeed, is not an unsatisfactory result. It is quite true that we must take care that delivery and performance come up to promise. That is a subject, of course, which has received the most careful attention in the Department, and to some extent it will come constantly under my review. I have no reason to believe that the firms, all firms of good standing with a great deal of skill in their work and management, will be unable to perform that which they promise.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Are those 50 firms or more that have had orders given to them equipped with the machinery to enable them to start production at once, or have they first of all to make the machinery and the machine tools and then begin production at some future date?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
No, my right hon. Friend is not to suppose that the 52 firms who have been selected and may receive orders are lacking in the equipment or the experience necessary to carry out the orders. I am not saying for a moment that it may not be necessary for them, possibly with assistance, to balance their plant with this machine or that machine, but they are firms that are equipped and have been inspected and are suitable in every way for acceptance of the contracts which have been offered them by the War Office.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This is very important indeed, and I really must ask for an answer. My right hon. Friend said, "Suitable in every way for acceptance of contracts." Does he mean that they can accept the work and know all about 61 it, and that they have at the moment the jigs, gauges and machine tools and special plant to enable them to embark on special lines of work?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
My right hon. Friend speaks of jigs and gauges and machine tools. I am not going to say that in every case each of them has all the jigs which they will require for the purpose of performing their contract. Jigs are a means of carrying out a large order on what I may call a mass production scale. If they have to deliver the articles within the time which they have agreed, no doubt they will either take the steps, or have taken the steps, to enable them to deliver in accordance with their promise. So far as machine tools are concerned the same is true. With regard to gauges a very great advance has been made since I spoke on this subject eight weeks ago in the provision of the necessary gauges of all types and descriptions. If my right hon. Friend desires further information on any points of this sort, no doubt he will mention them in the Debate and I shall try to secure for him the more exact information he desires with regard to any particular firm or group. I can but speak at this moment in general terms.
Considerable anxiety has been expressed from time to time as to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Woolwich. Approval has been given for the transfer of the Royal Filling Factory from Woolwich, in part to South Wales, in part to Lancashire and in part to a place in Scotland, and, in addition, a filling factory at Hereford will be brought into full operation. I hope the Committee will think that these are steps which are not only wisely designed but are steps which it will be possible to take in order to bring into the fullest production at the earliest date the various munitions which are necessary. It may be said that to erect a factory in Chorley, or at Bridgend in South Wales, is to postpone the day of production to a date distant 18 months or two years or two and a-half years as the case may be, but the decision of the Government to remove the factories is one which in my view was absolutely necessary and right, and the Committee may be assured that no time will now be lost in getting the necessary buildings erected at those places.
The gun programme is obviously more of a specialist nature than the production 62 of shells and cartridge cases and fuses. It is a part of the whole programme which I freely say makes anybody reflect as often as he looks at the figures, the numbers required, or the possibility of production in the near future. You cannot expect a firm that has been engaged in ordinary engineering to produce guns. To other things they may adapt themselves, but guns must be the product of the specialist firms. As in the case of other articles, Woolwich and the armaments firms are engaged in gun making not only to the full works capacity but to labour capacity, and in order that the supply of these very necessary arms shall not be found wanting a former gun factory at Nottingham is being acquired and the necessary additional equipment installed. This is indeed an indispensable step in connection with the air defence of Great Britain. I am the more happy to make this announcement because only four or five days ago I received a communication from the Town Clerk of Nottingham inviting my consideration of the use of this factory, and perhaps he will be astonished that his suggestion should find such swift acceptance, though indeed it is a decision which had already been arrived at before I received his letter.
It may be asked, what provision is going to be made for the additional labour when the further expansion takes place in the professional armaments firms or at Woolwich or Woolwich substitutes or at this new factory at Nottingham? So far as Nottingham is concerned pivotal men will be transferred from Woolwich Arsenal. The new demands there will, as experience shows, undoubtedly draw a number of men, skilled in engineering, who have possibly drifted away from the industry altogether but have not lost their skill, and together with the supplies of skilled men, if there be any, who have not yet found employment in the engineering industry, I hope and trust that by the time the factory is equipped there will be no difficulty in finding the necessary labour to bring it into swift production.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I imagine that both fitters and turners will be wanted in the production of guns at the new Nottingham factory. I will have some observations to make later about labour, the 63 supply of labour. I wish I could say that the man power of the Regular and Territorial Armies was on the whole as free from anxiety as the question of manpower in connection with munition production. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has given facts and figures which I shall not repeat. Guns can be made and bought; thousands of searchlights for air defence can be produced; scientific aids may be brought to the assistance of the guns; but there is only one thing that cannot be obtained by this Government as the result of enlisting industry, and that is the manpower that must go behind the searchlight or the gun. One thing I deplore, I think with almost everyone probably in this Committee, is the utterance of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made some observations about it on Saturday, and I shall say no more than this about it: The right hon. Gentleman himself served in the Great War with distinction. He must be aware that some forces are inevitable, that even under a Labour Government there will have to be some microcosm of a Navy or Army or Air Force.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Let the hon. Gentleman listen and follow what I am saying. I quite agree, "Who said otherwise?" The Leader of the Opposition has said that:The Government would appeal to him in vain to support recruiting, because he mistrusts the foreign policy and the armaments policy of the Government.What does that mean? Inasmuch as it is admitted that there must be some Forces of the Crown, does the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition mean to punish the Government by sacrificing the men who have joined? Do hon. Members mean to leave the crowded cities and the centres of employment and their own homes undefended and at the mercy of an invader because the right hon. Gentleman distrusts our foreign policy?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman on a well-known occasion was so much indebted to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) for stating his, case, perhaps I may quote some observations which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made yesterday. In the "Sunday Express" of 19th July the right hon. Gentleman said,It is far easier for a strong country to gain its objects by peaceful diplomacy than for a weak one".The only observation it is fair to make is that the right hon. Gentleman did not make that remark with reference to his own country but with reference to Germany, but his words are equally true of this country or Germany or any other country—"It is far easier for a strong country to gain its objects by peaceful diplomacy than for a weak one." Will the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and hon Gentlemen opposite take that observation to heart when they are confusing questions of defence with the foreign policy of the Government? Some day the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition may be calling for recruits, and this will be a bitter reckoning for him to pay if it is quoted in his face. I would ask the party opposite, what would they have done, how would they have regarded the events that have taken place in Palestine? Would they have left that country in a state of disorder because they distrusted the foreign policy of the Government?
Let me take another example. We know that 100 well-trained and disciplined Sikhs afforded a guard to the Legation in Addis Ababa. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite have left the Europeans in that town to their fate because the Opposition did not like the foreign policy of the Government in connection with Abyssinia? If anyone who is familiar with the course of events in Europe during the last ten years will reflect upon the occasions upon which His Majesty's Forces have made a notable contribution to world peace, they will see how impossible it is not to provide those forces with the arms they require. Let me come nearer home. Units for air 65 defence are to be manned by the Territorial Army. One anti-aircraft Territorial Division has been formed from existing anti-aircraft units and the conversion of eight Territorial battalions. Perhaps the Committee will have read with interest the announcement that has been sent out by the War Office, appearing in to-day's newspapers, as to a display for the co-operation of the Territorial Army and the Royal Air Force in searchlight exercises in Essex and Kent and around the Thames Estuary. Let hon. Members opposite visualise what that means. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne) asked who is the enemy? Never mind who the enemy is. What about the Thames Estuary and the crowded centres of population, one of which he represents?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
If hon. Members opposite take no interest in their constituents, perhaps their constituents will take an interest in them. The Government are asking for an accession to the Territorial Force of men even up to 50 years of age, and particularly those who are familiar with, and have had some experience of, gunnery, for the simple purpose—it has nothing to do with foreign policy—of defending their own homes and their own employment. What has that to do with foreign policy?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
If anything is true defence it is our Air Force. The air expansion which has taken place in other countries rightly attracts general attention in this country and other countries. The air is a new and an unknown factor in any future war. Its developments, the development of the machine and the equipment, are bewildering. The performances now contrasted with the performances three or four years ago are simply amazing. Perhaps I can illustrate it by telling the Committee of a fact of which those familiar with aircraft are already well aware, that the speed of 66 machines in production to-day for regular use in the Air Force would five years ago have made them serious competitors for the Schneider Cup. That fact will bring home to the Committee the extraordinary advance that has been made. These are not specimens, not what I would call protoplanes that are being produced, but they are machines in regular, orderly production for the regular everyday use of the Air Force.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Yes. Some have been delivered. They are in orderly delivery, and they will be delivered in ever-increasing volume. The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that the flexibility of our programme is of its essence. That is to say, it is not a programme for the expenditure of so many millions or for the production of so many ships or guns, but it is a programme which must be adapted to the needs of the nation. He said, I think on 1st July, that information in the possession of the Government, derived from many sources, represents the actual position in the air expansion of other Powers. I am not going to give the Committee the figures; it would not be proper for me to disclose any facts and figures with regard either to other Powers or with regard to our own production, but it is the Government's plain duty to make and to carry out a programme to match that expansion, whatever it may be. I believe that is the decision of the country, whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may desire or think.
Is it worth while spending a few minutes to consider what is the basis of such computation. The analogy of naval calculations is most misleading. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was making his historic speeches in 1912–13 his critics were comparing our naval strength with German naval strength, battleship for battleship, destroyer for destroyer and other craft in the same way. The simplicity of such calculations has led many people into the error of comparing the figures of first-line air strength with regard to the Air Force. That is a fallacious comparison, and I think I can satisfy the Committee on that point. In the first place, it would be necessary to define first-line air strength in terms of reserves, for it is not always a phrase 67 that is used in the same sense. But a better reason is that such calculations take no account of Great Britain's special position.
I have referred already to what is the purpose of this rearmament. Defence is its purpose, and I repeat that over and over again. Defence is the purpose of all our strategic plans, and that knocks the bottom, incidentally, out of what is now becoming a commonplace in the propaganda of the party opposite and in the Press when they ask: "What is the use of all this armament?" Its use is the defence of your homes, of your food and your sustenance. I have not the least doubt that if ever unhappily trouble arose, hon. Members opposite would expect to be defended and fed, like the rest of us. The object of this defence programme is, I say plainly, defence, and nothing else. Having regard to the position of Great Britain in that connection its strategic requirements as a whole have to be considered. Other countries may have a different balance of air force. The Air Force which we may possess with an exact correspondence with this or that machine may be most unsuited to defend our shipping, our ports, our estuaries and our homes. Superiority or even equality in air defence depends not upon an exact balance of machine with machine but upon that proper adjustment of all the forces, used with proper skill, which are available for the defence of our country.
The Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Joint Planning Committee have been making a fresh study of the control and protection of our merchant shipping. They have been concerting plans which are an obvious necessity for naval and air co-operation. Upon these plans depend our security, and the Air Force must be devised not to fit in exactly in opposite numbers with the Air Force of any other Power, but must be devised to fit in with the strategic plans devised for the defence of the country as a whole. There is another consideration which I would mention. I have mentioned the amazing development that has taken place in aircraft. Hon. Members much more familiar than I am with the technical side of aircraft building will agree from what they saw at Hendon or Hatfield that British constructors are not likely to lose the leading place which 68 they have gained in aircraft construction.
The expansion plans of the Government, even if you date them back to 1935, when the Air Force began to expand, coincided with the great change in service machines. New types of design, taking advantage of more engine power, came into production. To the pilot the service ability of the machine is all-important. His equipment is everything. It is no use training a pilot, putting him into a machine and telling him: "This is our first line strength to match the first line strength of the enemy." The equipment of the expanded Air Force must be the equipment most suitable for the emergency which it is designed to meet, and I am in a position to say, happily, that the equipment of the expanded Air Force will be a new product. Suppose the expansion had taken place earlier. My right hon Friend the Member for Epping, quite naturally, is fond of telling the Government that they ought to have begun this programme two or three years ago. That may be so. He may be right. See what the consequences would have been. Our Air Force to-day would have been equipped with machines which would have been as much out-of-date for any emergency that they would have to meet in the future—[Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh at that argument. I gather that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping is not fully aware yet of its importance. The fact remains, and it is an answer to those who are apt to be wise after the event, that, at any rate, we have secured this happy advantage that we shall now be equipped with machines that will be adequate for the pilots who fly them. [Interruption.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Minister is making an important statement. I must ask hon. Members to give him a patient hearing.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman's argument, carried to its logical conclusion, is that if we waited another two years we should have a more up-to-date Air Force still.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
That is not at all the logical conclusion of my argument. I cannot help thinking, judging from the interruptions, that my argument must 69 have been even more pointed than I had supposed. So far from it being an argument that it is not important to notice, even if my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping is right and the Government ought to have taken notice of this two or three years ago, it is right that I should call the attention of the Committee to it, not as an argument for postponement but as some comfort even though it may be cold comfort, as to the efficiency of the Air Force that will be created in the course of the next few years. I should like my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping to go to any of the young pilots who are coming forward to be trained and to tell them that he does not regard it as a matter of importance that they should be armed with the latest machines—
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I was saying that if my right hon. Friend thought my argument was not suitable, I feel sure that he would never go to any young pilots and tell them that it is a matter of indifference whether they are armed with the most up-to-date machines or with obsolete machines.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That suggestion is not justified. For the last three years I have been urging that our pilots should be armed with the best machines that can be made; and that they should be made as quickly as possible. What is wrong with that?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Nothing is wrong with it. The right hon. Gentleman will acquit me of any desire to misrepresent him, but I think, in spite of all the interruption to which I have been subjected, I am entitled to bring home as forcibly as I can the fact that the new Air Force will enjoy this advantage, that it will be equipped with machines of design, performance, capacity, range and swiftness which would not have been possible two or three years ago.
§ Mr. HARDIE
May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman? Reference has been made to the exhibition at Highbury of one of the most powerful machines known. In the company which witnessed the exhibition were possible purchasers from other countries; and yet the right hon. Gentleman is talking about defence. 70 How are we going to defend ourselves if we supply our enemies with the same machines? Is it not a business matter?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I assumed that the hon. Member had some question to ask or some point to put. Perhaps he will put his point at a later stage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping suggested that the logical conclusion of my argument was that you must delay another two years in order to get a still better type of aircraft. I recognise the importance of maintaining a close watch on excellence of design and swiftness of production, but it is not always easy to keep the two objectives in their proper perspective. All I can say is that there has been a real desire, which I think has been carried out, to avoid a danger which applies not only to aeroplanes but in my experience to guns and tanks which are required for the Army. It is the danger that it is not easy to secure rapidity of output and also take advantage of improved design, increased engine efficiency, and new devices. But I can give the assurance to the Committee that all possible steps are being taken to bring new designs and increased production into close connection. The process of first building an experimental prototype aeroplane and subjecting it to performance and service tests has been altogether abandoned. A new type, as amended in the design stage, has, after a brief trial in an experimental establishment, been accepted in order to give production orders at the earliest possible moment, and the possibility of delay resulting from necessary changes in first production types has been faced; but I am happy to say that so far such changes have been unimportant and it has been found well worth while to run the risk. The results have thoroughly justified the risk, and the new policy is most satisfactory in its effect upon the production of up-to-date machines at the earliest possible moment. The armament, the instruments, and the equipment of machines are dealt with in the same way. The objective of speed in production, consistent with quantity production, is always kept in view.
I pass now to say one word in connection with the financial aspect of this matter. The Government have promised the country that there shall be no profiteering. Undoubtedly the desire of 71 the Secretary of State for Air to keep this promise in the letter and in the spirit has led to delay, but I am sure the Committee will agree that he was right in insisting on securing proper terms financially. Although it has slowed down the output, the settlement in the end will, I believe, be in accordance with the wishes of the Committee. One word about recruiting. As in the Army so in the Air Force, it is essential to provide for reserves and training, and although I must not give figures of reserves or the number of pilots, it will be sufficient for me to say that 40 new aerodromes have been acquired or are being acquired, and hon. Members can read between the lines as to the number of personnel which will be required for these aerodromes. Let me give one indication of the expansion in aircraft production itself. I have today compared the first three months of this financial year, April, May and June, with the corresponding period of last year, itself a year of great expansion and the delivery is about three and a half times as many air frames, and over twice as many engines. The Committee will not think for a moment that that is going to be the rate of increase for the future. It happens to be the expansion which has taken place when you compare the two periods, April, May and June in the two years I have mentioned. I say nothing about reserves. The question of reserves has recently been under my consideration in a reference to the question of the Fleet Air Arm, and had it not been for this Debate I should have been able to have concluded the preparation of my report, but I hope that as far as the reserves of the Fleet Air Arm are concerned no future anxiety will be felt about them and my recommendations will, I hope, be brought forward in due course.
This is, I hope, not an unhopeful survey of the position as far as the Air Force is concerned, but I should like to say that the increasing rate of production with the tremendous improvement in design has only been possible because of the close and continuous association of responsibility for design with responsibility for production. I say no more upon that topic at the moment, but it may be that if certain suggestions are repeated in the Debate it will be necessary to discuss a little further whether these 72 proposals are consistent with that co-operation and close association of design with production which, in my humble judgment, is so indispensable to satisfactory performance.
I pass now to another topic altogether. It has been the work of a sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, as hon. Members know, to consider the question of the food supplies of this country. I have been reproached for stating more than once that I was considering this or that question in connection with food supplies. I make no apology for it. Lord Haldane used to ask people to do a little clear thinking. Reflection before action is not the same thing as delay; it is common prudence. I have been faced with a demand in many quarters of the House, a perfectly reasonable demand, and one to which I have often given mental assent, that the stocks of all sorts of commodities and of food in this country shall be at once increased. Attractive though it sounds, if hon. Members will give a moment's thought to it they will find that you have to lay down plans as to the terms upon which such stocks can be obtained, where they can be obtained, the places where they can be stored, and arrangements for their distribution in an emergency. Hon. Members will see that it is necessary to give more than a day or two's consideration to these numerous questions.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Oh, no. I have been engaged with my right hon. Friends this morning for some hours. We have collected a great deal of material and have taken important decisions, and our report will not be the end of the matter, but will lead to a series of decisions which, I think, will secure the country an increased output of agriculture in an emergency, which is necessary, as well as a sufficiency of supplies in all the essential foodstuffs and feeding stuffs upon which the country depends. Much of the committee's work is concerned with organisation, bringing the plans up to date. We have to assume that trade may be dislocated, that there may be an interruption of the imports into this country. There must be organisation and control to deviate the food and shipping which may be necessary, and the capacity of western 73 ports in comparison with eastern ports has to be surveyed. Facilities for storing and conditions under which they should take place are all questions which no hon. Member and no committee, no matter how zealous, can answer within the space of a short time. The Committee may feel that as long as they trust the Government these are questions which are being examined with a view to action being taken to safeguard these necessary supplies. I have the figures which have been given of the stocks at present in this country, but I do not think the Committee at this stage need be troubled with a repetition of the details.
I pass to a short review of another action I have taken to keep touch with the essential questions of labour and material. I will not recite the number of associations and trade bodies which I have seen, but they include the British Engineers' Association, the Machine Tool Trades Association, and the Alloy Steel Trade, and four or five others, all of them since I last spoke in the House. I have explained to the representatives of the industry the nature of the programme and the demand which will be made on their industry. I have taken counsel as to their capacity and I have considered action to meet the difficulties with which they will be faced, and discussed with them questions of priority. Government Departments have assessed the total demands of the several services and that in itself is a task of no small importance. I take as an illustration what happened in the case of the optical industry—the Scientific Instrument Makers' Association. If any industry is a key industry it is this industry. No aeroplane, no gun, no ship, can go on without these instruments. Anyone familiar with this industry knows that it has been depressed beyond most others during the years of trade depression since the War, and it is a highly skilled and technical affair to produce these exact and elaborate instruments.
I got the representatives of the industry around a table and told them our demands. We set out in one column the instruments they would be asked to produce. They went away and came back with the second column filled up, and they had agreed amongst themselves, not with a view to private profit—[Interruption]—no they had not, but they had 74 agreed amongst themselves on the production of the various instruments which they alone can produce for the needs of the country. I venture to think that the way in which these gentlemen dealt with that is an illustration of the way the industrialists of this country are prepared to assist the Government. I am not going to suggest that they do not get a fair reward for their services, but it is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite pretending that they are not in favour of a fair reward. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh at me for some of these statements. I would like to know why some of them have been so insistent, both by speech and by letter addressed to me, on securing orders for their constituencies. I have a list of them in my box; it is not confined to the back benches, but contains one or two on the Front Bench who have besought me to place orders for munitions of war in their constituencies. Why have they done that?
§ Sir T. INSKIP
It does not involve any shame to state that these unemployed should be brought in to assist in the completion of the Government's deficiency programme, but, of course, they are going to be brought in for profit for those undertaking the task. My experience has been that these associations have been prepared to co-operate with the Government, and naturally the Government had to make terms which they thought consistent with the promise that there should be no profiteering, to the best of the Government's ability to prevent it, in the completion of this programme.
§ Mr. LOGAN rose—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee will wait for me to call for order.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
With the exception of eight of one particular instrument, with the name of which I need not bother the Committee, the whole of the requirements of all the Services were undertaken by the co-operation by the various gentlemen engaged in this industry. That is an example of organisation which has only been possible because of the close co-operation which has taken place between myself and those who are responsible for those industries. My right hon. Friend below the Gangway made an interjection this afternoon in regard to machine tools. Let me say what has happened with regard to machine tools. There has been a great expansion, or an expansion—I do not wish to use any unnecessary epithets—in home production. The firms are all fully employed. I have seen their representatives. Naturally they are anxious to get out of the depression in which they and many other industries have found themselves. They are not only producing to full capacity, but they are recruiting the labour which is necessary to produce the skilled men for their industry. In addition to that, in order to supplement home production, imports have been increased. If one takes the figures for January to the end of May, 1935, compared with 1936, it will be found that the imports amounted to a value of £600,000, as compared with £1,250,000—just double the figure for 1935. It is the same if one takes the weight of the different machines; rather more than double the numbers imported in 1935 have been imported in 1936. In fact, the industry, as I have satisfied myself, is taking steps to equip itself in order to meet the needs of the country.
I pass to another section of this chapter. Work has been undertaken to arrange that this country shall have ample insurance against emergency in respect of raw materials. There are some raw materials in the case of which war consumption is so greedy that you could not possibly provide the quantity that is wanted in war time even if you were to absorb the whole of the available sources of supply that are open. We have had, and we are still having, a very careful examination of the different 76 classes of raw material that would be required in the unhappy event of a war. I believe, in fact I know, that a provisional determination has been come to with regard to two of these articles. The examination is of an intricate character, but it is proceeding with a view to securing a sufficiency of supplies to provide against emergency upon the outbreak of a war. The production of the essential elements of explosives has been kept well in mind. A committee combining industrial and scientific experience is planning for the insurance necessary in connection with what has been called the duplication of Billingham. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had some observations to make about Billingham and a repetition of that plant, possibly in South Wales. But the necessity of seeing that an important, and indeed a key product, which exists on the East coast, in a position where it is very assailable and vulnerable, should be duplicated in a safer part of this country, has been undertaken.
I come at last to the question of the supplies of labour. My policy, often stated with the assent of the House, has been to let the employers' and workers' representatives combine in settling any trade or labour questions in their own industry. I believe I am right in that. The suggestion has sometimes been made to me that I should have called the representatives of the great federations, the Trades Union Congress, for instance, to my room to consult them. I hope it will never be necessary to consult them, not because I should be unwilling to see them, but because it would be indicative of questions which I should not flatter myself I was so well able to settle as the representatives of the employers and workers in their own industry. That policy has had one happy result at any rate in the engineering industry. Arrrangements have been made for wages that will stabilise the position for a considerable period. That is a tribute to the good sense and, I may fairly add, the public spirit of both sides of this great industry.
So far as the deficiency of labour is concerned, the trade depression of the last few years has not made the recruitment of labour easy in those years. Now we find a launching of orders that is attracting young men into these industries. It was a pleasant experience to be 77 told that the old and wise practice of apprenticeship is being revived and expanded in some of these industries; but even where apprenticeship is not followed in all its legal formalities, I am told that there is a supply of labour that is now coming forward, under the powerful influence of orders, that will cover a period of years. Appreciable progress is being made. The expansion of skilled labour will take place by training men on the job, as they say, and although it would be folly for anybody in my position to pretend to be able now to see to the end of the road, full of bogs and declivities and all sorts of obstacles, yet, as far as I can see, there is no reason to suppose that industry will be faced, with regard to labour, with insoluble problems. I have great confidence in the elasticity and resourcefulness of British industry, and I say only that I will give my constant attention to this matter, and I hope the Committee will never have cause for more anxiety than we feel at the present time.
I will finish by giving some information for which hon. Members have been persistent in asking. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) has repeatedly asked for this information. It is with regard to the placing of contracts in the depressed or Special Areas. Hon. Members on these benches have not failed to take up that problem. I think I may assure the Committee that the Government have done their very best, in spite of what the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) has said about the "other-things-being-equal" clause, to bring this policy into effect. I cannot give the details of the different depressed or Special Areas, because that would require an amount of calculation and examination which has not been possible.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I can give the hon. Lady figures which will show up the facts. The total value of Government contracts placed with firms in areas scheduled as suffering from severe and prolonged unemployment, including the Special Areas, amounted to approximately £17,000,000 in the financial year, 1935–36. The corresponding figure for the first quarter of the current financial year, that is to say, from April down to the end of June, is 78 already in excess of £7,500,000. The proportion, in other words, for the first quarter of this financial year is greatly in excess even of the proportion allocated to the Special Areas in the previous financial year.
Mr. W. JOHN STEWART
In Northern Ireland we have a larger percentage of unemployed than any of the distressed areas, with the one exception of South Wales, and so far as I am aware we have not got any orders of any kind. I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give kind attention to Northern Ireland.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The hon. Member is quite right to speak for his constituency as other hon. Members have for theirs. If he has any firms in his constituency which are in a position to accept contracts for any of the Departments, if he will put them into touch with the Directors of Contracts in the appropriate Departments, I am sure they will receive the same consideration as others. I am afraid that I have a little wearied the Committee. As I have said, I have not tried to pick out the bright spots, but have tried to call attention to what I regard as the more serious aspects of the task which has been entrusted to me. My right hon. Friend below the Gangway still would like to relieve me of a part of my responsible duties. For such relief I should be the first to be devoutly thankful, but in his zeal my right hon. Friend adds a great load to my responsibilities. He faces me with the doom which will await me if trouble should come before these arrangements are completed. I make no complaint. If anybody thinks the Government are mistaken in their policy, he has a right to say so. I have no doubt at all that the Government's decision to attempt the completion of this programme without destroying and dislocating the trade of this country, is the right one. Therefore, it is my duty to hold to the course which I think right as long as it has the assent of the Government, as it has at the present time.
I do not know what attitude the party opposite intend to take on this armaments programme to-day. At one moment they seem to contemplate a military display; at another moment they seem 79 anxious to have peace at any price. At one moment it is disarmament; the next moment it is an order for munitions. I cannot help thinking that the country sees through hon. Members opposite and sees the difficulty and confusion into which they have got themselves. Sooner or later, if they ever hope to govern the country they will have to make up their minds whether they are going to defend it. While they are making up their minds upon that all-important question, I assure the Committee that the present Government, at any rate, intend to carry out that responsibility.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I wish, in the first place, Sir Dennis, to put a point of Order. In addition to the Vote for the salary of the right hon. Gentleman, Supplementary Estimates in respect of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force have been put down for to-day. Would you regard it as being in order if, in the general discussion, which has been initiated by the right hon. Gentleman, we included the Army, Navy and Air Force Supplementary Estimates and referred to such points concerning them as may arise in the further progress of the Debate?
§ The CHAIRMAN
It was conveyed to me through the usual channels before the Debate—for which I am much obliged—that it would probably be the general wish to have a Debate of as wide a scope as possible in Committee of Supply on the question of defence, and it is for that reason that all these Votes have been put down. The Vote which is before the Committee at the moment would not, I think, give that full opportunity for discussion of matters relating to defence which seems to be generally desired. As hon. Members know, it is the rule that discussion in Committee of Supply must be confined to the Vote which is actually before the Committe, but that rule like all others in the House of Commons, has possible exceptions, and on previous occasions, with the general assent of the Committee, the Chair has allowed a discussion to range wider than the one particular Vote before the Committee at the time. On this occasion, I suggest to the Committee for their assent that there should be a discussion of as wide a nature as possible upon this Motion and that it should not be confined to questions which 80 come strictly within the purview of the Minister who has just moved the Vote, but that it should include also matters arising under the other Supplementary Estimates on the Order Paper for the three Services. I would add this, however, and if hon. Members bear it in mind it may help us. There are, I understand, some hon. Members who wish to raise point of details in regard to the separate Services. As the Eleven o'clock Rule has been suspended to-night, I venture to suggest that matters of detail which would require very little time for discussion might be postponed until after we have disposed of the Vote now before the Committee, and should then be taken on one of the several Supplementary Service Estimates when they are put to the Committee. I should hope that on the conclusion of the general Debate on this Motion, these other Supplementary Estimates could be put formally and with very little further Debate. I hope that suggestion will meet with the general approval of the Committee.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman has made a fairly comprehensive review of certain parts and only certain parts of the work of his Department, and has given some record of the progress made since the last Debate in regard to supplies. I shall deal later with some of the facts which he brought out in that record, but I wish to say at the outset that the first broad impression made upon me by his speech was that it was the speech, almost exclusively, of a Minister of Supply, and not, except in a very small part of it, the speech of a Minister for the Co-ordination of the Defence Services. I must ask the Committee to recollect why the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to this position. It was because we found it impossible to have an intelligible discussion of the problems of defence when each service was taken separately, and we hoped that when he was appointed he would initiate discussions upon these problems of defence co-ordination which would cover the three Services. I have to complain that the right hon. Gentleman has not given any initiative in that direction in his speech of this afternoon and to my mind he has largely misconceived the reason why his office was created.
I am bound to say I also think it a pity that when we had some minutes left 81 —a quarter of an hour—in which at least some words might have been devoted to these overwhelmingly important, and technical questions of co-ordination, which we expected to discuss to-day, the right hon. Gentleman did not take advantage of the opportunity. He spent his time instead indulging in what was, no doubt, quite good stuff from his point of view and initiating a kind of knock-about platform debate, the kind of stuff we can say on platforms on any night. That entirely altered the nature of the Debate and if there were interruptions in the last part of his speech those interruptions were due to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman did not remember the universal rule of the House of Commons that you cannot open at the same time two debates essentially different in character. You cannot have a technical debate upon the work of a Department such as the right hon. Gentleman's and combine it with the kind of popular knock-about stuff which the right hon. Gentleman introduced this afternoon. In doing so he rather lowered the level of the Debate, even reaching the point at the end—as a result of his method of dealing with the subject—of threatening to publish letters sent to him by Members on this Front Bench. That is a most unusual threat on the part of the Minister of the Crown and one of a rather cheap and unworthy character.
I do not wish to enter into that part of the speech, but the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with general questions not connected specially with his Department. For example there was his general contention that it was wrong for us on this side to connect our attitude towards the foreign policy of the Government with our attitude towards the Government on armaments. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was out of order in saying that, but if you will allow me one or two sentences, Sir Dennis, in which to reply to him I would make this observation. We distinctly state that armaments are an expression of policy and that the armaments of this Government are the expression of the foreign policy of this Government for the last five years. I remember the Lord President of the Council asking us to judge this Government on its results. We do judge it on its results and the results are that after five years of National Government there is a larger bill for armaments and more talk of another European war 82 than there has ever been since the Great War came to an end.
The point on which I was criticising the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that he had devoted it entirely to supply and had not indicated that he had given his mind to the immense, the appalling problems of co-ordination of defence which he was primarily appointed to survey. He challenged us to explain on what lines we were going to attack his speech. I propose to attack his speech on technical lines, on the lines of the deficiencies of the defence of this country, and I base my attack upon the letter which Lord Trenchard, as a result of his experience, wrote to the "Times" at the end of last year, just after his retirement from his position as one of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is a well-known letter and has been very widely read. It was written on 16th December last year and it ended by warning the country not to permit the Government to embark upon vast and indefinite expenditure until their policy of co-ordination had been carried out. That is our criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's speech—one criticism.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted Lord Haldane as speaking about the necessity for clear thinking. I know the phrase of Lord Haldane which he had in his mind. Lord Haldane was very fond of telling his younger colleagues—and this relates to the subject of expenditure—that thinking cost nothing. The right hon. Gentleman was appointed to be Minister for Co-ordination of Defence. Co-ordination means thinking and not spending. Now our criticism of the right hon. Gentleman—my criticism at least—is that his speech shows that we have no guarantee that expenditure is not outrunning co-ordination. I think that is inevitable. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman will ever be able to concentrate his mind on the immense problems of co-ordination, so long as his mind is, at the same time, cluttered up with problems of supply and so long as it is the mind of a Minister who has no staff. Our first criticism then is that these Estimates represent millions of pounds and that as a result of the lack of thinking, of co-ordination, those millions will largely be wasted and only second-rate results will be secured.
83 I pick out those parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech in which he dealt with the real purpose of his office, the co-ordination of defence, and I propose to build on them certain conclusions and to put certain questions which I hope he will answer at the end of the Debate. He told us that there had been combined air and fleet exercises in order to test our power of defending the merchant fleet of this country. I have been reading in the last few days the new edition of "Brassey's Annual" published a few weeks ago, in which this subject is surveyed and expert information, which is always available to the non-official Member, is dealt with. I notice that the writers in "Brassey's Annual" have come to the conclusion that, in the great issue of the bomb versus the battleship which the right hon. Gentleman is investigating, the battleship will very likely show that it is not to be put out of action by the bomb. But when they come to the question of protecting our merchant fleet, especially when it is passing through narrow seas where it can be attacked by shore-base aircraft, they are not willing to assert that it can be effectively protected against the bomb; and particularly—this is the point that I would call to the right hon. Gentleman's attention—when they come to the protection of the merchant fleet in harbour and in port, there it is quite clear, from the qualifications and qualms which they express, that they regard the position as alarming, as indeed it is.
Take the case of Southampton. There is going to be great difficulty in defending London, but the defence of London is based on the belief, or on the fact, that there will be eight minutes' notice between the time when the aeroplanes cross our shores and the time when they reach London. In the case of ports like Portsmouth, Southampton, and all the ports on the Southern coast, there will not be a moment's notice, and under those conditions it is fairly clear that the right hon. Gentleman must contemplate that our whole merchant shipping will have to be diverted to the ports on the west coast. I see that the Service papers are suggesting that the Air Ministry is going to move from Martlesham and the other stations on the East coast to the West coast, and no doubt the Admiralty must be contemplating doing 84 the same thing. I hope they are considering the question of creating the necessary wharfage and all the apparatus which must be prepared in advance if any such plans are to be made.
It is obvious that this must all be in their minds, and I will not therefore dwell upon it, but I will come to another subject, on which I have had conversations with those who are in the know, and upon which I would like to hear the right hon. Gentleman's views, if he can give them. It is pointed out to me that the problem will not be over by any means even if you get your imports safely into your ports and can protect them there. We shall then be faced by the immense problem of distribution. The whole economic structure of the country is now adapted to imports from certain ports and has not been adapted to a diversion away from those ports into other ports. The whole railway and road system of the country is centred on London. It would have to be altered and re-adapted under the contingencies which the right hon. Gentleman must contemplate.
May I take another parallel problem? This movement of the population from the depressed areas to the South East is not only bad in peace but may prove completely disastrous in war. We shall be faced, under the circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman envisaged, with many of the problems of an invaded nation. Immense populations might have to be evacuated and factories moved from one part of the country to another, and meanwhile the economic activity of the country must be continuously maintained. I should venture to say that I am not convinced that problems of that kind are being adequately considered by the only staff which the right hon. Gentleman has to advise him, namely, the staff of the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, because it has been found almost invariably in the past that Secretariats drawn merely from the Services do not quite give adequate attention to the problems of the un-uniformed population.
I am trying to bring the Debate on to questions of the co-ordination of defence, and I would like to refer to another problem suggested by something which fell from the right hon. Gentleman. He spoke of the air defence of this country, and it is generally taken for granted that the coming of air power has profoundly 85 altered the situation of this country, and altered it entirely for the worst. The reason for that is that it is assumed that there is no defence against air attack, that the attack is so much stronger than the defence that under these conditions this country will practically be invaded. That statement has been accepted by the public largely on account of the very famous sentence uttered by the Prime Minister about four years ago, when he said that the bomber can always get through, and it has been taken for granted that that represented the opinion of the Air Ministry. I would like the right hon. Gentleman now to consider whether in reality that is true. It is perhaps the most profound problem of defence which faces this country now. Is it true? I ask this, because he seemed to regard this as rather a secondary question when, in a previous Debate, he spoke of its being less prominent than some others which he was considering. That appears to me to be the wrong perspective. It ought to be considered as a first issue, and the reason I say that is that a new class of mind has now entered the Air Ministry. It is well known that the non-professional mind is at work upon these subjects and that some of the very ablest scientists, and young scientists, from the universities have been invited to co-operate with the Air Ministry on this problem. It is also generally known, known sufficiently well, that they have come to the conclusion that the Air Ministry has been unduly defeatist about this question.
The Prime Minister's sentence ought never to have been uttered. It is suggested that with devices which cannot be made public, such as kite balloons with nets in between, the position will be this, not that the bomber will never get through, but that bombing this country will be carried through at such loss to the bombing squadrons that they will become very much like suicide clubs, and that gradually this method of attack will die away. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this is not merely the view of these young scientists, but that it is the view which is maintained by the technical journals. It is the view of "Flight"; it is the view of the "Aeroplane"; it is the view which is maintained by the officers who commanded and were responsible for the air defence 86 of London during the last War. It is maintained by General Ashmore. It is true that it was in the last War, but it is the best experience we have, and General Ashmore pointed out this very striking fact, that in the great attack on London by the 30 German machines on 19th May, 1918, their culminating attack during the War, the result was that of those 30 machines, three were shot down in flames, three were brought down by aeroplanes, three crashed of their own accord, and one had engine trouble and descended in Essex. A third of the whole force was wiped out, and it is a rather surprising fact that we now take it for granted that there is no defence against air attack, when, in point of experience, as a result of that experience, the Germans made no air attack upon London at all for the last six months of the War.
I would call these facts to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. He mentioned, in a rather unfortunate part of his speech, the Territorial battalions. He made use of them for the purpose of polemics. Has he considered their position from his point of view as Minister for Co-ordination? I do not think he can have, yet he ought to do so, because this is one of the great scandals of the lack of co-ordination. What is the position? We are absolutely dependent for obtaining information about an air attack upon the observer corps on the coast and upon the Territorial battalions to which he has referred. The observer corps are under the Air Ministry, as they ought to be, but these Territorial battalions are under the War Office. As enemy aircraft cross the Channel, the work of observing and recording them is under the Air Ministry. Four minutes later, when they are half way to London, it is switched on to the War Office. There is no logic in it, and that lack of logic has shown itself in lack of efficiency.
The position is a bit better now, but I do not know whether the Secretary of State for War will deny the fact—I think he is bound to admit it—that until quite lately the War Office—but let me say first that the right hon. Gentleman asked us to do our duty by the Territorial battalions. Has he asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has done his duty by the Territorials? 87 He asked us, What is the use of having guns without men? What is the use, I ask, of having men if you have old-fashioned guns that are of no use, which are all that the War Office have provided? It is a well known fact—I admit it is improving now—that until quite lately the War Office treated these Territorial battalions as a kind of poor relation. All the best weapons were kept for the Army, and the poorest, oldest lorries, searchlights and guns were all that were left for these Territorial battalions, on whose behalf the right hon. Gentleman appeals. I would ask him to inquire into this matter a little further, to inquire what happened as a result of the lack of co-ordination during the air exercises during last year. The bombing battalions cannot carry out exercises unless they are working against searchlights. As a matter of fact, they carried them out with only one pair of searchlights during the whole time, and there were no others, because the War Office had arranged to send all the other searchlight battalions into camp at a different time from the air exercises. That is what the right hon. Gentleman ought to have been talking about today, instead of making a speech which could very well have been made on another occasion.
There are other questions into which I will not go in detail. I have mentioned questions of co-ordination arising out of the Navy and the Air. There are other questions arising out of the position of the Army. There is the Cardwell system, which was established 60 years ago to deal with the problem of Indian warfare. Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that it is equally adapted to the problems of today? Then there is the fundamental issue whether the Army is or is not being prepared to go to the Continent in a war, or whether we should confine our contribution to the Air Force and the Navy. The Minister for War discussed that question on the Army Estimates, but he discussed it on the assumption that it was a question for him to decide. It ought not to be for him to decide. It is, again, a question which involves the co-ordination of all the three Services, and, therefore, it is a question to which the right hon. Gentleman ought to be giving his mind.
88 I will put in this way the criticism which I would like to make against the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and, indeed, against his Department as it is at present constituted. I imagined from his speech and from the record of activity which he displayed to us that he is a busy man. He ought not to be a busy man. There is a quotation which was made to me 40 years ago by a friend who was a great industrial magnate. He said to me one day, "My boy, I have always remembered a sentence from Walter Bagehot, that when a big business man is busy it is a sign that there is something wrong." There is sound truth in that observation. The right hon. Gentleman ought not to be dealing with the problems of which he has spoken tonight. There ought to be another Minister dealing with them. He ought to be dealing with the terrific intellectual problems of co-ordination of defence. I go further, and say that the kind of mind that can successfully deal with the problems of supply is not the type of mind that can deal with the problems of co-ordination of defence. These are problems for entirely different mentalities.
I will put my criticism in this way: Why was the right hon. Gentleman appointed to his position? He was appointed because it is now admitted that the Committee of Imperial Defence, the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence have failed to solve the problems of the co-ordination of the Services and, from the very nature of their constitution, will never solve them in any period of time, however long. A generation ago Lord Haldane pointed out that he found it almost impossible to bring the three Services together even to discuss matters, that the mentality of the three Services was so different, that all he could ever do was to get certain rather senior officers just to talk matters over. The same criticism of the Committee of Imperial Defence was made in that letter of Lord Trenchard to which I have referred. He points out after he had been one of the three members of the Chiefs of Staff Committee that:They do not solve any difficult problems. They sometimes reach unanimity by a tacit agreement to exclude vital differences of opinion, to avoid issues on which such differences might arise, and to restrict the 89 scope of their report to matters upon which agreement can be reached by give and take. We do not want to drive our differences of opinion underground.It is the right hon. Gentleman's task to deal with that problem. What is the use of asking us to spend millions of pounds if, as a result of the failure to deal with that problem, the millions of pounds will be wasted? The right hon. Gentleman is not dealing with it. His speech gave no indication whatever that he is dealing with it. That problem cannot be dealt with by a Minister whose mind is absorbed by questions of Supply, and whose mind is, as he explained, now likely to be absorbed with problems of labour, of labour disputes, and all that they involve. It cannot be settled by a Minister who does not insist upon having a staff of his own, but who relies for his guidance and information upon the Secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, the very staff whose failure to solve the problem led to the creation of his office. That is why I make my criticism on technical grounds of the spending of these millions of pounds. When the right hon. Gentleman challenges us as to our objection, the first objection is that owing to his failure properly to envisage the functions of his office, a large proportion of these millions of pounds will be wasted and the immense problems of the co-ordination of defence will still be indefinitely postponed.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
The Minister in the opening passages of his speech said that he was unwilling to give the Committee an unreal impression of the situation by dwelling too much on the bright spots, and I think the Committee will agree that his speech did little to lighten the darkness of the grim and gloomy Debate on which we have embarked. It would, indeed, be a poor service to Britain and a worse service to world peace to allow Britain to sink into a position of inferiority relatively to other rapidly rearming Powers, a feeble friend to the democracies who, still stand for peace and freedom, and a tempting victim for aggressive dictators. Yet we know also, as Lord Grey said, that great armaments inevitably lead to war, and that our hopes of saving, not only the lives of our children, but civilisation itself, from the catastrophe of war lie in measures for removing the causes of war, 90 the impoverishment of the peoples of the world and international fear and suspicion; in other words, measures which we should more properly discuss under the Foreign Office Vote than under this Vote.
The Minister asked what matters of foreign policy had to do with home defence. They have everything to do with it because armaments themselves are an expression of policy and the willingness of the people to put themselves behind the Government in support of a policy of rearmament will depend on their confidence that the Government are pursuing a foreign policy of which they can honestly approve. I think therefore that it is impossible to discuss defence apart from its background of foreign policy, but it would be wrong to allow an opportunity for discussing defence to be diverted into a Debate on foreign policy, and it is inconceivable that this House should separate for the Recess in a fortnight's time without a Debate on foreign policy. I shall, therefore, try to confine my observations, as far as possible, directly to the subject of defence.
The right hon. Gentleman, who opened the Debate in a most interesting speech, in which he gave us an important survey of the position in regard to munitions, said hardly anything, as the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken remarked, about the fundamental principles upon which the defence policy of this country is being based by the Government. The Minister, it is quite clear, is functioning actively as the Minister of Supply. That is a function which a number of hon. Members were doubtful about entrusting to him, but about the function which we thought we ought to entrust to him, namely, the co-ordination of defence, he has given us hardly any account. I hope he will tell us whether he has obtained and is exercising the power, for example, of allocating money between the three Defence Services. That is obviously a vital function which he ought to be discharging, and for that purpose he ought to have a skilled expert thinking staff to assist him. But before he tells us about that, I hope that he will tell us about the matter which must come first in reflecting on the tasks which confront him, that is, the size and character of the dangers against which the Government proposals are designed to protect us.
91 The Committee is entitled to know, and the country is entitled to know, the truth about the armament situation. The Minister complained about recruiting, and he blamed the Labour party for his difficulties in obtaining recruits for the Services. I would suggest that the first duty of the Government, if they are to obtain recruits, is to tell the country and to tell the potential recruits clearly what the situation is in the face of which their help in maintaining the Defence Services is required. The Minister himself has said that this nation will not fail anybody who tells it the truth, yet not only have I and other hon. Members on both sides of the House pressed constantly for information without success, but we have absolutely failed to draw from the Minister or from any of his colleagues a clear indication of the character, the scope and size of the dangers with which the country is confronted. In the last Debate on these Estimates I quoted at length two great authorities—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and Professor Bone, who had published diametrically opposite views about the size and progress of German rearmament. I beg the Government to tell us where the truth lies. To-day at last, after the question has been put many times, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping put a formal question at Question Time asking whether the Germans had spent £800,000,000 on defence services, on strategic roads, and on other matters which are directly or indirectly connected with problems of defence. The Government answered that they think that figure is not necessarily exaggerated. The country is entitled to a more definite statement on the true situation than that negative and guarded observation. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) declared in the Debate on the Whitsuntide Adjournment that the time had come to tell the country the truth and that the truth had been too long withheld. It is not only we who make these complaints but the supporters of the Government. The right hon. Member for Epping complained after the Minister had spoken in the last Debate that:The public had simply no idea, nor will the speech of the Minister give them any idea, of the efficiency of German war production and of its enormous scale.92 Nor has anything which the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon given the public any idea of the danger with which we may be threatened from that quarter. I pressed for information in the last Debate and when the Minister came to wind up he said that I had invited him to attempt an impossible and even, as he said, an improper task in asking him to give us—of course, in general terms—some appreciation of the danger by which world peace and British interests are threatened here at home, in the Mediterranean and in the Far East. Surely if we are to have any reasonable discussion of the co-ordination of defence that is exactly the kind of statement which we are entitled to expect, and unless some Minister is prepared to essay that task our debates will be a mere groping in the dark, guided only by flashes of incomplete and, therefore, distorting illumination from Ministers and from private Members. Therefore I hope that in this Debate the Minister will let us have the truth—the truth of which he speaks on public platforms as being the best assurance for the support of the public, in which I agree with him. Let us have the truth to-night, that is to say a clear and accurate appreciation of the dangers which the Government plans are designed to meet.
Then let us know the scale of the Government's preparations and receive some clear indication of the role which is assigned to each Service. In the Supplementary Estimate for the Navy which we shall be discussing to-night there is a welcome reversion to a wholesome precedent. We are told that the cost of the additions to the construction programme will be £150,000 this year, and are given the further very important information, which in regard to the other Estimates, including the first new Supplementary Estimate for the Navy, we have been denied, that the eventual cost of this additional programme will be £11,000,000. Let us have the figure for the eventual cost of the first part of the new construction programme included in the first Supplementary Estimate for the Navy. The sum of £3,000,000 was then asked for for new construction in the present year. Will the Minister tell us the eventual cost of that construction, and what will be the eventual cost of the Government's plans for naval expansion?
93 So with the air. We have been given a general idea of the objectives of the new construction. Our strength in first-line aircraft is to be increased to 1,750 machines, apart from the Fleet Air Arm, our overseas strength is to be raised from 25 to 37 squadrons, representing approximately 400 first-line aircraft by 1939. In addition, of course, provision has to be made for rapid production in war time and for aerodromes, equipment and storage. Again I ask the Minister: What is the total cost of the air plans; because it is an old and honoured precedent in this Committee that when money is asked for construction in a particular year we should find out what the eventual cost of the construction will be.
Before I leave the air I should like to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me said on the very important subject of the defence of our trade routes and communications and of our great cities. Is the Minister seeing that the staffs of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry are co-ordinating measures of defence both for our trade routes and for our communications nearer home? If 70 cruisers were necessary ten years ago, now that we have aeroplanes added to the cruisers they ought to have a far greater range, and we ought to-day to be able to do the same amount of policing with a smaller number of cruisers. What is being done about that problem? As to the defence of our cities, I would remind the Minister that some time ago a committee was appointed to consider the defence of our cities against air attack. What has happened to that committee? Can the Minister give us any details of its activities; because I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me that this is a vital matter? The Minister turned upon an hon. Member who sits above the Gangway on this side and said, "This is a matter in which your constituents will take an interest." It is a matter in which we all have a vital interest. Perhaps I have less cause than most hon. Members to be concerned about the defence of our cities from air attack, but we all take a keen interest in it. Will the Minister tell us how many times the committee has met, how many experiments it has conducted, and whether it is attaining priority from the Departments for the work it is doing? Without such information we cannot tell whether progress is being made.
94 Now I come to the Army. We are left completely in the dark as to the role assigned to it in the Government's plans and the nature and eventual cost of the expansion contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman had a great deal to say in criticism of the Leader of the Opposition for a speech he made about recruiting. I shall not defend that speech, because I take rather a different view, and he will speak in his own defence. I am president of a Territorial Association, and we are proud of the fact that the Highland Division leads in Territorial recruiting; but while that is so I say that it would help recruiting in the Territorial Army if we were given a clearer idea of the role assigned to the Territorial Army, and it would help recruiting in the regular Army if the men knew the task which the Government were allotting to the Army. The Supplementary Estimate for the Army is for £5,600,000, of which £1,000,000 is for machine tools, the rest coming mainly under the heading of works, buildings and lands and war-like stores. What is going on? What is the Army going to do as a result of this expansion for which we are asked to vote money? Twice I have asked for information, and both times Ministers, in replying, have evaded the point. The last time the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence referred me to paragraph 30 in the White Paper. There it says:The Army … has to maintain garrisons overseas in various parts of the Empire, to provide the military share in Home Defence, including anti-aircraft defence, coast defence and internal security, and, lastly, in time of emergency or war to provide a properly equipped force ready to proceed overseas wherever it may be wanted.What we want to know—and I have tried more than once to obtain the information, but without success—is whether the Government are organising a mechanised expeditionary force to take part in warfare on the Continent of Europe—in which case expenditure on a colossal scale will be involved, and also a departure from policy which has not been contemplated since the last War—or are the Government organising an expeditionary force on a wholly different basis which is suitable for operations in Palestine, in Egypt, on the North-West Frontier of India or wherever we may need to send our Army to act as a police 95 force on Continents other than that of Europe? The country ought to know whether the Government are contemplating the use of the Army on the Continent of Europe. If so, the Minister ought to tell us, as Lord Haldane told the House of Commons before the War, on what scale this expeditionary force is being prepared. I ask for a definite answer to that question. I do not want to detain the Committee with a critical analysis of the Minister's speech, which I shall study with interest when I come to read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and it would be ungenerous to make complaint of omissions, because obviously no Minister can bring every aspect of this problem within the purview of a single speech. But there were two aspects of the problem with which he did not deal to which I invite his attention, and one with which he did deal on which I would say a few words.
In previous Debates I have dwelt on the extraordinary vulnerability of London, the centre of our communications and distributive system, and of the whole of the South-East of England, to air attacks. The Minister said something on that point this afternoon. If there is one thing which would tend to deflect attack from London it would be the knowledge that ample provision had been made for this eventuality. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me referred to the importance of being prepared to switch over to a system of supply and distribution from ports on the east coast to ports on the west coast. At the present time nearly two-thirds of our imports enter by east coast ports, if for this purpose I may reckon the port of Southampton as an east coast port, and about one-third enter by our west coast ports. Are the Government making the necessary provision for changing over? Is the construction of new roads being planned on a great scale with this possibility in view? Are arrangements being made for the distribution of lorries as between the Army, the Territorial Force and civilian requirements? Has a census been undertaken not merely of the gross numbers of commercial vehicles, but a classified census putting the vehicles in their different categories so as to prevent the possibility of vehicles being assigned in an emergency to duties for which they may be structually unsuitable? Are the 96 Government drawing up detailed plans, and are they in close co-operation with the owners and managers of road transport undertakings and with their various organisations?
The second point is one which the Minister did not mention this afternoon, and although I mentioned it in my speech last time he did not answer it when he came to reply. It concerns the position of the fishing industry. Other Members who followed me, particularly the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) testified to its importance. The late Lord Balfour said the fishing industry was the shield and buckler of the Allied cause in the last War. The President of the Board of Trade warned us, in a Debate upon the Board of Trade Estimates only a few months ago, at the beginning of this year, that the Mercantile Marine were finding a difficulty in obtaining sailors to man their ships. It is from the little fishing villages and harbours around our coasts that the best sailors are recruited into the Mercantile Marine and the Navy. I will ask the Minister a question which I asked him before, and to which he failed to reply on that occasion, whether he is prepared, in the very difficult times through which that industry is now passing, to pay a retaining fee in peace time to the owners of vessels—most of whom are, in the case of drifters and motor boats, the fishermen themselves—who will hold themselves and their boats at the service of their country in time of war.
Another aspect of defence policy to which I have repeatedly drawn attention is consultation with Dominion Governments. The Minister did not refer to that in his speech to-day. Have the Dominions been consulted and do they fully approve the Governments defence plans? Are they actively co-operating with us in carrying out these plans, and if so, will the Minister tell us in what direction that co-operation is being given?
Now I come to the point to which my hon. Friends and I attach supreme importance, both from the standpoint of international relationships and from that of Imperial Defence, that is, the creation of a system of collective security to which our national armaments will be related. The right hon. Gentleman said: "What is the use of asking the purpose of the Government's armaments? The purpose 97 of the Government's armaments is defence." There is another purpose, which is hinted at in the White Papers and to which we attach supreme importance, and that is the objective of taking such measures as will altogether avert the outbreak of war, and will deter an aggressor. When we consider defence from that standpoint, we immediately begin to appreciate the importance of collective security, for I believe that the only defence for civilisation is to prevent war from breaking out. In recent Debates, Ministers and their supporters have taunted us who sit on this side of the House about using a vague phrase with little real meaning, when we refer to collective security; yet we were assured in the Government's White Paper last year and in the Paper which they published at the begining of this year, that collective security was the basis of their policy. Let me remind hon. Members opposite of what the Government said about collective security in their "Statement Relating to Defence," which was published in March of this year. They said that they… laid emphasis on unswerving support of the League of Nations, on the promotion of collective security …It is the Government who are using this phrase. It is their policy, to which they are pledged to the country, that we are urging them to implement. In the same White Paper they went on to say:In any event, collective security can hardly be maintained unless every member of the League of Nations is prepared to make a contribution, adequate in relation to its resources, to the strength of the whole.I approve of that declaration, and have so constantly affirmed. They go on further to say:It is essential, therefore, that the relation of our own armed Forces to those of other great Powers should be maintained at a figure which will be high enough to enable us to exercise the influence and authority in international affairs which are alike required for the defence of vital British interests, and in the application of the policy of collective security.What are Ministers doing about applying the policy of collective security? Why, in this very White Paper, are the arms of other League Powers quoted as though they were competitive with, instead of supplementary to, our own, as they would be in any system of collective security? Has the integration—I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is 98 smiling. I would like him, if he is to reply to this Debate, or the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, to say why the statement which was the very foundation of the Government's policy a few months ago, and the pledges to a policy of collective security which were then the basis of our Defence policy, are now mere phrases at which Ministers themselves can afford to laugh? Has the integration of our Defence Forces with those of other League Powers been considered, for example, in the policing of our trade routes? Have the Government really made up their minds about collective security? Some Ministers blow hot and some blow cold, while some blow alternately hot and cold. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was laughing just now, speaking on the Finance Bill on 20th May, said that we had found that collective security involved us, at any rate until it had proved itself, in new risks and that it was necessary, therefore, to provide against those risks in our Defence programme. How can collective security possibly involve the British Empire in greater risks than its geographical situation, scattered as it is all over the face of the globe? What storm centre is there in the world—Europe, the Mediterranean, the Far East—in which vital British interests are not involved? The truth is that isolation represents unlimited liability, and that collective security affords the only way of sharing that liability, and insuring against the risks of aggression in company with other peace- and freedom-loving nations.
I know well that the growth of world armaments must inevitably make the peace of the world ever more precarious, and that the race in armaments must be stopped if catastrophe is to be averted, but I believe that it would be no service to world peace if Britain were to be left in a position of increasing relative weakness. Weakness tempts the aggressor, as Abyssinia and China have shown, and strength deters the aggressor. For example, reinforcement of the Russian military position in Eastern Siberia has undoubtedly prevented war breaking out between two great Powers in the Far East. Broadly speaking, while reserving my right to criticise many points in the Government's proposals, and while demanding fuller information about the Government's plans and policy, I have supported, and shall continue to support, 99 the main provisions for defence which the Government, in the discharge of their heavy responsibilities, think necessary to demand. My vote on the reduction of this Estimate to-night will, however, depend—and indeed on some of the other Estimates—upon the Minister's answers to the questions which I have asked him. It will depend, above all, on his willingness and ability to give clear and direct assurances to this Committee that British armaments will never be used, except in accordance with the Covenant of the League of Nations, and that the Government recognise, as an imperative and urgent duty, the creation of a system of collective security under the auspices of the League, so that British armaments shall be used, not for selfish or Imperialist aims, but to uphold the rule of law against arbitrary force, and thus to maintain peace on the only firm foundation, that of justice, and to avert the catastrophe of war.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right ton. Gentleman who has spoken for the Liberal party has made a speech closely packed with thought. His questions about the purposes for which our Army exists, and about the contingent arrangements which should be made in regard to the feeding of this Island more largely through its western ports, are certainly questions with which at some date, either to-day or in the future, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence may find it possible to come to rather closer grips than he has been able to treat some of the other topics which are being discussed this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman also had a fair point to make that the Government, who, in these White Papers based their claim for rearmament so largely upon the function of collective security, should not be at all in a hurry to sneer at that phrase. On the contrary, I am sure that they will not sneer. They should stand by their proposals, and by that argument for the support of their proposals, because thereby they will gain and gather a very great reinforcement of public opinion in this country for the necessary measures which must be taken for our security.
I am certain that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he winds up this evening, will be able to give the right 100 hon. Gentleman assurances that there is no war in which British troops will ever be engaged which will not be in entire conformity with the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not keep his vote and that of his party in suspense and in abeyance, but will make up his mind that, weighing all things and balancing all the difficulties, there can be no doubt that, at this juncture, whatever differences there may be about the methods or the degree of our rearmament, it is the duty of everyone who wishes to see this country safe and giving a greater guarantee for the peace of the world, to go into the Lobby in support of the Estimates which are now presented.
We have come together here to-day first of all, and in the highest priority, to listen to the statement of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and my right hon. Friend has made us a most important speech. How important it is we may judge from the fact that, as he hinted, the labour of its preparation has prevented his coming to a conclusion upon the Report on the Fleet Air Arm. That is what he said.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I hope my right hon. Friend will not misrepresent me. What I said was—I may not have used these exact words—that but for this Debate, upon the preparation for which I was engaged this morning, I should have been able to complete the Report upon the Fleet Air Arm, but was thereby prevented from doing so.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
By all means let us be strictly accurate in our quotation of my right hon. Friend, who judged the speech so important that he occupied upon it time which otherwise would have enabled him to bring to the complete stage the Report upon the Fleet Air Arm. I do not want to quarrel with him at all; I only want to agree with him. So we are all right about that. Of course, a Minister in charge of matters of high importance, making a statement of this kind which is expected on all sides and for which everyone is waiting, can easily supply a large number of instances and give a very interesting account of some of the matters with which he has been concerned; and certainly there were many points in my right 101 hon. Friend's speech which were of the greatest importance and interest. Still I must confess, if my right hon. Friend will permit me to do so, that when he concluded his remarks I could not feel that I had received any very large volume of new information; I could not feel that we have been, as it were, taken into the confidence of the Government, even so far as that would be possible without endangering the public interest. I have never doubted at all the ability of my right hon. Friend to put up an excellent defence for the Government, especially when, as was said by a speaker from the Front Opposition Bench, the "knock-about" element is required; and he certainly carried us all with him in the rebukes which he administered to the Opposition for advocating strong policies on the part of this country in foreign affairs and yet at the some time not throwing their whole heart into the business of recruiting our small Army and of facilitating the production of munitions.
I am not going to follow my right hon. Friend, except on one point, into the account which he gave of the progress of Royal Air Force expansion, but I must say that the picture which he drew—or suggested rather than drew, for I admit that he covered himself with a good many clouds of vagueness—the general picture which he presented of streams of new machines of the very latest quality pouring out of the factories to the squadrons of the Royal Air Force is one which I feel is based on a larger measure of anticipation than of actual realisation. I am sure than some of the statements which he made will be received, not only with interest, but with some surprise, in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. I could, I think, draw a very different picture, but I am not going to do so, because, frankly, I do not feel that here to-day, in open debate in this Chamber, I should like the case which I feel capable of stating to be stated; nor do I think it would be right for the Government to give all the information that they have at their disposal, either reassuring or not reassuring, on all the aspects of the development of a force so complicated and so difficult to measure as the Air Force of this or any other country.
There is, however, one point to which I must refer. My right hon. Friend used 102 an extraordinary argument. He said that, if we had begun to expand our Air Force three years ago, or words to that effect, we should be worse off than we are now—we should be cumbered with a mass of inferior machines. This is an altogether new defence for the miscalculation which the Government have admitted in respect of the relative strength of the British and German Air Forces. In fact I do not know why, on this basis, the Prime Minister ever needed at all to stand in the most handsome way in a white sheet, because apparently this was not an oversight; it was not an accident; this was some deep design, a truly Machiavellian stroke of policy, which enabled us to pretend that a miscalculation had been made while all the time we were holding back in order to steal a march on other countries by the production of great numbers of machines of the latest type. I think that that is a most remarkable defence. I must say that, if it be true, I think Lord Londonderry has been rather hardly treated, and I trust that, now that the Government are able to avow clearly the methods they have been pursuing in the matter, some steps will be taken to re-establish the most cordial and happy relations between that former Air Minister and all his old colleagues who were combining with him in this innocent and, for us, so highly beneficial fraud.
Alas, I fear there is not much truth in this suggestion. If our aircraft factories had been set to work three years ago, albeit on the old type of machines that would not have prevented the substitution of the new type for the old at the same date which is now operative. On the contrary, the effect would have been exactly the reverse. If the factories had been thrown into activity, if apprentices had been engaged, if plant and staff had been extended and developed, they would have been all the more capable of taking the new types, and the transference would have been made with far greater facilities and the deliveries would have flowed out in far greater volume at an earlier date. I was a little sorry that my right hon. Friend should have suggested that the young pilots who are now joining the new Air Force would have had little cause to thank me if my advice on this matter had been accepted, as they would have been condemned to fly in inferior machines. I have, and have had 103 for many years, a good many friends in the Air Force, and I am sure they do not think so badly of me as that. As a matter of fact, if you had a large stock of new machines, albeit of old pattern, you would find it a very great facility at this moment, and you would not have to draw away reserve machines from squadrons in order to assist in the business of training your rapidly expanding force. I really think my right hon. Friend lapsed into an argument there which was not quite worthy of him, and still less worthy of the gravity of the subject we are debating this afternoon.
But I have no quarrel with my right hon. Friend. Indeed, he has my sincere sympathy. It is not with his speech that I am going to deal so much as with the position in which he finds himself. He has an office so absurdly constructed that the very conditions of his commission reveal a confusion of mind and a lack of comprehension in those who have defined it. He has allowed himself to become the innocent victim of responsibiliies so strangely, so inharmoniously, so perversely grouped, endowed with powers so cribbed and restricted, that no one, not even Napoleon himself, would be able to discharge them with satisfaction. My right hon. Friend has three separate tasks. The first is the co-ordination of high strategic thought on all our affairs by land, sea and air; with which, apparently, is included also the enormous question of the food supply of this island in time of war. That is his first task. His second is to secure the punctual execution of the existing very large programme—another terrific task; and his third task is to plan and organise British industry and British labour so that if need be it could spring quickly into wartime conditions. Was there ever such an impossible jumble cast upon a single man, and a man, as has been pointed out in this Debate, who is without a staff under his control, without what I should call a composite brain? Other Ministers with great Departments have composite brains. Even any one leading a party must have a brain larger than his own, must have numbers of people through whom he can operate. Without a composite brain, without any necessary handling machinery, without power to give orders which will be obeyed, without the knowledge, indeed, 104 in many cases, upon which those orders can be framed. We have all heard the saying,They made a solitude and called it peace.The Government have created a labyrinthine tangle of committees, with an able and unfortunate Minister flitting about between them, and they call it the Co-ordination of National Defence,
Once I went into a large signal-box on one of our great railways. Scores of trains of all kinds were passing to and fro and arriving from various branch lines. There was great press of traffic. But in the signal-box quite a few men, signalmen, were able to regulate the whole of this vast traffic. Why were they sufficient? They were sufficient because they had this long row of shining levers, all of which actuated signals; because, when they pulled the levers, the signals were worked and were obeyed; and because they were working according to a precisely drawn up time-table. That is how they were able to do their marvellous work. What would have happened if, instead of this row of shining levers and these men doing their task in this systematised method, there had only been a harassed stationmaster rushing about with red and green flags or lamps, endeavouring to arrange the traffic by hand? That would have been bad enough, but how much worse—and this is the real case in point—would the position not have been if, besides this unfortunate station-master, there had been three separate signal boxes labelled Navy, Army and Air, each with a certain number of levers which could be pulled, and a certain number of signals which, if the levers were pulled, would be obeyed, and if they were working separately, each with only a partial knowledge of the problem, in an endeavour to arrange the traffic on the line. I am bound to say that if that were the situation I personally should not be able to travel by that railway without a very considerable measure of misgiving.
That is why I ask that the function of co-ordinating high strategic thought between the Services, and of deciding the main priorities in all classes of munition production, should be separated from all functions connected with the problem of material supply and of the 105 detailed preparation of factories in case we had to turn over from peace to war. I asked that many months ago, and I ask it now. I have not the slightest doubt that it is going to be done. The new appointment of an Admiral to the Army Council as Director-General of Munitions Supply, and the regrouping under him of certain important supply departments, is, of course, a tentative and in some ways necessary preliminary step to that end. I have no doubt whatever that, after further prolonged, costly, vexatious, purposeless and insensate delays, a Minister of Supply will be appointed, and that then there will be another equally injurious set of delays in clothing him with adequate powers.
Let us see to what classes of supplies this particular appointment of a Minister would be applied. It will, no doubt, be said that the Navy in the main have had their own establishment to a very large extent and that the Air arm are using all the existing facilities as well as they can, so it is only the Army. But that would be a very inadequate view to take. The War Office makes not only for the Army but a great number of essential articles for all three Services, and it is the Army which, under the present arrangement, would make not only for the Army but for the nation as well if we were called upon to face a great danger. The Prime Minister, in winding up an important Debate, I think on the last occasion he spoke in the House, said that if we were attacked by any Power or combination of Powers all would spring to arms. But what would happen if there were no arms when they sprang to them when they arrived ready to fight to the death, as he said only on Saturday. [Interruption.] But then we had a supreme Navy and no Air. I saw with my own eyes how, when a million volunteers arrived, they had to drill for a year or a year and a half with wooden rifles. At any rate, then we had a supreme Navy and there was no Air to cause us serious embarrassment. But now what will be the case when the millions of volunteers come to spring to arms, and when all the time their women and children are being killed day by day by bombing in the air and hideous destruction is going on all round us and there is nothing to put in their hands because these preparations have not achieved their conclusion?
106 The supplies that I have in mind are rifles and ammunition, cannon of all kinds, except the largest, shells, bombs, projectiles of all kinds, explosives, propellants, except for the Navy, machine guns, which affect the Air Force as well as the Army, trench mortars, medical stores, gas masks, tanks, mechanical transport of all kinds, and equipment of every description. This is an enormous sphere. How is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to proceed with the complicated and responsible task that he has accepted? It is always possible for a Minister to tell a good tale, but one has to consider the proportion of the statements that we have made to us to the general events and facts of the world around us. Last autumn I made a statement about Germany spending at the rate of the equivalent of £800,000,000 directly and indirectly upon warlike purposes, including strategic roads. I have often repeated the statement, and it has often been challenged. I gave a very full account of the methods of calculation that I had employed. Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Question Time has given an answer which not only in no way contradicts what I said but, with the full knowledge of the Government, as far as it is proper for them to form conclusions about the expenditure of foreign Powers, anyone who reads the answer carefully will see that it is a complete acceptance of what I said:The Government have no official figures but, from such information as they have, I see no reason to think that the figure mentioned in my right hon. Friend's question is necessarily excessive as applied to the half year, although he himself will agree that there are elements of conjecture.I think, therefore, the Committee may take it that that is correct and that £800,000,000 was the equivalent of German expenditure in 1935 and, as that rate is continuing, perhaps it may be £900,000,000 in the current year. I have been challenged about the rate of exchange. I have taken the official rate of 12½ Reichmarks to the pound. I have taken the greatest pains to inquire whether that is a fair rate—whether £800,000,000 of British expenditure would actually represent the same productive result as would be achieved by the number of milliards of Reichmarks which we know have been spent. I am informed that 12½ Reichmarks buys the same amount of average munitions labour in 107 Germany as £1 does in Great Britain. As a matter of fact we calculated, at 1s. 4d. an hour, that £1 would buy 15 hours' labour in this country and 12½ Reichmarks would buy 15 hours' labour in Germany. It is true that the German figure bears some charges which find no place in our Estimates, especially those for training youths in the camps on a great scale but, on the other hand, our Estimates are cumbered with pensions and non-effective charges and with the very much higher pay that we offer to all ranks of our three Services than are included in the Estimates of foreign countries.
Then, it is said, ought you to include the roads? I have not seen them, but I am told that these great concrete causeways, stretching for hundreds of miles to all strategic points and enabling troops and wagons and mechanical transport to move along them—five roads abreast—constitute a feature which will very likely play a larger strategic part in another war, should one occur, than fortresses or fortified lines. I think it perfectly right to include these roads. They are certainly not commercial in their purpose. The Government owns all the railways in Germany and they already impose a deficit on the German Budget. It is hardly likely that they would go on constructing these enormous causeways for commercial purposes. Therefore, I declare that these figures that I have given are correct, and I also say that they were easily accessible for nearly a year past. £800,000,000 or £900,000,000 a year! It is a prodigy. Nothing like it has ever been dreamed of before and nothing like it, as far as I am aware, is approached now. I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for answering my criticism but I do not think it should have been left to a private Member to bring to the notice of Parliament a fact of such gravity and pregnant significance. It would have been far better if the country had been advised of the scale on which armament was proceeding on the Continent a year ago. If there is difficulty, if the Opposition do not take the course one would wish, and which so many of them in their hearts would like to take, of whole-heartedly supporting our defence, it is largely because the case has not been made in its integrity. When the position dawns upon the people of the country, when they realise where they 108 stand and what are the circumstances around them, I am confident that the only danger the Government will run is not of being accused of asking for too much but of being found woefully behindhand in asking for what they really require.
Now there are the figures by which we can judge the scale of our own efforts. In January there was some talk of spending £300,000,000, apart from normal upkeep. Of course, it was absurd to suggest that any such sum could be spent this year. The Government were quite right not to tie themselves to spending any particular figure. I remember that I warned the House that I doubted if they could spend more than £50,000,000 additional to the regular Estimates. Now Supplementary Estimates have been presented of £30,000,000, but that does not do justice to the Government's effort. There is a good deal of abnormal expenditure in the ordinary Services this year and, to state the case fairly, one ought to look back to 1934, when £113,000,000 was the total of Army, Navy and Air Force expenditure. That has now risen to £158,000,000 in 1936 or, with the £30,000,000 Supplementary Estimates, £188,000,000 odd. It is fairer to compare with 1934 and, therefore, I take it that there is an increase of £75,000,000 towards making up deficiencies and towards expansion, above the 1934 expenditure.
But when the Opposition complain of the size of these Estimates we must ask them to compare them with the German expenditure. I make full allowance for the fact that we do not need to keep a great Continental Army in this country. That makes the comparison between the two countries not at all exact. Nevertheless, it is of value to compare them from the point of view of seeing the scale on which events are proceeding. If you want to compare them, you should first deduct from the £800,000,000 at least £300,000,000 for the upkeep in 1936 of the German Forces. That leaves £500,000,000 for extraordinary expenditure and expansion—for something very serious which may happen quite soon. This £500,000,000 compares with our £75,000,000. That gives us the scale.
My anxieties are not at all diminished by anything I have heard to-day. On the contrary, I feel that they are deepened and aggravated. Everyone is going away on holiday and, when we 109 come back, we shall all be looking forward to the Coronation, but do not forget that all the time those remorseless hammers of which General Goering spoke are descending night and day in Germany and that the most warlike and, in many ways, the most efficient people in Europe are becoming welded into a tremendous fighting machine equipped with the most fearful agencies of modern science. That is a spectacle which I cannot say is one that has never before existed, because it would be meaningless; it would fall utterly short of the facts. All I can say is that it is a machine upon which £800,000,000 or £900,000,000 are being spent for the second year in succession. We are going away on our holidays. Jaded Ministers, anxious but impotent Members of Parliament, a public whose opinion is more bewildered and more expressionless than anything I can recall in my life—all will seek the illusion of rest and peace. We are told, "Trust the National Government. Have confidence in the Prime Minister, with the Lord President of the Council at his side. Do not worry. Do not get alarmed. A great deal is being done. No one could do more." All the influence of the Conservative Party machine is being used through a thousand channels to spread this soporific upon Parliament and the nation. But I am bound to ask, has not confidence been shaken by various things that have happened, and are still happening?
I have already referred to the melancholy story of the miscalculations about German air power. Let me come to one or two more recent instances. When we met in January we asked for more destroyers, and the demand was voiced from all quarters of the House—more destroyers. We were assured that there was no need for more destroyers. All the highest authorities were convinced that more destroyers would be a superfluity. The number had been provided, and the highest expert opinions were available to justify that position. Now after six months in which new naval facts have come to light we are to have more destroyers. The escalator Clause has been used and a new flotilla is asked for in these Estimates, and I believe that further destroyer construction is in contemplation. Of course, it is very satisfactory to the House of Commons, and 110 it ought to give us confidence in our own opinion on these matters. It ought to give the House more confidence in its own opinion in some respects than in the opinion of these very high authorities, which in January will say one thing, and in July will present an equally cast-iron, hide-bound conclusion, backed by the same solid consensus of expert authority.
Take another instance—the question of food supply. When the House became very anxious a few months ago about our existing granaries being only about half full, and some hon. Members had the audacity to suggest that perhaps it might be just as well to fill them right up and keep them almost filled instead of half empty, the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence came forward with a plan. It was the kind of plan which is always popular, always acceptable and always most effective in allaying agitation and staving off Parliamentary questions. His plan was to have an inquiry. There would be an inquiry over which he himself would preside. Of course, once that has been announced, obviously all other questions whenever they are raised can be answered most effectively by saying "Hush, the inquiry is still proceeding, the case is sub judice. We must not interrupt these most searching toils and studies which are being undertaken. We must wait with patience until the whole matter can be presented." That inquiry is still proceeding.
But what happened the week before last? At the beginning of the week Lord Hailsham in another place unfolded an argument obviously based on the fullest official information, the effect of which was to deprecate even the filling up of our existing granaries at the ports on the ground that they might become targets—this indicates very high skill—of an air attack. He also at the same time deprecated building small granaries in different parts of the country on the ground of the expense and inconvenience that might arise, and on Monday of that week he assured us that we had three months' supply of the essential foodstuffs in the country. So much for the view of one of the highest officials in the Government. But at the end of the same week, on Saturday, the First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech at Southampton in which he declared that if our sea-borne supplies were interrupted, we 111 should all be dead of starvation in six weeks. Here you have two Ministers, both in the most powerful situations, absolutely at variance upon the actual facts. You have your granaries still only partly filled, and you have my right hon. Friend the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence still inquiring into the general question. I beg his pardon. I took down the actual words. I must not say that the question is being inquired into, but is "being examined with a view to action." The first task of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is to co-ordinate the contradictory utterances of his high colleagues, both of whom have already prejudged the result of his inquiry in opposite directions.
I will give one final instance which leads me to think that great diligence is required from Parliament. Tucked away in the Supplementary Estimates for the Army on page 8—perhaps that is an invidious thing to say—at any rate, let me say that on page 8 of the Supplementary Estimates of the Army occurs this sentence:The provision made under the first of these heads (Deficiencies programme) includes a sum of £1,000,000 under Vote 9 DD in respect of machine tools for the manufacture of warlike stores elsewhere than at the Royal Ordnance Factories.That is a very telltale and disquieting item—£1,000,000 for machine tools. Every manufacturer knows what that means, and every General Staff in Europe knows what it means. We all know how many months it takes to make machine tools in large quantities, and how long it takes after they are made before mass production of munitions can begin. My right hon. Friend told us that there are some 50 firms with which he has made, no doubt, the best arrangement which can be made, but surely we are entitled to ask; Why was this essential preliminary to rearmament not put in hand before? Why is it only now, in these Supplementary Estimates being presented to us in the Summer of 1936, that this preliminary provision has been made? The Prime Minister, speaking near Cardiff on Saturday, uttered the following words:For years we neglected our defences in the hope of general disarmament. We did our best to bring disarmament about. Our hopes were disappointed.I think we live in strange times when the head of the Government, who through 112 all this period has been the most powerful politician in the country and who, all the time, has been in control of enormous majorities in both Houses, ready to vote any demand for defence which the Government might put forward, should be able to declare so suavely that we neglected our defences in the vain hope that others would do the same. But they did not do the same. They did exactly the opposite. Now we have the leeway of these fatal years to make up. But what I do not understand, even from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, is why when, in the well-meaning and good and sincere hopes of disarmament, we were neglecting our defences, he did not at the same time, as a measure of moderate prudence, make this comparatively small expenditure upon machine tools, which, at any rate, if the hopes of disarmament were frustrated, would have enabled him very rapidly to make up for lost time? In those days the Home Secretary used to boast that the country was being carried "to the edge of risk"—that was the expression—in disarmament, and surely it was not too much to ask, when we were running this frightful risk for whatever worthy and noble purpose, that at least some provision for a speedy recovery should have been made, if our hopes were blighted, as obviously ever since 1934 they were going to be blighted. Surely during the critical years when Germany was rearming and we were still neglecting our defences, someone should have prompted His Majesty's Government at all costs to put themselves into a position to repair the neglect as fast as possible.
I do not blame this upon the Prime Minister. It is not the business of the Prime Minister to think of things like that, but in the State, somewhere in your organism of State, there ought to be machinery, some power, some force to bring this matter to the notice of responsible authority. That is the point. Surely in 1934, when the warnings were so plain and so plainly given in this House, one should have said, "If we are running this risk and going so far, at least get these other matters attended to behind the scenes." It would have been perfectly worthy and legitimate expenditure and would not have astonished anyone. You could have gone ahead. What was the reason why the order for machine tools was not put in hand after the 113 General Election? Was there no one in the Admiralty, the War Office, the Air Ministry, no one in the Committee of Imperial Defence, no one on these innumerable committees whose frequent meetings we hear so much about, capable of pointing out to high authority this supine inadvertence? What confidence can we have in the efficiency? Is it not going too far to ask us to have blind confidence in the vigilance and foresight of our defence machinery when there was no one to come forward and say the word and ask for this comparatively small expenditure?
§ Mr. A. HOPKINSON
This is purely a technical matter of which the right hon. Gentleman is entirely ignorant. The sum of £1,000,000 for machine tools represents a fleabite of the total expenditure on machine tools. It is a very small item indeed.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Gentleman does not see the way in which his argument falls. Even now, in the method of expanding our industries, we are only, according to him, with our £1,000,000 indulging in a fleabite in regard to these machine tools. The argument cuts the other way—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—in so far as it cuts any way at all. This provision is a very vital and necessary provision. It is being made now, and it ought to have been made two years ago at the very least. Why recriminate about the past? That is what is said. But the past governs the present and lays its paralysing hand not only on the present, but it reaches out into the future. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence the other day used a homely expression. He said, if I remember aright, "What is the use of crying over spilt milk?" He appeared for the moment to conceive that that was sufficient to dispose of the failure to discharge these very direct responsibilities. Spilt milk indeed! I wish it had been only milk that had been spilt. We will cease to harp upon the past only when we are satisfied that everything possible is being done to repair the consequences of past neglect.
I have one more point to offer to the Committee. Have we satisfied ourselves, as former Parliaments would have done, as to where we stand and what is being done? I have scrupulously refrained in this Debate from saying anything which is not obviously known to foreign 114 countries. I have always tried to make that my rule. But I and many others have a number of questions to ask which we do not wish to ask in public. They are questions to which full answers could not be given in public. We have statements to make which we should like to have answered, but not here before all the world. The times have waxed too dangerous for that. What then have we to do—apart from going away on our holidays?
There is the question of a secret Session. I urged a secret Session on Mr. Asquith and on the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) during the War. Mr. Asquith declined it for reasons which were the same as are given now. But the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, when Prime Minister, had a secret Session, and I believe I am right in saying that none of the evils which were forecast took place, and the Government emerged from it with a sensibly enhanced advantage. We were told that Members would leak, and that the Press would invent even if it did not hear. I believe that in dangerous times, once public danger is made known, we would be found not less worthy of the handling of confidential matters than were the rugged generations which built up this Island's greatness. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be absolutely stultified in a secret Session by the Government, and proved to be an alarmist. I would endure with patience the roar of exultation that would go up when I was proved wrong, because it would lift a load off my heart and off the hearts of many hon. Members. What does it matter who gets exposed or discomfited? What we want is a country safe. If the country is safe, who cares for individual politicians, in or out of office?
I dare say that the Government will not be able to agree to a secret Session. If that be so, I make this request on behalf of myself and a number of my hon. Friends who are supporters of the Government—will the Prime Minister, with any of his colleagues concerned, receive a small deputation composed of hon. Members who have served many years in this House, if possible representing all parties—I do not know what view other parties may take—and allow a case which can no longer with safety be made in public to be submitted to him under the 115 following condition of secrecy—that nothing said by the Government not already known to Members of the deputation shall be made known or used in any way? There is a recent precedent for this procedure. Before the last Election the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was putting forward a scheme for dealing with unemployment. He was received by the Government on many occasions, allowed to unfold his ideas, and Ministers discussed them with him for five or six sittings. Now I ask that the Prime Minister should receive a deputation of a dozen Members, and allow them to lay before him the information in their possession and to raise questions which we think it unsuitable to raise at this juncture in the House of Commons in open debate. Surely, the same care and elaboration may be used in this case of life and death as were bestowed on the manoeuvrings about unemployment that took place before the General Election. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say whether that request can be granted.
I have tried to show that the efforts that the Government are making, albeit great efforts, are only a small fraction of what is going on elsewhere. As far as this year is concerned, and I fear also as far as next year is concerned, we shall not overtake them, but will fall further behind. This does not apply to the Navy, but to the other two Services. In these circumstances, we have a right to say that conditions of emergency have supervened. The Secretary of State for War has told us that conditions are worse than in 1914. How then can it be argued that conditions of emergency have not supervened? I do not ask that war conditions should be established for the production of munitions; it would not be necessary or helpful. All I ask is that the intermediate stage between ordinary peace time and actual war should be recognised, that a state of emergency preparations should be proclaimed, and that the whole spirit and atmosphere of our rearmament should be raised to a higher pitch, and that we should lay aside a good deal of the comfort and smoothness of our ordinary life, that we should not hesitate to make an inroad into our industry, and that we should endeavour to make the most strenuous efforts in our power to execute the programme that the Government have 116 in mind at such pace as would make them relevant to the ever-growing dangers that gather round us.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
My right hon. Friend has suggested that I was proposing to wind up this Debate. That is a misapprehension on his part. In a Debate of this kind, which is likely to be concerned with so many points of detail, there is only one Minister who can wind up the Debate.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
This is a new procedure. This is the final stage in the Supplementary Estimates for the year and we had been informed that the Chancellor would wind up. We should have put to him certain financial questions before he replied.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman is also under a misapprehension. No such statement has been made, because it has never been contemplated that I should wind up. There is only one Minister who can adequately reply to a Debate of this kind—the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. My right hon. Friend who has just addressed the Committee concluded with a certain observation, and it seemed to me that it would be convenient if I dealt with his suggestion and also said a few words about some of the other criticisms that we have heard. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition found a new reason for opposing the Government proposals for rearmament; he said we had not yet brought about co-ordination of defence, and the result was that in all probability a large part of our expenditure would be wasted. In support of that argument—and it seems that every time this question is discussed there is a new reason for the Opposition opposing the Government's proposals—he brought forward a number of interesting problems to which he would no doubt like to have an answer. What he did not do was to show how the money which the Government are now spending on armaments would be wasted, whatever answer was given to those problems. Take the questions of air defence. The right hon. Gentleman said that the view that there was no defence against bombers was one which had been exploded by scientists, and that now there were methods of defeating their approach to this country. 117 Does he suggest on that account that we need order no anti-aircraft guns? The expenditure on which we are embarking will be required by this country whether there are any new methods of defence against aircraft or not. It is merely another illustration of what is always going on in armaments, that first the aggressive and then the defensive side gets the better, and so the situation changes.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
My argument was this: There are a number of problems of defence which are unsolved. If you embark on expenditure before you solve them you are bound to waste some of your money. The right hon. Gentleman, owing to the nature of his office and his lack of staff, will not be able to solve them and therefore the money will be wasted. May I take the case he has just quoted, of air defence? Certainly the question should be solved before expenditure is embarked on. If it is true that the possibilities of air defence are far greater than they have been, and instead of concentrating on bombing civilian populations elsewhere we concentrated on defending our own population because it could be done, that decision would alter the proportions of fighting and bombing aeroplanes which you would build, and that of course would involve finance.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I can say with the greatest confidence that these problems are being examined, and in due course decisions will be taken on them, but in the meantime none of the expenditure which is now being undertaken can possibly, as far as we can see, be wasted. The process of making good deficiencies which have accumulated over a long period of years is not one which can be completed in a few months. There is a vast amount of work which has to be done even in preparation for increasing the production of armaments, and that will not be wasted. The right hon. Gentleman also found a fresh reason why his party should not encourage recruiting for the Territorial Army, namely, that the Territorials were not provided with sufficient equipment. May we count on the right hon. Gentleman to back us up in providing them with sufficient equipment, which is precisely the task on which we are now engaged?
118 The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) took a different view. He recognises that a strong nation is able to exercise greater influence in preserving peace than a weak nation, and he said that in any case he would vote for whatever proposal the Government might think necessary to preserve the safety of the country and fulfil our international obligations. But he said that the Committee should not be asked to do that unless the Government could first tell them and the country the nature, scope and character of the dangers to which we were exposed. Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously expect that we should get up here and consider all the potential enemies that we might have to meet, that we should name them, and consider that all the armaments they are now building are to be used against this country? That would be a nice contribution to international peace. The right hon. Gentleman must leave the Government to form its own conclusions of the quarter from which possible dangers may come, and I may add that the dangers do not continue always to come from the same quarter, but may change, and change rapidly, and in changing, considerably change the nature of the precautions that have to be taken.
I do not intend to keep the Committee for more than a short time, but I should like to make a few observations in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He certainly sought to make capital at the expense of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, although I have no doubt he will say that he was not making an attack on the Government. However, I do not think his speech was altogether helpful to the Government. There was a suggestion all the way through that the Government could not be trusted in this matter, that any confidence that might be placed in them was misplaced, and that we were altogether too optimistic as regards the plans upon which we are engaged. My right hon. Friend's fears largely arise out of the fact that he never has agreed, and he does not now agree, with the action of the Government in appointing my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence to his present post. He apparently thinks that it is quite impossible for one man to undertake duties so varied as those which 119 have been assigned to my right hon. Friend. He succeeded, as he always will, in arousing cheers and laughter, by merely reciting the three different functions which he said had been given to my right hon. Friend. I admire his gift for picturesque illustration, but I have had some experience in business as well as in Departmental administration and I can say that one can make just as ridiculous a picture of the functions of any managing director of a great business as he made of the business of my right hon. Friend.
He must not assume that my right hon. Friend himself has to perform all the functions of interviewing firms, of making contracts, of deciding upon the various conditions which are to accompany those contracts, or that he must specially devise, as no doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping would, all the strategy. My right hon. Friend's duty is to do something quite different from that. It is said that he has no staff of his own capable of doing these things. He has. He has the staffs of every one of the Departments he has to supervise. He has the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Planning Committee and all the various Committees which are concerned with Supply, just as a managing director of a great business has the various staffs that deal with the engineering, the manufacturing, the chemical and the selling side of the business. He has not to do all the work himself. He has not to pull the "shining levers" any more than he has to "run about with red flags or green flags or lamps." He has to collect the views of those who are experts in these matters. He has to see that problems are put before them and that they give him their considered opinion. He has not, to quote another phrase, to "Keep a dog and bark himself." I do not share my right hon. Friend's fears as to the capacity of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to carry out even such varied duties as have been assigned to him.
What is required is very largely a matter of common-sense, determination, industry and that ability with which my right hon. Friend is so well endowed. He has exercised those qualities, and through the most expert staff which he will have in various directions he will 120 carry out, as I know that he is carrying out, all that can be expected of him. Of course, he may be exposed to disappointment, as other people have been before him. It is possible that his anticipations, as have been suggested, may not prove to have been completely accurate. When you are carrying out enormous programmes of this kind there are apt to be hitches and setbacks of which no one can take account, but my right hon. Friend has every reason to be satisfied with the progress that is being made and, provided he is not interrupted by unforeseen occurrences, I think that we shall in a short time be well on the way to produce munitions at a rate which may please even my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping gave certain figures in regard to German rearmament.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds further, will he allow me to put a question? There is an impression in the country and in this House that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence seems to be lacking in certain co-ordinating powers and authority over the diverse enterprises under his control. Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer give us any assurance on that matter? Has the right hon. Gentleman any power or jurisdiction over all Services?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member is making the old mistake of confusing the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence with a Minister of Defence. My right hon. Friend is the former and not the latter. It is his business not to direct every Department but to co-ordinate them, and that business he is carrying out. Let me deal with the figures of Germany rearmament given by the right hon. Member for Epping. He said that it was not easy for a Private Member to give such figures to the House of Commons. I think he must recognise that it is much easier for a Private Member to make himself responsible for figures of this kind than it is for the Government. If the Government were to give figures on their own authority then they would be challenging denial or question on the part of foreign Governments, and it would be rather difficult for them to do so in the case 121 of Governments which do not publish estimates of their defence expenditure, as is the case with Germany. But when one takes into account the fact that these figures quoted are not strictly comparable with our figures, that there are items in them which are not included in our figures, and that perhaps they do not include items which are included in our figures, making these allowances and tolerances, as the right hon. Member for Epping called them, I have no reason to suppose that his figures are misleading.
My right hon. Friend went on to say that there were other figures, but he did not feel that he could give them in public, because if he gave them in public in this House they would not be confined to this House but would at once be transmitted overseas and might give rise to undesirable consequences. He said that he would like a secret Session of the House. There have been secret Sessions of the House of Commons on more than one occasion in time of war. But we are not at war now, and it seems to me that a secret Session of this House could not be held in present-day conditions without at once giving rise to unauthorised rumours. I am not suggesting that hon. Members would not be able to keep a secret, but speculation would inevitably arise as to what took place during the secret Session. Judging from past experience in other matters, those rumours would become more and more precise, and presently there would be denials, then there would be assertions and counter-denials, and finally there would be a demand for an authoritative statement. In time the whole country would be stirred up and would be told that the most frightful disclosures had been made. I cannot help thinking that both here and abroad a secret Session might give rise to entirely baseless and unfounded suspicions, which might prove in the end to be very harmful.
My right hon. Friend rather anticipated that we could not accept that suggestion, and he was prepared to admit that that view would not be unreasonable on the part of the Government, and therefore he made a second suggestion. The second suggestion, as I understood it, was that the Government should be asked to receive a deputation, of which I gathered that he 122 certainly would be a member, with some of his friends, and that it should include Members of the Opposition. I can speak, I am sure, for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when I say that he, whether by himself or with his colleagues, would certainly never refuse to receive a deputation of his fellow Members, especially on such an important point as this, but I gathered that the proposed deputation would be of a special and unusual character. My right hon. Friend said that he contemplated that the deputation should be allowed to put their point of view before the Government, that they should be allowed to suggest to the Government certain figures of foreign armaments and that the Government should be called upon to disclose certain information in their possession.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
They would be absolute masters of anything they chose to say. We recognise that they could not tell us everything, but we want to put before them certain things.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
If it is a deputation to put before the Government certain things which hon. or right hon. Members think the Government ought to know, then certainly I say at once that the Government would be prepared to receive a deputation of that kind, including Members of the Opposition. But I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government would be expected to give to the deputation information which they could not give to this House. I do not think they could do that. I do not think that would be a right thing to do. I can imagine that in certain emergencies it might be possible, if consultation took place between representatives of the Government and representatives of various parties in the House: it has been frequently done before and special communications have been considered to be of a confidential character. That could be done, but a deputation of Members selected by themselves could not expect to receive information from the Government which was withheld from the rest of the House. I will not keep the Committee any longer. I think I have answered the points that were raised by my right hon. Friend.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. NOEL-BAKER
A new Member rising to address the House for the first 123 time asks for and is generally accorded the indulgence of the House. I have no claim upon the kindness of the Committee this afternoon and for the very reason that I have no claim, I shall be the more grateful to receive it. I understand the function of an Opposition principally to be that which Mr. David Low, in his topical budget last week, attributed to the airship "Hindenburg," in its accidental visits to this country; a function which has been admirably performed by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Mr. Low Said thatthe 'Hindenburg' flew law over Inskip, circled three times, and departed making an objectionable noise.I have no desire to be objectionable to anybody, least of all to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who, I am convinced, has undertaken a most difficult task under conditions which, in spite of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I venture to think are almost impossible for him to fulfil. I have served in a different capacity for short spaces of time several great Departments of State since the end of the War and I know something of bureaucratic machinery. I am absolutely convinced that until we have a real Minister of Defence and a real Minister of Munitions we shall never have real co-ordination of defence.
But if I do not desire to be objectionable to the right hon. Gentleman I do desire to raise three issues of major principle, which I think ought to be dealt with in this Debate. The most important is that which was dealt with by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) from one point of view; the terrible danger of armament expansion which is now going on. The right hon. Gentleman revived the old phrase that Great Britain was disarmed to the edge of risk. I never believed that phrase to be true, even when it was spoken with the greatest confidence in 1930 and in 1931. Even then I believed it was true that we, like all other nations, were armed to the edge of lunacy; and the armament expansion on which we are engaged to-day is a race to destruction which can only have one end unless we stop it very soon. Before I come to that, however, I should like to say a word or two about the other two major questions. The first is the method by which our armaments are 124 being supplied; the factories in which they are being produced.
I have examined the Estimates and Supplementary Estimates with such care as I can give, and I see that in the Estimates for the Navy the proportion for new construction, between dockyard-built ships and contract-built ships, is £2,500,000 to the dockyards and £12,000,000, nearly £13,000,000, to the private shipyards. When we remember that a great deal of what is put down to the dockyards, machinery, armament and other things, is in fact made by private firms, we see that the proportion for private firms is very high indeed. I look at the Air Estimates. I see a new addition of £8,000,000, and except for a very small proportion under the Vote for armaments and munitions, every penny of that £8,000,000 will go to private firms. This is in addition to a previous £8,000,000, making £26,500,000 in all; the largest war Supply Vote ever given to any Department in times of peace—all going to private firms. I look at the Army Estimates, £2,500,000 added to a previous £6,500,000, or £9,000,000 altogether, and from all I can understand from what the right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon the overwhelming proportion of that amount is going to private firms.
Nor is that the end. Large sums are allocated in each of these three Estimates for new factories and new plant—the Army more than £1,000,000; the Navy £150,000, the Air Force £500,000. This money is not for the Royal Ordnance Factory; it is for private firms to establish plant which will be used by private firms. So far as I can make out, in spite of the new factory which is to be opened at Nottingham and in spite of a sum of £300,000 for the Royal Ordnance Factory, there is an immense expansion of the production to be done by private firms. I ask the attention of hon. Members to these two observations, that the proportion of our armament supply which is coming from private firms is being enormously increased, the total of these orders is reaching a fabulous sum. The old rule of thumb of pre-war days—of one-third to the Arsenal and two-thirds to private manufacturers—has been abandoned. The total orders to private firms which we have reached in 1936 now amount to the fabulous sum of £52,500,000.
125 These figures mean that we as a nation are increasing our dependence upon private firms for the supply of whatever armaments we may need. They mean also that we are setting up vast private interests which are dependent for their prosperity on orders for material for war. I suggest to the Committee that both these tendencies are dangerous in the extreme. If there is one lesson from the experience of the last war which is more indisputable than all the rest it is that dependence on private firms for armament manufacture is dangerous in time of war. It was the policy which the Government pursued, before 1914 and precisely the policy which the Government are pursuing to-day. They expanded private firms and contracted the Royal Arsenal production. They believed that private firms would give them the expansion, but when the test of war conditions came the private firms could not supply the goods. We have heard charges made against private firms which I have sometimes thought were exaggerated in their way. Private firms had to face difficulties of every kind. They were not told what kind of expansion it was going to be. The Government were to blame, but the difficulties which they could not overcome—and this is the point I am trying to make—were difficulties inherent in the system of depending on private manufactures, and that is where the real danger of the Government's policy now lies.
What were the difficulties which defeated private armament firms in 1914? They were mentioned in a summary way by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. There was the difficulty about labour supply, and the supply of machine tools, of raw materials, and the instruction of non-specialised engineers in the technique of armament production. So long as we relied on private firms, until May, 1915, these difficulties reduced armament production to absolute chaos. Skilled labour was wasted and left unused; machine tools were wasted and left unused; and raw materials rose to fabulous prices, which seldom reached those who produced them, while the whole system of sub-contracting was the most catastrophic failure of all. I think it is a most important fact which the right hon. Gentleman can verify from the history of the Ministry of Munitions that the profit motive was in itself a very 126 important contributing factor to the difficulties which arose. This afternoon the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has spoken about the discussions he is having regarding labour supplies, raw materials and machine tools. He is trying to do the job which the Ministry of Munitions was doing, and without the Ministry staff to help him. I am far from being satisfied, from what he has said to-day, that he is even now avoiding waste and the difficulties which arose in 1914, and I am absolutely convinced that he would not avoid them if war were to break out. The truth is that in 1914 it was not the private firms which failed but the whole system which was wrong from top to bottom, and until we took them under national control in respect of everything but profits, we could not win the war. It was only national control which enabled us in the end to win the war.
But even that is not the whole story. War experience proves that in armament expansion there are three principal functions which have to be performed. You have to expand existing plant by adding machinery, taking on night shifts and using more workers in the factories you have. In the second place, you have to teach outside engineering firms how to make arms and, in the third place, you have to build new factories where deficiencies exist, and they are bound to exist whatever preparations you make. On every one of these points the war experience proved that the Government have an immense advantage as against private firms. Woolwich expanded more rapidly than any private firm, did far more in the way of instructing outside engineers than private firms, and undertook subcontracting without making it such a total failure. When new factories had to be built national factories had a success immensely greater than any private factories which were built. I maintain that when we are facing the realities of the present situation the case for nationalisation is very strong.
Nationalisation has another advantage to which I have already referred: it does not create vast private interests in arms production. I ask the Government to consider the formidable interests which they are creating. There is a turnover of £52,500,000 already and it is increasing. I have had to attend almost all the international conferences which have opened 127 since the War until the year 1933, and for 18 months, with a distinguished late Member of this House, I was at the Disarmament Conference. I became convinced, and nothing can shake my view, that private vested interests tend to defeat a policy of peace and create those forces which make for war. When M. Briand failed in France how much of it was due to the Comite des Forges? When Herr Stresemann was defeated in Germany how much of it was due to the Hugen-berg propaganda?
If Lord Londonderry in 1933 was able to resist the public outcry and to defeat the Prime Minister's intentions to prevent the total abolition of warfare in the air was he not in part assisted by the propaganda for which armament firms in our country helped to pay? I am not blaming the armament firms or accusing them of any special vice. They are business men and they have to sell their wares, but I put it to the Government that by expanding the private manufacture of arms they are creating a great Frankenstein, creating great vested interests, which will make it far harder for them when the time comes, as it may very soon, to bring the present armament expansion to an end. They are creating great forces which will fasten upon us the dangers to which we are now exposed, and I urge that they will do what the French Government are doing—nationalise the whole armament industry.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member is quite entitled to argue that the Government ought to give the bulk of this money to Government firms and very little to private enterprise, but I think he is now dealing with legislation, which cannot arise in Supply.
§ Mr. NOEL-BAKER
I hope the Government will consider the policy of extending Government production rather than private production, as they seem to be doing at the present time, and that they will do this on the ground of efficiency of national defence land the immense danger of building up these vast private interests. I come now to the Vote which the House is going to give for gas masks for the civilian population. That Vote represents a portentous decision by the Government, a decision that we are now 128 actively expecting in England the kind of warfare which Signor Mussolini has made in Africa, that we must expect here an attack on the civil population by all the means of war which are known to man. The point I want to put to the Government is that such an attack has been shown in Africa to be dangerous in the extreme, that if it is dangerous there it will be much more dangerous here, and that no defence will be any good unless it is really efficacious. A sham gas mask, like a sham League of Nations, is worse than none.
I ask the Government: Is the gas mask which they are going to give to the civilian population any real defence? With great respect both to the Minister and his helpers—I know they are doing their best and I do not blame them—have we any reason to think that civilians are going to be safer after they have the masks than they were before? We are told that these masks will be stored and given out when they are needed. We are told that they will last about five or six hours of actual use. Does that mean that the civilian population will receive no training in their use? In view of the fact that some gases are very persistent—that applies to the most dangerous among them—what is to happen when the gas masks need to be refilled? What provision is being made for infants? What provision is being made for young children under five, who obviously cannot use gas masks? What provision is being made for the very old and the very infirm? What provision is being made for animals and to prevent our food supplies from being contaminated? What are the Government going to do about vesicants, blistering gases, which, as Signor Mussolini has shown, are the most dangerous and persistent of all? Is the population to have protective clothing, or will all the people have to go to gas-proof, fire-proof, underground shelters, and if so, when and where are these shelters to be made?
Suppose all these problems are solved, what are the Government going to do about attack by fire? I was talking to a very eminent British soldier not long ago, and I asked him whether he thought gas a real menace to the civilian population. He said, "Yes, I do, but why trouble about gas when you can use fire?" A French colonel who writes textbooks for the French Air Force begins 129 one of his books by saying that great cities can be burnt in the first few hours of another war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has described—and I will not try to do it again—the thermite bombs by which these fires will be started, and of which a single machine can carry hundreds. I want again to suggest to the Government that it is not really possible to carry through schemes that will give real gas masks, real training, real shelters to the massed millions of our cities to-day. When one contemplates the immense scale which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has described, upon which Germany is preparing air warfare—and her effort is mainly in the air—it is not possible to hope that we can really save our citizens from an appalling holocaust if war begins. The truth is that stated by the Leader of the Liberal party, that there is no national defence against air attack. The only defence is international, and it consists in an international agreement that air warfare shall never be allowed to begin.
Finally, I will return for one moment, if I may, to what I call the nature of the armament expansion, to what I think to be the gravest question before this country or any other country at the present time. The Government call this process rearmament, as though we were going back to some normal standard which we unwisely left. The truth is that we are already far beyond any standards we have ever had before. Thirty years ago, about Christmas time, Sir Edward Grey took over the Foreign Office, and from then until 1914 his whole policy was devoted to trying to avert a European war. He failed, and he has told us, in words which the Leader of the Liberal party has quoted, that he failed because he was caught up in an armaments race. The Leader of the Liberal party quoted some words, and I will quote a little further. Lord Grey has written:The increase of armaments that is intended in each nation to produce consciousness of strength, and a sense of security, does not produce these effects. On the contrary it produces the consciousness of the strength of other nations and a sense of fear. The enormous growth of armaments in Europe, the sense of insecurity and fear caused by them—it was these that made war inevitable ….This is the real and final account of the origin of the Great War.130 What would Sir Edward Grey say to-day if he could stand at that Box to-day? Consider the figures of his expansion and of ours. In the six years from 1908 to 1914, British expenditure increased from £59,000,000 to £77,000,000, that is, by £16,000,000. Since 1932, our expenditure has increased from £102,000,000 to £188,000,000; in the present year by £64,000,000, nearly as much as we were spending when the War began, at the very peak of Sir Edward Grey's expansion. But consider that in 1914 the great danger was the race in dreadnoughts and that to-day the dreadnought is a harmless toy compared with the other armaments which we possess. This question of armament expansion is the gravest in the life of our nation at the present time, and the Government in recent months have given us no indication that they have any plan for bringing it to an end.
I wish to conclude by quoting some words of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and by begging him, and the Government and the Committee, to consider whether these words are not still true. It is only six months since the right hon. Gentleman took office, and went to Warwick to make a speech. He said that those who were pessimists about the League were certainly wrong and that they did not represent our national conviction. The British people, he said, saw only one solution for present problems—that the nations should in unity find security and strength. He told us that for our part, we should always be found arrayed on the side of the collective system against any government or people which might seek by a return to power politics to break up the peace. He told us—I ask the House to note these words—that we must look beyond the immediate conflict in Abyssinia, and keep a firm hold on a few simple essentials. What were they? The first, he said, was that aggression must not succeed; and secondly, that the Members of the League, acting together, should be so strong and so united that they may bring it home to any aggressor, now or in the future, that peaceful negotiation is the only successful way of removing discontents. Then he said—and it was extraordinarily well said:Let us not forget that the more ready we are to make an effort and to make sacrifices, the more ready others will be also. The leadership of Great Britain is no insignificant element. If uncertainty as 131 to our country's policy has been thought to have had tragic consequences from time to time in history, cannot the stability and certainty of that policy be as decisive now in the cause of peace. Let there be no faint hearts. There is a robust faith in the British people which has enabled us to weather many storms in the past and will, I am confident, see us through those moments of crisis which may lie ahead. It is a robust faith and an abiding faith which, when things are at their blackest, refuses to admit that there is no light ahead.What has happened since that brave speech was made? Has the resolution of the British people been destroyed by a few tons of mustard gas on a mountain trail in Africa? Not even the Abyssinians are conquered yet. The one great change that has happened since January is that we now have in France a Government that desires, and passionately desires, real collective security—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member cannot hold the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence responsible for foreign policy.
§ Mr. NOEL-BAKER
No, Captain Bourne, I do not wish to hold him responsible for it. I am addressing some observations to the Government concerning armament expansion, and I am on the point of ending my remarks. I only wanted to say that it is not yet too late to end this race, and that instead of thinking only of the immense expansion that we can make, as the Minister did this afternoon, I would ask him, with all other Ministers, to consider the terrible things that they are now preparing, and how they can bring them to an end. The Prime Minister on Saturday used language almost of despair, but another spokesman of the nation said a little while before that humanity cries out for peace. There lies the truth, and if we will, our nation can still lead Europe and the world to a real League of Nations and real disarmament, to a League of Nations strong enough to end all war; but to do so we must go back to the basic truths of which the Foreign Secretary spoke six months ago. Let the Government call on that robust and abiding faith of the British people, and they will find that it does not fail them; but if they do not call upon it, then by their own hands they may strike the death-knell of this fair Kingdom, of this great Continent and of this mighty Empire in which we live to-day.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I am sure the whole Committee welcomed the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). We all recognise the sincerity and the ability with which he speaks. He began by a plea for a greater measure of nationalisation in the industries that are now carrying on the work of enlarging our Defences. There is a great deal to be said on that issue, and a great deal to be said about the experience of the Great War in that respect. But I am not so much concerned in arguing the case as in suggesting that, at any rate, we are both of us in agreement that a very large measure of national supervision, and indeed of control, is required over these immense preparations which we have to make now to catch up with the time we have lost. If that be so, surely it is more than one man's work at the head, and the point I wish to emphasise is that that aspect of the work alone requires the whole of the attention of, at any rate, one of the very best brains that the Government can devote to it.
In the latter part of his speech, the hon. Member for Derby turned to some big underlying questions which undoubtedly we have to face. He quoted Sir Edward Grey on the race of armaments as having been the cause of the Great War. With all respect to the memory of an eminent statesman, I believe that statement to be entirely mistaken. The armaments were only the symptoms of the conflict of ambitions and ideals, of those nationalist forces, which created the war. The War was brought about because Serbia, Italy, Rumania, passionately desired the incorporation in their States of territories which at that time belonged to the Austrian Empire and which the Austrian Government were not prepared to abandon without a struggle. France was prepared, if the opportunity ever came, to make an effort to recover Alsace-Lorraine. It was in those facts, in those insoluble conflicts of ambitions and not in the armaments themselves that the cause of the War lay.
The hon. Member pleaded for that collective system of security which is to banish war from the earth. He quoted an eloquent passage delivered some months ago by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and asked what had happened since. What has happened? The unpleasant fact has emerged that the 133 nations who belong to the League are not prepared to make the sacrifices involved in coercing even one State which is intent upon making war in its own way. If we face the facts of the situation we know that outside the League stand not only Italy—for these purposes—but also Germany and Japan. The collective security of which the hon. Member speaks can only be enforced—and that is where it comes into direct connection with the issues of this Debate—by measures of defensive preparation far wider even than those contemplated by His Majesty's Government.
If you would be prepared to enforce peace everywhere, to take your indispensable part in preventing nations like Germany, Japan or Italy going to war, you must have not only economic and military sanctions, but military preparations which will make those sanctions effective and successful. Short of conscription in this country you will not be able to enforce the policy which the hon. Member opposite advocates with such eloquence. But I agree entirely with him and with others who have spoken from those benches that our preparations have to be brought into relation with our foreign policy. One of the first tasks of the Minister for the co-ordination of strategy is to ask whether the foreign policy which we are pursuing is one for which we can build up the necessary armaments, or, conversely, how we are to frame a policy within the limits of such defensive preparations as we can make. That is the great issue. Are we prepared to take part in a war on the Continent of Europe? If so, are we prepared to take part in such a war with our land forces or only with our air forces and our Navy? Does the Prime Minister's reference to our frontier being on the Rhine mean a frontier to be held by our troops in case of emergency or only an invisible frontier over which our air forces would operate? The answer to that question is vital to the whole structure of our Army. I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War here, because he knows better than anyone that the kind of army required for European warfare differs immensely, not only in numbers but in structure and organisation, from the kind of army required in the Near East, on the frontiers of India or, conceivably, in the Far East. That is one 134 of the great fundamental questions to which the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence ought to be turning his mind, with an adequate staff to help him and to direct his mind on that question.
Again, if we are to deal with this problem one of the first things we ought to ask ourselves is whether the Army which we have is designed to meet our strategic needs. I do not think it is. We have a military system based on the reforms introduced by Lord Cardwell now nearly 70 years ago. It has proved very convenient from the point of view of the peace-time administration of the British Army and for such small wars as we used to have in the last decades of the last century. It provides the garrisons abroad and training units at home and gives us a certain force which we can mobilise with the help of the reserve, a force which before the War was fixed at six divisions, but is now very much less. Before the War, more than once in debates of this kind, I asked the question: Why six divisions? Why not one division, or why not 60 divisions? In the end we did come to 60 divisions. One of the main causes of the appalling holocaust of the Great War was that we embarked on a policy which involved co-operation on land on the Continent of Europe and had an Army system which bore no relation to the facts of that situation.
Nor, on the other hand, did it bear any relation then, nor does it bear any relation to-day, to one of the essential conditions of a voluntary army, namely that it should meet the needs of the recruit and try to look after his interests. The late Mr. Arnold-Forster, the one Secretary of State whom I have known in the last 40 years who grasped the fundamentals of the question, never ceased to point out that our present system of service, convenient as it is from the point of view of the War Office, is thoroughly inconvenient from the point of view of the recruit and contrary to his real interests. It does not take him long enough to give him a career, such as the Navy in large measure provides. On the other hand, it takes him too long to give him any chance of getting back to a civil occupation with the same prospects of success as his fellows. There again is a very large problem which requires to be gone into fundamentally, a problem full of perplexity calling for a great deal of 135 attention and combined effort between the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, the Secretary of State for War and indeed the whole Administration.
The hon. Member opposite also referred to the question of air attack. That question again raises great problems of organisation. One of the essential differences between naval and land warfare is that on land the objective of your army is the enemy's army, the destruction of his troops and the breaking of his morale. At sea, the men in the opposing ships are only incidental and your object is the destruction of the enemy's ships and matériel. The whole organisation of the Navy is based on that fact. Let us consider the problem of an air attack on this country. The enemy will not come here to kill our organised forces or even to seek them out, nor primarily to waste munitions—and it is the volume of munitions that is going to be the limiting factor all the time—except incidentally, upon the civil population. His objective the whole time will be matériel; his aim will be to paralyse our fighting forces and starve our population by going for docks, aerodromes, railway stations, bridges, munition factories—all the machinery by which both our fighting strength and our ordinary existence is maintained.
If the attack is to be directed in that way, does it not stand to reason that our defence should be based on the same principle, and that the force which we raise to defend this country against air attack ought not to be raised in battalions, brigades and divisions as if it were to be used in land warfare against an enemy similarly organised, but should be based directly upon those units which are liable to attack? Just as the Navy is organised ship by ship, so our home defence force ought to be organised dockyard by dockyard, factory by factory and railway station by railway station. I am sure that Euston station could be far more effectively and easily defended, and recruits could be secured more easily for its defence, if the whole system of protecting it against fire or gas, by means of smoke screens or by anti-aircraft fire, were organised on the basis of the railway organisation and not on some imitation military basis, such as that on which we are at present building up the Territorial forces. I admit that there is 136 still need for a mobile Territorial force with its artillery and tanks, to deal with certain forms of air attack and the possible landing of troops by air. I am not suggesting a definite scheme. I am putting this forward as something which obviously requires careful consideration, and the plea I make is that it is well worth while considering whether our preparations for anti-aircraft defence ought not to be organised on an entirely new plan, different from anything we have ever done before in the way of military organisation. That, again, I suggest, is a task requiring all the ability and all the time of the Minister for the co-ordination of strategy with the assistance of an adequate staff.
I have given two or three instances of the immense burden that must fall upon the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence if his duties are taken seriously. These are problems which ought to be taken in hand in time to prevent money being wasted on misdirected efforts. From that point of view I confess that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to many of us a grave disappointment. The gist of that speech was that there is no fundamental work to be done, that any reasonably intelligent Member of the Government can co-ordinate and look after these various things and see that the Chiefs of Staff Committee agree on some moot points, and that various subordinates are running round looking after factories and so forth. It is not that. The functions which the Minister is at present supposed to combine are each functions requiring the highest order of ability and the whole time of the ablest man you can get. You must in each case arm him with real authority; you must arm him with authority—and here I agree with the hon. Member opposite—to enable him to get the supply of munitions going. But you must also arm him, not, indeed, with the power of direct administrative control over the Service Departments, but with the knowledge that he has Cabinet authority behind him in whatever far-reaching schemes of reorganisation are required which may fundamentally affect the whole structure of the fighting services. These are great tasks and they are supremely urgent. I do not wish to repeat what has been said more eloquently than I could say it by my right hon. Friend 137 the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I confess I thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not treat what was a very remarkable and well-argued speech with all the seriousness that it deserved.
The situation to-day is one of extraordinary gravity, and for two or three years more it will so remain. Surely we ought to make certain that our central machinery, the brain of our whole defensive system, should be as well organised and manned as we can make it. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping that we shall get what we are asking for, though only after a great deal of time has been wasted and danger incurred. The least we can demand is that we should have one Minister giving his whole time to the urgent problem of getting ahead with the provision of our defence, and another Minister, no less competent, giving his whole time to the even more difficult problem of co-ordinating our defence Services among themselves, and co-ordinating the whole of their functions in the national scheme with our foreign policy, whatever it may be, and, indeed, with our whole social and economic policy.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir ROGER KEYES
My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence made it very clear this afternoon that the inquiry which he had been conducting into the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty over the control of the Navy's Air Service was limited to the question of the Reserve.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
It was not limited to the question of the Reserve, but the Reserve was one of the four questions that were included.
§ Sir R. KEYES
Well, it was of a very limited nature. However, on another occasion he made it perfectly clear that any decision upon these limited points would not prejudice an inquiry into and consideration of the wider question of the dual control of the Navy's Air Service. This is very satisfactory if it means that the answer given in another place on the authority of the Prime Minister to the effect that there would be no alteration in the degree of control by the Royal Air Force of the Fleet Air Arm and coastal area is not the Government's final word. I have so often given my views in this 138 House about the folly of the dual control of the Navy's Air Service and I do not intend to weary the Committee by repeating them now, but I do say, most emphatically, that the present situation is thoroughly unsatisfactory and that it is detrimental to Naval efficiency, to the development of the Navy's Air Service, and to the ability of the Admiralty to exercise sea power.
I would like to remind the Committee that when the Prime Minister informed the House of the Government's decision on the question of the dual control of the Navy's Air Service in August, 1923, he concluded with the following remarks:It is impossible without experience to pronounce a final judgment on these arrangements. The Government are, however, confident that both Services will do their utmost to make them successful."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1923; col. 1719; Vol. 167.]The Navy has done its utmost to make these arrangements successful, but the dual control of a Service is utterly opposed to the fundamental principles of command and administration; and that that dual control has proved thoroughly unsatisfactory can no longer be seriously question. I trust my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence will be given a free hand to reopen this question, and I am confident that if an inquiry is conducted by people whom the country trusts, free from political and Service bias and under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend, the result of such an inquiry will be to give the Navy freedom to develop its Air Service and once again to grow its wings which were so cruelly pinned in 1933.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his reply just now, made great play with the fact that he could not possibly say who the aggressor might be or against whom we were arming because of the international sensibilities that might be aroused. Of course, we all know perfectly well why all this arming is taking place. It is against a potential aggressor, whoever might be so designated by the League of Nations, and at this moment we all know that Germany is the Power that is threatening the independence of countries all over Europe. I do not think the views expressed by 139 the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on the danger of the menace are in the least bit exaggerated. I believe the whole world is faced with a danger of the gravest kind, threatening us at the present moment and with growing certainty as the months go by. The German Government are treating our Government with the utmost contempt. They do not even trouble to reply to diplomatic documents or questions which we submit to them. No doubt we are responsible, by the folly of the allied policy since the War, for fixing the German Government in power, but it is none the less there, and it is none the less dangerous; and I am afraid that the task of the right hon. Gentleman has been made very much more difficult because of the recent action of the Government, which has certainly given the impression of being based upon treachery and cowardice and encouraging the power complex of the German Government to go on and take whatever they may fancy North, West, South, or East.
It was the proud boast at one time of one great British Minister that he had brought us peace with honour. I am afraid the present policy of the Government brings us neither peace nor honour. It seemed to me that one of the most unsatisfactory features of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, extremely competent as it was from a technical point of view, was the complacency with which he surveyed the scene. As far as I could gather, he seemed to think that, provided we had the munitions and guns and ships and all the rest of it, we had only got to wait for the occasion when war would break out and give the signal, when all the young men would come flocking once again to the call of duty.
I also noticed the fact that not once in his speech did he mention the League of Nations or the system of collective security on which we are supposed to be basing our defence. It cannot have been an accident that he left it out. I imagine it was that he considered it now so unimportant as hardly to be worth while referring to it, and I noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made no attempt, in response to the appeal of the Leader of the Liberal party, to answer the very specific questions that he put to him on that point. It is not sufficient for the right hon. Gentleman merely to 140 co-ordinate the three Services. We require the co-ordination of those Services, co-ordinated and linked up with the Services of other countries too, those which are working with us in the collective system. Our only safeguard is to meet with overwhelming force—the British Empire and others in the collective system—the German menace that is facing us and in that way bring home to the German Government and people that only within a friendly peace system can they live the life which they desire to live and have every right to live.
I want in particular to relate this question of collective defence to two cases that are before the country and the Government at the present time. There has been a good deal of talk about what we may do with certain countries under certain circumstances, but there exist at the present moment two cases where we have definite, technical, staff arrangements on a defence basis with other countries. In the Mediterranean we have still certain arrangements in existence, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman—I know it is difficult for him to refer to them, because they are naturally of a confidential nature—can assure us that the most thorough, definite, and binding guarantees and arrangements have been made, affecting all three Services in this country, to play their part with those other countries with whom we have made these arrangements.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that neither the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence nor any of the Ministers of the three Services can be held responsible for these questions, which are matters for the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. MANDER
Is it not a fact that the staff conversations that have taken place between this country and other countries have been between representatives of the Army, Navy and Air Force? I think: that that is the case, and I was referring to the specific duties not of the Foreign Office, but of the three Service Ministers in that respect. If I may pass on to refer to the other case I have in mind, where similar conversations by the three Service Departments have taken place, namely, the recent arrangement with France and Belgium, I want to try to bring out this point. The Leader of the Liberal party asked just now in regard to the question as to what part we were to play in a 141 European, war, whether we were going to send an Army abroad? That question must have arisen already in connection with these conversations with France and Belgium. We have evidently given undertakings of some kind. We must have been asked that question and said what we were going to do in naval, military or air assistance, so that the question is no longer an academic one. It is one that has been definitely considered. I trust, therefore, that some further information may be given on that point. I hope that the very limited area of collective security where the staffs have been in contact will be extended on the basis of the Franco-Soviet Pact, and that we may have meetings of the representatives of those countries who are willing to co-operate loyally with us to make definite and binding staff plans which shall be automatic and immediate directly an aggressor is designated. Apart from the two cases to which I have referred, I doubt whether the Government have any definite plans for working the collective system with other countries.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will realise that the staffs may have considered the matters about which he is talking, and that, if so, they could only have been considered presumably as a result of instructions received. The question of alliances with other Powers does not come under any of the Ministers whose Votes are on the Paper to-day.
§ Mr. MANDER
I will pass to another point. It is in reference to the plans of the Admiralty for the new vessels that are being provided. I hope that in future the Navy is not going to be exposed to the ridicule of "Punch" and is not going to have British ships marked "H.M.S. Unriskable" because the British Government never had the courage to allow them to do the work for which they were provided by this House and the country. I venture to hope that that is the last that we shall hear of the ridicule which has been naturally called forth in these circumstances. I wish we could have a list of those countries for whom the Admiralty are prepared to risk a vessel. It is only fair that the countries concerned should know, because they are relying on the British Navy.
Nine months ago the Government had behind them on foreign policy a united 142 people who were prepared to follow them absolutely to the end. What do we see to-day? A divided country and the majority of the people strongly opposed to the policy upon which the Government are acting. I noticed that the Prime Minister, when speaking on Saturday, made reference to the fact that some other countries might think we were a democratic house divided against itself. Of course, that is true. We are a democratic house deeply divided against itself, and we shall remain so divided until the Government return to the foreign policy on which they won the General Election.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must again call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that this is not a Foreign Office Vote, and that foreign policy is not in order in this Debate.
§ Mr. MANDER
May I, with all respect, remind you that foreign policy has been very widely discussed, and I would submit that it is impossible to consider these Votes properly unless we consider the purposes for which the Government are going to use the munitions of war for which these Estimates are required.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am sorry, but I must adhere to my Ruling. As far as I am concerned, while I have been in the Chair there has been no sustained debate on foreign policy. It is out of order, and the hon. Member must take that as my definite Ruling.
§ Mr. MANDER
I want to call attention to a specific point that has not been dealt with in any detail, namely, recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman has under his care the question of man-power for factories and for the three Services. The Prime Minister has said that we will fight to the last man. I hope that the Government realise that no such conditional promise can be expected or obtained from the people of this country at the present time. It is important that it should be realised that if we were to blunder into a Continental war for no coherent intelligent objective, the work of my right hon. Friend would be hampered by something like mass resistance. There would be a refusal to make munitions and to serve, and his work would be so difficult that we should be practically 143 an impotent nation. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong. I am trying to point out the real facts of the situation.
Is it realised that there exists in the country at the present time an organisation know as the Peace Pledge Union? It is organising people by the hundreds and thousands to resist taking any part in war whatever. It is proposing to hold large meetings all over the country in the autumn to obtain further support and recruits for the movement and actually to go through some form of training in order to resist being called upon to take part in defence. I do not happen to agree with that organisation, but it is a fact and it has to be taken seriously. I also noticed in this connection, in an interesting book that has just been published called "Labour and War Resistance," a passage which I think bears in another way on this point of supply of man-power. I appreciate that this book does not bind anybody except the authors, and that it does not bind the Labour party. It is intended as a contribution to this problem, and the ideas put forward are bound to play a considerable part in forming the mind and intention of the people of this country in their attitude towards assisting and supporting war in the next few months. I will quote one passage, a motion which it is suggested might be put forward at a conference:This Conference pledges the Labour party, and calls upon all who support the League of Nations to pledge themselves, in no circumstances to serve in the armed forces or to perform work of national importance or to pay taxes in the event of war, unless and until the Government shall have given guarantees of their loyalty to the collective system that are considered adequate by the Labour party.I do not say whether that is right or wrong, but—
§ Mr. W. A. ROBINSON
On a point of Order. Would you mind telling us the authority the hon. Member is quoting?
§ Mr. MANDER
It is pamphlet No. 29 issued by the New Fabian Research 144 Bureau and published by the New Fabian Research Bureau. I have not attempted to fasten responsibility on anybody on whom it does not lie. I believe that unity in this country can be obtained for the programme the Government are asking the country to Carry out, and that all our forces can be mobilised, provided the effort is made in support of the collective system of the League of Nations, clearly and definitely, and for no other purpose. The people of this country would be prepared to risk all, as they have done before, provided, and only provided, that they were taking part in a clear and logical police system which would maintain peace and order throughout the world. The suggestion I make is that before it is too late, before we get into an atmosphere of controversy and bitterness which will render us completely impotent, a conference should take place between the representatives of the three parties in this House to see whether even now it is not possible to agree upon our objectives.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is again apparently talking about an objective which has nothing to do with defence, nothing to do with the Vote on the Order Paper. I am afraid that since I interrupted him before he has to a great extent been transgressing my Ruling by applying his argument to matters which are clearly matters of foreign policy, and have nothing whatever to do with the Vote before the Committee.
§ Mr. MANDER
Of course, I must bow to your Ruling that the Debate should have no relation to foreign policy.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will kindly take as my Ruling what I said, and not any other version of it which he may choose to put.
§ Mr. MANDER
I am very sorry if I misinterpreted or gave a wrong rendering of your Ruling. My only desire is to conform to it in the spirit and in the letter. I must say that I was trying to deal with a matter which I know must be giving very deep concern to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. It is no good having these preparations for defence unless we have the man-power, and the danger is we may not have. I hope that some note may 145 perhaps be taken of the words I have said and that an effort may even now be made to save this country and the world.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
What has brought me to my feet is the speech of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, with which I was deeply disappointed. In view of the reputation he had in the law and in the offices which he has filled in the political sphere I began to wonder what had been happening to his mind, which in ordinary circumstances functions directly as a result of individual thinking. It would seem that his speech to-day was not that of a gentleman thinking for himself, but it was as if he had been made the receptacle for certain ideas which some force had compelled him to impart to this Committee. The right hon. Gentleman is known as an upright Churchman and a man of high personal repute, and it is extraordinary that when to-day I put to him a question regarding what had taken place at Hatfield he saw no reason to answer it. Seeing that he is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, people would believe that he would always act in such a manner as not to make the defence of our country more difficult if the need for it should arise. But what took place at Hatfield? There was a demonstration of the latest type of air planes, especially bombers, and those who were viewing that demonstration were the representatives of all the nations capable of buying aircraft—and of using them for the purposes for which they were built.
I wanted to know whether the Minister regarded it as part of his business to prevent possible enemies of this country from getting the latest designs in machines and getting to know the latest about the theories of air warfare; or is he such a Christian gentleman that he does not want any nation which might become an opponent of this nation not to have the same length of sword that we have, so to speak? Is he going to see, before war starts, that any advantages we possess in science and any advantages in building are to be handed to the possible enemy? He was good enough to give way to-day to allow me to put my question, but he did not seem to think there was anything to which to reply. The people of this country will 146 know what that means—that there is a mind which is capable of saying that it is in favour of private enterprise operating in this country and that that private enterprise can hold an exhibition to which all the nations of the earth send representatives. How can the right hon. Gentleman defend himslf or his title as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence when he does not take action? We produce weapons of war in our national factories in this country, but when any discovery has been made in those national factories has it ever been the practice to invite the representatives of all the nations to come along and see what we have been doing? I do not think so.
I notice that some of those on the Treasury Bench are smiling, apparently thinking that because they are there they possess every kind of knowledge. I know the story that is being put round—that the machines that were in the air have not got the engines that would be in them if we were using them. We on this side get to know, because who is it who is in the works? The working class, and they are our friends. Who are the pilots? Men of the working class, our friends. We meet our friends and relations, and do you think we do not get information from them? Is private enterprise showing off some of the latest things in aircraft but with a defective engine, at least an engine not of the power that we should use? Is it a case of palming of "dud" machines on to these nations? Is that the idea? Can anyone put up some defence against that statement I have made? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to take in other nations with "dud" machines, or is he prepared to say that private enterprise has a right to sell the latest war materials to possible enemies? He cannot get away with it by saying that it is only business.
The next point that interested me was when he dealt with the question of preventing profiteering in the manufacture of armaments. When he referred to the Air Ministry, he hesitated in a way that indicated that there had been some trouble in making plans for the prevention of profiteering in production for the Air Ministry. He intimated in his speech that that had been the cause of the delay in that one Department. Would he take the Committee a little more into his confidence 147 and tell us what has been happening in the Air Ministry that caused that delay? I have been putting question after question in this House since the first intimation was given on 29th May by the Minister of Defence, when we were closing down for the Whitsuntide holiday. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement which he should not have given, but he was pressed by a group which was in action also to-day. He made certain statements, and he cannot get away from those statements, try as he might. What is behind his statement that he could have had the whole of this profiteering prevention in motion and working had it not been for the delay in connection with the Air Ministry?
What is the connection between that statement and the questions which I have been putting? On 29th May he mentioned certain firms. I have been trying to get information from the Under-Secretary of State for Air. He is not elusive and clever enough, but he has some elusive man who writes out the answers to the questions which are put. We have never yet had what I call an honest reply to those questions. They have never been straightforward and have never met the questions put. That kind of evasion means that something is being hidden.
§ Mr. HARDIE
No, it is not co-ordination. I do not use that word. I could not use the word "swindle" or "swindling" without being rude; the word I would use would be something far worse, and I will not say it. The Minister for Defence has no doubt heard some of those questions answered, or he has read the answers. It seems to me that there is a difference between his relations with the Army and Navy and with the Air Force. I wonder whether our great Minister for Co-ordination of Defence is frightened of the brass hats. I wonder whether into his office stamps a brass hat from the Air Force? I am beginning to wonder whether the Air Force brass hats have got the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence down. I hope he will be able to tell us exactly what his relation is with the Air Ministry. 148 When he was given the post, were any powers given with it? Has the Minister any power at all to tell the other three Departments to come into his office? Or is it the position that other people have the power to tell him to come into their office? Surely the word "co-ordination" means that somewhere there is a power that brings things together, but the Minister of Defence today has shown that, somehow or other, he has not sufficient power to bring-about that co-ordination. Let me remind him that the brass hat element is very difficult to overcome, especially by a civilian like himself.
It would be interesting to know what is the difficulty in regard to the Air Ministry. From time to time the Under-Secretary of State has wobbled about like a lost soul. He always fails to find his balance in relation to the subject under discussion. I am not blaming him. He is not fitted for that kind of work. I have been personally making investigations for the last eight months, going on to sites of aerodromes, and I know that the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence may find great difficulty with the swindling that is going on now in the selling of land for aerodromes. Not long ago there was a case of leakage in this House in regard to the Budget, but I think there are some other leakages, as a result of which certain people know months ahead what is to be the bit of ground chosen, so that they can put up the cost price. The people who do that are all loyalists. They are always ready for waving the Union Jack, and for robbing everybody, once they are under the Union Jack.
I have a list of those aerodromes in my pocket. I visited one where three sites had been chosen for consideration. One was taken, and another of the three was connected with a speculation made by a certain gentleman who bought a house thinking that he would be able to recover the high price which he had paid for it by the land being chosen for an aerodrome. That information came from the Government side. I know it. I want the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence to try to tighten up the whole organisation, especially with regard to this question of aerodromes. In view of the growing costs and the amount which will be spent, the provision of the new aerodromes will be 149 a land question. It is a question of getting robbed every time. You will find in respect of this land business that the patriotic, flag-waving landlord is insatiable when it comes to doing something for his country. He cannot do it under hundreds of pounds per acre. The other men get only six feet by two feet, and a pauper's grave at that. We are to-day considering co-ordination. I wish there had been a little bit of co-ordination of honesty. The right hon. Gentleman would be more fit for that post. I am paying him a compliment. I understand the Minister not having power to deal with the big Departments.
I want to return again to the question of machines. It was suggested that machines which have been superseded might be used for training, but the last thing that any airman with experience would do would be to use such a machine for training. You may do that with an old machine on the road in a motor-car, but when you want to train a man properly in the air you do not give him a machine that destroys his confidence. The one thing that destroys confidence is that there have been so many accidents. You should try to instil into the mind of the learner that his machine is the best that can be produced.
The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence spoke about the Billingham plant, and said that it was going to be duplicated somewhere in Wales. He said that that plant was in a part of the country that was vulnerable to possible attack by air. I admit that that is the case, but it is not the point that I want to make. The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants to repeat that plant somewhere else, but he does not say that the nation which is going to put up that new plant is going to own it. He says that it is to be repeated. Does that mean that the same conditions are to obtain in Wales—that whatever price is asked has got to be paid? Can the right hon. Gentleman find out from the private owners of the Billingham plant what it cost to build, and what it would cost to build another such plant? Can he be sure that the building of this new plant is going to be treated as a national necessity, and that he is going to get the best? He may believe that, but I do not. I had experience of that kind of plant before coming to this House, and, knowing the engineering side, I know that you 150 cannot get it. We have in our research department, and have had since 1924, some of the finest brains on this subject that any nation possesses, and we ought to be proud of them. Why not let this one thing at least belong to the nation? Why not allow your eminent scientific men who are employés of the Government to have the expression of that which is their soul and their life? Why not give them some kind of heart by letting the nation, through them, have that plant? It would be a worthy step towards the nationalisation of everything.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
It is always the experience of speakers in this Chamber during the dinner hour that most of those who have previously spoken are no longer present. I should, however, like to make a brief reference to two of the preceding speeches. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) complained that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence had not this afternoon paid any tribute to, or linked his remarks with, the League of Nations and collective security, and the hon. Member assumed that that was because my right hon. Friend regarded these matters as trivial. I should have thought that the reason was that they were too obvious. They have been referred to so often that I can hardly imagine anyone, in a Debate like this, except those who love to spend time in mouthing cant phrases reiterating them, and surely my right hon. Friend could not be expected to do that this afternoon. The speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) I shall not refer to, because I am afraid that, if I did, I should be rather provocative. I will only say that I hope the Minister will not assume that there are many Members of the House who would not take a totally opposite view on the subject to that of my hon. and gallant Friend.
I should like, however, to refer briefly to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). His general charge against the Government, both now and on the Motion for the Whitsuntide Adjournment, appears to be that, having grossly failed to appreciate the general urgency of the situation, they now add to their initial error by being unable to make up for lost time. 151 I think the pleasure that we all derive from listening to the right hon. Gentleman, and the personal affection with which he is regarded in all parts of the House sometimes tend, while we are listening to him, to obscure our critical faculties. I suggest, however, that there are few people whose record as an appreciator of this situation will less bear critical examination. I expect that everyone in the House will remember the very striking speech which the right hon. Gentleman made here on the 24th October last, and which, I think, was listened to with admiration and a considerable measure of agreement in all parts of the House. Giving his appreciation of the Italo-Abyssinian situation, he said—it must be remembered that he was speaking on the 24th October last—what will be the position of the Italian Dictator this time next year? He might, said the right hon. Gentleman, have a quarter of a million men far into Abyssinia, wasting with disease and guerilla warfare, while Italy would be labouring under the censure and sanctions of practically the whole civilised world, bleeding at every pore, her credit gone, her prices rising; and the right hon. Gentleman asked us not to under-estimate the force of the strong slow pressures that were being applied. A more strikingly false military appreciation from so distinguished a military historian can hardly be imagined.
I link that with the right hon. Gentleman's present charge against the Government. To his speech on the Whitsuntide Adjournment I listened quite objectively; I had no particular views on the subject, and I was rather impressed. Since then I have done everything possible for a private Member to do to try to inform myself on this aspect of the subject. I have inquired from friends in the Services; I have inquired from manufacturers; I have inquired from people in certain of the commodity markets who supply essential raw materials; and I have come to the conclusion that, at any rate so far as the air is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman's charges are not well founded. In the first place, I believe he has enormously over-estimated the immediate danger from the nearest potential aggressor; and, in the second place, I believe that the slow building up of a 152 really efficient air force with the latest types of machines is going in the immediate future to put us in a much stronger position than if we had followed his advice.
I do not want to be accused of merely being a complacent supporter of the Government and of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, because, although on the Supply side I am in agreement with my right hon. Friend, there is another side of the matter on which I feel very strongly, and in connection with which I was most disappointed, as was the right hon. Gentleman who spoke first for the Opposition, that my right hon. Friend made no reference—I agree that he had a very large field to cover and that time was very short—to the strategic side of co-ordination, on which I trust we may receive a little more information from my right hon. Friend when he winds up the Debate. I am not going to repeat the arguments that I have often used in the House, nor to quote again the many and weighty authorities who have expressed their opinions publicly, and with much greater force than I can command. But may I give a couple of brief quotations, one from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping? I suppose we have all read and enjoyed his volumes on the World Crisis. On page 231 there is a passage in which he describes the situation that actually existed in an emergency. This is what he said:On the afternoon of 5th August the Prime Minister convened an extraordinary Council of War at Downing Street. I do not remember any gathering like it. It consisted of the Ministers most prominently associated with the policy of entering the War, the Chiefs of the Navy and the Army, all the high military commanders and, in addition, Lord Kitchener and Lord Roberts. Decision was required upon the question, How should we wage the war that had just begun? Those who spoke for the War Office knew their minds and were united.Lord Haldane describes the situation that followed in his autobiography. This is what he said:Lord Kitchener practically dispensed with the services of the General Staff by letting it dwindle.We know that the right hon. Gentleman has not a staff to let dwindle. I am urging him to get one together. On the same page, 279—this is describing a situation during the conduct of the War—Lord Haldane said: 153But in London there was no General Staff worth the name, none, for example, that could exercise a guiding or restraining influence when the Dardanelles expedition was projected.It may well be that the Government are taking steps on which we have not been informed and on which we ought not to be informed. I should be the last to press for precise information but, in view of the fact that the Minister did not make any illusion to this side of the problem, I ask him to give some assurance to those who are very anxious on the matter.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I should have liked to have seen the Secretary of State for War here. He has spoken of a great fear in the minds of the people of the country. I think that is a crime against the intelligence of the British race. He complains that he has great difficulty in getting the youth of the country to line up in the British Army. I want to tell him the reason why he is having the difficulty. Everyone agrees that another war means the end of civilisation. You cannot have it two ways. Yon cannot bring that home to the youth of the country and expect them to line up for the end of civilisation. They are not stupid, though the Minister of War considers that they are. I can assure him that he is making a mistake.
The Minister of Defence is up against my trade union. He is up against the skilled engineers. He is complaining that there is a shortage. In what locality fn Britain is there a shortage of skilled engineers? There is no such thing on the Clyde. I can speak authoritatively on that. On the authority of the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers there is no such thing as a shortage of skilled engineers in Britain. We have at the moment at least 10,000 unemployed, and we have a membership of 250,000 in the British Isles. It is perfectly true that you are having some difficulty if it is essential that munitions should be produced at greater rapidity than they have been for some time, and we have every evidence at the moment that they are anxious to produce them, because where I have come from to-day, although it is the Glasgow Fair holidays, they are working right on. There are no holidays for the skilled engineers. They are sacrificing their holidays at the behest 154 of the Government. If there is any shortage, I can give an explanation of it. I want to show how the employers of labour are treating the skilled engineers. It is true that you have difficulty in getting them. In the first place, it is because the wages are a scandal and a disgrace. Engineers, in my opinion, are entitled to as good wages and conditions as school teachers. I know what skilled engineers are, and I know what the rest of the professions are in comparison.
During the Great War the engineers surrendered all their trade rights, against all the advice that I could give them. I pointed out to them that those rights were not ours to sacrifice. They were ours to defend. They were told all manner of things that would happen to them after the War. It was going to be a land fit for heroes to live in. That was promised by all manner and condition of Cabinet Ministers. After they had served their country and stripped themselves of every vestige of protection as a craft, they were offered wages which to this day are a scandal—less than £3 a week. Scavengers are getting better wages than highly skilled engineers. After an agitation for about a year the employers of labour, although in the midst of fear that is being created and the proof of the absolute necessity of skilled engineers are only offering them an increase of a farthing an hour. I thought that I had broken the back of such a paltry offer as a farthing an hour 20 years ago, and a farthing then was different from a farthing now, when its value is only about half what it was in those days. I hope that the engineers will never surrender to such an insult and accept a farthing an hour advance. These are the conditions, and the result is that the highly skilled men, anxious and willing to give of his best, looks round to see if he cannot get a better job. He often gets a better job as an omnibus driver or conductor, or a tramway driver or conductor. I, personally, know several extraordinarily efficient men, really invaluable to the engineering industry, who have left it and become insurance agents. They are men who could not get £3 a week, but as insurance agents they are getting from £6 to £8 a week.
The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence should face up to the situation. This is the only way he can face up to it. He can take it 155 from me that I shall do all that I can to stiffen the backs of the engineers. They must be given a decent wage or he will not get his munitions. As far as I am concerned, I shall do the same on behalf of the engineers now as I did during the Great War. You can call that a threat or anything you like, but if you want to get the best out of the engineer you will have to treat him decently. I believe that in peace or in war, free men are better than slaves. A wage of less than £3 a week for a highly skilled man is not treating him in a decent and honourable way. Our trade union officials who are responsible for that tremendous body of men can assure the Minister that there is no shortage of labour whatever. At the same time the engineers must be treated in a decent fashion, because we on these benches are not going to sit calmly by, after promises and pledges by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Air that there would be no profiteering as a result of the boom in the manufacture of munitions, and see them treated in this way. Armament shares have gone up by leaps and bounds, and the men who are producing the munitions are receiving under £3 a week. There is no increase for them, but shareholders are seeing their shares go up by leaps and bounds.
Do you think you are going to have peace in industry by offering these men an increase of a farthing an hour? There will be no peace in industry under those conditions. How can you expect it with the workers and their families being treated in this way? A great deal depends upon the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. He should try to justify his position and make a name for himself by standing up for the workers. Since I first came to this House there has not been a Minister who has stood up for the workers against the employers of labour. I am waiting for the man to arrive who will stand up for the workers at that Box against all comers. Here is an opportunity for the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to stand up for the workers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that the last War was an engineers' war. The manufacture of munitions does not simply mean the manufacture of shells, but also it means 156 the making of aeroplanes and battleships. You cannot get these things without the engineers. If you want the engineers you should do decently by them.
Although I am opposed to war, and there may be a lot of back-biting of one kind or another on all these things, I stand up in this House for the engineers and workers getting their rights. Stubborn and snivelling individuals may try to undermine the part I am trying to play, but I am playing that pare because I believe that the workers are entitled to fair treatment. To-day excess profits are being made by individuals who have no more knowledge of the manufacture of aeroplane engines than the man in the moon. They are getting contracts from the Government, and which are being sub-contracted here and there, and not one Minister of the Crown has said that he will see to it that the workers who produce these things get a square deal. They have always thought that the workers would get a square deal, and those who are in control to-day think that the workers have no right to make demands, particularly at this juncture. If we are told that we are taking a mean advantage of the country when the country is up against it, my reply will be the same today as it was during the Great War. Who has taken advantage of the engineers? The employers of labour. The Government have robbed engineers and their children of their rights of citizenship. They have not the same education and they are not able to enjoy the same standard of life that others have, while they have been giving of their best. It is only now that the engineers' demands can be made, when the country's attention can be drawn to how invaluable they are, and I hope that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who, I know personally, is quite sympathetic to all I have said, will get the Government, of which he is part and parcel, to make a move that will be beneficial to the highly skilled engineers on whom the country is dependent at the present moment.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Brigadier - General Sir HENRY CROFT
I want to intervene for only a short time, and I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not follow him at any length. We listened to the 157 grave indictment which he made of Ministers of all parties, none of whom, apparently, has ever fought for the rights of the workers. I hope that that does not mean any permanent divorce between the hon. Gentleman and those on his Front Bench. But he can take it as true that there is not a man in this House who is not prepared to do all in his power to see that there will be no profiteering in this emergency in which we find ourselves, whether from the point of view of the employers or of the employed. I beg him not to say what he has just said: That this is the moment to insist on terms because they know you are invaluable. If any one suggests to me that employers or employed at this moment are to be allowed to take increased money out of the country because they are invaluable I must dissent—[Interruption.] We only have to face these facts, and the whole of the House is prepared to back the Government to see that that does not occur.
I want to speak on the subject of manpower, which I feel has been neglected in all these Debates. We have arrived at this perilous position because there has been so much talk coming from responsible quarters about the next war being the end of civilisation. As long as we were all of us trying to rely on a mass of nations standing together I suppose that it was good to try to create the idea that there would never be a war again, because it would be the end of civilisation, but I feel that it was a gross exaggeration, just as was the suggestion made from the Opposition Front Bench that London would be wiped out. I hate war, but we cannot be wise if we are so grossly exaggerating the picture, as has happened in recent years. We all look upon the Great War as being the greatest tragedy that ever occurred to us. But even that was not as great a tragedy as the Civil War in the United States, where with a far smaller population more people per head were fatal casualties than we suffered in the whole of our armies in the War. That you can survive these calamities and other disasters shows why we must have that minimum of preparation against disaster in this country.
Everybody here knows that the Regular Army is much smaller than it was in 1914. Hon. Members know also 158 that the reinforcements which we could receive from India are much smaller. The Territorial Army at present is half the strength of what it was in 1914, and everybody is aware of the position of the reserves. I wonder if it is appreciated that this small and extremely efficient Regular Army and the small and necessarily only partly trained force behind the Regular Army are the only forces we have to take part in any form of defence. When you think that of the Territorial Army two whole divisions of this small force, so much smaller than we had in 1914, have already been switched off from the normal functions of fighting men to purely defensive antiaircraft organisation, the Committee must realise that we have already gone a long way towards depriving ourselves of these divisions which were at our command.
I speak here as one associated with the Territorial Army for longer than I care to say, and who happened to go to war as a Territorial—I am not the kind of brass hat against whom the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood declaims, although I sometimes wore a brass hat—and I say there is a general fear all through the Territorial Army that because there are no reserves they might be taken out from their units which they have joined on a territorial basis. That would be a great tragedy. Where are our reserves? Will not the Minister consider the possibility of building up a reserve such as we had for many years in the past? To the Opposition I say, would it not be greatly to the benefit of their countrymen if we could institute some such scheme as the Special Reserve? I know that the old word "militia" was not liked by the hon. Gentleman. It was an historic force existing in this country for well over 100 years. I am not sure that it was not 200 years ago when the original bands were formed. Of course, in the old days it was possible to use the Militia as a strike-breaking instrument, but that possibility could be provided against. The old Special Reserve did not cost a great deal. That force when war broke out was a most remarkable aid to the whole machinery of expansion in this country. A close relative was giving me some figures the other day. He said that a battalion was mobilised at the outbreak of war and from that one battalion alone 12,000 men went as drafts 159 to the Regular Army in three years. Then the original battalion went out and took part as a unit in the War. I say that to indicate what a trained reserve that might be for the Regular Army.
The other day I met two or three old friends of mine, reduced to the tramp class, in the county where I was born. Two of them had boys who had been out of work for a very long time. They said: "Our boys have not had a chance for four years of getting any kind of a job. Cannot you do something at Westminster to see that our boys have the same chance that we had in the Militia?"
§ Sir H. CROFT
I knew that the Communist representative would not like that, but I am speaking as one who has the same human heart as the hon. Member or the rest of his colleagues.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am not going to waste time in backchat with the hon. Member. He knows nothing about the matter. Anyone who has any desire to give an uplift to boys who are out of work could not do better for them than to give them six months under canvas, with good food, and with their unemployment benefit continuing all the time they are there, so that any contributions they make to their families would not suffer. Imagine the difference there would be at the end of the six months training in the whole outlook of those young men. Anybody who has watched what can be done for men in this way with good food, good air and good physical training must realise how valuable it would be. If I were the right hon. Gentleman I would go straight to the Opposition Front Bench and say: "Will you help forward this movement? Will you concentrate and try in the Special Areas of this country to raise at least 15 or 20 of these battalions"?
§ Sir H. CROFT
My idea is that the first chance should be given to men who are suffering from lack of health and lack of morale, as everybody in this Committee knows.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Yes, in Bournemouth, if we can afford that as well. There are a great number of young men in Bournemouth to whom it would do a great deal of good if they got more physical training instead of going to cinemas and football matches. Perhaps that is a serious thing to say about a limited section of my constituents. It is because a force of this kind is so wrapped up with our historical associations and has always proved a wonderful aid to our country in time of danger, that I advocate it now. Even though the conditions are not similar to those in the past, I urge the suggestion on the Minister, and I say to hon. Members opposite: "If you really are serious and want to have a thoroughly fit and expandable defence force, surely it would be wise to make an experiment on these lines at an early date, for your source of supply in the event of the tragedy of war does not exist." If we had a Special Reserve of 70,000, such as we had prior to the War, to draw upon, we should be able to keep our Territorial units intact, and we should have men with a certain amount of training ready to fill the gaps, in the early days, before our manhood was trained for military purposes.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander FLETCHER
The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has made a most important speech which deserves and will repay the closest study and analysis in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I got the impression from the speech that a great deal was being done in regard to elementary things which ought to have been done a good many years ago. The speech was mainly devoted to questions of supply. In referring to the appointment of an additional Director of Munitions the right hon. Gentleman said that he would have a title almost as grand as his own. I hope that the title will not be so meaningless as the title of the right hon. Gentleman. The expectation of the House when his appointment was made was that his time would be devoted mainly to the co-ordination of strategy and strategical questions, whereas from his speech to-day we realise that his time is almost entirely devoted to questions of supply. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman in the House the other day on this point and the only reply that I got was that in the best Boy Scout spirit he was doing his duty to the best of his ability.
161 There was one point where the right hon. Gentleman got away from the question of Supply, and that was in a passage in which he condemned Members on this side for opposing the Government's armaments policy because they dislike their foreign policy. I thought that was a remarkable charge to make against my friends. In support of his argument the right hon. Gentleman quoted the trouble in Palestine and the possibility of trouble in other parts of the world. Why should we not oppose the armaments policy of a Government which appears to be inducing trouble in almost every part of the world? Why should we give a blank cheque to the Government to build up enormous armaments in order to render themselves impervious to the fruits of their own folly? We say that the Government have laid before us no foreign policy to which their armaments policy can be co-ordinated or related.
There are only three alternative foreign policies. They are either pursuing the policy of collective security, or of isolation or of alliances. Collective security, we understand from speeches of hon. Members opposite, is dead. I can hardly imagine that the right hon. Gentleman would claim that this country could build up the necessary armaments to keep itself safe under a policy of isolation. Therefore, if those two alternatives are gone it seems to me that the Government must be relying upon some system of alliances, and we should like some information about their ideas in that direction before we can endorse their armaments policy. It is obvious that the Government at the present time do not know in which direction they are going in their foreign policy, and they are asking for armaments in order to protect themselves from the consequences of their own futility. They are becoming rather frightened in the sphere of foreign policy and the Secretary of State for War wishes the country to be well frightened also.
Again, are the Government capable of handling the question of armaments and defence? The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence gave us in his speech a record of delay and failure in many directions. The whole speech breathed a spirit of delay due to negligence, delay in tackling the question of 162 food supplies, delay in tackling the question of machine tools, etc. The Prime Minister spoke the other day about years of neglect in defence matters for which he alone can be responsible. He also said last year that the Navy was not equal to the functions it might be called upon to perform. In regard to the Navy and the bogus plea which is so familiar to the lips of hon. Members opposite, that we have pushed disarmament to the verge of danger, I would point out that we have only disarmed at sea in accordance with international agreements. There has been no voluntary or unilateral disarmament in that respect. We disarmed in accordance with international agreements. If that be so, how does it lie in the mouth of the Prime Minister to say that the Navy which has resulted from such disarmament by international agreement is no good and not adequate for its functions? I put this matter to a distinguished admiral the other day, as to whether our Navy was adequate for its function last year, and he gave me a very blunt, straightforward, seamanlike reply. He said: "If it was not, then somebody on the Government side deserves to be impeached."
The right hon. Gentleman also made a charge against some Members on this side of having asked his Department for orders for their constituencies in connection with the supply of munitions, and he spoke about having letters from them in his box, implying that he could produce them with most devastating effect. I do not think it was a very happy passage in the speech. I may be one of those hon. Members who is to blame in this respect, because I have made an inquiry of his office on behalf of an important town council in my constituency as to where they are to apply if they want to make an inquiry about factory sites. Does the fact that I have made this inquiry invalidate my right to criticise the foreign policy or the armament policy of the Government? I ask that question with all the more feeling because up to date I have received no reply to my letter. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) will allow me to say so, I thought he called attention to two most important matters in his speech. Incidentally he said that thinking costs nothing; but in a National Government it does. The National Government paid a 163 salary of £3,000 to a Minister without Portfolio to do some thinking for them, and they were happy to pay that salary until the gentleman they employed threw up his post because he could not find anything to think about. In a National Government thinking does cost something.
I am glad that a more powerful voice than my own did call attention, as I have myself, to the fact that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is obviously cluttered up with questions of supply in his daily work; and be also called attention to another matter which I have ventured to raise on more than one occasion myself in this House—the question of the protection from air attack of convoys when bringing food supplies to this country. That, after all, is the vital question for us to consider in a future war, but so far we have had no reply from the Government on that point. The right hon. Gentleman told us nothing about strategic questions. He did not say one word about the Far East, and the extremely dangerous and critical situation which is developing there. We heard nothing from him about the possibility of holding Malta in the event of a Mediterranean war, or as to the possibility of bringing food convoys safely home through the Mediterranean if we cannot hold Malta. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the question whether convoys can be safely passed through the Mediterranean when we may be able to hold only the two ends, Alexandria and Gibraltar? And what about the development of the Cape route? These are the questions on which hon. Members would like to hear something from the right hon. Gentleman.
May I put a question to him upon a matter which I think is of first-rate importance? If, as seems probable, we may have to develop the Cape route, or, at any rate, that it may have to be an alternative route for our food ships, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee whether we have got an absolute assurance of the unrestricted use of African ports under the control of the Union of South Africa Government in the event of war? That is a most important question in view of a good many things we have been hearing from South Africa lately, and I should be very grateful 164 indeed for an answer on the point. The question of consultation with the Dominions on matters of Defence has been raised. Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to tell us on that head? I asked a question the other day and was told that there would be a conference next year. Next year may be too late. I wonder if that conference cannot be summoned earlier.
In conclusion let me call attention to what I think is an important passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Incidentally, I was delighted with his simile of the railway signal box, and remembered that when the Great War broke out the right hon. Gentleman himself was in charge of a very important signal box—namely the signal box at the Admiralty. He suddenly left that box and proceeded to Antwerp, from where he telegraphed his willingness to resign in order to take charge of the troops in Antwerp. The signal box was deserted by the head signalman, and it was only because we had an efficient staff of subordinates that we escaped without serious trouble.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he had a case which could not be stated in the House. What are the sources of the information for the case which the right hon. Gentleman said cannot be stated in the House? It would be interesting to know. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the figures of the right hon. Gentleman about the cost of German rearmament tally almost exactly with the Government's figures on the same subject. Apparently the Government and the right hon. Gentleman are tapping the same sources of information. The right hon. Gentleman says that he and his friends wish to go in a deputation to impart the information to the Prime Minister. What are the facts which the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to impart to the Prime Minister? If they are not secret they can be imparted to the Prime Minister in the course of Debate in this House. If they are secret do the Government know them? If they are secret how do the right hon. Gentleman and his friends come to be in possession of them? Again, apparently, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are tapping the same sources of information. But the 165 important point is that if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are indeed in possession of secret information which is not in the possession of the Government then it is their simple and plain duty to communicate that information to the Government without seeking to go in a deputation or raising the matter in the House at all. It is the simple duty of any inhabitant of this country who is in possession of secret information, which would be of value to the Government, to communicate it to the Government and I do not understand what all this fuss and paraphernalia about a deputation to the Prime Minister is about.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking as so often happens on behalf of the Prime Minister, told us that when we on this side of the Committee say that we find it difficult to support the Government's armament programme because we know nothing about the Government's foreign policy, that it was not our business to make any inquiries at all on that subject, the Government could give no information about it, and it was not our business to ask questions. We simply have to take the Government's word for everything and ask no questions. He also told us that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has no real power or authority. He was challenged on that point in his speech, and it was made clear that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has no real power or authority in the execution of his duties and, therefore, he must be a fifth wheel of the coach. The fact is that the statements about armaments and foreign policy which we have had from the Government are so contradictory that it is we on this side who are voicing the opinion of the country in asking for more data, and for a clear statement about foreign policy and about collective security before we can give the Government the blank cheque for armaments for which they are asking.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
I do not suppose I am the only Member of the Committee who feels that this has been, on the whole, an unsatisfactory Debate, and who is not greatly reassured by it. The trouble is that we have some difficulty in putting the questions about which we feel most anxiety, and even if we were 166 able to put those questions, the Government would no doubt have some difficulty in answering them, not necessarily because the answers are not there, but because they are perhaps not answers of a kind which it is desirable in the public interest to make at the present moment. I say that without in the least detracting from the value of the statement made to us at the beginning of the Debate by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. He showed that there has been a very great speeding up of Defence preparations, and we are grateful for that. He said, for instance, that 40 new aerodromes have been established, and that the output of engines has been doubled: and, perhaps most important of all, he said that aeroplanes of new design were being ordered now, as it were, off the drawing board, and that deliveries of the newest types were therefore being very greatly expedited.
The question which agitates us, nevertheless, is whether all these preparations and the action of the Government, in view of what our competitors are doing, are adequate. Take the question of machine tools, for instance. Only seven or eight weeks ago my right hon. Friend made a very candid and also a very disquieting statement on this subject. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) said earlier in the Debate, in an interruption, that he was completely satisfied with the situation and that the Estimate which appeared in the Army Supplementary Estimates for £1,000,000 on this account was merely a small addition to a supply which was already entirely adequate. It is, of course, satisfactory that the hon. Member for Mossley should be completely reassured, but his statement is nevertheless entirely inconsistent with what the right hon. Gentleman himself said to us only seven or eight weeks ago. I am bound to say that my friends and I would prefer an absolutely authoritative statement from a Ministerial source on this subject. The Debate has shown that great anxiety exists in all parts of the Committee. That anxiety has been based on different grounds. The anxiety expressed by the Opposition is different from that expressed in other parts of the House, but I believe that in all quarters of the Committee there is very great anxiety.
167 In such circumstances, I think that, Parliament being after all the authority ultimately responsible to the people, we are all entitled to put our anxieties to the Government without reserve, and those anxieties can only be put to the Government in some manner that is not entirely usual. Therefore, in common with those for whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) spoke earlier in the Debate, I accept the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Prime Minister would be prepared to receive a deputation. I hope very much that both the Oppositions will take part in that deputation. After all, every point of view should be expressed to the Government. There are those of us who feel that the preparations being made are not adequate, and there are those who feel that the case has not yet been made even for preparations. I think all those points of view ought to be stated to the Government at the present time, and I hope that the deputation, when it goes to the Prime Minister, will be representative of all sections of the Committee.
What is the greatest contribution we can make to the security of this country and the peace of Europe at the present time? It is unity in Great Britain and the lifting, if we can, of this great Defence question out of party politics. That is all I have to say, but let me, in conclusion, once again thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the statement which he made, and say that we gratefully accept it.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) has referred to the anxieties expressed in various parts of the Committee with regard to Defence. Judging from the angle from which he appealed, and his association with the plea of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I can understand that he recognises that the anxiety which he feels is different from that felt on these benches. When in face of that he offers an invitation to hon. Members of both Oppositions to join in the deputation to see the Prime Minister on these matters, I think we must be expected to look at that invitation pretty carefully, and see what is the object of it.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I would point out that I was not in a position to offer an invitation; I expressed a very sincere hope.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
As I understood the first reference to the matter made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, I gathered that he had some secret information to reveal to the Government which he was not prepared to reveal to the Committee. Is that so?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I said I had some statements to make which I think it would not be in the public interest to make in the open Committee.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what there is to prevent him making his statement privately to the Prime Minister? I think it is absurd to waste the time of the Committee discussing whether one Member, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman, can communicate with the chief of the party to which he belongs.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
We shall have to consider this invitation very carefully if it emerges that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to present to the Government what is claimed to be secret information which cannot be divulged to the Committee. All I have to say is that we have no secret information to give to the Government, and that if the right hon. Gentleman has such secret information it is his duty to give it to the Government. I think there is a good deal of information available to-day with regard to the position in Europe which ought to be given to the Committee by the Government. I do not think it is necessary for a good deal of this so-called secrecy to be maintained. Either the Government are really genuine in their programme of rearmament and are putting it before us on information known by them to be based on facts, or the whole appeal to hon. Members and to the country in support of the rearmament programme is on a fraudulent basis. Either it is the one or the other. We have never yet had a case made from the Government benches for their rearmament policy, and on that I challenge the Minister who is to reply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has on occasion given figures with regard to the rearmament of Germany which the 169 Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day says he does not seriously challenge, although he adds that they may be, in part, conjectural—whatever that may mean.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
They are very like the figures in the "Daily Herald," so I can quote a high authority for them.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I am not complaining. All I say is that the Government have never yet, from the Government Bench, stated a case for the general basis of their rearmament policy.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has always followed this Government by faith rather than by sight. I should say from the experience we have had of this Government in the last five years, that the less faith is placed in them the better it will be for the country. It has been suggested that the Government's case for an expansion of armaments or for a rearmament policy was that the armaments were necessary in the light of their experience, from the point of view of maintaining collective security. I want to say, at this stage of this Session, when we are asked to vote this second lot of Supplementary Estimates for the Services, that the Government have no case at all, on their own action, for coming to the House of Commons and asking for a rearmament programme based upon collective security. In the light of the happenings of the last few weeks I also want to say to this Committee, and I hope the country will hear it too, that it seems to me very doubtful whether the occupants of that Front Bench opposite have ever believed in collective security or whether the Government have ever gone out of their way in reality to support the general idea of collective security.
It is well for us now that the country is faced with this bill to recall some of the facts. There are moments in the life of the Prime Minister when he reveals himself with a kind of simple honesty. There was the speech which he made in Glasgow on 23rd November, 1934—in the middle of the campaign which was carried on in certain quarters against the peace ballot. The right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion, and I hope I am not paraphrasing his speech unfairly, that he did not 170 think that a collective peace system of the kind the Labour party were working for was practicable, and that in present circumstances—referring to the absence from the League of Germany, Japan and the United States—it was not much worth while thinking about it. That was in November, 1934, and I begin to think, having regard to the actions of the Government ever since, that that statement represented the real mind of the Prime Minister, and that it has coloured all the policy of the Government and given all the real dynamic action, if there has been any dynamic action, to the Cabinet in dealing with these questions.
We are being asked to-night, in these Supplementary Estimates, for £19,000,000, for 1936–37, to pay, not for the Government's policy in support of collective security but for their failure to stand up to their word in the matter—misleading the people, getting elected on fraudulent representations and then proceeding to run away from the commitments which they made. A good deal has been said in the course of the Debate on technical questions. In spite of what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping about German expenditure on armaments—and I think he was right in saying it—I want this House, in Committee of Supply to-right, to have a real look at the financial position. I say that this Government, which claims that it rehabilitated the nation's finances, is rapidly leading the nation to financial disaster. They are bringing the country to the position in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping put my colleagues in 1929. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman had five Budgets, with an unlimited majority behind him, and he left us in 1929, in the words of the "Daily Mail," with a Treasury of empty coffers and bare shelves. He left us with a debt on the Unemployment Fund of £40,000,000. We have not forgotten those things. The Home Secretary seems to have forgotten them in his contribution to the spate of oratory over the week-end, but we have not forgotten them. Exactly as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, for five years, cleared up the ladder before Labour came into office, so the people who are sitting on those benches to-day, with their ruinous, suicidal financial and 171 armaments policy, are driving the country into another financial crisis such as that for which they were responsible in 1929.
I am prepared to debate that matter at any time, and I say that to-night we have to look at the facts of the situation when we are asked to vote this large sum, and when we know that before the final appropriations are made we shall be called upon to find for the fighting services some £200,000,000. Before we vote this money we are entitled to examine the financial situation. In 1931 we on this side were charged with having an unbalanced Budget and an adverse trade balance and with engaging in reckless expenditure in the light of that financial position, so that there was no adequate means of balancing the Budget unless certain things were forced upon the country. When we were asked to balance the Budget in those circumstances there were two outstanding items included in the deficit—the annual payment on the Sinking Fund of the American Debt of £39,000,000 and the statutory commitments on the Sinking Fund.
I ask hon. Members to keep that position in mind when considering this armament programme to-night. I ask them also to bear in mind the fact that we have an adverse trade balance apparent on the first six months of this year, of £162,000,000. Anyone who has made a real study of trade movements in the last five or six months knows that it is the armaments programme of the Government which has helped to continue and increase that adverse trade balance. If we are to judge on the basis of income in 1935 from what are called invisible exports, then, unless we make a very big recovery in import and export trade in the next six months, at the end of this year we shall have a very substantial, real deficit on our trade overseas. If we had been in office and proposing the sort of armaments expenditure, which the Government are proposing now, in these circumstances, our blood would have been demanded, and we should have been hounded out by the leading lights in the City of London, but their political bias makes them prefer to keep hon. and right hon. Members opposite in office for the time being.
Look at the Budget which we are being asked to put into further deficit to-night. 172 It is only a few weeks ago that the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the House with a so-called balanced Budget showing an estimated surplus of £1,000,000 but providing nothing for the payment of the debt to America and providing no adequate sum for the payment of interest and sinking fund, and in a few weeks, because of their armaments programme, the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down here and says there is bound to be a deficit on the Budget this year and that the only question is as to how large it will be. I wonder, if we had got up in 1931 and made such a statement as that, what would have been said to us.—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is a question of confidence!"]—A confidence trick, not a question of real confidence. We were charged with spending too much money in the circumstances. Are the Government spending money? They are giving doles to their friends and trade to their friends. The whole basis of their armaments policy, as was very well said to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), is giving out trade to their friends and still without, from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, any adequate check upon profits. He gave us no real information as to what check there is on profits. Although we have asked for it again and again, we get absolutely no detailed information which would enable us to know that excessive profits are not being made.
So we get the picture. With an unbalanced Budget, with tremendous expenditure upon armaments, a worse financial situation is arising day by day, under this Government, than we had in 1931, and the Government think that, because of the political bias which is behind them in the City of London, they will get away with it, but I believe we shall yet be able to make the people understand it. I cannot for the life of me understand how the Prime Minister, of all men, should have been able to get away for so long as he has done with his duality of policy on collective security. Every time the clock ticks, the Government give one halfpenny to the League of Nations, and, under their programme of armaments, on which we are giving the final vote to-night, every time the clock ticks, £6 6s. goes on armaments.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
I am sure that neither the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) nor the right hon. Member for Epping would suggest that I am in special sympathy either with the German regime or with the German rearmament programme. Not for a moment. I am too much concerned about the need for maintaining in Europe a decent social and democratic freedom and liberty. But if you want to have us lining up behind the Government policy in its present form because of these German figures, you are barking up the wrong tree. The actual figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman to-night are probably fairly accurate, covering what they are supposed to cover, but I would not compare for a moment the new capital expenditure on roads in Germany with what you are covering by these Estimates. I would not compare the total expenditure of £800,000,000 this year in the case of Germany, which has to have, because of the form of its armaments, very large new capital provision on the Navy and Air Services, with the expenditure of this country, which starts with the largest, the most efficient, and the most powerful Fleet in the world, worth at least £1,200,000,000 or £1,500,000,000. It is ridiculous to compare that class of expenditure in such a way as to endeavour to frighten us into lining up behind the Government.
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping something else that appeals to us on this side? If this Government had really been true to their League pledges to the electorate, they had the chance of a lifetime of getting a really united nation behind them for League policy and freedom. The Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty knew perfectly well that at the Trades Union Congress last September and at the Labour party annual conference last October, although it was very much criticised from some Labour angles and although there was difficulty, there was an overwhelming majority for standing behind the fulfilment of the Covenant of the League in its entirety. The Government, after getting a vote on this policy from the country, threw away their whole opportunity of having a united country behind them. What has happened now with regard to collective security? 174 Collective security, to which lip service is still given, is a thing of the past with the Government.
I noticed carefully the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell) to-day. When the Prime Minister answered his question he did not make any reference to collective security. When somebody taxed the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence with the fact that he did not mention it to-day, the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing - Commander James) excused him by saying, "Of course, he did not mention it because it is apparent to everybody." I hope that the hon. and gallant Member has been observing very closely the apparency of collective security with this Government in the last few months. Here is the Prime Minister's answer to-day:This is not a matter which can be dealt with by question and answer, but I may say that the main features which justify the policy of the Government with regard to armaments are the growth of armaments in other countries and the general insecurity of the international situation.There is no mention of the League nor of collective security. I listened very carefully to-night to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence for the reasons for this armaments policy, and he said that it was for the purpose of providing arms for the defence of our homes and for no other purpose. It is in other words, he said, entirely now a question of home defence. We are getting on. I understood we were never again—and we were solemnly pledged to the Covenant of the League—going to use national force as an instrument of national policy. I understood that we and the other great partners in the British Commonwealth of Nations, who are all members of the League, were subject to the same kind of policy. Now I understand that we need a very large rearmament for the sole purpose of home defence. I think that, after all, the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) have been completely justified.
We are to have £200,000,000 spent this year—I prophesy, the way it is going, it will be nearer £300,000,000 next year—on armaments in this country, and all for the purpose of home defence. If those who are experienced in foreign 175 policy and experienced in the management of the fighting Services, like the right hon. Member for Epping or the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), are satisfied with that, the Government will be lucky; but I think they will not be, because it is perfectly certain that if we attempt a policy of isolation and of home defence we shall be put into a far worse position than if we were taking our share in collective security. If that is the policy of the Government we shall soon find ourselves without a friend in the world, and, without a friend in the world, with the first outbreak of trouble in Europe the Government's trouble in the Far East will begin. Everybody who has examined the position in the Far East in the past few months knows that it has not developed with the rapidity with which it was expected it might have developed, not because Japan does not want to move, but because Japan is waiting for events to happen in Europe. If we were to have any basis of peace and of hope and security for the people of this nation the only real opportunity lay in supporting to the full a League policy and general collective security. That was the only hope.
Even with armaments at double the strength we are being asked for to-night, unless the Government work through the League and for collective security they must know or they ought to know perfectly well that they cannot defend the British Empire. That is what they ought to know, and that is what our people have to recognise. I wish the right hon. Member for Epping, with his new official position in the new Parliament, had put more of that aspect of League policy into his speech to-night, instead of dealing with the special and technical problems which he was pressing upon the Government. For nearly 200 years this country has never fought a major war without allies, and without powerful allies, and it is certain that if the Government have really decided, as I am afraid they have, to scrap the basic policy of collective security through Geneva, and are going to try to arm unilaterally for our own defence, they have begun, shall I say, the beginning of the end of the British Commonwealth of Nations as we know it to-day. I believe the late Arthur Henderson was quite right when he said there 176 could be no effective League of Nations without the membership and support of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but he said, equally, that there would be no maintenance of the British Commonwealth of Nations—at any rate of their present maintenance—without the maintenance and continuance of the League of Nations. The two things run together.
We on this side have been challenged from time to time about our attitude towards these special Votes. I have not the slightest hesitation to-night in taking up the challenge. We are often charged with working for a full implementation of the sanctions policy under the League and at the same time refusing—if I may refer to the speech of the Prime Minister at Wishaw—to vote the necessary arms. That is not our position. Our position all the way through has been that if the Government were sincere in their advocacy and support of collective security, and if they would put to this House the requirements—categorically—of collective security, obtained through consultation with the other nations concerned, we would then vote what was necessary. That information has never been given at any time.
On the contrary the position is now this—that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who said at Geneva on 11th September, 1935, that the Covenant of the League had become enshrined in the conscience of our people, has run away from that position. The Prime Minister first of all cast him out and admitted at the time—I well remember his making the speech—that he was surprised at the number of his friends in many parts of the country who had evinced their opposition to the Hoare-Laval proposals, on grounds of honour and of conscience. At that moment he cast his colleague out, the present First Lord, because his conscience was in danger. Now his colleague is restored. There is not in this country a decent supporter of the League of Nations who will ever honestly trust that Government again. There is not one of the small nations in Europe who will trust them again. What are you going to say to all the countries in danger in the North and North-East of Germany? What are you going to say to Czechoslovakia? Can they trust you? What are you going to say to Lithuania [Interruption.] An hon. Lady says: "Can we trust them?" 177 I am getting tired to death of people, who ought to have a wider experience and far greater erudition than we are supposed to have on these benches, who are always talking about the foreigner as though it were the foreigner who cannot be trusted, and who do not seem to realise that by our own weakness and ineptitude, and by our own dishonesty—[Interruption]. We have been referred to again and again in Europe, and justly referred to, as "perfidious Albion."
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
Only when a Socialist Government are in office. From the moment the Socialist Government were in office in 1929, the people on those benches ran this country down over and over again. If the hon. Member now has any doubts about what I am saying, let him cast his mind back to last year. Let him cast his mind back to the Stresa Conference of 1935. Let him remember that we pledged our word to keep the Stresa Front. Let him remember that within two months of that you put the fear of God into all the small Baltic States by concluding a Treaty, a separate Treaty with Germany on the Navy. I have not met one representative of a Baltic State who has not told me that he could never trust that Government again, as long as they were treated in that manner.
In those circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, attacks my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to-day for his speech in regard to recruiting. Let me assure him that he will get no support for his point of view here. We say that if you want to get support from this side of the House for military action, you will never get it, except on one condition. [An HON. MEMBER: "We do not want it."] I hope that that interjection has been duly recorded, and that it will be remembered at a later stage, and perhaps not so far distant, in the affairs of Europe. Let it be said that you will not get support from this side of the House, except on the one condition that any military expenditure is first understood to be the exact requirement for collective security; and, sencondly, that there is to be no use, in any circumstances, of British armaments as an instrument of national policy, but only in 178 support of the Covenant of the League of Nations in action against an aggressor.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, would be the first to realise that, if we were wantonly attacked directly, we should not be breaking the Covenant by defending ourselves, and those of us who take that view have never been on any other spot but that. But what we fundamentally object to is that to-day this country is failing to give to the world the lead which the greatest Empire in the world ought to give—a lead for real collective security and peace. It seems to me that we are being asked to spend unlimited sums on armaments, to unbalance our Budget, to build up financial crisis and trouble and unemployment in the future; and to such a course we are unable to give our support. We do not believe that the Government in its present structure, in its present foreign policy, in its present international outlook, can be trusted, and we will not vote this money as long as that condition of affairs obtains.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The Committee, I think, like myself, has listened with not a little astonishment to the speech that the right hon. Gentleman has just made. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) thought about it. He rebuked me for not having succeeded in keeping the Debate upon what he called a high level; I do not know whether he thinks his right hon. Friend has succeeded where I failed. I rubbed my eyes as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman. He dealt with the prospects of a balanced or an unbalanced Budget, knowing that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had spoken earlier and was not here, would not be in a position to reply to him—
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
That is most unfair. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is here and can speak for himself. We were not given notice that the Chancellor was going to intervene earlier. I put it to him that we should have been anxious to put the financial aspect of the matter, but in spite of that, he elected, as he had a right to do, to go on with his speech, and it does not lie with the right hon. Gentleman now to complain.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
What I said was strictly accurate and, I think, perfectly justified. The right hon. Gentleman will certainly not expect me, and he could not have expected me, to engage with him in a controversy on the financial topics which occupied the greater part of his speech. Another part of his speech was occupied with questions of foreign policy. We have been engaged in a discussion within rather wide limits and on rather wide issues, it is true, but the discussion as to the Government's policy at the last Election, and as to the policy which has been so often discussed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, seems to be so far from either the Supplementary Estimates or the Vote for my salary that I really think I am justified in not attempting to answer the right hon. Gentleman upon it. But I am going to make one or two observations, although I should be perfectly justified in not attempting to answer him if only for the reason that the Chairman of Committees ruled earlier in the evening that we were not discussing foreign policy on this occasion.
I will say one word about his references to collective security. He has said that the Government have never given any statement as to the justification for their rearmament policy. He has forgotten the passages which appeared in the White Paper, as to which I have refreshed my memory and, if he will read the White Paper again, he will find in so many words that one of the justifications for the rearmament policy is the support by the Government of this policy to which he has referred. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to express their disagreement with the way in which the Government have supported the policy of collective security, but none the less, the fact remains that the Government have asked the nation and this House to support the policy of rearmament upon that ground among others. The right hon. Gentleman made a mock of me for hav-said that the purpose of this rearmament was to defend our homes. A little later he seemed to have some glimmering of the real importance of that when he said that no one supposed it would be a breach of the obligation of collective security if we did defend our homes. When the right hon. Gentleman twitted me for saying that the policy was to 180 defend our homes, does he really suppose that, if ever we are engaged in a war with a foreign nation in defence of what he calls collective security, we shall not at that very same moment be compelled to defend our homes?
The very kernel, the very heart of the responsibility connected with collective security imposes an obligation upon the people of this country to recognise that they put in peril their own land and Empire and must defend it. I am not going to stand for a single moment and allow hon. Members opposite to suggest that many of us on this side have not been as active, sincere and earnest as they have been in supporting the policy of collective security. I am not going to say anything about myself. I will only ask hon. Members to search their own consciences and ask them whether they cannot point to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House whose past record, both on this and other questions, entitles them to have it said that they have supported honestly and firmly the policy which the right hon. Gentleman has charged us with having deserted. It is only the sense of unreasonable complacency of the right hon. Gentleman that allows him to attack the Government as having been false to the principle.
Let me pass from that question to deal with some of the matters that have been mentioned. There is one criticism of the right hon. Gentleman that went home to me. I do not think there were many people in the Committee who heard him make it, but he expressed regret that I had referred to communications with reference to attracting munitions orders for constituencies. I frankly recognise that I trespassed upon the indulgence of the Committee. I made that observation under some interruption and I ask pardon of the right hon. Gentleman. But, apart from that omission, I have nothing to regret in anything that I have said this evening. I believed, and still believe, that the Committee is greatly interested in this question of supply, which stands at the very root of strategy. It is a complete mistake to suppose that you can discuss questions of strategy or even start your major strategy until you have a firm foundation upon which to place your dispositions.
181 I believe that the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway and others who have spoken to-night were probably intending to direct the attention of the Committee to the importance of proceeding with that programme at the highest possible speed, and I respectfully believe that I was not far wrong in gauging the temper of the Committee in spite of what had been said. And if I had directed myself to some high-flown discussion of hypothetical strategical possibilities and spoken of this nation and that nation as being our potential enemies, I should not only have missed the mark as far as the Debate is concerned, but probably have offended some of the susceptibilities of the Committee, and I most certainly should have offended the susceptibilities of some foreign nations with whom we would desire to live on terms of peace. I cannot imagine anything more inconvenient than that under some pretence when we are making a plan for the High Command in this Committee we should engage in speculations of this character. It would be a complete mistake if the Committee and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen were to think that these matters were passing from my attention or from the efforts of deliberations of the Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Planning Committee with whom I have the privilege to work.
If I have said little about these matters on this and other occasions, it is not because they are unimportant, but because they are too important for me, at any rate, to discuss on the occasions that my Vote is put down. It may be that on a suitable occasion, if there is some particular position in Europe such as existed a short time ago in the Eastern Mediterranean, it will be proper for the House to consider what is to happen in a concrete situation that actually exists. I believe that the Committee is happy to think that to some extent our commitments are not what they were, and that the risks that we are running are not what they were a short time ago, and, instead of engaging in speculations of what is past, or what may come, or what may never come, I believe it would be better that we should quietly make our plans to the best of our ability with that confidence which has always covered deliberations of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and even if the right hon. Gentleman opposite may speak with 182 wrath and indignation at my failure to satisfy their curiosity, I believe it to be most congenial to the temper of the House, and most convenient to the nation.
I will deal with one or two matters which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley mentioned. He referred to them as matters with which he expected me to deal, but with one exception they were, every one of them, matters which I did mention, though briefly, and indicated the action that was being taken. Let me take them in the order in which he mentioned them. He charged me with not having discussed the import ant question of the defence of shipping. I informed the Committee that the Joint Planning Committee and the Chiefs of Staff were now considering plans with such assistance as I could give them and indeed had already made plans so far as their deliberations have proceeded for this purpose. He rebuked me for not remembering the importance of a complete diversion of shipping and distribution and inland transport. I mentioned both in so many terms in connection with my reference to the Committee upon food. He asked me why I did not deal with the question of the removal of factories. I described where the filling factory was to be situated in the future. There were questions of defence, he said, that I had not mentioned. I thought I had discussed them so as to weary the Committee. I referred to the necessity for a co-ordinated plan between the Air Force and the Navy, and indeed between all three Forces, so that there might be a proper defence, having regard to the interests and peculiar position in which we are situated. It is true that I said nothing about the Cardwell system. If I had ever given it a thought in connection with this Debate, it was that it was more appropriate to be discussed on the Vote of the Secretary of State for War, and that it is not a good instance of a matter on which I might be expected to answer.
The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made some little play with the £1,000,000 spent on machine tools. I think I can satisfy him, and he is always prepared to be satisfied with a good answer. The £1,000,000 included in this Supplementary Estimate is for the purpose of purchasing balancing plant for 183 the equipment of certain factories which are to undertake some of the supplies which have been mentioned. The new firms were approached with definite orders. We talk glibly about machine tools, but anyone who knows even as little as I do about it knows that a machine tool is not always the same sort of tool. There is an infinite variety of machine tools, and the idea that the Government should have gone a day or two ago into the market and bought a number of machine tools is one which my right hon. Friend will, on reflection, be able to correct. These particular types are not in common use, and in all probability there will be further Supplementary Estimates from time to time, and possibly for even larger sums. I hope that that will go some way to reassure my right hon. Friend.
With regard to the question addressed to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), the naval base at Simonstown was covered by the agreement made after the War by which South Africa took over responsibility for defence. So far as other South African ports are concerned, we are dependent as in other Dominions on the good will of the Union. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) had a philippic to deliver against private firms for munitions making. That is a long story which he developed at considerable length before the Royal Commission on the Manufacture of Armaments. That Commission has not yet reported, but I can say that it is a satisfactory thing that we are not dependent only on State arsenals and dockyards. I do not know where this country would be if we could not take advantage of the elasticity and resourcefulness of private firms.
The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) referred to the wages of skilled engineers who, he contends, are not fortunately hidden away in sheltered industries. The information I have is not the same as that which he gave to the Committee. If it was not that I had such precise information as to the wages paid to skilled engineers, I should not be so presumptuous as to differ with an hon. Member with such knowledge as he has. If, as I hope, an abundance of work is to go to the Clyde 184 in connection with armaments, I hope that it will be found, as I believe will be the case, that those people who are really skilled in the Clyde district will be attracted back to the practice of the profession in which they have been trained.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I do not want to provoke my hon. Friend into an argument. My information is not the sort of information that he has. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] His statement was that the wages of skilled engineers are less than £3 a week. My information is that the wages of skilled engineers average 67s. 6d. a week, and I think I can satisfy my hon. Friend that my figures are based upon accurate information.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Other suggestions were made by hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) made one suggestion which finds a good deal of sympathy in my breast. He suggested that the anti-aircraft force should be organised in the shape of industrial units rather than on a military basis. Some consideration has already been given to that proposal. Although it is impossible for me at this stage to say that it has gone very far, I believe it to be a suggestion which is thoroughly suitable, and one which will attract into the anti-aircraft defence corps exactly those men of middle age, and in some, cases of less than middle age, who are required to defend their own centres of employment, which are really very much the same thing as a defence of their homes.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Opposition asked me a number of questions with which I must deal briefly. He asked me what was the stage of the inquiry which has been known as the bomb and battleship inquiry. The 185 draft of the report is practically complete, but I hope my right hon. Friend will not force me to say that I am still considering the question. The report will not necessarily be published at this stage. Whatever consultation may follow the report is no doubt a matter which will arise for subsequent decision. He also asked what is going to be done for the fishing industry. Perhaps it will be sufficient if I refer to an answer given in this House by my noble Friend the Member for the Fylde Division (Lord Stanley) on 1st July as to the number of drifters that would be necessary for the Fleet in time of war. My right hon. Friend assured the House that the size and condition of the drifter fleet in relation to Admiralty requirements was kept constantly under review. [Laughter.] That laughter leaves me absolutely cold. I have seen quite enough of the party opposite to know that reflection is not their strong card.
I have attempted to answer all the questions put to me, and I should like to thank the Committee for whatever indulgence they have extended to me in what all parties will recognise is a difficult and responsible task. My only regret about this Debate is that the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last deliberately nailed to the mast the regrettable declaration of the Leader of the Opposition about recruiting. I hope he will find that his party, after consultation, are at least prepared to take the better course of seeing that the organisation of the defences of this country and Empire rise above party differences and conflicts. Whatever opinion hon. Members opposite may hold upon finance or foreign policy, try as they will they will never get away from this position that in the last resort they must defend the country which they expect to govern.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Possibly I have less right than any other hon. Member to intervene in the Debate because I very seldom speak on foreign affairs or in a Service Debate, and I hesitate even more to-night because I recognise that in the next three days we shall have a Debate with which I am more acquainted, and which will occupy my time. I am in the position of being unable to follow either 186 the Opposition or the Government. As I see it, the working people of this country are heading for disaster; certainly I can see no escape from conscription for the great bulk of the working people. The difference between the Opposition and the Government is that the Government want an Army without any regard to the League of Nations, and the Opposition want an Army with some regard to the decisions of the League of Nations. Both presuppose an Army, and I suppose, an efficient Army. It is no use having an Army unless it is efficient.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member that a reduction has been moved and that there is no longer such a wide field for debate.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There has been a wide discussion on foreign policy and I thought that I was as near as most hon. Members. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) talked about man-power. I was amazed at his unfairness. Bournemouth is a well-to-do district and does not send one man for every three, which are sent from my division. Why? Because the hon. and gallant Member's district is well-to-do and they can keep out of the Army, whereas those in my district are driven in by starvation. I take the view to-night, as in all Debates on foreign affairs or Defence, that hon. Members on both sides, if they are to continue pressing for an Army and Navy, either for the collective peace system or for an isolation system, have the duty to be in the Army. If I believed in that policy, I would think it right to go in. For my part, I have told the men in my constituency not to join the Forces; I have told them it is no use their being cannon fodder for ever. They were told in 1914 to go out to fight the Germans, and it would be the last war in which they would ever fight. They fought, and to-day, within a few years, another hell is being prepared for them.
Those who live in the slums have never known what life is; they do not know the beauty of it; they are deprived of nearly everything. It is they who are the soldiers. It is not the sons of doctors, of teachers, of trade union officials, of Members of Parliament. [Interruption.] Yes, I will grant you that they are the captains and the officers, but who are 187 the rank and file? They are drawn from the poorest of the poor; not from Bournemouth and from the well-to-do families. I come from a poor division, and at Christmas and the New Year I see the soldiers home on leave. Why are they soldiers? Because of poverty. To join the Forces is their only hope. To-night I see plainly that we are being driven towards conscription. Let me say to the Secretary of State for War that he may talk as much as he likes
§ about recruits to his Tory friends and to Tory Conferences, but I will not ask the common people whom I represent to kill any men in a useless struggle which only means at the end profit and plunder for the rich, and for the common people only terrible poverty, terrible slums and no hope or joy in life.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £13,162 be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 155; Noes, 320.191
|Division No. 292.]||AYES.||[11.9 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Potts, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, G. D.||Riley, B.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ritson, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hayday, A.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Barr, J.||Holland, A.||Rowson, G.|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Bellenger, F.||Hopkin, D.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Benson, G.||Jagger, J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Shinwell, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||John, W.||Short, A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, D.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Compton, J.||Lathan, G.||Stephen, C.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lunn, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McEntee, V. La T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mander, G. le M.||Westwood, J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marklew, E.||White, H. Graham|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maxton, J.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Foot, D. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Muff, G.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Owen, Major G.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Paling, W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Parker, J.||Mr. Groves and Mr. Mathers.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Apsley, Lord||Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Aske, Sir R. W.||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Assheton, R.||Balniel, Lord|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Baxter, A. Beverley|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Atholl, Duchess of||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McKie, J. H.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Goldie, N. B.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Magnay, T.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Gower, Sir R. V.||Maitland, A.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Bracken, B.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Markham, S. F.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Maxwell, S. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Grimston, R. V.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Bull, B. B.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Burghley, Lord||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hannah, I. C.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||Harbord, A.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hartington, Marquess of||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Cazaiet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Munro, P.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Nall, Sir J.|
|Channon, H.||Hepworth, J.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Christie, J. A.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Clarke, F. E.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Holmes, J. S.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Peake, O.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hopkinson, A.||Peat, C. U.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Penny, Sir G.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hulbert, N. J.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Crooke, J. S.||Hunter, T.||Radford, E. A.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Jackson, Sir H.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cross, R. H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Joel, D. J. B.||Rankin, R.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Keeling, E. H.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Remer, J. R.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Denville, Alfred||Kimball, L.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Donner, P. W.||Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Drewe, C.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Latham, Sir P.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salt, E. W.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lees-Jones, J.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Levy, T.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lewis, O.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Liddall, W. S.||Savery, Servington|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lindsay, K. M.||Scott, Lord William|
|Elliston, G. S.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Selley, H. R.|
|Emery, J. F.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lloyd, G. W.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Entwistle, C. F.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Errington, E.||Lyons, A. M.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Everard, W. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Fleming, E. L.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Furness, S. N.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wells, S. R.|
|Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.||Touche, G. C.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Spens, W. P.||Train, Sir J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Turton, R. H.||Wise, A. R.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wakefield, W. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Wragg, H.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Tate, Mavis C.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Mr. James Stuart and Captain|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Warrender, Sir V.||Waterhouse.|
§ Original Question put.192
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 331, Noes, 65.193
|Division No. 293.]||AYES.||[11.24 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Cranborne, Viscount||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Crooke, J. S.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.|
|Apsley, Lord||Cross, R. H.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Assheton, R.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Culverwell, C. T.||Harbord, A.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Davison, Sir W. H.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Dawson, Sir P.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Balniel, Lord||De Chair, S. S.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Denville, Alfred||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Donner, P. W.||Hepworth, J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Drewe, C.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Duggan, H. J.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Dunglass, Lord||Hopkinson, A.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Dunne, P. R. R.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Eastwood, J. F.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Eckersley, P. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Bracken, B.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Ellis, Sir G.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Elliston, G. S.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Emery, J. F.||Hunter, T.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jackson, Sir H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Entwistle, C. F.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.|
|Bull, B. B.||Errington, E.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Burghley, Lord||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Everard, W. L.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Butler, R. A.||Fleming, E. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Foot, D. M.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Cary, R. A.||Furness, S. N.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Kimball, L.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Kirkpatrick, W. M.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Gluckstein, L. H.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Channon, H.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Goldie, N. B.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Christie, J. A.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Clarke, F. E.||Graham Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Levy, T.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Lewis, O.|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Peake, O.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Peat, C. U.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Penny, Sir G.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Petherick, M.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Lyons, A. M.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Spender-Clay Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Spens, W. P.|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Radford, E. A.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Ramsbotham, H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Rankin, R.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|McKie, J. H.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Magnay, T.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Maitland, A.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Remer, J. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Mander, G. le M.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Touche, G. C.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Train, Sir J.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Markham, S. F.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Maxwell, S. A.||Rothschild, J. A. de||Turton, R. H.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Salmon, Sir I.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Salt, E. W.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Moreing, A. C.||Sandys, E. D.||Wells, S. R.|
|Morgan, R. H.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||White, H. Graham|
|Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Savery, Servington||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Scott, Lord William||Williams H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Seely, Sir H. M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Selley, H. R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Munro, P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertrce)||Wise, A. R.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Wragg, H.|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||Mr. James Stuart and Captain|
|Owen, Major G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Waterhouse.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Riley, B.|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Ritson, J.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirkwood, D.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Compton, J.||Lathan, G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, J. J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Lunn, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Day, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dobbie, W.||MacLaren, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Maclean, N.||Thorne, W.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Milner, Major J.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Muff, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hardie, G. D.||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hayday, A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Potts, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Holland, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Stephen.|