HC Deb 10 November 1936 vol 317 cc709-831


Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd November]: That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"— [Miss Horsbrugh.]

Question again proposed.

3.45 p.m.


I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words: But, having regard to the urgent problems arising from the expansion of British armaments and the strengthening of national defences, regret that the Gracious Speech foreshadows no legislation to implement the Report of the Royal Commission on the manufacture of and trade in arms. This Amendment has purposely been couched in very wide terms, in the hope that a general debate on the subject of armaments may be possible, which will meet the convenience of many Members of the House not sitting on this bench. That, of course, is subject to the latitude which you, Mr. Speaker, may give, but for our part we hope that the specific questions which we desire to raise with regard to the report itself will not be entirely overshadowed and forgotten in the course of the general debate. I think it right also to call attention to the only part of the Gracious Speech which has any reference at all to this problem. That is where, after stating that the Estimates for the Public Services will be laid before us, it goes on to say: The work of strengthening My defence forces is being pressed on with the utmost energy and is now making rapid progress. My Government are satisfied that the measures they are taking are essential to the defence of My Empire and to the ability of this country to discharge its international obligations. My Ministers will nevertheless lose no opportunity of promoting general international appeasement and the limitation of expenditure on armaments which would naturally follow upon such an improvement of relations. That is the only passage in the Gracious Speech which refers to the subject of the Amendment, and I think it will be seen at once that there is very little contact between them. There is just one point to which I shall be able to call attention. The only other matter to which I desire to call attention by way of preliminary is the terms of reference of the Bankes Commission, which was appointed in February, 1935. There are three points, and I think I may shorten them by saying that the first is that the Commission were asked to discuss and report on the practicability and desirability of a State arms monopoly, whether by this country alone or by this country in combination with other nations; the second is that they were asked to consider whether the objections to the private manufacture of armaments which are generally held, and are expressed in the Covenant of the League of Nations itself, can be in any way removed, and, if so, how; and, lastly, they were asked to report on the question of the control of the export trade. The Commission have answered all those questions, and I venture to think that they have kept strictly within their terms of reference. They have, in the first place, turned down the proposal to set up a State monopoly in armaments, whether by this country alone or in combination with other nations. They have put forward their proposals for meeting the objections to private armaments, and, lastly, they have reported upon the arrangements for the export of armaments. I do not intend to deal with the first question, that is the advisability or otherwise of having a State monopoly in the armaments industry, though I should like to say, purely for myself and not committing anyone else, that I personally regret this decision. That is my own view. I wish more attention had been paid to the weighty evidence given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), by Dr. Addison and by the hon. Member who was recently elected for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker).

Everyone who favours that view has to realise that, as long as this House is constituted as it is at present, it will not be favourably received, and that the views against the proposal are bound to be strengthened by the fact that you have a unanimous decision of this Committee against it. We have to face the facts. Whatever view we take on the general question of the nationalisation of armaments, it is surely more practicable and more profitable to devote our attention to the positive proposals contained in the report rather than spend our time on an academic demonstration on behalf of an ideal, because I think by attending to the practical proposals, upon which the House has not yet declared itself, we may succeed in arriving at agreement and action, and action is the important thing. We are not dealing with millinery but with munitions. We are dealing with something upon which our lives may depend, and the crucial strain may come earlier than we suppose. I would ask hon. Members above the Gangway, if they are disposed to turn down this report altogether on the ground that it does not contain what they want, to consider that they may not be able to wait until a Left wing Government gets into power and can introduce a different policy.

The need for action is immediate, and we want to get ahead with something on which agreement can be arrived at, because we are faced with a situation of amazing urgency. There are world Armaments expanding on all sides. Our own expansion, although it bulks very largely in our own eyes, is in a way only a secondary disturbance arising out of what has happened in other countries, and, that being the case, we have to make up our minds what to do, and it seems to me that there arc only two courses open. One is the method described so often and so eloquently by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) that we should have nothing to do with any such expansion, that we should say we will not build a tank, or a ship, or an aeroplane or a gun, and rely upon our own innocence and innocuousness as our best defence. Without any irony I would describe that as a herioc policy, but it is rather too heroic for me. I cannot gather any evidence from the fate of Abyssinia, or of the Jews in Germany, which would lead me to suppose that mere defencelessness and helplessness is a sufficient protection in this world. [Interruption.] If my hon. Friend wishes, he can add that instance too but, if we are not going to take that attitude, if we are going to have an expansion of armaments, let it be an expansion which will be efficient, which will give us value for the enormous expenditure that it entails, and, above all, will win the confidence of the people, because without that nothing is of any avail at all.

The Royal Commission has considered the matter from both points of view, the material and the moral, and while they have turned down the proposal for a State monopoly, they have gone on to indicate the only conditions under which they think the private manufacture of arms can properly function. I want that to be appreciated, because the great danger about a report like this is that it may be made an excuse for inaction. The Government may say, "We have laid that bogy at last. We have seven ladies and gentlemen sitting on this Commission who have decided unanimously that there shall not be nationalisation. Now we can turn round and go to sleep again." But that would be handling the report of the Commission and handling this House in a most unfair manner. My right hon. Friend beside me at an earlier stage in the Debate recalled that when we in the Liberal party asked for this Commission we were warned in some quarters that we might be led up the garden. If that happened, if the negative side of the report only were considered, not we alone but the House and the country would have been led up the garden by the Government in their treatment of this report. Therefore, I ask that the most urgent attention be given to the positive proposals here put forward.

There are ten actual conditions and recommendations on page 53. I do not want any alarm and despondency to spread among hon. Members that I am going through all ten at great length, arriving at a very late hour at my tenth and last, because that is not necessary. I do not need to deal with the second and third of their conclusions, because those are the reasons that the Commission gave for not adopting a State monopoly of armaments. The fourth recommendation, that public officials shall not accept appointments with armament firms without the approval of the Minister in charge of the Department in which they are serving or have served—it is, I think, a valuable but not a very great point—can be taken as read and left to commend itself to the House.

Recommendations No. 1 and No. 5 have this in common, that they require international action and therefore, in fairness to the Gracious Speech, I think I should say that proposals for legislation upon those lines could hardly have been expected, but at the same time the attitude of the Government to Questions 1 and 5 would have a great effect on such legislation as they did propose. No. 1 is the conclusion that the most effective available means of removing or minimising the objections to the private manufacture of and trade in arms would be the limitation of arms by international agreement. This is not a resolution passed by the League of Nations Union. It is the first finding of this Commission, and it is a very remarkable finding, upon which they base a great deal of their subsequent discussion, and it should be realised that they are not just delivering a perfunctory grace before meat. Any one who reads pages 19 and 20 will see what importance is attached to it. It is regarded by the Commission as being the best way of getting rid of the objections to private manufacture, because they point out that the temptations to abuse the opportunity of the private manufacture of arms arise almost entirely out of the fact that there is an expansive market. If you limit the market so that it is not expansive, those temptations are very largely removed. This is the point at which the Gracious Speech faintly, at a kind of tangent, touches the report of the Commission: My Ministers will, nevertheless, lose no opportunity of promoting general international appeasement and the limitation of expenditure upon armaments which would naturally follow upon such an improvement of relations. There is a point of contact, but in my opinion it is a very unsatisfactory point of contact, because it indicates as the view of the Government that there can be no limitation by agreement at all until a general appeasement has finally been arrived at. That does seem to me to be putting the cart before the horse. It seems to me to be equally plausible to say that until some kind of limitation by agreement has been arrived at a really genuine appeasement among the nations cannot be achieved. I can quite imagine that economic development, the unbalancing of budgets, the lowering of the standard of the lives of their people, might lead two nations, for example Germany and Russia, who are still highly suspicious of one another, to come to the conclusion that the pace could not be kept up and that they would not be putting themselves in any greater danger if there was a reduction in the one State and the other.

The only other point I want to make is that I am bound to say I was considerably disturbed by the language of certain speakers, particularly the First Lord of the Admiralty, at the Conservative party's conference held recently, because it seemed to me—I do not think I am misinterpreting him—that his proposition was that our present armament proposals were an irreducible minimum, and that no matter what other nations did we should need that minimum. That is a proposition from which I emphatically dissent. If the nation consents to a large expansion of armaments now, it is because it has gradually become aware, first, by those statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) some time ago, and afterwards by the statement of the Government, of an enormous rearmament involving a possible danger to this country; and if the response to an expansion abroad is an expansion here, there should be equal readiness to respond to a reduction abroad by a reduction here. If we are going to make some particular programme which we have embarked upon a kind of holy of holies that cannot be touched, then we shall make ourselves a final obstacle to the reduction of armaments which I should have thought everyone in this House must desire.

The other international point made by the Commission is one on which I shall not dwell at great length because I do not think that the time is altogether ripe for it. But perhaps I may get on the subject some information which will be of use to the House. The Commission in No. 5 of their recommendations are dealing with the international supervision and control of the export trade in arms and the manufacture of arms, and the point reached at the time this report was made was apparently this: that the United States Government had made certain draft recommendations which had been considered by the Disarmament Commission, and that His Majesty's Government, whilst not unsympathetic with the general basis of those proposals, had certain alterations and amendments that they desired to make. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman how that matter stands now. Has any further steps been taken towards reaching agreement on the subject, and does he see any prospect of progress in the near future along those lines? It may well be that in the present deplorable international state of the world, it is not possible to get on as we should desire, but I think that a statement from the Government on the point would reassure us that at any rate the possibility of progress here is not being left out of account.

I come now to what I regard as the essence of this report, and those are the proposals 6, 7 and 8, which deal with the entire re-organisation of our supply of armaments, both in peace and in war. These proposals are of a, very far-reaching character, and even those who still believe that the only proper solution is entire nationalisation will have to realise that a great step would be taken in the direction that they want if these proposals were carried out. The sixth recommendation is this: The Government should assume complete responsibility for the arms industry in the United Kingdom, and should organise and regulate the necessary collaboration between the Government and private industry; that this responsibility should he exercised through a controlling body presided over by a Minister responsible to Parliament"— That is a Ministry of Supply— having executive powers in peace-time and in war-time. One of the first duties of that body is to keep the strictest control over the prices charged for the munitions that the nation needs. It may be said, "We have a costing system already." We do not know very much about that costing system. According to information I have seen in the Press, there is a certain amount of control with regard to the Air Force. Although the Admiralty has an advisory committee, of which mention was made in this House not long ago, I am informed that that advisory committee has met only twice in the last six months; so it does not look as if it was doing very much. As regards the War Office, I have at present no information whatever. I do not know what kind of control over prices is maintained by that Department at all. When it comes to war the Minister of Supply and his Department, which exercise very strong control in time of peace, become all absorbing; the Department takes under its complete authority arid control not only the whole of those industries which are obviously directly concerned in war, but it takes over the whole of the engineering industry. It is said in this report: If the State could choose the staff they wished to keep in industry and those they required to join the forces, and if, in addition, everyone, from the head of a business down, were given similar position and pay, according to the work they were doing, to those serving in the forces, it would make it still more unlikely for those engaged in supplying the requirements of the State in peace-time to agitate for war. I quite agree; I should imagine it would. But it must be seen that those are very far-reaching proposals and also urgent ones, because in the next. paragraph the report states: Great difficulties are likely to be met in any attempt to formulate plans for the conscription of industry in time of war, but we are impelled to the belief that these difficulties will have to be faced. and we recommend that they should be faced at the earliest possible moment. That is the justification for this Amendment, because if they have to be "faced at the earliest possible moment" and there is no mention whatever of action on these lines in the Gracious Speech, one is bound to inquire to see whether the Government really appreciate the gravity of the situation. In the last War we were compelled to take over practically complete control. That had to be improvised at very short notice, and the nation was indeed fortunate that it had at its disposal at that time for that purpose a man of genius—genius is not to be found everywhere—perhaps more than one man of genius. And geniuses cannot be picked up on the beach every day; you cannot depend upon having them in your time of need. I do say to the Government in all seriousness that they had better set up a machine which can be manipulated by ordinary men. I think that that would be their safest course. A perfectly running machine which the operators have time to learn is almost a substitute for a long campaign and may serve them in good stead in time of emergency.

All that I have been saying so far with regard to these proposals is directed to the line of practical efficiency, and I fully realise that it would be absurd to maintain otherwise, for I am not a qualified person to dilate to this House on the value of particular technical evidence which has been given to the Commission upon the way this should be worked and the necessity of organising on this scale. I only ask hon. Members to refer to the list of witnesses, which I think will persuade them that the matter has been thoroughly examined. But mere material and practical efficiency is not everything. You have not only to get a machine; you have to get in the people who will work the machine. I personally place even more value upon the moral and psychological effect of these proposals than upon their material worth. If any one here thinks that the moral and psychological effects do not matter compared with the material ones, they have the Commission against them; and they also have the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte against them, and he in his time had considerable experience of these matters.

I envisage the psychological factor rather in this way: We have had a small psychological crisis already. When you are dealing with private enterprise you have to deal with the leaders of it. They are probably men of forceful character who have come to the front because of ambition and capacity, and they may not be easy to deal with. You have to deal with them with courtesy and patience and tact. I say with all respect to the Lord Nuffield of to-day that there is someone even more important than him to be conciliated and convinced, someone whose confidence has to be won, and that man is the kind of man that Lord Nuffield was 40 years ago when he was mending bicycles in a shop—a young man. Those are the people you have to convince. You have to win their confidence and you have not got it yet. When I say "You" I do not mean the Members on the Treasury Bench. My remark is entirely impersonal. I mean that no Government will have it under the present conditions as long as dark and ugly suspicions of the mis-use of private enterprise in arms continue to be maintained. Often at the street corner when the question of war has cropped up I have had questions corning to me "Why was there conscription of lives and no conscription of wealth? Why did my father or brother go out to be killed whilst fortunes were being made at home?" Those questions are not Communism; they are common sense. They are bound to occur to people who have suffered deeply in themselves or in their families. You have to deal with that attitude. The days of Their's not to reason why, Their's not to make reply have gone; they have gone for good as far as the citizen soldier is concerned. It must be so and I do not regret the fact. I believe that the young men of this country have still causes which are so dear to them that they would be ready to died in the last ditch for them, but I believe that they would want to be satisfied as to who is the owner of the ditch and whether it was meant for some honest purpose, and as long as there is suspicion that they are being sacrificed for private gain, so long will there be difficulties in working any system.

I see that the Secretary of State for War is in his place. I know that he has had some difficulty with his recruiting campaign, and with all respect I think that it is partly due to his method of approach. I do not think it is any good his looking with regal wrath at the Bishop of Birmingham and saying, like Henry II, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" The turbulent priest will beat him all the time unless he can convince the people of the country that his cause and the things that he is working for are as good as the things that the Bishop is working for. I do not think that we have got to that position yet. These suspicions are still abroad, and it is the opinion of the commission that they can be dealt with only by the very drastic proposals that they put forward.

There are other proposals in this report and they are of some interest. I refer to Nos. 9 and 10. Proposal No. 9 deals with the system which at present prevails with regard to licences for the export of arms, and it is an interesting fact to which I call attention, that on this point alone we have a Minority Report. We have to look for it; it is not obvious at first sight. When you come to look what they actually say, you find, on page 47, in paragraph 143: Some of us would like to see the foreign arms trade of this country discontinued, not only because we believe that many evils are inherent in the present system, but also to remove the anxiety with regard to it that undoubtedly exists in the minds of many thoughtful people. The majority were against it, as they say afterwards, but it is interesting to observe that there were some on the Commission who were anxious to go even further than the Commission suggest with this proposal for a tightening up of licences. I could say a good deal more about that matter, and about the complete cessation which is proposed in the private export trade in surplus arms, but I think that it is a mistake for anybody in my position to try from the back benches to cover the whole ground upon a matter of such enormous scope when there are many other hon. Members who are anxious to speak. I will, therefore, just call attention to these proposals, commend them to the attention of the House, and leave them for other speakers to develop.

My final words are these. I do urge the Government once again not to shelve this report by just taking hold of the negative part and leaving the whole positive part alone. I ask hon. Members above the Gangway not to lose what is available here in a very redoubtable attempt to try to grasp something which they consider more valuable still. Let us try to get an agreement which will really reduce action, and let us all try to help the Government to produce a scheme which will really win the confidence of the people. At the present moment the young men feel that modern war is nothing but a horrible game of noughts and crosses in which the crosses grow up in the cemeteries by the battlefield and the noughts are added in the ledgers of the manufacturers, changing the tens into hundreds and the hundreds into thousands and millions. We have to get rid of that idea and to convince the people of the country that the Government—any Government—aim, first and foremost, at giving them peace, and that, if peace should not prevail, it may not prove to be impossible that they may have some chance of that very wretched substitute for peace which we call victory. Above all, they should be assured that they will not be called upon to risk their lives for private gain, but for the commonweal, and nothing else. After all, they have some right to be consulted and some right to be assured. It is their lives which are at stake. Life, to be sure, is not so great a thing, but young men think that it is—and they are young.

4.19 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment, which has been so eloquently moved by my hon. Friend. I would emphasise what my hon. Friend suggested, that the report must on no account be set aside, pigeon-holed and forgotten. It deals with matters which are vitally important to the life of this nation. I can only say in the words of the Prime Minister last night, when he drew attention to the disadvantages to the nation of the anxiety of naving its Attention and activities drawn to the demand for armaments, that in so far as we devote the time to making arms, to that extent we delay the time when we can improve the conditions of the standard of life of our people. That declaration, having been made upon a great occasion by the Prime Minister of this country, I am quite sure, will convince the House of the great importance of the subject which we are discussing to-day. May I recall to the House the sort of atmosphere that prevailed in this country at the time this Commission was appointed, and afterwards? It showed clearly that the Government would be neglecting their duty to the nation if they were to forget about this report. Think of the atmosphere. The people had in mind the sensational statements made before the Nye Committee in America regarding the manufacture and trade in arms. Some of those may have been fantastic, and there might have been no proof, but still they were sufficient to impress upon the people of this country and other countries the importance of this matter. Afterwards there was the effect of the Peace Ballot in the mind of the people, and then there was the American phrase: Take profit out of all wars. That was a very beautiful baby, one of the many beautiful babies which America from time to time has brought over to Europe and planted on the doorstep of Europe. There was the mass opinion and feeling in this country and other countries that Europe was gradually drifting into another war. Can anybody in this House deny that nothing more happened in 1918 than the mere cessation of active warfare, followed by a Peace Treaty which was not, in the opinion of most people to-day, at any rate, the beginning of an era of peace. Even now, can anyone in this House say that we have any hopes at all to-day of being at the threshold or at the beginning of an era of peace? We have in my country two words in the Welsh language which represent peace. They are both translated into peace, but mean something quite different from each other, and the Welsh people, at any rate, know full well the fine difference between those two words. I make no apology at all for quoting these two words from one of the native tongues of this island. One is heddwch and the other is tangnefedd. Heddwch is proclaimed yearly in our great national festival, but it is proclaimed with the sword drawn half out of its sheath. The point is covered, but the sword is still there. It is peace in the mind of the Welshmen. But the other word has a more significant meaning. It means the sort of peace which dwells in the heart of the nation. That is what we have not got to-day in this country, nor have we got it in Europe—that concord, tranquillity and happiness which real peace brings to the nations and to the peoples of the world.

When the Royal Commission was appointed, it can truthfully be said, the question of war and peace was, and still is, the main preoccupation of the peoples of the world. Unfortunately, that means the exclusion of things which are of far greater importance to the life of our people than the question of peace or war. The Government having appointed this Commission, the members of which were known to hold widely divergent opinions upon the question of arms manufacture and trade, and having got the report, which strangely enough, is unanimous, in spite of some indefinite points mentioned by my hon. Friend, surely the nation is entitled to a declaration from the Government that they intend to act upon the recommendations, and to act quickly. My hon. Friend referred to the atmosphere of suspicion which prevailed in the manufacture of arms—suspicion held among responsible people—that those who are financially interested in the production of arms have a considerable influence upon Government policy. That suspicion is not allayed, and even may be accentuated by any Government delay in this matter. Knowing something of industrial affairs in this country, I cannot imagine that those who are engaged in this trade would not welcome some method by which the industry which is admitted by most ptople to be a necessity of the country, should be freed from these unfounded allegations and fear. The Government themselves are responsible for the existence of the industry. The Government do business with these manufacturers. The Government need the industry, and therefore the Government are responsible for clearing any accusation that in this country, at any rate, they are active in fostering the war spirit. Taken as a whole, the Commission have exonerated. in most cases, British industrialists from charges such as are made against industrialists of other nations, and points the way to the Government by which they can clear the mind of the country of any suspicion regarding those who are of necessity engaged in this particular industry.

I do not want to repeat in detail what my hon. Friend has said, but I would point out one or two points in regard to the main recommendation of the Commission, namely, the Government control of the manufacture of arms in peace time and conscription of industry in time of war. Those of us who are not at all engaged in the manufacture of armaments or even remotely engaged in that manufacture, know to-day that because of this programme there is a considerable dislocation in ordinary peace time industry in this country. It is only by some method of co-ordination by Government determination of priority that the ordinary trade and manufacture of this country can be carried on to-day. The Minister must know perfectly well that those who are engaged in peace time industry to-day do not know where they are. They find the greatest possible difficulty in getting deliveries of important materials in order to carry on their business. It is only by the establishment of this control of the manufacture of arms in peace time that industry for peace purposes can be carried on successfully, which is as important as the immediate purpose of the manufacture of arms. Apart from the psychological effect to which my hon. Friend has referred, there is no doubt that this Ministry or control by the Government of the industry would facilitate not only the co-ordination of effort, but it would also lead to much greater efficiency. The details of these proposals are not given in the report. They must be worked out by the Government, and they need careful working and preparation. That means time, and time is the essence of this question, because the longer we delay the more the risk to industry in this country.

I support my hon. Friend in his contention, so eloquently put, that for the purpose of any war which may be forced upon us we need the unity of the whole nation. It is not merely an army that we have to prepare and train; it is the nation that must be prepared and trained in all its activities. Not money, not even silver bullets, are the sinews of war to-day. The sinews of war are the potentialities of the nation in all its departments of life. I remember reading once an order or a communication made by Marshal Foch in the early days of the War, when he said to his commander-in-chief: My right has been rolled up, my left has been driven back, my centre has been smashed; I have ordered an advance from all directions. That may have been a courageous and brave thing to do at that time. To-day, during a period of peace we are unfortunately confronted with the fact that some rearmament is necessary. Hon. Members above the Gangway and their party are convinced that some rearmament is necessary. Even distinguished leaders of their party have said that if they get back into power we must have rearmament. We must therefore co-ordinate our efforts in all directions. Left, right and centre must unite in this matter.

4.32 p.m.

The MINISTER for the CO-ORDINATION of DEFENCE (Sir Thomas Inskip)

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. K. Griffith) has moved the Amendment with his customary feeling and skill, and I find very little, if anything, to criticise or cavil at in the way in which he has developed his theme. I do not quite agree with him—perhaps I do not at all agree with him—as to the feasibility of putting into operation the recommendations of the Royal Commission quite so easily as he suggests is possible, but he has certainly dwelt upon many points in connection with the manufacture of arms which require and receive consideration from time to time.

I suppose that it is not too much to say that the hon. Member and his party were sincerely disappointed at the main recommendations of the Royal Commission. It is, I think, well known that he and his party, and the party opposite also, have thought that the control by the Government in the shape of nationalisation of the arms manufacturing capacity of the country is the right solution of such questions as arise, and the hon. Member and his party in noting the recommendations in Paragraph 6, have naturally turned to the suggestion that the Government should assume complete responsibility for the arms manufacturing capacity of the nation. I mean no disrespect to the Royal Commission when I say that I do not find it easy to follow that part of their recommendations. I will tell the House briefly what I mean. I speak with the utmost respect for the Chairman, to whom T owe an unforgettable debt. He was my late master and teacher, and anything that comes from his lips or pen deserves my special regard.

The Royal Commission having said that they recommend or are in favour of control by the Government of the arms manufacturing capacity, did not tell us in what way that control is to be exercised, but they referred us to the evidence given by a number of gentlemen in the course of the inquiry. It is a little instructive to notice the different points of view represented by the gentlemen mentioned. Colonel Carnegie regarded this control merely as the last stage of nationalisation. Quite obviously that is a long way from a recommendation which is an alternative to nationalisation. Dr. Addison is in favour of a single supply and manufacture department for all War departments, and he definitely condemns any private manufacture. There, again, Dr. Addison is not in favour of the proposal that there should he a Ministry of Supply controlling private industry. Sir Harry McGowan is in favour of a permanent supervisory body which shall be armed with full powers to co-ordinate private manufacturers, and to erect new factories to supplement private concerns. That seems to be a long way off from control of private concerns. Sir Eric Geddes, the last of the four gentlemen mentioned, is in favour of a small but perfect laboratory arsenal, his idea, I suppose, being that the Government should carry on a kind of glorified Woolwich in order to provide armaments in time of war.

I find these diverse points of view very difficult to reconcile, and I do not think that the Government can be complained of if they say that, the Royal Commission not being able to select which of these alternative methods is the best one, they require a little time to pursue their inquiries in order to arrive at a proper conclusion. There is one further question that still arises when you are talking of the arms manufacturing capacity of the country. Dr. Addison was asked a question by the Chairman as to whether he could give a definition of arms or munitions of war. He gave a very prudent reply when he said that he would like time to study this point, though he was quite sure that good sense would arrive at a practical working definition. I am not quite sure that even common sense or good sense could easily arrive at that definition. I ask myself what did the Royal Commission mean? They could not have meant everything the Government need for war, because that would carry them over the whole field of industry—motor cars, nitric acid, optical glass and a hundred other things that are not generally called munitions of war. I assume that what the Royal Commission were really including in this definition were the obvious munitions of war, guns, shells, armour and so forth. That is sufficient to reveal the wide difference between their proposal to control the arms manufacturing capacity of the country and what is generally referred to as the proposal to set up a Ministry of Munitions.

I am doing those who make this last proposal no injustice when I suggest that what they want is not the limitation of arms manufacturing capacity but the expansion of capacity. They want to create new sources of supply, to conscript industry, to control labour, to manage finance and generally to divert certain trades now engaged upon peaceful pursuits to the manufacture of weapons of war. I propose to say something before I finish about the proposal to establish a Ministry of Supply, but I am quite sure the Royal Commission did not contemplate a plan of that sort. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment complained a little of the interference that has already taken place with private industry, when he said that it is very difficult to get deliveries of certain articles much needed in industry. That indicates the length to which the Government have already gone in departing from the principle which was laid down in the White Paper that as far as possible their programme should be carried out without any interference with normal civil industry. That is a counsel of perfection, as the hon. Member opposite has recognised. It has quite plainly been departed from. The fact is that the magnitude and the speed of the Government's programme really mean that civil industry must give way to its demands. On the subject of the Royal Commission I quite sincerely promise hon. Members opposite that the Government will welcome an opportunity to consider the recommendations. As a matter of fact there is a body of men well qualified to examine into this question at present engaged upon the examination of the proposals, and the hon. Member's observations this afternoon in so far as they express public opinion will, I am sure, be taken note of.

It is necessary for me this afternoon to try to say a good deal about the Government's policy—I prefer that word to the word "plan"—which directs and pervades their programme. If the House will bear with me I will try to deal with some matters with which I have not previously dealt. It is an obvious truism that all of us will recognise that when the Government use the word "defence" they are not merely begging the question for defence is 'really our sole concern. We are, at any rate, in this happy position as a nation that we have no intention to make, and we intend no aggression upon any nation or body of people. Defence when recognised in its wider application no doubt includes the contributions that we may be called upon to make in pursuance of our policy for the discouragement and prevention of war. It has been said in many places and quarters and in this House, that defence of the interests of this country is the only standard to which this country and the Empire are likely to rally.

When we come to defence, we all recognise that the Navy is the first line of defence. As long as we are dependent upon our overseas communications no one will undervalue the importance of a supremely strong Navy. It is fundamental to our very existence. But the suggestion is made, and it is commonly said, or it is often said, that the growth of air power has destroyed our historic security as an island. I venture to think that is only a fraction of the truth. If any one will think for a moment what the state of this country would be if our frontiers were in Europe instead of on the other side of the dividing seas, I think he will see that a large proportion of the advantages of an island are still secured to us. The protection of the home bases of the Fleet and the feeding ports is a prime necessity, and that is where I come in my observations to the necessity for collaboration or cooperation between the two Services, the old traditional service of the Navy and the newer service of the Air Force.

The main purpose of the expansion of the Air Force is, again, defence, to provide for the defence of this country from the risk of attack from the air. It is our aim and purpose to develop as a deterrent as powerful a striking force as we can in the air. It is the complement in the air to the Navy on the seas. We believe that in capacity, speed and range our new types of machines are not inferior to any which exist abroad. Behind the air machines are the other measures which have already been taken to complete our air defences. They include the provision of guns, searchlights and all the other equipment, much of it technical, to protect not only the parts of our shores most open to air attack, but the major commercial ports and centres of munition production, and. of course, naval bases. For the great population of London a balloon barrage, in addition, on an extensive scale, has been accepted as a necessary part of our defences.

It would be wrong if I did not refer to the reinforcements of existing measures which may be now available as the result of scientific research, as ingenious as it is intensive and unceasing at the present time. If I am asked what stage these preparations have reached, it is right for me to reply that next year will see preparations for an output, in some cases already begun, on an increasing scale up to 1939–40. Nothing can restore to us the years that have passed when we made no provision under what is called the ten-year rule, but the orders have been given and the work is in hand. The existing resources for the provision of the new and powerful guns which are required in connection with the scheme of air defence have been supplemented. Apart from existing Government establishments and specialised private firms much addition to capacity has been created by reopening the Government factory at Nottingham, which will begin production in January. It is realised that these anti-aircraft guns are a prime necessity, and I am happy to say that the measures already taken do not represent finality. I have to-day heard of the last step in negotiations for new proposals for gun production by a group of firms in the North of England, and these proposals have been submitted for financial approval. It must be realised that the present rate of production is largely conditioned by the amount of skilled labour available and other resources in the form of machines for the necessary processes. So far as labour is concerned the appropriate training is proceeding and I hope I am not guilty of presumption if I pay a tribute to the sound sense of both sides, which has enabled our existing resources, small as they are, to be used to the utmost of their capacity—the resources of labour I mean.

Before I deal with the policy of defence as a whole let me say one further word about the organisation for the defence of the country. I have already said it on a public platform, but I think it will bear repetition. Our plans are that two divisions of the Territorial Army should be converted into anti-aircraft units, one for the defence of the South of England and the other for the defence of the Midlands and Northern parts of England. The men who are wanted may be up to 50 years of age, and if they have some technical knowledge in connection with gunnery or any practical experience they will be all the more welcome. The units will be disposed—I hope the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) will take note of this—as far as possible in those parts of the country from which the men come. I do not think this appeal will fall on deaf ears. Whatever may be said about the Government's programme, this part of it, at any rate, is for the protection of our homes and I hope will be responded to.

Let me now return to the broader questions of defence. I suppose it is inevitable that our recollections of the Great War should colour all our ideas of any other war. I have never believed, and I refuse to believe, that another war is inevitable if we agree to take the proper measures. But the recollections of the Great War necessarily colour our ideas of any other war, if it should be our fate to be involved in another war, but a recollection of the extraordinary development of the air power will correct that tendency. I am not going to attempt to foresee what another war will be like. It is within the imagination of all that London may be subjected to an intense and sudden bombardment from the air. I have referred to the defence measures which have been taken. But when all these measures have been taken I want to add that a powerful Air Force is a necessary part of the equipment of defence.

So far as the Navy is concerned the Fleet Air Arm is indispensable. I have been giving my attention to some questions in this connection—the personnel of the Fleet Air Arm and the necessary reserves. I have made my report and I hope that my recommendations may be useful. I trust that the keen interest which hon. Members take in this question will not lead anyone to forget that efficiency must be our guiding star towards which all our arrangements must be directed not only for the Fleet Air Arm but the Royal Air Force as a whole.

The use of the various squadrons of the main body of the Royal Air Force must be determined by events. We are often asked whether we have a plan for this and that eventuality. Let no one suppose that all sorts of hypotheses are not being considered by the Air Staff and by other bodies. I am not going to set up as an amateur strategist in these matters. That is not the business of the politician or the civilian. It is the Government's duty and the duty of this House to provide such an Air Force as will be adequate to the demands made upon it, and the use to which the force will be put is a matter for the professional Air Staff and the other staffs of the services who are planning, I know, for every eventuality.

Someone may say, what is the state of the Air Force? I shall give full information later as to what has been done. I think we have something to learn from the past. In the past we built up our great Imperial connections and trade under the protection of sea power with an invincible Navy. Let us learn in the new circumstances of to-day the old lessons. The Navy is no longer sufficient to protect the interests which are vital to this country; the protection in future must be under the co-operation of the two services. But if the Air Force is to fulfil its part in the new world in which we are now living it must be as powerful to discharge its obligations as the Navy was in the days of our fathers. It has been sometimes suggested, and I hope everyone will assent to it, that the Air Force should undertake many of the duties which are at present discharged by the other services. We met this suggestion in the battleship inquiry. Our conclusion on that point is that the time has not yet come for such a revolution in strategy. We were satisfied as a committee that an enemy fleet actually astride our communications on the wide seas can only be contained or dislodged by another fleet of equivalent or greater power, and in the conditions of to-day capital ships are a necessary part of the Navy. We were of the opinion that no aircraft can play the role of the capital ship.

That was our report. I have no other feelings about the report except that we acted on the best expert opinion we could obtain. I regret that it has not been possible to publish a great deal of the confidential information which was laid before us by experts, and I recognise that in consequence our report bears a somewhat meagre and thin appearance and that our general conclusions have not the advantage of the facts upon which they were formed. The Committee, however, must put up with that if the report is not so interesting as it might otherwise have been. I hope I am expressing the wishes of the committee and of the House that the report will be accepted as settling not the design but the status of the capital ship for the time being. Fresh facts may always be discovered as a result of the experiments being made, but I am sure it is not conducive to the health and wellbeing of the two services if there is to be a continuous controversy, which perhaps will never be settled absolutely until the experience of war settles it.

One word more about the liability of the capital ship to be destroyed or crippled by aircraft. I am not going to admit for a moment that the Navy has met an opponent it cannot master. In the late War we remember the anxieties of the years 1916 and 1917, when the Navy was met by the menace of the submarine, the torpedo and the mine. Any sailor in this House will stand up and support me when I say that the Navy has conquered the menace of the torpedo and the mine; they know how to grapple with them to-day. I believe the same results can be achieved by the Navy in relation to the air menace. Let anybody ask sailors who were familiar with the intensive training which went on in the Mediterranean with regard to the possibilities of danger of air attack. The practice during those weeks has produced a remarkable change in the view taken by the Navy of this danger and of the efficiency of the new weapons with which His Majesty's Navy is now provided. But the experience of war alone can prove whether this confidence is well or ill-founded. I read with a little impatience the views of those who with no experience of what the Navy can or cannot do under modern conditions express confident opinions. That practice does not commend itself to me.

Now I want to speak of the part which the land forces may play. I am aware that here there is some anxiety, perhaps born of some confusion. I have referred to the influence of the last War on our conception of any future war. In the case of most of us—I certainly am in this position—the experiences of those four years have been burnt into our memories. The contemptible little army, Kitchener's Battalions, the Territorial divisions, the scenes at the railway stations, the casualty lists eating up the manhood of the nation—we have all asked whether these experiences are to be repeated ire any future war or whether we can limit the role of the Army to garrison duties. I think most of us who remember those days would like to think that we could keep our Army at home to defend our shores, but our strategic position, if I am to be frank, does not permit us to do that. There have been occasions in our history when our contribution to some alliance has been defined—so many men, so much in subsidy. On those occasions some interest of greater or less importance was involved, and if we had lost the War, the interest would have been lost; but there was no blow at the heart of England. That was not the case in 1914, and I doubt whether it will ever be the case again.

If Great Britain is ever involved in another war, whether it be with others in the maintenance of collective security, or alone or in alliance with somebody as the result of unprovoked aggression, Great Britain can never give up until she is safe again. That means—however much we may regret it—that we shall have to make the maximum effort until the victory is complete. What is the measure of our contribution when I sneak of the maximum effort? A conflict in which we were opposed to forces armed with modern weapons and armies on a modern scale would dictate the scale of our effort. Let us remember, on the other hand, that we are not provoking or anticipating such a struggle. In numbers our Army has no relation to the size of Continental armies. We look to it primarily not to protect our frontier at home, but to defend and guard our Imperial commitments—to protect the vital points of our lines of communication, in co-operation with the Navy. There is a small force at home which must be ready to go anywhere as our Imperial interests require—Hon. Members will remember how it went recently to the Eastern Mediterranean on a, very necessary mission. That force is an absolute minimum. It is the duty of the staffs to prepare it for every eventuality and climate in which it may operate.

I would like the House to realise in this connection the same point as I made about the use of the Air Force. Very often in the House—it may be during this Debate—some alliance is proposed or a question asked as to what would happen in a certain eventuality. It is more than likely that no Minister would dare to give an answer, for an answer might offend some national sentiment abroad and it might not be conducive to the pursuit of peace. But let nobody suppose that because the hypothesis cannot be dealt with by a Minister, plans are not continually and every day being made for that and every other contingency that may arise. Foresight is to-day the major function of the Staffs. At the Staff Colleges and at the Imperial Defence College—an institution of which too few hon. Members even have heard—the habit of working together is developed and formed. Whatever may have been the tendency in the past for the Staffs of the three Services to work in watertight compartments, to-day the functions of the Army, not alone but in combination with the other Services, are a constant subject of consultation and decision.

I have said that the Army must be ready for any eventuality. It is necessary that I should leave no doubt as to my meaning. The Territorial Army in its general rôle is the second line of our land forces, though in relation to Air Defence it is, in truth, the first line. It was reconstituted after the War for Imperial Defence. It has been accepted that it will provide the means for supporting and expanding our small Regular Army, and the officers and men actually sign an agreement to serve outside this country in an emergency, providing that an Act of Parliament—let hon. Members note that—has been passed authorising the despatch of the Territorial Army outside the United Kingdom. It has been suggested that we should reserve the Territorial Army for home Defence. If hon. Members will look at the White Paper published last March, they will see that suggestions were made as to the use of the Territorial Army abroad. I feel no doubt that the men of the Territorial Army recognise to-clay that they are preparing themselves for any emergency. The better we are prepared the less likely are we to be attacked. Unreadiness is always expensive; some-times disastrous. I would like the country—at any rate this House—to realise that the measure of our readiness is largely the strength of our Territorial Forces, both in equipment and in personnel.

When I mention those subjects, I think I am justified in saying that there has been no attempt to disguise the fact that the Army, both Regular and Territorial, has its deficiencies in personnel as well as in equipment. The deficiencies in personnel receive a great deal of publicity, and conclusions are sometimes drawn from recruitment figures that there is a strange apathy in the younger generation. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment was, as I shall try to show, in error in his rather sweeping generalisation as to the backwardness of the younger generation being due in part to their suspicions about war profits. I shall show him in a moment that the younger generation is not backward when it has heard the call. It is easy for men of my age to be censorious of the younger generation. I shall resist that tendency without any difficulty. I do not pretend to analyse the minds of the younger generation, but I am clear that they have not yet been put to any test which justifies that aspersion upon their courage or upon their public spirit. Since the War there has been no clear call to them for National Defence. Our policy has been to allow our defences to run low, and that policy has produced the atmosphere in: which the younger generation have been reared. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

There has been a tendency to draw general conclusions from particular figures. Let me tell the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, that he will find no deficiencies in Naval or Air Force recruiting. There is no suggestion of any apathy there. I need not go into Naval recruiting in any detail. It is known that the number of Naval officers is being, and will have to be, increased substantially. There is no shortage of men for that Service. The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve is full in its complement of officers; it is very nearly full in its complement of ratings. The response to the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve has already been excellent. As regards men, the recruiting programme for the present financial year aims at entering some 10,000 men from the shore. This figure will provide an increase of roughly 4,000 over the number borne at the beginning of the financial year: the remainder will go to make up wastage, which is unusually heavy this year owing to so many men now serving being on very short engagements in connection with the late Mediterranean emergency. Present indications are that the number required in the Navy will be obtained in all except possibly the skilled branches of artificers and shipwrights. Recruiting of other ratings has been good for some months past.

Let me now give some figures for the Air Force to show that there also the omens are good. We should look for one test to the Air Force, not only because of its importance, but because its career is comparatively new and would reveal any lack of public spirit or enterprise. The basis of recruitment, as hon. Members know, is twofold. There is the long-service system, which offers a career for life, and there is the short-service system. The future of these men in civil life is the constant care of the Air Ministry, and their Employment Association, which finds outlets for officers, has been remarkably successful. The permanent entry from universities and schools has been increased by approximately 50 per cent. since the expansion again. As regards short-service officers, upon which the Air Force so largely depends, there are full entries for the abnormal number required. The entry of airmen pilots from the Service has been more than doubled. Let me give the figures of the applications that have been made. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment said that the youth of this country is not prepared to come forward.


May I point out that I cast no aspersions on the youth of this country. I expressly said that there were causes for which people would be ready to die if they were made clear.


I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon if I was too zealous in my argument. He appeared to me to generalise about the youth of the country on the ground that they were affected by suspicions about war profits. That cannot be true, because, so far as the Air Force and Navy are concerned, the response is admirable. I beg the hon. Member's pardon if I have in any way misrepresented him, for that was far from my intention. Let me give the figures for the Air Force. Over 2,400 pilots have been accepted for training since May, 1935: the pick of over 12,000 definite applications. During the same period about 20,000 airmen and boys have been enlisted. There were 60,000 applications for those 20,000 places. I am happy to say that the quality of these men is as satisfactory as the numbers. I do not propose to give the numbers that will be required in the future. Estimates have been made over arbitrary periods of the numbers likely to be taken in; but no shortage has yet been experienced and no shortage is expected. I will now give some particulars concerning the extension of training facilities, because I think this will give a much better indication of the expansion that is taking place than the mere recital of numbers. We often find that figures convey nothing because they have no background against which a comparison can be made. Training facilities, training camps and aerodromes are increasing in numbers, and from that we can get some idea of the expansion and the rapidity of expansion in the Air Force.

The number of flying training schools has been increased from six to eleven. The four pre-existing civil training schools managed by private firms for the training of Royal Air Force Reserve pilots have been increased to 13. They undertake the task of giving the first stage of flying training to regular pilots. The creation of these additional schools at the shortest notice was a formidable task for the firms concerned, and I would like to express the appreciation of the Air Ministry and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air for the skill and success with which they have maintained their output of trained pupils, despite the bad weather of the last year and the difficulties of newly-formed aerodrome surfaces. As regards the training of tradesmen, new facilities have been started at Halton and Cranwell. The facilities have been more than doubled and provide for 5,500 apprentices under training. At Manston the men's training establishment has been very greatly enlarged, and an additional school has been opened at Henlow. A new Armament Training School has been formed, and the armament training camps are being increased in number from three to nine. The depot at Uxbridge has been greatly enlarged to meet the heavy demand made upon it. A new depot has been opened at Orpington and for a short time it has been necessary to reduce the period allowed for the course. All that is very satisfactory.

I wish I could say the same about Army recruiting. It has been slow for two years as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has said. There may be deterrents which can be got out of the way. It is, of course, totally misleading to compare the Army figures of this country with those of foreign countries. Service in our Regular Army is a career and the conditions under which our voluntary service is carried on have no parallel abroad. The conditions for the Regular Army are receiving a thorough examination. In short I want to say that when I contemplate the Navy and the Air Force, I am not going to doubt that a plain call, with perhaps an adjustment of conditions, will get the men required. The Navy makes a traditional appeal to the people of this country and the Air Force is an adventure to the best of our youth. There is nothing wrong, I believe, with the spirit of the young generation. It is perhaps the fault of some of us older people that the call has not yet reached them.

I pass to some observations concerning the shadow scheme about which the hon. Gentleman opposite made some observations. The shadow scheme has had a great deal of publicity and it is a fortunate thing that it is not necessary for me to say anything about the personal aspect. I have already said both in public and to Lord Nuffield that his resources and experience are not going to be lost to the Government. Over and above the valuable work which he has undertaken and is already carrying out, there are developments which are known to Lord Nuffield and in which, indeed, he has already played a part. In a very short time I hope that those develop-merits will lead to definite proposals and that the matter will be clinched. Now let me state what I regard as the solid advantages of the shadow scheme. It would not be right for the House or the country to be under any misapprehension as to those advantages. In regard to one criticism, namely, that if a single link in the chain were bombed, there would be delay in the production of the whole, I would say this. In war time the Air Ministry would not accept a single-link chain. The firms would turn over the whole of their existing factories to doing aircraft work. It is true that that would entail the provision of suitable tools and jigs and a proper survey will be made as soon as possible and provision made so that should war unhappily break out there would be provision of apparatus to enable each of the six firms engaged in making engines to turn over to the manufacture not of a single part or separate parts hut of the whole engine. The House will remember that six firms are engaged in the building of engines or part of them and two firms are engaged in assembling and testing.

I myself am a layman in these matters but may I try to state the real advantages which this scheme, as I understand it, has in peace time? These factories will be manufacturing different component parts. The difficulty of procuring sound production engineers and jig and tool draughtsmen is well known to every one in the engineering trade. With this scheme, production engineers in each factory will require to specialise only on a few different components. They will have time to analyse thoroughly the operations, which can he so simplified and devised for manufacture on standard machines and can be made so fool-proof in times of peace that in times of national emergency absolutely unskilled labour could be used in increasing the mass production of those parts. Jig and tool designers in the various works will be in the happy position of having only a few components for which to design and manufacture jigs. Production will commence much quicker in each factory, as the jigs and tools required are only for a few parts and the completion will there-for be much earlier than it would be if each firm were completing the whole engine from start to finish.

It has another advantage which I would commend to the House. Larger production and larger quantities will lead to a higher production per man-hour and that will lead to a reduction in the cost of the component. The cost of the actual cutting tools will be reduced because these will be standardised for the particular component which is being made and good inspection will ensure that the sub and main assemblies are carried out without any trouble. I do not think that every hon. Member is acquainted with the high reputation which the Aircraft Inspection Department has all over the Kingdom among engineering firms. It is sufficient to say that any component parts bearing the stamp of the Aircraft Inspection Department will be easily assembled whether they are made at John o' Groats or at Land's End or any other part of the United Kingdom.


Does that mean that this method with all these advantages, is to be superseded by the other method on the outbreak of war?


If my right hon. Friend had followed me, or if I had been better in my explanation, I should have succeeded in showing that in peace time the provision of the jigs that are necessary for the construction of these several components is more easily undertaken because of the simplicity of the process. In war time the additional jigs and tools for the provision and making of the whole machines will have been prepared and in war time, or possibly even before war time, it is intended that the whole of the six manufacturing firms will go over to complete production, the apparatus having been already provided. The advantage which has been secured by the simplicity of the design in the first instance, will have already been reaped so that it will not he a question of abandoning that advantage, but rather of securing the new advantages of a different process.


Would these men who have been drawn from the simple processes of making the components be able to turn over immediately to the setting up of the entire engines?


I am informed that the training of men in the processes—always given time, of course—will proceed and that it will be possible to produce both machines and men so as to be able to turn from making the component parts to the manufacture of the whole engine. I hope the House will realise that in these suggestions I have, of course, accepted what I have been told in the shops by those who understand these matters. If any hon. Gentleman wishes to make a further study of this question he will find in the trade journal of the engineering trade called the "Engineer" a most instructive and helpful analysis of this process.


Seeing that Lord Nuffield objects to this shadow arrangement, may I ask whether the explanation which we get of it in the Press is the true explanation? Is it the case that he objects to this distribution all over the country and would prefer this to be organised in one works, and, if so, how does that work out with the fact that in his own operations, it is the shadow method on which he proceeds—that is the engines are built in Coventry but the whole assembling of his cars is done in Oxford? Is there any explanation other than that which we have received, behind that statement?


The hon. Member has great experience of the engineering trade and his observations will no doubt receive that attention from the House which they deserve.


You are not doing well at all.


May I pass briefly to the question of the production of machines? The observation is sometimes made by way of criticism that we are producing a greater variety of machines than other countries. The reason is that numbers are required in the shortest time. A firm will produce a type of its own design more rapidly and successfully than the design of another person which has been pushed upon them. In any case, the production of more than one type in a class is desirable. Otherwise, in the event of the failure of one type we should be without up-to-date aircraft in that class. This is the more necessary because, in order to take advantage of the very latest ideas, my Noble Friend the Secretary of State has put types into production before fully testing prototypes. To take a machine straight off the drawing board is to run the risk of the type breaking down and it is therefore not safe to bank upon one selected type of machine in any particular class.

May I pass now to some figures indicating the expansion of aircraft production? In April, 1935, there were 30,000 employés in the aircraft industry. Five months later there were 40,000, while nine months later, in June, 1936, there were over 58,000 people employed compared with 30,000 in April, 1935. That shows how great has been the expansion and the figure does not include a very large number of people engaged by way of sub-contracts. I wish to give the House one more fact before I leave the Air Force, as to the expansion made in the service itself. The expansion of the force is proceeding and the House knows that squadrons are continually being formed and built up to full establishment. The process of building up squadrons and forming new training units and skeleton squadrons is familiar to everybody connected with the Air Force. The number of squadrons at home, in present circumstances, to-day is 80 and that figure includes 16 auxiliary squadrons but excludes the Fleet Air Arm and, of course, it does not include the squadrons which are abroad. The requirements of expansion necessitate the keeping of a, large number of machines for training and other purposes. The programme includes a large provision for reserves. It has never been the practice to state the reserves which are being maintained to the first line strength. The number of reserves varies, naturally, but the programme includes a large provision for reserves and this will make it possible at a later stage, or, if desired on mobilisation, to increase the striking force or the weight of any initial blow.

I must make some reference, though I am not going into it in detail, to the question of equipment. When I have spoken before in these Debates I have spoken chiefly on this topic because I thought it was a subject upon which the House would naturally expect me to give all the information I could. The information which I gave was not always of a reassuring character nor was it complete, nor could it be complete. If the House is to have the full facts it would be necessary for me to prepare a tabulated statement and circulate it and then let the House form its own conclusions. This afternoon I am not proposing to make any such statement. So many shells, so many guns, so many bombs, so many rifles would convey very little to the House. What I propose to say is that at this moment, while some supplies are already adequate or are being produced in satisfactory quantities, there are others of which the production has not yet begun, and others again in which the production, although it has begun, will not come into what I may call the full tide of construction until the early or middle months of next year. Often we have had to face the fact that designs have not yet been settled. The years have passed in the atmosphere of the 10-year rule and the Disarmament Conference, and design and trial have not been going on. Whatever I or anybody else could do, the utmost expedition which is being devoted to the completion of design and the testing of these machines will not permit us to organise supply on the basis of any design which has not yet been thoroughly tested and proved. I am sure the House will recognise that. This is particularly a matter in which you cannot recover "the years that the locust bath eaten." We have to settle the designs, we have to test them, we have to run the machines on the ground and in the air, and until the design has been settled, although the utmost of expedition is being used, it is impossible in these cases to go into production.

I share entirely, if I may say so at this stage, the anxiety which is felt by many as the result of what I have now broadly stated without going into detail. The Amendment on the Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend and others no doubt represents their sincere anxiety, and all I would say is that they are largely pushing at an open door. I shall not be wrong, I suppose, if I assume that the Amendment is intended to suggest the establishment of a Ministry of Munitions. May I deal with this very shortly? I will try to compress it as far as ever I can. There was, in the years following the War, a demand for such a Ministry. It was rejected by a committee presided over by the late Lord Melchett and then by Lord Weir. The Service Departments have, however, been working under an organisation which largely does the work of a Ministry of Munitions. I refer to what Sir Erie Geddes proposed to the Royal Commission. He said he had envisaged something of this sort: a council acting under the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose function it would be to plan and organise, to catalogue resources, and so on.

That process has been undertaken and is being undertaken. The House would be surprised at the long catalogue of undertakings that are not now engaged in war production which would be available in war-time and which are allocated to particular Services or for particular needs of the Services. The responsibility for this now rests upon myself, as Chairman of the Principal Supply Officers Committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence. We estimate, or they estimate, for the materials and labour involved, and they allocate the ascertained capacity between the various Services. The capacity falls broadly into two classes. There are the undertakings which are producing munitions required in war and the firms that are now engaged upon peace production which will one day be wanted perhaps for war production. As the programme develops, it is the policy of the Government to extend the war potential by this examination and allocation of the capacity of all the firms that will be needed in the event of war.

It may be suggested that although these arrangements go a long way, they do not go far enough, and I may perhaps attempt to put concisely the view which I hold very strongly. At present the demands of the Government largely wait on the supply of, first, sufficiently skilled labour, and, secondly, of those implements of modern engineering of which I have so often spoken—machine tools, jigs and gauges. The production itself of these implements depends, of course, on the supply of skilled labour. I am satisfied that the training of men and apprentices on the job, as they say, is proceeding on a scale which may be graphically described as an ascending curve. A nucleus of skilled men is training the new entry, and the supply is in this way being steadily created.

To attempt to arrest the ordinary industries of the country in order to transfer the key or skilled men for munition production would, in my submission to the House, be wrong from every point of view at this stage. The existing supply of machinery is at full stretch, but the fundamental change of organisation which would be involved in the establishment of an executive Ministry of Supply with compulsory powers would, in my judgment, involve so much delay and uncertainty that the Government could not contemplate it except on the most cogent proof of its necessity. The Government have considered it, but they have not found that cogent proof. This is not a final decision. It is a possibility that must be reviewed over and over again, and will no doubt be reviewed in the course of the next few weeks.

What we have done is not only to set up a Supply organisation. We have recently approved of wide changes in the Supply machine of the War Office, the effect of which is to combine the whole executive responsibility for Supply in the hands of Sir Harold Brown, as a member of the Army Council, with a reorganised Supply Department under him. This is in effect the nucleus of a Ministry of Supply in the War Office, which is so largely responsible for the stores for the other Departments as well as for itself. I only forbear from further examining this proposal because of the time which I have already occupied, and I only desire to say this further on this question of the Ministry of Munitions: The House will realise that the financial strain which is being placed upon this country is a stupendous one. If we were to interrupt and break down the process of the industry of peace-time, we should run the risk of destroying the financial fabric of the nation. It would be difficult to stop when once you had begun to turn this country into one vast munitions-producing camp. I agree that the responsibility upon the Government, and in a minor degree upon myself, is a very heavy one in deciding what the proper course is, but I believe that the House will be wise, taking the long view, to think that in the present conditions it is right to proceed as we are and to attempt as far as possible to satisfy the needs of the country without stopping that export trade upon which the financial position of this country depends. And remember that we depend upon the resources of finance for the successful fighting of a war as much as upon the production of munitions.

I have two observations to make in conclusion. The first is that I should like to exorcise, if I could, the spirit that pervades so much that is being written at the present time about a war and Great Britain's fate in it. I hear people talking about a knock-out blow, about the necessity for 12 or 15 months' supply of wheat, and about what an air attack is going to do. People seem to think that our Air Force and our Navy are going to sit passively and helplessly by and see Great Britain enduring the rigours of a siege or generally being bombed out of existence. We have a right to see that the Government fulfil the task that they have to face. By all means spur on the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. Get a new one if it will facilitate or expedite the progress which we all desire. All that is perfectly consistent, however, with the temper that only thinks in terms of victory. My right hon. Friend below the Gangway will recognise some words which I quote: Always at the outset the strength of the enemy had seemed overwhelming: always the struggle had been prolonged through many years and across awful hazards; always the victory had at last been won. I believe that to be characteristic of the spirit of the British nation to-day. My other observation follows on the same lines. Here we are, as I have already stated, still an island, in fact with nearly all the military advantages of an island. It is true that the aeroplane has built a series of bridges across the dividing seas. But when all has been said and done we have a long start over anyone ill advised enough to meddle with our freedom. If we care to use our great resources, I cannot see that there is any reason why that freedom should ever be in jeopardy.

5.42 p.m.


I will not enter into any very great examination of the report of the Royal Commission on Armaments. T will only say that the report itself, on the question of the nationalisation of armaments, came to a negative conclusion, and on other questions it came to a positive conclusion. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman shows that even on the questions on which it came to a positive conclusion, the Government are going to take a negative conclusion, so that his speech indicates that practically nothing will be left of any of the more important recommendations of the Commission. The Commission even condemns the conception of his office which the right hon. Gentleman has just enunciated. He has just said that it should be purely advisory, but the Royal Commission distinctly says that there should be a Minister of Supply with executive power over manufacture, prices, contracts, and the import of armaments from abroad. It says that prices should be taken out of the hands of the Defence Departments, and it says, moreover, that we must now begin to contemplate the conscription of all the industrial plants on the day that war breaks out, so that you ought now to be preparing a war book of industry, and it is clear that if these functions were going to be carried out, an absolutely separate Ministry of Supply would become inevitable.

The right hon. Gentleman has shown that the Government are not prepared to create a Minister of Supply as distinct from a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, at any rate at the moment. I think that decision is a mistake, and one of the reasons which impresses itself more and more upon me as I have listened to these Debates—and I have listened to all of them—is this: I do not believe that it is possible for any one human being to control this problem of supply and at the same time really grapple with these immensely complicated problems of the strategic co-ordination of defence. Indeed, I would go further and say that I do not believe that the kind of mind which deals successfully with supply is the kind of mind which is happy or adapted to the problems of the strategic co-ordination of defence. They are two different mentalities. One mentality is that of a pushing, driving Minister who likes to get things done day by day. The other is the more speculative mentality which likes to think of the far-reaching effects of decisions which will not eventuate for years ahead. My own impression is that the right hon. Gentleman is much happier as a Minister of Supply, for the greater part of his speech showed that in the problems of the co-ordination of defence he keeps his present comfortable and secure position only because he has not taken any decisions which are resented by any of the defence departments.

The right hon. Gentleman devoted a section of his speech to the shadow scheme, about which the House did not know a word until the controversy with Lord Nuffield broke out. It is Lord Nuffield's outburst which has enabled us to deliberate on this subject. I am bound to say, after having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, that I still feel that he has not explained two of the crucial difficulties which have been laid bare. Let me take the explanation which he gave of the purposes of the shadow scheme. He explained that we were to proceed immediately on what I will call the six unit plan, by which the aeroplane is to be divided up into six component parts and separate factories will make the different parts. Then he went on to say that if by any chance we have to face the emergency of war, we should immediately revert to a plan by which the six unit scheme would be swept away and complete aeroplanes would be made in each factory.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that the whole principle of the shadow scheme—I am not talking at the moment of the other scheme of complete aeroplanes, but of the shadow scheme—is that it shall create a war potential. The article in the "Engineer," to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, described, how as soon as these factories were working, they were to be practically closed and the machinery covered with grease to wait for the emergency. The right hon. Gentleman's explanation up to the moment is that we are to have these factories with their machinery covered with grease, each factory making only one part and that as soon as an emergency occurs the shadow scheme is to be broken and a new set of factories with new equipment for making complete aeroplanes is to be erected. I quite see that there must be an explanation, but no one can challenge me when I say that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken the explanation any further than the dilemma I have just explained.

There is another feature of this shadow scheme which has created some alarm to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer. The decision has been taken to associate these shadow factories with six great motor firms, and I understand that these firms are mainly concentrated in one town, namely, Coventry. If there were by any chance a war and Coventry were wiped out, the position about which we must make some inquiry must arise. This question was raised the other day at Question Time, and the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for Air said that, after all, Coventry was not so very vulnerable. I should say that five or six years hence everywhere in England will be probably quite vulnerable. Therefore, the only security is to have the factories dispersed throughout the country. That suggests to me that before it is too late the Minister of Defence ought to see that instead of linking the shadow scheme to motor car factories, the alternative scheme which has been suggested of linking them up to aeroplane factories, which are dispersed over the country, is explored.

I now come to the part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which he regarded as specially important, a part which is not easy to debate, in which he dealt with the report on the power of the battleship to defend itself against aircraft. He has come to the conclusion in the Committee over which he presides that the battleship is well able to protect itself against hostile aircraft, even, I gather—and I was pleased to hear the opinion—in narrow seas like the Mediterranean, where the aircraft attacks from bases on the shore. As a matter of fact, however, the main anxiety has never been as to whether a battleship can protect itself against the air. The main anxiety has always been whether it can protect a merchant fleet which has to be convoyed, and, in particular, as to whether it can protect naval bases and mercantile ports, on which we depend for our supplies of food and raw materials. It happens that a very interesting discussion on this point, a discussion which was almost official, was given to the public only a fortnight ago by the late Organising Manager of Convoy during the War, Admiral Sir Eldon Manisty, who gives his view from his experience during the War.

The right hon. Gentleman did call attention to the necessity of defending bases, but Admiral Sir Eldon Manisty points out that the bases are not the main problem because there are a good many of them and we can select the one which is furthest from any aircraft. What he points out is that the problem which he obviously views with the greatest alarm, and which he does not think has been met, is the problem of the mercantile arm. Apart from protecting it, it is obvious that we shall have to contemplate the diversion of our merchant fleet to the ports of the West of England. Admiral Sir Eldon Manisty points out that we cannot do that without immense preparations. Ports are highly specialised, he points out, and we cannot divert ships in order to unload them at ports unless by immense preparation years beforehand we have prepared them to take the particular class of commodities that will be carried. No such preparations have been made on the scale that he described.

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I will deal with that point later.


I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will also deal with the other point made by the Admiral, that even if we get our food to the ports, the unfortunate position of this country is such that all our roads and railways radiate from London, and that we shall need entirely to re-adapt them if we are to contemplate feeding the country and supplying it with raw materials from new ports all along the West coast. We shall have to re-adapt our road and rail system for that purpose. He says, indeed, that he believes that the re-adaptation of our road and rail system is more important to the safety of this country than the actual protection of the merchant ships at sea by the Navy.

This leads me again to the right hon. Gentleman's conception of his office. I am sure that he will find this class of problem difficult to solve so long as he is willing to depend solely upon the secretariat of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose failure to find a solution in the past is really the reason for the creation of the right hon. Gentleman's office. The secretariat on which he depends is an entirely Service secretariat. The essential problems are problems of the civil population, and the experience of the last War shows clearly that, with the best intentions in the world, the Service mind does not adapt itself quickly and readily to the problems of the un-uniformed population. I have said that after having listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech it appeared to me that he was avoiding difficulties on questions of co-ordination and strategy because he never really arrived at any unpopular conclusions. What has his committee on vulnerability done? Perhaps it is right, but it is very fortunate for the comfort of all concerned that it has reached the decision to maintain the status quo and to follow the line of least resistance. The Navy is to go on just as was contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman has now told us that the Army is to go on as would be desired by those who control it. The Air Force is to go on as contemplated, supply is to go on as contemplated, and everything is to go on without very much difference to the strategic results which might be made by any decision which the right hon. Gentleman has taken.


Only if war breaks out.


I cannot convince myself that it is all quite as easy as that. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about making the maximum effort, but I believe the history of countries faced with war in the past has been that they often come to disaster by trying to make the maximum effort in every direction instead of selecting those to which they were adapted. What is required now is a discussion of the proper role and the proper degree of expenditure which should be allotted to the different Services, and if you are really going to discuss this question you may find yourself faced with a clash of opinion between the right hon. Gentleman and the Ministers in charge of those Services. There is nothing in his Department, nothing in his office, which will enable him to deal with that clash of opinion any more successfully than the Committee of Imperial Defence has dealt with it in the past.

I notice that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is going to wind up, has already made a reply to that line of argument. He expressed great satisfaction with the Committee of Imperial Defence, and explained how it had laid the foundations of a common understanding between the Services. As a matter of fact, his picture of the work of the Committee of Imperial Defence is entirely contradicted by Lord Trenchard, who was Chairman of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee, and who distinctly stated that the Committee of Imperial Defence and the Chiefs of Staffs Committee never came to any decision upon any difficult point, because whenever there was any question on which the three Services did not agree unanimity was reached by consenting to give them all they wanted. And the right hon. Gentleman is reaching unanimity. He is having a comfortable and easy time because he has not made enemies of any of the Services. I venture to say that if he finds himself in a, clash with any of the Ministers his powers will not be sufficient to deal with the situation, nor will his staff be in a position to deal with it.

I would make another point on that subject. In these matters, if there is a clash between the Minister for the Coordination of Defence and one of the Service Ministers it will eventually come before the Cabinet, and then I am quite sure that the Minister who has no staff except that which is provided for him by the Services, including the Service with which he is in conflict, will find himself at a great disadvantage when contending with a Minister who has all the brains of a properly organised staff behind him.

There is only one further point to which I would call the attention of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. I believe that there was a widely held opinion, especially in the Debates on the Army Estimates, that the time has arrived for a re-examination of the Cardwell system, and I do not think the Secretary of State for War is entitled to go about complaining about the position of recruiting if the Departments are not willing to make the mental effort to deal with the Cardwell system, which creates in itself one of the difficulties of finding recruits. The Cardwell system creates an army for the defence of the Indian frontier and then, as a kind of by-product, it leaves a force at home to act as an expeditionary force. That was the arrangement entered into 60 years ago, when there was no notion that we were contemplating entering upon a war of the scale of the late European War. In the last Debate on the Army Estimates I noticed that every speaker with military experience—or a great many of them, almost all of them—referred to the Cardwell system, and that there was not one of them who did not say that it ought to be re-examined and, probably, most profoundly revised. The Secretary of State for War suggested that he was going to begin an inquiry. I have heard nothing about it since. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has said that his function is to increase the tempo of the Departments. Here is some work.

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Duff Cooper)

The inquiry is going on.


I hope the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence will increase its tempo. It is rather an intricate subject and I do not want to spend time on it, but the Secretary of State for War will realise that the whole of his criticism about recruiting is bound up with the Cardwell system, because under that system, with its period of seven years' service, most of those years are spent in India, a most unpopular and uncomfortable place in the eyes of the soldier. It is convenient to the system, but very inconvenient and unfair to a young man, who, at the end of his seven years, finds himself with no career in the Army and no career in civilian life.

The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about the air. The doctrine of the Air Ministry hitherto has been that there is no real defence against air attack, and that only an offensive equal in strength to that which is directed against us could be any reply. In a previous Debate I pointed out that there are a number of young scientific minds now on the committees of the Air Ministry who had come to the conclusion that the Air Ministry had been thoroughly defeatist and pessimistic upon this subject, and that although you could not prevent bombers from getting through what you could do was to inflict upon them such losses that bombing squadrons would become, probably, "suicide clubs" and the bombers would eventually cease to come, as was the case in the last war. I gather from what the right hon. Gentleman said that the work and the opinion of these scientific minds are now beginning to have their effect on the Air Ministry, but I refer to this subject because I am not sure that they are yet being taken into sufficient account. Professor Lindemann is one of the scientists who has been on these committees. Only a fortnight ago he gave his experience in these words: Even to-day, when the Air Ministry has under pressure consented to investigate this supremely important question"— the defence of London— it seems to be regarded as a side-show with which a few scientists are allowed to occupy their spare time, provided it keeps them quiet. That is rather a different picture from the one which the right hon. Gentleman gave the House of the development of scientific methods of air defence, and I call attention to it because in a previous Debate he rather indicated that he did not consider the Air Ministry as coming within his Department as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, whereas in my opinion the question of the protection of this country by the Air Force, the Navy and the Army involves almost the most supreme problem in the co-ordination of defence with which the right hon. Gentleman is faced.

6.10 p.m.


The question which we are discussing this afternoon is, in the judgment of all of us, I think, incomparably the greatest we have to discuss at the present time, namely, whether the rearmament and rehabilitation of the defences of this country is proceeding with all due celerity. I should like to say that in my judgment the House this afternoon has addressed itself to this question with a due sense of restraint and the community feeling of a committee of public safety, which does it high honour; and if I may do it without impertinence or effusiveness I should like to pay a tribute to the speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). It was a speech not of a party character but something very much higher, and I should like to say to him, and through you, Mr. Speaker, to those outside, that the comparatively thin attendance in the House this afternoon certainly does not represent the views of the public outside on these matters. The House of Commons may show a lack of attention to these matters and say, "What do they matter compared with all the domestic questions in which we are interested, compared with matters concerning the personal position of the Prime Minister? ", but that does not reflect the feeling of the people outside.


This is most disrespectful.


Nothing can be disrespectful which brings, as the speech of the right hon. Gentleman has done, to the notice of the people of this country the gravity of these problems. Nor is this a question which affects only this country. The Foreign Secretary, with the assent, I think, of almost everyone in the House, certainly of the Opposition, said in a speech a short time ago—I am paraphrasing his words—that it was not merely a British but almost a European, almost a world question, of infinite importance, whether Great Britain and the, British Empire will be ready, in what many believe will be the fateful year 1937, to take the strain, a readiness which may mean the preservation of peace. To put it less tortuously, it is on the strength of Great Britain in the fateful year 1937 on which the peace of Europe may depend. If Great Britain is strong and ready to carry out her obligations war may be prevented—and will be prevented. In these circumstances, in view of the gravity of the situation, no soothing syrup of Ministerial generalities like "We are getting on" will answer.

I do not want to make any attack on my right hon. Friend. One of the difficulties of the situation in which those of us are placed who feel more deeply on this question than we have felt on any question for years, is that members of the Government are our right hon. Friends in more than merely the political sense, but I should not be doing my duty and expressing the truth as I see it if I did not make some observation about the right hon. Gentleman's speech and the attitude of the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, to this whole question of Defence. May I say, in passing, that on a previous occasion when I ventured to criticise the Prime Minister and he happened to leave the House in the middle of my speech a reference was made to that fact in certain quarters of the Press, but the right hon. Gentleman had been good enough to inform me that it might not be possible for him to be present throughout the Debate for reasons which were perfectly conclusive.

We had from the right hon. Gentleman some admirable truisms of so simple and precise a nature that the most uninstructed audience outside would be able to understand them. We were told, for example, that war was not inevitable. We have always heard that in this House, and such statements were cheered. He also said that there was nothing much wrong with the youth of the country. Things of that kind, with which we are all in the most complete agreement, we have heard many times. I must say that I do not think that my right hon. Friend began to get near the heart of the problem which we are discussing this afternoon. He never even approached it. One statement which he made was not one of those truisms, or rather, was not a statement which we have been accustomed to hear. It was of a rather curious character. I do not want to attempt to analyse it, because this is not a foreign affairs Debate, but I think that tomorrow, when the newspapers are opened, readers in Europe may be rather surprised. He said that, in his opinion, the defence of this country was about the only standard which this country would support. [Interruption.] I understood him to say that it might well be that the defence of this country would be the only standard which this country would support.


And our Imperial interests.


And our Imperial interests.


My right hon. Friend must not take one sentence out of its context. I think he will find that I had already said that Defence included, in its wider aspect, the obligations that might result from undertakings to discourage and prevent war.


I dare say that my right hon. Friend did say so. He is far too experienced a Cabinet Minister to fall into the error of making a statement that might receive support in some quarters but would be a dangerous thing to go out to the world, especially after the speech of the Foreign Secretary. To say that the only cause for which the people of this country would be prepared to fight would be their own interests, would be a very dangerous thing to go out to the world. It has not hitherto been the policy of this country, either of Great Britain or of the Dominions, and I am very glad that it has been made clear by my right hon. Friend that I mistook the context in which he used it.

The points that we have to discuss in this Debate are: Are you keeping pace with the requirements of the situation necessitated by Continental European increase in armament? That is the first question. The second question is: Are you doing all you might do, or only what it is comparatively easy to do without upsetting anybody's feelings or causing political difficulty among a population that is notoriously averse to drastic measures in peace time? My right hon. Friend quoted—if I may go into a parenthesis—a very eloquent passage from one of the books of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in which he referred to the fact that we always started badly, but eventually won. That was a rather terrible admission to make. In other words—this applies to every part of the House, and as much to the benches opposite as to these—those of us who were in the trenches in the early days of the War were having to pay for the failures of this House.


And later on.


And later on, too. That implies that there is one common feeling among all of us who were in the War, a feeling of resentment that that should have been, and a feeling that, in the next war, whatever it means to the political position of anybody, from the Prime Minister downwards, we will try to prevent it happening again. When the life of the man in the trenches depends upon adequate preparations, the reputation of no Minister is worth that of a fly on the ceiling. It is therefore the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to see that it does not happen. Let him remember that, in the next war, which he himself admits may be of a very different character when it is fought, we might not be able to afford the time factor which we have always had hitherto.

I want to be perfectly fair. No unbiased person should deny the difficulties of the Government. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend when he says, as he did, most emphatically, that there is need to avoid panic or upsetting either business confidence or the export trade, if possible. There, again, I found it a little hard to follow exactly what his views were. He told us in one part of his speech that it will be impossible, I understand, to devote the whole of the resources of the country to the needs of the munitions situation without so upsetting our export trade that it will be difficult to find the money, and in the early part of his speech he said that it was extremely difficult now, at this time, to avoid upsetting industry. Both those facts are in a sense rather contradictions, and make the creation of a Ministry of Supply all the more necessary. It is the greatest argument that could possibly be brought forward in its favour.

There is another difficulty in which the Government are, and which all their critics should recognise if they would be fair. It is the need to avoid giving to possible ill-wishers of our land information which might be harmful to us, by disclosing the details of our defence. At the same time, it is easy to fall into the opposite error, very easy. I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), in a speech which he made before the end of the Parliament of 1929, referring to the characteristics of different Parliaments. Most, Parliaments have a characteristic. They are different, that is to say, one from the other. I should say that the characteristic of the House elected last year was rather like that of a comfortable middle-aged club, the majority of whose members think it rather bad form to criticise the committee, and especially the deservedly popular chairman, who has been there so long that he has become almost an institution. They are inclined to argue that although he does make mistakes, one ought to forgive hint because of his past services. So they look upon those minority members of the club who are not wholly satisfied with the conduct of affairs as self-seekers, merely anxious to be on the committee themselves. I consider that that is not the right view to take of our responsibilities to-day. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence rather falls into this particular error which I have been describing, when he is referring to speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping. One almost expects him to use the words of the Brothers Western's famous song, "Play the game, you cads," when cads like myself stand up and criticise, as though it were not quite cricket to do so. That is quite a novel idea in our proceedings. It has grown very much since the War.

I remember a phrase once used by Lord Balfour when he was a comparatively young man and was attacked for what were described as constant personal attacks upon the then Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone. I can only paraphrase it, because I have not it with me. The present Prime Minister is not the first who has been regarded as the subject of constant personal attack. Lord Balfour made a reply like this, in regard to personal attack: "The right hon. Gentleman may be an ornament to this House and the country. He may have made a very considerable contribution to literature. He may be an excellent husband and father and he may be a man whom we are all delighted to honour; but if he fails to fulfil, as we think he should fulfil, his high function, it is our melancholy duty to tell him so." It is not a question of personal popularity, and the tendency to suggest that criticism of the Prime Minister, or of any individual Minister, is a personal attack upon him, is a deplorable one and, if persisted in, would result in the ending of Democracy and great damage to our institutions.

The Prime Minister must carry a heavy load of praise or blame for the success or failure of the scheme. Let it be noted that he is not only Prime Minister of Great Britain but the head of the administration of the central State of the greatest confederation of Democracies in the world. He is also the head of a confederation of States which is, at one and the same time, the richest, the most prosperous and, in many respects, the most vulnerable that the world has ever seen. It goes much further. As chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose very name is significant of world-wide responsibility, he has a responsibility for the defence of the country such as no other man could have. No one in such a position could divest himself of his responsibility, and successfully plead that the vast burden of his office in other directions prevents him from attending to it, unless he is prepared so to alter the machinery of government as to make one Minister responsible. Therefore, he is bound to come into it.

Much has been done, as would be agreed by those who are critics of the Government in this respect, but a vast amount still remains to be done, including the creation of a Ministry of Supply, to which I shall not refer again. In regard to aeroplanes, there is considerable disquiet in the country as to the numbers for immediate or reserve use, and the method of supplying them. I appreciate the difficulty of my right hon. Friend and I do not want to add to it by pressing him to give facts and figures on that point, but I tell him that I hope he will find some means, without disclosing information which should not be disclosed, to alleviate the very real anxiety which is felt on this subject. We are told, for example, of an expansion of the Air Force, but expansion by itself of the personnel is not of much value unless there are more machines. We hear most disturbing rumours. My right hon. Friend does not require us to indicate the nature of them. Could he tell me the number of machines for training, the progress in producing aeroplanes and the number of squadrons?

We are told that the programme is vastly behindhand, but my right hon. Friend did not give any indication in his speech whether that is so. Maybe he did not think it right to do so; but if the programme is not behindhand, he would surely have come down to report to the House that, since the Debate last summer, so far from the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping being correct and so far from the programme being more and more behind-hand, we are more and more catching up. I hope that the First Lord of the Admiralty may be able to say a word about that to-night. I have nothing to say, so far as the Navy is concerned. It is with the Air Force and the Army that we are concerned. I must refer to one other remark of the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence. He made a most significant and almost sinister statement, when he said that we cannot make up for lost time.

Now I would say a few sentences about the Army. To-day, as I understand, the Minister for Co-ordination has definitely come down on the side of an expeditionary force. That is a very important statement. If it is necessary to have that fighting force, as opposed to an armed police force, the present position is gloomy in the extreme; it can hardly have been gloomier during the whole course of our military history. Compare the situation with the years before the War. Even then we were told by our allies in the War that our contribution was not sufficient. Compare the magnificent corps that we had at Aldershot with what we have to-day. Again I feel myself curtailed, almost obfuscated, by the fact that it is not really in the public interest to state the full weaknesses of the situation, but I would ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to what has happened in Palestine, where we had to call up the reserves in order to send out an expedition.

There appears to be a complete lack of unanimity among leading military opinion as to the exact scope and nature of mechanisation. Surely, that is a most serious situation. How long are we to wait until the Government come down on the one side or the other? In the meantime, some of the units where mechanisation has been decided upon, like the Tank Corps, have been the subject of considerable criticism—not the personnel, not the way in which they are trained, but the type of machines—by the military correspondents of more than one newspaper. I do not want to say anything unfriendly to quarters which are friendly to me and to which I sometimes contribute, but I must draw a distinction between the spirit of complacency displayed by the leading articles in, in particular, two leading Government newspapers and the articles written by their military correspondents. The leading articles say that it is only panicky people, or people who have some personal axe to grind, that seem to be concerned about these matters, and that everything is going on well; but, on the other hand, the articles by the military correspondents show a spirit of real perturbation. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is doing all that is possible, but it is not a very large amount, and it is obvious that a very large amount still requires to be done.

On the question of adequate equipment for the Territorials, what has been said to me by three different Territorial colonels within the last few weeks supports what was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He referred to the spirit of the youth of the country. I do not think there is much wrong with it, but I do not know why men join the Territorials when I think of all the difficulties —when I think of the lack of equipment and of the slowness in providing it. I say that with great hesitation, because I know that I may be laying myself open to the charge of attempting to discourage people from joining the Territorials, but it would not be a just charge to make, for I have been a member of a Territorial association for 20 years, and have, like others, been doing everything I can to encourage people to join.

It is far more than any question of pacifist propaganda. One great factor which deters men from joining the Army is the question of pay. What are the Government doing? What is the Prime Minister doing, as Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence? What is the Committee of Imperial Defence itself doing? I believe that, if you were to ask any general in the Army, whether occupying a big or a small position, if you were to ask any colonel, or anyone else, they would tell you that the low pay is one of the causes of the lack of recruits. The Cardwell system is another. My right hon. Friend casually stated, in an aside across the Table, that an inquiry is going on at this moment. What is its nature? An expert inquiry into the whole question of recruiting ought to be the subject of a Royal Commission. There are dozens of facts which have never been brought out. I can assure the Prime Minister and others that something more is wanted than a mere appeal to the patriotism of young men, without saying that these questions are being gone into to see where the rub is—to see whether it is the case that it is difficult for men to join the Army if it means four of five years in India, if they are prevented, except in certain circumstances, from being able to marry, if it means leaving their homes and coming back without being fitted into India.

The right hon. Gentleman has said that it could be made into a career, but, of course, that has not been done. The reason why men join the Navy or the Air Force is that it is a career. We hear Ministers saying, as if they had made a great discovery, that the young men of this country are patriotic enough, but the complaint that we have is that they do not go into the real causes. As regards the reserves, I am convinced, as an old member of the Territorials, who joined in 1901 and holds the Territorial Decoration, that one thing that has stood in the way of Territorial recruiting is the calamitous failure of the predecessors of the present Secretary of State for War —my right hon. Friend himself is completely absolved from blame—to make it abundantly clear that, if and when war comes and the Territorials are called up, men will serve in their own units and in no other unit. There is a fear among them that, owing to there being no proper reserves, they will be called upon in the first few months to make up the strength of the Regular Army. That is the question that ought to be dealt with in ministerial speeches. That fear should be done away with if possible, and it should be made plain that that will not be the case. My own association and many others have asked questions on this subject, but have found it very difficult to get an answer.

Finally, I would make an appeal to the Prime Minister. He has the power, as has no other man in public life in our time, to make an appeal to the British people to make the adequate defence of our own liberty, and that of the Empire and countries outside the Empire, a sacred trust and duty—the personal concern of everyone. I would point out that this is a matter in which every one of us is concerned, no matter in what quarter of the House we may sit. Never has liberty of expression of the right of every nation, and the individuals in each nation, to live their own lives, been in greater potential, if not actual, danger than it is in to-day. In all my parliamentary experience of 30 years I have never seen a more dangerous situation from that point of view than to-day, when the leaders of vast armed, trained and regimented populations are telling the world, not in moments of anger, but as a matter of everyday practice, what they would and could do if they wished. Yet, if one thing is certain, it is that, if Britain and the Empre be peaceful and conciliatory, and at the same time prepared in the last resort to defend alike her rights and her obligations, the vast catastrophe which so many fear will not occur. But I claim that to attain that end the British people need to be impregnated and imbued with a spirit of determination which is still lacking, though it is beginning to be apparent. It is the Government, and, above all, the Prime Minister who can put that spirit into the nation. People talk about giving a lead. Here is a matter in which a lead should be given. I would have him make an appeal on a far higher plane and of a far more extensive character than has yet been made either by the Government or by the Prime Minister.

6.40 p.m.


I propose to alter the lines on which I intended to start my speech to-day, after the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). After that speech it will not be necessary for me to say very much against the Minister for Co-ordination, as he is termed, but I must say that I am entirely disappointed with the Minister. I think that the Prime Minister has made a great mistake here —that the Minister whom he has selected for co-ordination is not fit for that job. I listened to him the last time he made a speech on this matter, in which I am greatly interested, because, as I told the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he was Minister of Munitions during the last War, one engineer is worth a dozen lawyers. I want to say the same to this House to-night, and I would include, not only lawyers, but politicians. It is the engineer that you have to deal with here.

I raised the matter with the Minister for Co-ordination on the last occasion, and drew his attention to the wages that are paid now to the engineers on whom he is going to depend—the engineers who have to work to the thousandth part of an inch, the engineers who make it possible for Lord Nuffield to carry out the system which he objects to the Government carrying out, that is to say, the manufacturing of parts in one part of the country and assembling those parts in another part of the country to an accuracy of a thousandth part of an inch. That is no new thing; we have had to do it all along. Beardmores at Parkhead manufacture breech mechanisms which have to be fitted on to guns all over the world, and they must fit to the thousandth part of an inch. That is why I asked the Minister again to give an explanation, but evidently he did not grasp the point, and simply evaded it. The whole House saw the point that I was raising, but evidently the right hon. Gentleman did not see it. My reason for raising it at this juncture is that I think it is better that it should be raised now, instead of having all the trouble which went on during the War, and which was not settled until well on in the War.

I pointed out to the Minister that he is dealing with the most important thing that has to be dealt with in this country, namely, human flesh and blood—the workers who have to work to the accuracy I have mentioned. You have only to have to work to that degree of accuracy to understand the strain that is on those men. I told the Minister then that the wage paid to them was £3 1s. 1½d., and he denied it. That is the wage paid, not only in Scotland, but in England, and when we were discussing it the employers of labour offered those engineers an increase in wages of ¼d. an hour. We are told that there is no suspicion abroad, but difficulty is being found in getting men to come up to this standard; there is difficulty in rousing men's enthusiasm and patriotism. Certainly there is suspicion; certainly the workers are suspicious of what is going on; they know perfectly well what happened during the last War. They know that individuals made fortunes, that their shares went bounding up. The Prime Minister himself, and Lord Swinton, when he was promoted to be Secretary of State for Air, assured this House, and gave us all the pledges that a man could give, and we pressed him and pressed him in order to try to tie him down, that there would be no individuals who would make money out of this situation. They are making it. I need not mention names but the shares of those who employ the men and women whom I represent have gone up from 6s. 6d. to 38s. 9d. Then you are astonished at the workers not taking all the interest that they might take. I said last time that I would see that the engineers' wages were made in keeping with the tremendous expenditure of energy that they have to make in order to get a decent living.

Another point that was touched on by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was the lack of skilled labour. Again, I have to deny the statement. There is no scarcity of skilled labour. It is true that the skilled labour that they desire is not in a particular place, but there is no shortage of skilled labour in the country. There is no country in the world to-day that has more highly skilled engineers than we have. Our general secretary, Fred Smith, has issued a statement in this month's "Journal of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers" that we have 8,000 unemployed. They are men with families, who are in different localities, and they form their associations in those localities. They are patriotic, not only to their country, but to the locality in which they live and in which they were born. All their associations are there. They are as capable as the best Cabinet Ministers. I have known Cabinet Ministers for years, and they are no more outstanding than the engineers that I am speaking for. It is difficult to get these men to leave their locality and go into another. They cannot uproot themselves. That is one of the problems. Another is the smallness of the wages. The labour can be supplied if the chiefs of the three organisations would go and consult the workers, as they have been consulting the employers during the week-end. If they think they are going to do as they like with the workers, I shall have something to say about it, and so will the workers themselves. They might just as well consult the trade union officials as the employers and managers. The managerial fraternity are no better than we are. I have two sons who are managers.

This is a serious business. The men in the workshop who produce these aeroplane engines and machines know perfectly well that they are as capable as Cabinet Ministers. We are living in a peculiar age—a democratic age. The workers now know that those who would have been regarded as supermen in the old days are just ordinary. They get large salaries and the workers get a mere pittance and they feel that they are not being treated as they ought to be, and never before was the worker so conscious of his power. We have done our very best to implant a dignity in the worker's mind, and the idea that Jack is as good as his master. I hope those in control will not take this matter as lightly as they have done up to now. They have ignored the most essential item in the whole of their programme, and in my opinion the finest raw material there is in the country—the British worker.

The Debate started at another angle altogether, and I want to say a word on that. The contributions of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) to our Debates are always extra good. He always makes a good, clear, reasoned speech. He evidently agrees with our idea of nationalisation. It is four years ago since I raised here the question of the nationalisation of the making of armaments. This is something that I know about. I am going to speak about the firm that I have been in, and it is rotten ripe for nationalization— Beardmores. The case put up against nationalisation is that you would not get the best results. In building up his mighty firm, where did Beardmore get his ideas? Far be it from me to belittle him in any way, but the 7-inch and 10-inch gun was developed at Woolwich at the expense of the Government. By the time Beardmores came to the making of guns, they had gone up to 12 and 16 inches. Woolwich had altered the machines to suit that great development. Beardmore put down an arsenal in Park-head with a complete equipment, with all the improvements that had been made at Woolwich. When the War broke out, Parkhead had the finest equipment for the manufacture of guns that there was in the world. Eight representatives of Krupp's works went to see Parkhead, and I myself saw them deliberately taking notes. Armstrong, Whitworth and other firms of machine makers made their machines from the design of Woolwich Arsenal.

After the War Beardmore went out, and a new board was formed. Who is on the new board? The Bank of England. Lord Invernairn said to me, "You will have more power in Parkhead now than I have. I have not a seat on the board." It does not end there. He said, "It is worse than that. Who do you believe is going to sit on the board representing the Bank of England? An old friend of yours, a trade union leader, Frank Hodges." I can give the names of all who were on the board of managers. They had as much to do with the manufacture of guns, engines or ships as the man in the moon. We went on manufacturing the guns, engines and ships just the same. All this idea that it is individual enterprise is so much nonsense. Since then that board has gone out. I am not an inner circle member, and I cannot tell you who has nominated the new board, but there is another arrangement. Here is a very able shipbuilder and a very able organiser, but one who has little compassion for the workers—Sir James Lithgow. He commands nearly the whole of the West of Scotland. He walks into this firm of Beardmores. This is the one munition factory in Scotland, and had this factory not been subsidised by the Government it would have become defunct. The Government dare not deny that, and then they talk about private enterprise. Two years ago the then managing director, who again represented the Bank of England and held just that amount of votes that made him dominate the company, told me that Sir James Lithgow was to be chairman.

The business could have been run by the men who are running it, and this is what we would have done. If we were taking control of any industry we would not put shop stewards—I have repudiated this years ago—in charge because they were good shop stewards or because they were Socialists. We would put the man in charge who had the capacity to do the job, and that is the only thing which would bear with us. It is these men who are running the works now; the others are only supernumeraries who come in and walk away with the profits. I am telling you exactly what the workers are saying, so that you can see what you are up against. You can do what you like with it, you can treat it with contempt, but you will pay the price unless you come to reason. Come, let us reason together. The workers are better educated, better informed and—another thing I want the Cabinet to understand —better organised than ever they were before. The House of Commons has been transformed since the last War. We are here. We are the voice of the workers. We were in the workshop when the last War was on. A complete revolution has taken place, and I want the Cabinet in all sincerity, on behalf of my country, to face this. The workers feel that a new situation has arisen. They see perfectly well that this country can afford to give every man, woman and child in it a comfortable life.

Talk about the Army and people not joining the Army. How can they be doing otherwise? Who is to join the Army? Nobody knows better than the Minister for War that it is the boys who are unemployed in the streets, the unemployed who marched from Scotland to London, who braved all the rigours of our climatic conditions. Do you think you are going to get men to do that, men whose conditions are forcing them to brave all these rigours, men who are badly fed and clad? Children are starving in this country. Three shillings a week is all that this, the richest and most powerful nation, the wealthiest the sun has ever shone on, can allocate to the children of the people whom they expect to line up and fight their battles. Do you think I would be true to my race or to my class if I were to ask these men and women to line up in defence of the Government? Because that is what it means. Do not run away with the idea that you are going to kid the workers any longer that it is in defence of their country that you want them to fight. You want them to fight in defence of you, in defence of conditions under which they are groaning. It is within the bounds of possibility, if you are willing and in earnest, to put your country first and to put self in the background. Where self the wavering balance shakes 'Tis rarely right adjusted. If ever it was true, it is true in this case. Every Member of the Cabinet knows that what I am stating is true, and unless they are prepared to face up to it, they are looking for serious trouble. It will be organised trouble. Some people desire it. I do not. T do not want revolution; I have stood against it all my life. I stand here on behalf of the working class, and on behalf of the engineers in particular, and extend to the Government the right hand of fellowship, but it means that they have to extend the same to us on equal terms, man to man. They are not going to treat us with £3 is. 1½d. a week. How would they like to live on that? They could not do it. The wives of engineers have to try to maintain a family, to educate them, to make them better men and women than they have been on the scandalous wages. It is perfectly true—I have stated it both in writing and on the public platform—that we have made great advances. I can remember that when I first got into Beardmores over 40 years ago, I had to go to the other end of the town, 15 miles away, and rose at half-past four in the morning, and was not home until half-past seven at night. There is a life; it was because we started at six o'clock in the morning.

That is all changed and everything, I believe, is in keeping with that. The standard of life is much higher, and the workship is not so harsh. No employer would say, as a man said to me 40 years ago, that he had wiped his boots twice on the faces of the engineers, and he would do it again. There is no employer who would do that,. I admit that we have made gigantic strides, but the improvements that have occurred in these years are nothing compared with what they should be. If it were not for selfishness—as a nation we are selfish just as individuals we are selfish—there would be no talk on the lines of to-night, and peace would be abroad not only in this land but in the world. We are the heirs of a glorious inheritance handed on to us right down the ages. We are able to produce everything in abundance. We have no idea, if industry were organised for use and for what is necessary, what kind of life we could give our people. We should set out on these lines and be prepared, as I have always been, to extend the right hand of fellowship to an opponent and reason with him—no matter how he knocked me, abused me, or imprisoned me, I have been prepared at the end to extend the right hand of fellowship. Our country, the richest, the most powerful on which the sun has ever shone, should be big enough and generous enough to extend the right hand of fellowship to all mankind, and the Government should be able to extend the right hand of fellowship to the working class in our own country.

7.13 p.m.


The speech of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), in which he suggested that the Government should seek more co-operation with labour and extended some promise of co-operation, will be welcome on all sides of the House, and I am sure, by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman's speech did not answer fully the two questions which the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) put. The first is: Is the actual expansion programme of the promised minimum air force for this country, an air force of parity with any European country within striking distance of our shores, sufficient to give us that minimum or have the march of European events during the past nine months so altered the situation that even before we are finished with the present expansion programme we should be making arrangements to embark on a still greater programme? That is a question the House of Commons would like to have answered by the Government. The second and more particular question is whether the programme for the Air Force expansion is up to the estimated progress in equipment, man-power and buildings. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Coordination of Defence told us that in respect of man-power he was fully satisfied with the Air Force expansion, but he avoided giving us any statement as to equipment in respect of the quantity of machines available.

Undoubtedly the programme of 71 new squadrons by March, 1937, has been planned out in respect of these headings of man-power, equipment and buildings, and without giving away any confidential information, cannot the House of Commons have from the Government a statement As to whether we are up to the planned position for November, 1936? Suppose, for example, we were in equipment to be 60 per cent, complete by November, 1936, can we have information as to whether we have exceeded, or are in arrears compared to the position planned in respect of these three headings for November, 1936, for the programme upon which we have embarked? I have made an analysis from this month's Air Force List. It may be that the training is now coming to a peak period 'when there will be such an output that the programme will be completed by the time necessary and specified, but at present I make out that, according to the Air Force List, we have 63 regular squadrons for home defence, of which 16 are quite ineffective in personnel. There are 47 effective home defence squadrons mentioned in the Air Force List, and there are a further 16 which have only partial personnel, and there are eight still unformed, if we are to get to the 71 squadrons by March, 1937. I looked at number 66 Squadron in the Air Force List, which has no squadron leader, no flight commander or flying officers. It has two pilot officers and two acting pilot officers. Number 83 has one flight lieutenant and one flying officer, and 166 Squadron has no personnel at all. That is what 'appears in the Air Force List. While, I am sure, this is all according to planned progress, we would like to know whether the planning is up to the point which he had hoped to achieve by November, 1936.

The only other point upon which I want to touch briefly is the question, which the right hon. Gentleman rather skirted round, of the Air Force and the Navy. I do not think that any words that any hon. Member uses in this House should in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, increase the difficulties with which these Services are faced with their differing views, but arms expansion in this country cannot be effective so long as this controversy continues, Each day articles are appearing in the newspapers at the present time—propaganda articles on the Air Ministry side and propaganda articles on the Navy side—and anyone who is anxious 'and worried about the defence of this country must realise, as I am sure the Government do, that this must be an inefficient factor in our expansion programme. There is this internecine war which is going on between the two Departments, and I believe that the country is sick and tired of it at the present time.

Quite irrespective of the merits of the different points of view, there is one positive result from this difference of opinion. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to answer the question as to who is responsible for the trade defence of this country at the present time. It is all very well to say that you cannot define the functions of the Services, as the First Lord of the Admiralty said in a recent speech. It is true that you may not be able to define the functions of the Services, but, at any rate, you should define the responsibilities of the Services. At the present time it is common knowledge that the Navy claim the responsibility, or wish to claim the responsibility, for the trade defence of this country, and the Royal Air Force equally claim to have the same responsibility in certain circumstances. The result has been a sort of compromise formula, failing to satisfy neither Service at the present time, of dividing the seas into "narrow seas" and "wide seas" or "narrow oceans" and "wide oceans," which have not properly been defined. It is common knowledge that the Navy believe in and wish to have aircraft carriers and large numbers of deck flying aircraft, and that the Royal Air Force believe in the large flying boat for which the Navy do not see any great future. It is equally true that the right hon. Gentleman could not get an agreed paper upon any question of Imperial defence from the Air Force and the Navy staffs which did not differ in principles and in suggestions. These differences between the Air Force and Naval staffs are brought out no fewer than four times, if anyone cares to read the report of the sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence on the capital ship. I will not weary the right hon. Gentleman or the House, except to say that I have underlined four different places where that particular difference is stressed. The first is: It may be that the contact between the two Departments is capable of being further developed. The difference between the points of view of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry can however be considerably narrowed down. The next one is, The Admiralty view is that there is no reason why the ship cannot be designed to meet air attack just as in the past she has been designed to meet other dangers. These views, of course, are not those of the critics of the capital ship. And, finally, To this end the fullest collaboration between the Admiralty and Air Ministry should take place. We do not suggest that anything has been lacking in ingenuity or perseverence in the experiments that have been made, but it is possible that the closer co-operation of the two Services in an attempt to make the experiments as realistic as possible would be fruitful. Four times in this report we see that difference coming out, and it must be distressing to everyone who reads it, as it will be to the right hon. Gentleman and every Member of the Government. I repeat that the functions may not be capable of definition but responsibility must. I am sure that duality in responsibility is an impossible thing to continue. The right hon. Gentleman has been having an inquiry into certain relationships between the Air Force and the Navy, but is anybody really any happier? Is either Service any happier as the result of that inquiry? It is deplorable that while the inquiry was on, and just after it finished, the propaganda articles of each side in the newspapers have been intensified and increased in number. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) have particular views upon this subject. I, in my humble ignorance, along with some other hon. Members, have views on the other side. It does not really matter whether I am right or whether the right hon. Gentleman is right provided we get a just, correct and permanent settlement for the good of the country in this deplorable dispute.

I do not see that as a House of Commons we can allow this expansion programme to continue and pass through our hands conscious of this quarrel which is going on, without taking steps to see that it is ended. It can be ended in three ways. The Prime Minister can say that this must cease, and anyone who directly or indirectly does not obey, whether he be a Lord of Admiralty or member of the Air Council, will have to be a gentleman who is given his orders for departure. That would be one way. It would be a strong line. You might risk the resignation of one of the Air Council or Board of Admiralty. The second way would be to give the right lion. Gentleman the Minister for Coordination of Defence greater power than his terms of reference of appointment at present allow. The third way would be to appoint yet another commission. We have had the Balfour Committee and the Colwyn Committee, and we might now have some form of Royal Commission, with power to hear evidence in secret, and, finally, give a report and decide on this issue. It is not for me to say which of these three ways should be followed, but to put forward the point of view that a final settlement is essential, if we are not to look back in the months ahead and say that we have deliberately allowed our expansion programme to be impeded and inefficient because we have not had the courage to seize upon this particular problem and deal with it drastically.

7.26 p.m.


The Amendment upon which this Debate was initiated is the one which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) regretting that the Government have not expressed their intention of accepting the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Some of the discussion which has taken place since my hon. Friend, and the Seconder of the Amendment spoke, has proceeded on somewhat different lines, but the interesting thing is that the speeches contain strong confirmation of the demand which is made by us in this Amendment for the adoption of the report of the Royal Commission. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech gave but scant notice to the report. He made one or two brief references to it to which I will refer in a moment, but he preferred to anticipate the criticism of those whose names are set to another Amendment on the Order Paper in order to try to satisfy them that the Government were doing all in their power to provide for the efficient defence of this country. The measure of the success of that part of his speech can perhaps be obtained from the forcefulness, if not from the violence, of the language of the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who spoke after him.

The Government have definitely embarked upon a great policy of rearmament. When they first came into office they were in favour of disarmament. Just before the last election they said they were in favour of repairing the deficiencies which had taken place, and now they have gone in completely and wholeheartedly for a policy of rearmament. We were told at the last election that rearmament was necessary for the purpose of enabling this country to play its part in the policy of collective security. I was always a bit suspicious of that argument, because collective security has never been tried yet. The Government say that collective security has failed, but it has never been tried. What has happened every time is that either Great Britain has been asked to do more than it should do under the policy of collective security, or else it has not tried to do the, because it has been persuaded to do otherwise by other countries with which we were friendly. Now quite clearly the Government are embarking upon a policy of rearmament, not for the purpose of enabling this country to fulfil its obligations under a policy of collective security, but for the purpose of supplying it with a force which, in the words of the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, shall secure the peace, safety, and freedom of the subjects of this country. I have no doubt the Government will gain the assent of the House to the prosecution of that policy, but I would remind them that the strength of the country does not in the end depend merely upon the number of your forces, or even the equipment which those forces have, but upon the goodwill and determination of the people of the country in an emergency. If the Government are to get this vote of confidence in them and their rearmament policy the country will expect, in the first place, that the powers which the Government receive shall be made the best use of.

It is in this connection that I would refer to the part of the Report of the Royal Commission which recommends the establishment of a separate Ministry, whether we call it a Ministry of Supply or a Ministry of Munitions. Clearly, the Commission reports in favour of the establishment of a Ministry with executive powers, headed by a Minister responsible to this House and able to coordinate supplies, the equipment of the Army, and the promotion of the efficiency of the Defence Services. It is in this respect, it seems to me, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was most disappointing. If I may say so with respect, it was unworthy of the seriousness of the occasion, and unworthy of the duty and debt which this House owes to the Commission. The Commission took a great deal of evidence. It sat under the chairmanship of a man who is accustomed to weighing evidence. They did not come to their decision in any hasty or ill-considered way. They weighed the evidence and came to the balanced conclusion that in the interests of efficiency, which is what the Government proclaim they are anxious to secure, there should be a separate Ministry.


If the hon. Member will look on page 53 of the recommendations he will see that a separate Ministry is not mentioned.


The hon. and gallant Member is trifling with the matter. The obvious intention of the Commission was to recommend the establishment of a body with executive power at the head of which should be a Minister responsible to Parliament. There is no doubt in the minds of anybody except the hon. and gallant Member as to their intentions. On page 43 they say: We think there should be established by the Government a body for the purpose of controlling supply and deciding questions of priority. Such a body should have executive and not merely advisory powers over supply, manufacture, costing and the authorisation of orders from abroad. It should be presided over by a Minister responsible to Parliament. If that does not mean the establishment of a separate Ministry, I do not know how otherwise they could have expressed their intention. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman was most disappointing. He took the line of the advocate. He said: "I do not understand how the Commission arrived at their conclusions. One witness said this and another witness said that." That is the speech which any advocate could make to any jury, to find some disparity between one witness and another, and then say that it is difficult to reconcile the evidence. In view of that the right hon. Gentleman said he could not understand how the Commission arrived at their decision.

With due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, the Commission were quite as competent to weigh up and balance the evidence as he is. Moreover, the language in which their report is written is such as to show that they were a body of persons who listened to the evidence and afterwards gave their balanced decision upon it. The right hon. Gentleman said that a body of people who are well qualified are now engaged in considering the report. Who are they? We have no indication who are the people who are considered to he so well qualified. Before we can decide whether those people are more qualified to express an opinion than the members of the Royal Commission, we ought to know who they are. How are they going to form their opinion Are they going to receive evidence? In the airy manner of the right hon. Gentleman we are simply told: "There are people who are well qualified who are considering the report." The only other thing that he said was that the Government welcomed the opportunity of considering the report. At a time when the rearmament policy is the major policy of the Government and when the establishment or the non-establishment of a Ministry of this sort is obviously one of the most vital factors to be considered, the Government say: "We welcome the opportunity of considering the report."

The Royal Commission is not the first body that has advocated the establishment of such a Ministry. It was advocated by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and other hon. Members who had had practical experience of the supply of munitions during the last War, and who are convinced that for the proper prosecution of war, nr even for the proper preparation of the defences of this country, the establishment of such a Ministry is necessary. If we read the histories that have been written of the last War we find that practically every one of them bears testimony to the inefficiency of the system which obtained for the supply of munitions, and practically every one of them says that in the future the establishment of such a Ministry is necessary. The men who served in the last War say the same thing. The ordinary man in the country is impressed by this crowd of witnesses, all of whom testify to the fact that for the efficient building up of a rearmament policy we need such a Ministry.

What is the reply of the Government? To use the words of the right hon. Gentleman: "Before we do that we should require the most cogent proof of the necessity of doing it." In other words, they say that they do not think it is necessary. They said that about the position which the right hon. Gentleman now occupies. It was only under the constant persuasive and powerful pressure of the supporters of the Government that they agreed to put the right hon. Gentleman where he is now. I am not sure whether the result has justified the agitation. I would ask the House to consider whether any speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made since he has occupied his present office has left the country any happier in regard to this matter. Why is it that the Government will not do what is suggested, apart from the fact that they say that it is not necessary? One of the remarkable things about this Government is that they say a thing is not necessary, and then they do it, while in regard to other things which they say are necessary they do not do them. I am certain that before long they will say that they agree that this new Ministry is necessary. Why not do it now, when they are starting upon their policy of rearmament, so that it shall be done in a way which, as the report says, shall satisfy the country that the work is being done efficiently.

The right hon. Gentleman said that efficiency must be the guiding star. There are other stars. There are shooting stars and there are fallen stars. What we want is to make efficiency the guiding star, and if it is to be the guiding star I cannot understand the unwillingness of the Government to accept this recommendation of the Commission, which would not only provide for the efficiency of their policy but would satisfy the country that the Government are in earnest not only in this matter, but in regard to the other major part of the Commission's report, namely, the prevention of profiteering and the right of the country to the best provision to protect our industries in case of war.

The Government will, of course, receive assent to their programme, but the country will expect that all the powers which the Government receive shall be used properly and not as an excuse for ignoring or neglecting other things which are equally vital to the future of the country and the future of civilisation. A few days ago the Foreign Secretary made a speech in this House in which he said that this country was going again to take the lead. He got that knowledge from a German newspaper. It was a German newspaper which had said that the Gracious Speech from the Throne indicated that this country was again going to take the lead. The Foreign Secretary was delighted to have this tribute from the German newspaper. It was an interesting observation, the use of the word "again," because it was the first time that the Government had admitted what everybody else knew, that Great Britain had lost the lead in European and international affairs. The House cheered the remark, but I could not help feeling that it was somewhat pathetic, and indeed humiliating to think that the Members of this House cheered vociferously a statement that this country was going to resume a position which it ought never to have lost, and which it never would have lost but for the weakness and the vacillating policy of the Government. When the Foreign Secretary says that we are going to take the lead again, I would ask: "Where is he going to lead us?"

Is it in the policy of armament alone? Does it mean that in future Great Britain hopes to achieve by the strength of arms what it ought to be able to achieve and what it could achieve by the strength of its statesmanship and its precepts? It seems to me a very poor thing for this House to have to cheer. That was only a speech. What is the action of the Government going to be? So far the speeches of hon. Members of the Government do not coincide with the actions of the Government. I could cite many instances. I could even cite the speech to-day of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. The Government, as part of its policy of rearmament, is appealing for recruits. The right hon. Gentleman tried to draw a red herring across the path by bringing an accusation against my hon. Friend of saying that the youth of this country lacked courage. He never did, and there is no reason for saying anything of the kind. There is no lack of courage in the youth of this country, nor is there any lack of commonsense either. The youth of this country want to know why they are being asked to join the Forces.

The Government are in favour of a policy of recruitment, and the right hon. Gentleman pointed with great pride to the numbers of young men who are rushing to join the Navy and the Air Force. Yes, those two services provide a career. But what about the Army? What do you offer to a young fellow to join the Territorial Force? If it had not been for the Territorial Army we should have been in much greater difficulties than we were during the last War. You offer them no inducement in the way of pay and equipment and camps, but send the Secretary of State for War into the country to make speeches. The speeches which the Secretary of State for War is making will not induce a single individual to join the Army; probably they will prevent many doing so who might otherwise have joined. And, what is much more important, the Secretary of State for War is discouraging the men and local patriotic bodies who helped to build up the Territorial Army. They will not continue to do so as long as the right hon. Gentleman is allowed to go about making the speeches he has been making. If the Government get authority to proceed with their policy, these are the things which the country will expect. The Prime Minister knows that perfectly well. It was made quite clear in the speech he delivered at the Guildhall last night, but the spirit which animated that speech is not the spirit which is animating a large number of his supporters. The Prime Minister is right, and hon. Members opposite will do well to bear in mind that a great majority of the people of this country who may now support the policy of the Government are supporting it mainly on the plea that a policy of rearmament is required for the purposes of promoting disarmament and in the end for arriving at peace.

7.52 p.m.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger KEYES

Ever since I entered the House some three years ago I have hoped to see the question of the defence of the Empire and the provision of adequate defence forces taken outside the sphere of party politics. It is gratifying to find that my hopes are, to seine extent, now being realised. The vast majority of the people of the country and many hon. Members on the Opposition benches are determined to see that our defence forces are put in order in the shortest possible time. It is also gratifying that a policy which will give security to the Empire and contribute towards the preservation of peace, is giving employment to thousands of men and a number of women in scores of different trades. During recent years the Navy has been going through lean and anxious times, but it is now coming into its own again. There is unquestionably a very definite demand throughout the country for the restoration of our sea power. The White Paper on the "Vulnerability of capital ships to Air Attack" is a most valuable document, and will do much to clear the air. I believe that the strategic side of the question was not within the terms of reference of the Committee, but I am glad to see that they deal thoroughly with it in paragraphs 37, 38 and 39.

I should like to pursue this question a little further, but time is short and many hon. Members want to speak, and I want to be brief. I should like however to congratulate the Minister for the Coordination of Defence, who has had a good many broad-sides fired at him, and will no doubt have a good many more fired at him, on the clarity of his remarks on this subject, and the excellent fight he has put up for the retention of the battleship. Before I leave that subject should like to remind the House that when Germany first challenged Great Britain's sea power she spent enormous sums of money on great fortifications at Heligoland and the sea ports on her coasts in order to detend the harbours from which her fleet operated. These fortifications were powerful enough to destroy any battleship. But there was never any need for our battleships to go anywhere near these fortifications. The Navy exercised a stranglehold on Germany hundreds of miles away from these fortifications or from air attack from shore based aircraft. The fate of the British Empire may well be settled at sea hundreds of miles out of range of any massed attack by shore based aircraft.

This brings me to the point I wish to make to-night. While I welcome the Government's decision to put our defences in order, and particularly those in relation to the Navy, I regret that there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of any intention to relieve the Navy of the dual control of its air service, which has greatly hampered its development and efficiency for about 13 years. Although our battle fleet can and will, no doubt, be strategically operated far away from shore-based aircraft, it is absolutely essential that the Navy should possess an Air Force second to none, not only to work with the Fleet, but in co-operation with the ships which are employed in the protection of our trade routes in narrow seas and when approaching harbour. At the end of the Great War the Navy possessed a magnificent force for this latter service. Over 2,000 machines and 50,000 men, working from 40 aerodromes, were employed in the protection of our trade. This organisation simply does not exist to-day and nothing has been put in its place.

The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) iemarked that the Admiralty demanded the responsibility for the protection of trade. It is not that the Admiralty demands this responsibility, but that the Admiralty will have to bear this responsibility for the protection of trade should war break out. It is, therefore, all wrong that the Admiralty should have nothing to do with the training and control of the aircraft which are bound to be under their orders when war breaks out. The Navy possesses about 200 aircraft in the Air Fleet Arm, but it is not even allowed to possess flying boats. The hon. and gallant Member for Thanet said that the Admiralty do not want flying boats. We do want flying boats.


I did not say the Admiralty did not want flying boats. I said that it was common knowledge that the Navy believed in and wished to have aircraft carriers and large numbers of deck flying aircraft, and that the Royal Air Force believed in the large flying boats for which the Navy did not see any future.


The hon. and gallant Member is wrong. The Navy will always want flying boats, but by this system of dual control it is not allowed to have flying boats, Since the Air Force commands everything that flies, except the machines of the Fleet Air Arm when they have actually embarked, the Admiralty have no control over the aircraft in the air coastal areas which must come under naval direction in time of war. When the Navy Estimates were debated last March I quoted a letter from Lord Beatty, written shortly before his death, in which he declared that this dispute between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, which we all deplore, would never be settled until an impartial inquiry was held by people without political or Service bias, who could take evidence from the Admiralty representatives who were entirely responsible and weigh it against the evidence of the people who set up this system. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence had just been appointed, and it never occurred to me that a matter which so vitally affected naval efficiency and the Navy's ability to develop its air service would not be one of the first things to which he would devote his attention.

Regarding the matter as being sub judice, and having stated the Navy's claims very fully on two or three previous occasions, I refrained from any further reference to it in the Debate on the Navy Estimates. However, it soon became evident that the inquiry which the Minister was conducting into the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty only dealt with minor matters of detail and, presumably, he was not free to touch the main issue, namely, the dual control and divided responsibility of the Navy's Air Service, which had had such a disastrous effect on its efficiency and development. During my absence abroad in the Mediterranean my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) raised this question on 4th May, and made out an overwhelming case against the existing system. Nevertheless, Lord Swinton, in another place, made it clear that he had the Prime Minister's authority for declaring that no alteration in the degree of control of the Fleet Air Arm or coastal area was contemplated. Therefore, I took an early opportunity of restating the Navy's case, and again asked for an inquiry, which was long overdue. Before the House rose last July, when it was clear that the Prime Minister was determined not to grant an inquiry, I returned to the charge and obtained confirmation from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence that only four minor questions of detail were being considered. I reminded the House that when the Prime Minister announced the Government's decision on the question of dual control of the Navy Air Service in August, 1923, he concluded with the following remark: It is impossible without experience to pronounce a final judgment on these arrangements. That happened 13 years ago. As events of those days have a very acute bearing on the situation to-day, I hope the House will permit me briefly to relate what occurred. I was a member of the Board of Admiralty when we were given the recommendations of what was called the Balfour Committee. We were profoundly disturbed, for we knew that the Government were embarking on a dangerous experiment and one which would greatly hamper the development of Naval aviation. We felt it was our duty to the Navy and to the country to make that clear to the Prime Minister, and Lord Beatty did make it clear to the Prime Minister that unless certain amendments were accepted and unless the experiment, which we profoundly distrusted, could be regarded as an experiment, the Prime Minister would have to find other naval advisers. In announcing the Government's decision in the House in August, 1923, the Prime Minister included the amendments for which Lord Beatty had asked, and concluded his remarks with the words I have quoted.

Five years later Lord Salisbury was called upon to arbitrate on two particular points of disagreement between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty. Those points were settled on a fifty-fifty basis; but at the same time Lord Salisbury made it clear that, in his view, the Fleet Air Arm should ultimately become a special branch of the Fleet, in all respects the same as any other. I have taken those remarks from a letter which Lord Beatty wrote shortly before he died. With this exception, the relations between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty have been entirely governed for the last 12 years by the arrangement which is known as the Trenchard-Keyes Agreement. That agreement was the outcome of a small committee which the first Labour Government appointed, under the chairmanship of Lord Haldane, to implement their predecessor's decision. As I have said, all that happened a great many years ago, when war was regarded as remote; but we are now living in dangerous times and simply cannot afford to drift on from bad to worse as we have been doing. The case against the existing system, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has stated so clearly in this House, and which I also have stated on two or three occasions, has never been answered by anyone with responsibility, knowledge and experience —the sort of experience and responsibility that my right hon. Friend and I can claim to possess. In fact, there is no answer which could satisfy any impartial committee. It will take some time to re-establish the Naval Air Service on the lines which those who are responsible for Naval efficiency and the exercise of sea power consider essential. The majority of the Navy's machines are obsolete, and do not meet its requirements. The question of reserves is causing great concern; casualties are bound to be heavy; and yet, for some years, the Air Ministry have arbitrarily declined to train our splendid petty officers as pilots, although they have sent noncommissioned officers of the Royal Air Force to our ships to fly our machines.

Rear-Admiral Sir MURRAY SUETER

Does the hon. and gallant Member want to break down the Royal Air Force, and to have a separate Royal Naval air force and a separate military air force—that is, three separate Forces?


In reply to the hon. and gallant Member, I might use the words which a former Prime Minister used so often—"Wait and see." I have never claimed that there should be three separate air services, but I do claim that the Navy should have an air service of its own.


Will the hon. and gallant Member answer my question?


That is the answer. As for the other part of his question, he can wait.


Is the hon. and gallant Member urging that we should have the same system as obtains in America, where there is an entirely separate naval air service?


Yes. I thank my hon. and gallant Friend for his intervention. I might add that the American air service is 100 per cent. ahead of ours, and that is because the naval air service of the United States Navy, has been allowed to be developed in the Navy and by the Navy. France tried the system of a unified air service and abandoned it: the French navy now has its own machines and flying boats. Those who worked so hard in the past to deprive the Navy of an Air Service and the Government which imposed the system of dual control—and the present Government which has turned a deaf ear to the Navy's demands for a Naval Air Service —will bear a very great responsibility if war comes before the Admiralty is in a position to build up the Air Service which it considers necessary for the work of the Fleet in the protection of trade. I have frequently pressed for an inquiry. Much valuable time has been wasted, and during that time we very nearly drifted into war. Responsibility in war cannot be divorced from administration and control in peace time, and we simply cannot afford to drift on.

The Navy is amazed at the patience of the Admiralty. The Board of Admiralty no doubt relied upon the late First Lord to insist on its demands being considered and re-examined. He knew very well that the Admiralty was thoroughly dissatisfied with the existing conditions, as is the whole Navy but it seems that he entirely failed to impress that upon the Prime Minister. An impression is being put abroad—it has been stated in several newspapers recently—that solutions of points of administrative detail are being reached, that the Navy is again to be told to accept a compromise and that the status quo is to he continued. I can assure the House that the Navy will be profoundly shocked if the Admiralty accepts that decision. I wonder whether the present First Lord—I am sorry he is not here, but I hope my remarks will be repeated to him—has succeeded in impressing upon the Prime Minister the gravity of the situation and the magnitude of the failure of the experiment. The Navy is well 'aware that the First Lord of the Admiralty is one of the individuals primarily responsible for the unhappy state of affairs to-day. He has a great opportunity of righting that wrong. The eyes of the Navy are upon him, and his reputation in the Service which he has the honour to represent in this House will stand or fall upon the success or failure of his efforts in this matter.

I came into this House with one object, to fight for naval security, the efficiency of the Navy and the contentment of its personnel. Those three things are bound up in the question of the dual control of the Naval Air Service. My friends and I have tried in every possible way to bring home to the Prime Minister the gravity and urgency of this matter. In view of the fact that I was one of the Sea Lords who loyally carried out the system of dual control, on the strength of the statement of the Prime Minister, in August, 1923, and that I was to a great extent responsible for the existing arrangement which has lasted for 12 years, I think I can claim that the unfortunate experiment should now be terminated, or that the inquiry for which Lord Beatty asked shortly before he died should be granted. But inquiries take a long time. In the meantime is the Navy, which is spoiling to get on with the work, to drift on with pinioned wings? There is a solution for this problem. Thanks to the initiative and foresight of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, the Admiralty built up the finest Air Service in the world and controlled it until the end of the War, and it will have to control all naval aviation if war comes again. The Air Ministry are fully occupied in carrying out their present immense programme of expansion and their many commitments abroad. Is it too much to ask the Air Ministry to hand over to the Navy all naval aviation? If they did so now with good grace and in a helpful spirit it would enhance their prestige throughout the country and allay very profound anxieties.

8.15 p.m.


After listening to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) I can sympathise to some extent with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. It must be obvious to the House or to the few who are left in the House at the moment that there are great difficulties in deciding on the merits of the Naval issues raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth. The House will have observed that, even on those issues, our squadron of Admirals in the House do not see eye to eye. I am not in a position to argue the technical issues which have been raised by the hon. and gallant Member. He is far more qualified than I am to deal with the Service but the special pleading which he made to-night concerns I suggest only a, part of the problem which this House has to face. We are concerned with the defence of our country and as the right hon. Gentleman referred this afternoon, to the protection of British interests, it would be useful if those interests could be adequately defined in relation to the whole problem of the nation's defence and the peace of the world, There is another issue too besides that which we are now debating. That is the issue which was raised by the First Lord of the Admiralty in a speech at Geneva. I suggest that the provision of sufficient defence forces for this country will not, of itself, in the long run, ensure peace and security for this country.

In listening to the speech of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence I was struck by the smug complacency of his remarks. He gave us a lot of figures in regard to the work of his office but they were entirely inadequate. As the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said, they were of the nature of soothing spirit and the country does not want soothing syrup—it wants the facts. If the facts are as serious as we are led to believe they are by a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman, namely the Secretary of State for War—who in speech after speech has warned us of the imminence of danger to the country and its interests—then we ought to know the facts, and, if we are to understand this problem thoroughly, we deserve something more than we got in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-day. One aspect of this matter with which I wish particularly to deal is the question of recruiting. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham struck a note which appealed to me. I am an ex-service man and the Noble Lord is one, and there are many others in this House, and although it has been alleged against the party to which I belong that we are not seriously concerned about the defence of our country, I submit that many of us—the majority of us—on these benches, especially those who fought and suffered in the last War, have a very great concern for the future of our country and the adequacy of its defences.

It has been suggested by previous speakers, as I suggest now, that the Secretary of State for War is not going the right way about securing the recruits he desires. At one moment he is browbeating those on whom he is calling to serve in the defence forces; at the next he is acting as a kind of wet nurse to the Army. He is introducing conditions which those of us who were recruits in the old days never experienced. I do not suggest that modern recruits should have to undergo the conditions which some of us experienced when we enlisted in 1914. It may interest the House if I recall one of my own experiences in those days. When I first enlisted we were not even provided with knives and forks and I was compelled to eat my food, such as it was, with a pair of nail scissors which I happened to have with me, and my fingers. I am not, of course, suggesting that we should go back to those conditions. When we hear talk about the lack of equipment to-day and when the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence tells us that everything is rosy in his Department, I beg leave to doubt what he says.

There is another aspect of recruiting which I wish to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State for War. Tomorrow we shall celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Armistice. Noble sentiments will be expressed by all sorts of people all over the country. The best recruiting agents for our Army to-day would be those who served in it during the War or their dependants. But I know from my own experience, and every hon. Member must have had similar experiences, that there are many ex-service men and dependants of ex-service men who have been so scurvily treated, following on the last War, that to-day they are advising the young people not to join up. Recently I investigated a case in my own constituency of a wife, now a widow, and her three children. The husband enlisted, as I did, voluntarily in the last War. He was wounded, as I was, in that War. Parenthetically I may remark that I was wounded by a British shell which had been sent to Russia and returned to England via the Western Front. Perhaps they were Beardmores shells, but at any rate they were British. This man was invalided out of the Army with, I think, a 90 per cent. pension amounting to 36s. a week. He existed—that is the correct word—for 18 years in terrible agony and recently passed away.

I spare the House a recital of the sufferings which this man endured. He had married after the War, and although there are King's Regulations and Acts of Parliament which prohibit a widow from getting a service pension, if the marriage took place after the War, we must realise that some of the wounded men who survived the War wanted to be happily married and to have their own homes and were entitled to get married just the same as any other members of the community. At all events, this woman has now been left a widow. She has no right to any service pension, and to-day she exists on the charity of the public assistance committee. I submit that that is not the way to treat the dependants of those who served the country faithfully in the last War and it is certainly not a good recommendation to those who are being asked to-day to join the Army and who, as the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence tells us, will be called upon to serve their country abroad in the same manner as their predecessors in the last War.

I do not wish to make a long speech on this matter. I think a far more important aspect of the question is that to which the Mover of the Amendment referred. Unfortunately the Debate has swung from the lines on which he initiated it. But we on these benches who advocate the duty of the State to the individual must as a matter of logic realise that the individual has a duty to the State. I realise it, and in speeches in my constituency I have emphasised, and shall continue to do so, that the individual to-day has his duty to the State. It may be said that at a certain period of the individual's existence—I do not know whether the appropriate time is now or when the danger becomes more urgent—he has the duty to defend his country against aggression, from whatever sources it may come. If we look abroad to-day none of us can be satisfied with the state of the world, and we have to realise—and the Government should realise it too—that there are great dangers there. When you consider the modern Germany—and I am not picking out Germany as the only danger —when you have nations as virile as the Italian nation is to-day, when you have those 8,000,000 bayonets which the leader of Italy talks about, it is obvious that we must be prepared to meet any danger, from whatever source it may come. We know where those dangers are to-day. I regret some of the fiery speeches made by some of the leaders of those nations. Only on Sunday I listened to a speech made by the leader of Germany.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

The hon. Member seems to be impinging on foreign affairs, which is not in Order on this Amendment.


I will endeavour to keep to the narrower limits of the Debate. The dangers which exist to-day are self-evident, and therefore I consider it is the duty of all parties in this House to treat this matter as far as possible on non-party lines. That is why I am prepared to do my bit, it may be only in a humble way, to help my country to be ready—ready only for any aggression against us, but for no other purpose whatever. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about British interests, let him define what they are, and, then we shall know how far it is necessary for the unlimited programme, because that is what it seems to be, of the Government today in rearmament. My concluding remark is to the Secretary of State for War, who perhaps on some occasion might change the name of his office and make it one more conducive to peace. Let him bear in mind that different tactics are necessary if he is to get the desired number of recruits and the sympathy and help of Members on this side of the House.

8.28 p.m.


I am sure the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the interesting points that he raised, particularly as I have an Amendment on the Order Paper dealing with another aspect of the subject of this Amendment to which I hope to refer later. There are two matters which have been raised by Members on the opposite side. One, since the House reassembled on Tuesday last, has reference to the fear that in two or three years' time, at the end of this programme of rearmament, this country is going to be plunged into the most appalling industrial slump. I would remind those hon. Members that it is quite possible that, following the present rearmament programme, they may find this country seeking means whereby a great replacement programme may be undertaken. I need hardly quote to the House the speech of the Minister for the Coordination of Defence on 20th July last, when this House was in Committee and the whole question of the production of machines was raised. The Minister then put before the House that it was in our favour that the present rearmament programme had not been started until the present time, and that had it been started two years earlier, the equipment of, say, the Royal Air Force would by this time be more or less antiquated.

I need hardly point out the enormous impetus that has been given to the inventive capacity of the armament firms. Again, one could go down to the Institute of Patent Agents in Chancery Lane and there find, almost daily, a fresh registration of some device devoted to the business of war. I think you will find throughout the world in the next two or three years that there will be an enormous impetus given to the inventive capacity of the armament firms, either in the form of a new kind of gun or of a new type of light engine for aeroplanes. Therefore hon. Members opposite must not depend too much upon the belief that in two or three years' time there will be an industrial slump, because the probability is that there will be an even greater programme of replacement than the present programme to repair our own deficiencies.

As was pointed out by the Minister on 20th July last, and again to-day, there is throughout the country general satisfaction with the programme of naval re-equipment and expansion, but I think there is also grave uneasiness in regard to the re-equipment of the Army and the expansion of the Air Force. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence at Gosport two or three days ago dealt, firstly, with the deliveries from factories and, secondly, with recruiting for the Army. In the case of the deliveries from factories, he hoped that he would see written over the door of every factory, "As much as possible and as soon as possible." I will give him a better slogan than that to put over the door of every factory, in the single word "Efficiency." Speed is quite useless in any type of factory unless they have the requisite amount of efficiency, and just as you may slow the speed of a battleship by weighting it with armour, so you must slow down the production of a factory if it does not contain the requisite amount of efficiency.

There is one other point that I would like to deal with, raised by an hon. Member on the opposite side, namely, the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), when he talked about skilled labour. I heartily agree that there is still in this country an abundance of skilled labour. Particularly in my own county of Lancashire there is still an enormous number of semi-skilled and skilled men who could he usefully employed in this new scheme of defence. Wherever I go I hear the average industrialist complain that he cannot get skilled labour. Nailed to the door of his factory is an advertisement of some kind crying out for skilled hands. I suggest to the Government that either through individual industrialists, or through county associations, or through trade unions, they will find, in such a county as Lancashire, an enormous amount of skilled and semi-skilled labour that is waiting to be tapped and waiting to be brought into this scheme. It is the problem of the workshop that they have to provide more at the moment for the question of man-power than for gun power and the production of machines. In the Services themselves, in the Navy and in the Air Force, it is adequate, but in relation to the regular Army it is grossly inadequate.

I suggest that you want at the present time to bring the regular Army up to its proper strength. You want, not the man, as you so often had in pre-war days, who through social misfortune or necessity had to seek the King's shilling; to-day you want the clerk and the mechanic who, with a first-class secondary education, is in search of useful employment. That is the type of man that must be attracted into the Army to-day. We have to create not merely a small professional army waiting to be sent to any part of the Empire, but a cadre which can be rapidly expanded on the outbreak of war into a great national force. If some readjustment could be made in the field of recruiting, if the older system of recruiting could go and could be replaced by some healthier scheme of recruiting which would be more suitable to our time, we might find the ranks of the regiments rapidly filling up again. I think that the standards are still far too high. The last War proved conclusively that it was not necessarily brawn that made a good soldier. To-day we require wits much more than brawn. That a man may have moderate eyesight or bad teeth is neither here nor there, for that may not prevent him being a marksman with a rifle and an excellent machine gunner.Merely to think in terms of the barrack square is now a little out of date. I suggest that the standards, such as they are at the moment, may be lowered, because there are many able men who would submit themselves for a test to join the Army if they did not have this awful fear of rejection, and we should bring into the forces a whole section of intelligent able citizens, although a little undersized or suffering from some physical disability, who are now kept out.

With regard to the new uniform, is there a great deal of difference in the average battalion which parades to-day for active service and the battalion that paraded in 1914? With the exception of the tin helmet, there is not a vast amount of difference. What has happened to the new uniform? We heard a lot about it two years ago, but it seems to have been shelved. I should like to hear a little about what may happen in the future as to the clothing of the Army.

May I turn to the question of the production of machines and of aero engines. One can have the figures of personnel but not the actual figures of machines. I would like to bring this point to the attention of the House. I know that it is a bad fault constantly to judge future war by what happened in the last war, and I know that comparisons with 1914–18 are odious. I would like, however, to point out in relation to the Air Force that the machines of all types that were included in the equipment of the Royal Air Force in November, 1918, consisted of 22,171 air frames and 37,702 engines. The numbers at the present time can approximately be arrived at from the Government's statement in the programme of defence, but, apart from that, one must consider also the number of pilots that we had at that time. In November, 1918, the pilots on the active list in the Air Force numbered 8,500, and at the present time the number is 3,750. I suppose that for immediate purposes we could call upon a reserve of approximately 1,250. That means that in the first month of hostilities the use of 5,000 pilots would be available. I should like to ask whether in that first month we would also have available the use of 12,000 to 15,000 air frames and possibly 15,000 aero engines. Is the production of air frames and aero engines being planned on that basis?

With regard to the siting of the armaments industry, it is at the moment being plastered on to the motor manufacturers; in other words, it is being given to Birmingham and Coventry. I suggest to the Government that it would possibly be better in the interests of the country if the distribution were scattered on a far wider basis. Instead of having a single chain production or a duplicate or a triplicate chain production, in one centre you could place beyond the Pennine Chain in Lancashire possibly a complete unit chain to produce air frames and aero engines. We could have another section in the centre of England at Birmingham and Coventry which would be doing the same thing, and, if necessary, we could have much the same system completing a triplicate chain in the southwest corner of England.

Another major point is the appalling fear that comes from the use of the fast stream-line bomber. This country is invadable by the fast stream-line bomber, and it is obvious that in London we must, experience an intensified form of air bombing and air attack. If the Port of London is to be so intensively bombed, and if the docks at Southampton and Dover are to be bombed, the Government should take all steps to give facilities for importation and storage to other dockyards on the West coast. May I point out a passage that occurs in a book, "Imperial Military Geography," which deals with the general characteristics of the Empire in relation to defence. On page 78 I find this significant passage in relation to the Port of London:— Lastly, the outstanding part which the Port of London plays in the whole framework of distribution must be borne in mind. Seven great dock systems which are under the Port of London authority deal with 70 per cent. of the meat, 35 per cent. of the petroleum, 27 per cent. of the wood and timber, 44 per cent. of the wool, 56 per cent. of the rubber and 45 per cent. of the sugar imported annually into the United Kingdom. In all, they handle about 35,000,000 tons of imports and exports, or about one-third of the total oversea trade of this island. An attempt to transfer this immense volume of traffic to other ports under the pressure of wartime necessity would be liable to dislocate the whole transport supply system of south-east England. What steps are being taken by the Government to provide the necessary facilities on the western side of England in view of the enormous volume of imports that come into the Port of London? Representing as I do the great county of Lancashire, may I suggest that no better alternative could be found than the Port of Liverpool, and if cold storage has to be built for the importation of meat, possibly no better port could be found than the Port of Liverpool and the banks of the Mersey. I know that I shall suffer the gibe that I am doing a little constituency log-rolling and that I want to see my part of the country get the lion's share in everything, in the equipment of machines, and in all that goes to the making of a great and satisfactory plan of national defence.

I have put down an Amendment drawing attention to what I regard as the considerable amount of skilled labour as yet untapped in the county of Lancashire, and factories as yet unused, and the possible production of the lesser things, apart from engines and machines, which will be required, such as hutments through the Quartermaster-General and all the supplies which will be needed by the Director of Ordnance Services. I am not asking that Lancashire as such should have the lion's share, but that it should have its fair share. May I say, in conclusion, that I think the Debate to-day has shown that there is at least unity of opinion in the field of national defence, and that I sincerely hope that in the no great distant future, even in this Session, we may have the same unity in the field of foreign affairs?

8.46 p.m.

Vice-Admiral TAYLOR

I propose to deal with the subject of the Naval Air Arm, which has already been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Sir R. Keyes), because I feel, in reference to the Government's rearmament scheme, that there is no subject to which they could devote themselves, with greater advantage to Imperial defence generally, than the creation of a Fleet Air Arm which would be both efficient and sufficient for the duties which it will be called upon to perform in time of war. At the outset I should like to say, categorically, that no well-informed man can deny that if efficiency in the Naval Air Arm is to be achieved, it must be an integral part of the Fleet, and, further, it must be completely under the control of the Admiralty. I should like—and I make no apology for doing so—to go somewhat into the detail of events leading up to the amalgamation and the results which have accrued from practical experience in the working of the scheme.

It is well known that during the War there was serious cut-throat competition between the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps over the supply of materials, and also in matters of design and personnel—but particularly in regard to material. This question was practically settled by the Cowdray Board. The real reason for the formation of the Royal Air Force and the amalgamation of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps was that it was necessary to have an organisation to counteract the air raids on this country, particularly on London. The Air Board, having once been formed, became the centre of interest in air matters, and out of that board grew the Air Ministry, to become the Air Ministry as it is to-day. The Smuts Committee of 1917 was really responsible for the creation of a separate Air Ministry, and it is important to remember that the specific purpose of its creation was to counteract the air raids on this country. The amalgamation was, in point of fact, a political matter, and I suggest that the real requirements of the Navy in respect of the Fleet Air Arm were sacrificed to considerations of the necessity for dealing, during the War, with the air raids on the country.

Since the creation of the Royal Air Force there is not a shadow of doubt that successive Boards of the Admiralty and Commanders-in-Chief of the Fleets have been profoundly dissatisfied with this dual system, and have not ceased in their endeavours to regain control of their own air arm, but so far without success. At the time the amalgamation took place—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North, has already referred to it, but I repeat it—there was under the complete control of the Admiralty no less a force than 2,800 air machines of all kinds, with a personnel of 55,000, and from 40 to 60 aerodromes scattered about the coast—no mean force. What has the Fleet Air Arm got to-day? It has 217 sea-borne aircraft—not one more, and that number includes the aircraft provided for in the 1936 programme. The few squadrons which it is possible to create with this limited material have to be confined absolutely to Fleet work, nothing outside it for the defence of trade in the approaches to the narrow channels or on the high seas. There are aircraft, a, totally inadequate number, under the Air Ministry for dealing with that aspect of the matter, but though they are working in co-operation with Naval units not a single man of the naval personnel is in those flying boats, not one; they are all manned by Royal Air Force personnel. What do they know about the work from the Naval point of view? I regard that as a deplorable state of affairs.

I should like to deal with the matter of material under this dual system. One of the advantages always claimed for the amalgamation was that it would do away with cut-throat competition, accelerate the delivery of aircraft and increase efficiency generally. That is what was confidently hoped, but the practical results have shown that the Admiralty have not always received what they required from the Air Ministry and that the delivery of the machines has always been deplorably slow. That is an indisputable fact. In short, things have been the exact reverse of what had been expected. The Air Ministry have endeavoured to work on the principle of standardising types of machines, and I do not say that is wrong, but instead of building machines specially to Admiralty requirements they have, in cases, taken one of their standardised machines, altered it, added something here, and taken away something there, and thus created a hotch-potch machine in their endeavours to meet the requirements of the Admiralty.

The natural and inevitable result of that procedure has been that the Naval Air Arm has received machines with a decreased efficiency and a sacrifice of performance, and they have not come up to the standard of requirement of the Admiralty. The Fleet Air Arm and the Navy in general have had to be satisfied with machines which were of a lower type than the requirements laid down. No hon. Member could consider that position satisfactory. I understand that the deplorable practice of taking a standardised machine and altering it has now been largely rectified, and that types of machines are being specially built to meet Admiralty requirements, but it has taken the Ministry longer to deliver some of these specially made machines than it takes the Admiralty to have a battleship designed and built—some seven years. That is hardly a satisfactory state of affairs.

This shows the difficulty which the Admiralty have experienced in the past, in obtaining what it requires in time of peace. In war time, however, there will be the additional and very real danger of the Fleet being deprived of its Air Arm because there happens to exist a temporary crisis elsewhere; important operations may have taken place on shore where there has been great wastage and destruction of planes and pilots, from the personnel of the Royal Air Force. To justify that suggestion I would remind hon. Members that the Fleet Air Arm is regarded officially as an integral part of the Royal Air Force, and was so alluded to by the Prime Minister some two years ago. That was a most serious statement for the Prime Minister to make. If the Fleet Air Arm is anything it is an integral part of the Fleet, and unless the efficiency of the Fleet is to be sacrificed,materiel and personnel cannot be removed from it, whatever the cause may be. The Navy might just as well be called upon to surrender the guns of the Fleet because there is a shortage of guns on shore.

This danger to the Fleet Air Arm, a very real danger, of being crippled in war time because materiel and personnel upon which it relies have been diverted from Naval use to meet an urgent crisis elsewhere, applies with equal or even greater force to the supply of care and maintenance artificers for the machines. Most of them are Royal Air Force ratings and are not Naval ratings. It should be possible for hon. Members to visualise a situation of great wastage ashore in which the Royal Air Force would be forced to refuse to comply with the demands of the Admiralty, with regard to the care and maintenance artificers.

So far as materiel is concerned, this amalgamation and dual system of control have proved disastrous to the Fleet Air Arm, and I submit that it will inevitably break down and become impossible in time of war. As regards personnel, whatever the argument may have been in 1918 for the amalgamation of these two flying services, the existing system, whereby all naval officers who fly have a dual commission and hold two ranks, one in His Majesty's Navy and one in the Royal Air Force, being at one time under naval discipline and at another time under Air Force discipline—being, in fact, asked to serve two masters—is a most unsatisfactory compromise. That is the position, and I unhesitatingly say that even a naval officer, who, in most circumstances, can come up to the scratch, is unable to satisfy and efficiently serve two masters.

So unsatisfactory has this question of personnel proved to be in practice, that the Admiralty have great difficulty in obtaining sufficient naval officers to volunteer as pilots. There is a shortage of naval officer pilots to-day, and the shortage is increasing. So far as I can see, the shortage will continue to pile up, notwithstanding the fact that flying in all its forms has a particular attraction for the young man of to-day. Seventy per cent. of the pilots of the Fleet Air Arm are naval officers, and they ought to regard that branch of the Service as offering great promise for their future in their own Service; but it does not do so. Flying officers in the Fleet Air Arm, belonging to the Navy, are not satisfied that their chances of promotion are as good as those of their brother officers in other specialised branches of the Navy.

Suppose that a naval officer joins the Fleet Air Arm and is not promoted in the Royal Air Force. His flying career will soon come to an end, and his failure to get promoted, quite possibly due to no fault of his own but due to the intense competition in the Royal Air Force, will not, I submit, add to his chances of promotion in the Royal Navy. There is not a shadow of doubt that the Fleet Air Arm is very unpopular, under the existing system, among the officers of His Majesty's Navy. That is a deplorable condition of affairs, but it is true. The remaining 30 per cent. of the pilots are Royal Air Force officers, and they, not unnaturally, regard service in the Fleet Air Arm as a sort of side-show. It is not at all popular with them; that also is an undeniable fact. Therefore, so far as officer pilots are concerned, we have the unpopularity of the existing system among both the officers of the Navy and of the Royal Air Force. Can any hon. Member agree that that is a condition of affairs which should be allowed to continue?

The Balfour Declaration is understood to have guaranteed to the Admiralty that. all the Royal Air Force officers detailed for work with the Fleet Air Arm would spend four years with the Fleet, but, as a matter of fact, they seldom spend more than two. I believe it is a fact that the Admiralty consider that it takes four years for Royal Air Force officers to make themselves efficient in Naval work. They have then reached the point at which they are of real service to the Fleet which has trained them. What unfortunately happens is that, at the end of two years, which is half the amount of training laid down for the Royal Air Force officer, they may be despatched to any part of the world. They are taken away from the Fleet Air Arm and sent anywhere over the world. They are lost to the Navy; they are lost to the Fleet Air Arm; they are not there in an emergency, and there is not a shadow of doubt that they would not be sent back again to the Fleet Air Arm if war broke out. What a waste of effort; what a waste of time; what a waste of efficiency, in all of which the Navy suffers.

With regard to this matter of pilots, I wish to refer to a question which has already been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth. Up to the present time the Air Ministry has absolutely declined to allow naval petty officers to qualify as pilots, and yet the Air Ministry does not hesitate to send non-commissioned officers to pilot naval machines in naval aircraft carriers. That is an astonishing position. As a naval officer, I consider that it is a direct insult to that magnificent body of men, the naval petty officers. The naval petty officer is a man who has proved himself to be above the average. He is a man who is efficient from a seamanlike point of view, a man who can take charge, who has initiative. He has to pass a high educational standard before he can be promoted to petty officer, and I have yet to learn that the naval petty officers are in any way inferior to any non-commissioned officer. That, however, is the position. I can only say, as a naval officer, that it disgusts me to think that the Air Ministry has adopted that attitude. There is not a shadow of doubt that under Admiralty control they would welcome naval petty officers qualifying as pilots for their machines. They would be satisfied that they would be efficient, and, apart from that efficiency, these naval officer pilots, unlike the Royal Air Force officers, who are sent away from the Fleet Air Arm, would always be there if they were required. I think that the case for the Navy to have 100 per cent. of the pilots in the Fleet Air Arm naval is unanswerable.

I would like now to deal with the operational side. I am sorry I am taking so long, but I feel very keenly on this matter, and it is most important. One of the principal objects of our Imperial defence is the safeguarding of our trade routes; in other words, the security of our shipping in the narrow and on the high seas from enemy attack. Up to the advent of the Air Arm, this duty had to be entirely carried out, of course, by His Majesty's Navy. Now, with the coming of the Air Arm, it will work in co-operation with the ships of the Navy, and will be most effective in doing so. But, although this is a naval matter, the responsibility for ensuring that there are sufficient aircraft of the proper type for this specific purpose lies entirely with the Air Ministry. The protection of trade routes and merchant shipping by utilising the Air Arm is not the function of the Fleet Air Arm as at present constituted; it is vested in the Air Ministry so far as every type of shore-based aircraft is concerned. It is an Air Ministry responsibility; and, in addition, no practical measures are in being for their efficient operational control.

I would remind the House, in connection with these shore-based aircraft, that there are no naval ratings whatever in the flying boats; they are all Royal Air Force ratings. Nor has the Admiralty any authority whatever as to the manner in which the Roal Air Force personnel working in flying boats in conjunction with the Navy are trained. Everyone, of course, knows the immense value of aircraft in the defence of merchant shipping. It is essentially a naval matter, and during the War the Admiralty utilised some 600 aircraft. To-day the Admiralty do not possess one single flying boat, and flying boats are a most important type of machine in the protection of merchant shipping from attack. Flying boats under the control of the Air Ministry only work with His Majesty's Fleet on very rare occasions, instead of being in constant touch and co-operation with the units of the Fleet, as they would be quite naturally and obviously if they were under the control of the Admiralty. For efficiency in this most important work of safeguarding our shipping, constant practice is the chief essential. To-day it is conspicuous by its absence; it is not there. The operations of the Navy and of the Air Force, so far as the local defence of sea approaches to ports and focal points is concerned, are so inextricably interwoven that a common organisation is essential.

Aircraft and surface craft must work in the closest co-operation and control. It is impossible in this matter that the movements of ships arising out of the reports of aircraft sent out on patrol should be under the Air Force. The Air Force cannot order His Majesty's ships to sea because of a report made by one of their aircraft that an enemy cruiser or an enemy ship has been sighted. It is quite possible that the first report from an aircraft on patrol telling the authorities that an enemy vessel has been sighted may be only the prelude to a much stronger force behind, and it is quite possible that the first report of the sighting of one ship or two ships may lead ultimately to a major operation of the Fleet. It is obvious that the movements of ships consequent on these reports cannot be under the control of the Air Ministry, and, therefore, it follows that the local defence of ports and focal points, so far as their sea approaches are concerned, must be completely under the control of the naval authorities.

From what I have said, I think it must be quite clear that under the existing system a most vital factor in the security of merchant shipping at sea is almost completely unprovided for — a most serious position. If our merchant ships cannot rely on security, we cannot continue a war, we cannot continue to live. It is most vital that we should give proper security to, and that proper arrangements should be made for protecting, our merchant shipping from attack at sea. I suggest that this serious omission from our defence system must be made good without delay, and that that can only be done by providing the Admiralty with flying boats and any other aircraft that they may require to co-operate with naval forces in the defence of shipping at sea.

The Admiralty must also have vested in them the sole and undisputed control of their organisation, training and operation. There should be no question about it whatever. I do not know which Minister to ask. Who is responsible? What force is there, not only in narrow waters but in the various most important. focal points which are scattered about the trade routes all over the Empire? Have any defence arrangements for merchant shipping with aircraft been made at all? What are they? The system in force to-day, such as it is, just works in spite of and not on account of the system because of the loyal co-operation of the officers in the two Services. In war-time it will be found to be impossible. Controversy must inevitably break out as to whether the war is mainly Naval or mainly Air. The supply of pilots and materiel would once more form a constant bone of contention between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry.

Experience has shown that the present dual system of control is a failure—I put it no higher than that—and no modification of details will affect the broad principle at stake. To tinker about with details is no good at all. When the original measure was brought before the House, it was clearly stated by the Prime Minister that experience would be necessary in order to prove whether the system was good or not. We have had that experience. We have had quite enough of it. The matter calls for immediate decision. The Admiralty of every other great naval Power in the world takes exactly the same view with regard to their Naval Air Arm as the British Admiralty does, and in the case of the United States and Japan, which have far and away the most efficient Naval air arms in the world, infinitely greater than ours, the complete control of the Naval Air Arm is vested in the Admiralty.

It is not conceivable to my mind that the Air Ministry, with the immense expansion of the Air Services—they will go on expanding—and the enormous responsibilities which they already have to bear, can possibly undertake, in addition to their own duties, others which are essentially Naval and which they are not qualified to undertake because they do not know Naval work. It is not their job. Everyone must know what a tremendous advantage it would be to Imperial Defence and to the Navy and what therefore both would gain by the change. What. would the Air Force lose? Is it only a question of amour propre? If so, such a mater should not stand for a moment in the way of Imperial Defence. I suggest that the Air Ministry should agree to this change, which is vital to our Imperial Defence. Finally I would ask, is it satisfactory to the Government that this canker should eat into the heart of the Navy, undermine its efficiency and foster growing ill-will between the two great. Services?

9.21 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander FLETCHER

I listened to the speech of the Minister for Co-ordination with the greatest attention and interest. It was of necessity long and of necessity packed with figures, and it is impossible to reply to it in detail without careful study. While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking there were signs that it will receive that careful study from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and it will be, no doubt, very faithfully dealt with by him on Thursday. I thought the speech contained what I should describe as a great number of very rotund platitudes, but the main criticism I have to make is that it was a speech which dealt with the question of supply. It was the speech of a Minister of Supply, although the Government decline to appoint such a Minister, and it did not deal at all with strategic questions. In one small instance it approached strategic questions, and that was when the right hon. Gentleman threw over that celebrated dictum of the Prime Minister, that our frontier is the Rhine, and restored the Channel to its old position in that respect.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the long, lean years when no provision at all was made for Defence. I am never able to understand the story of those years, when no provision was made, because this House has been voting supplies for the Services year after year arid, if no provision has been made, what has been done with the money? It is very satisfactory to hear that recruiting for the Navy and Air Force is good, because the reason ascribed is that the conditions of service of the Navy and Air Force are good, but I noticed how very quickly the right hon. Gentleman skated over the question of recruiting for the Army, which I think must be due to the fact, brought out in speeches from hon. Members opposite, that the conditions of service in the Army, especially in India, are not equally good.

The Minister claims to be speeding up our preparations for Defence. The truth is that he cannot speed up beyond a certain point, because the White Paper lays down that all these preparations for Defence must be governed by the ruling factor of creating minimum interference with our normal industrial life. That being so, there cannot be that tremendous speeding up which the Minister indicated. He said we cannot turn the country into a vast munition camp. He did not go on to explain how he is going to compete with other countries which are transforming themselves into vast munition camps. It is obvious from his speech that he has no idea of what sort of war he is preparing for or what the function of each of the three Services will be in the event of such a war. The First Lord was equally contradictory in a recent speech at Southampton, which showed that he also has no clear idea of what are the separate and relative functions of the Navy and the Air Force in the event of war.

What emerges from these two speeches is that at this moment and in the event of war there is no single competent authority in this country to say what warlike action shall be taken. In wartime events will move very fast and we have only divided and differing authorities. We can be quite sure from his speech that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is not allowed to encroach on the independence of the three Services. I do not think that anyone, having listened to his speech, could envisage him as overruling the very dogmatic heads of the three Services. He himself seems to be terrified of encroaching on what they conceive to be their prerogatives, The Prime Minister, as we know from his speeches, is opposed to central control and is still of the opinion that the Committee of Imperial Defence gives us all that is required in that direction.

About the Estimates for the three Services it is noticeable that the tendency is to spend most of the money on the Navy and the Army. They appear to get the lion's share, although it is the fact that the importance of these two Services wanes with every advance in the air. With every development in the air the importance of the Navy and Army recedes, and London, after all, is incomparably the greatest air target which exists in the World. Within a, quarter of a mile of Westminster Bridge you have everyone of our national controls, financial, military, political and Imperial, yet in spite of that there is still no co-ordination of the three doctrines of war at present held by the Air Ministry, the Admiralty and the War Office, and no combined exercises on any adequate scale are carried out. All this being so, one cannot help wondering what it is the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is engaged in co-ordinating. I have said that the importance of the Navy and Army wanes before each successive advance in the Air. We know that the Admiralty and War Office have always been blind to the importance of the Air. They were blind to it before the War. I believe it is a fact that in their turn both the War Office and the Admiralty turned down the Wright Brothers. These two departments still appear to be wedded to pre-war power ideas. Yet it is surely obvious that in another war the air must be the decisive factor.

Since 1918 the Navy has had pretty well the lion's share of the money that has been voted. They have spent £1,000,000,000 since 1918. Yet last year, after all that expenditure of money, the Prime Minister broadcast to the country that the Navy was not equal to the responsibilities which might face it in the Mediterranean, where we happened to be in a preponderance of four to one. They are now rebuilding the Fleet. They only held an inquiry into the vulnerability of the battleship from the air in 1936, and they held it after, not before, they had ordered two battleships. Moreover, that inquiry was held only in response to pressure in this House. It was not held on the initiative of the Service chiefs. It was held only very reluctantly and in face of pressure from this House. Battleships take years to complete and air developments may render the two battleships which are being built obsolete before they are completed.

In 1935 the War Office laid it, down as official doctrine that "we can no longer rely entirely on the Navy to protect this country against invasion or against raids which might paralyse our national life." But the White Paper in 1936 speaks of the Navy as "assuring the very foundation of our system of Imperial Defence." Who is right—the War Office or the White Paper? By which do the Government stand? One thing we certainly know about the Naval side of the late War. It did not take the form which the Admiralty had expected or prepared for. They had given us a Fleet which was not able to force the enemy to decisive action or protect our shipping. Yet here to-day in 1936 we are building exactly the same type of Fleet that was found unable to perform these two functions in 1914. The next naval war will be against our shipping again, but it will be against our shipping from above as well as from below. Yet we can get no answer about what is being done to protect our mer- chant shipping, and those auxiliaries without which the Fleet cannot remain in being, against air attack.

I notice that the Minister for the Coordination of Defence is concentrating his ideas on a war of endurance. The quotation he made from a speech by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) this afternoon shows that his mind is still revolving around the idea of a war of endurance. I find that most people now think that we shall not be faced with a war of endurance, but of the knock-out type, and a war which will be decided by the forces existing at the time when the war breaks out, and not decided, as the last war was, by forces which we built up and improvised after the declaration of war. If that is so, surely it would be common sense to spend most of the money we have to spend on defence on that arm and those weapons which will give the quickest results in war? After all, the essence of war is attack, and in the last War we saw that both the Navy and the Army were very powerless to attack. They had not the power to attack or force an issue. The one weapon which can attack is the Air weapon. The Air weapon has the power to attack, so I should imagine that common sense pointed towards spending the bulk of the money available for defence on the Air weapon and not on the Navy and Army. Our resources may be vast, but we have to husband them.

The last armaments race began in 1907 when Income Tax was is. in the £ and the National Debt was just over £700,000,000. We begin this new armaments race in 1936 with income Tax at 4s. 9d. and the National Debt ten times what it was in 1907. War in future will be war which concerns every individual. Every individual in future will be concerned as a participant.

I advise people to be very shy indeed of supposing that those in charge of our fighting Services are any more capable of preparing the nation for war or for conducting a war than they were in 1914. The illusions under which we entered the war in that respect in 1914 were very sadly shattered indeed. The fact is that Service chiefs attain the positions that they hold by virtue of 40 years' of stainless orthodoxy, and that being so, it is not very likely that they will be particularly receptive of new ideas.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence expressed his great confidence in youth and in the response that they will show to the clear call which he proposes to utter to them. From what I hear from youth on this subject they seem to feel that the Government are muddling us into a war for which all the wrong preparations are being made by the Service chiefs. If that is what is in their minds, I am afraid that the call of the Minister for the Coordination of Defence is not going to be a very clear call at all. I think that his trumpet is giving out a very uncertain note indeed, and while that is so the country will remain confused and perplexed and will by no means respond in the spirit of which he spoke this afternoon.

9.37 p.m.


Before I touch upon some of the important points raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), I should like to refer for a moment to the original issue raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) the mover of the Amendment, namely, the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and in particular the recommendation on which a good many hon. Members have already spoken today that there should be, to use the words of the Royal Commission, a controlling body presided over by a Minister responsible to Parliament having executive power in peace time and in war time for the supply and manufacture of arms and munitions. I confess, like many hon. Members of the House, that I was disappointed by the reply which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence gave. I do not think it is enough to say that the Commission did not give a precise outline of the kind of body which it wished to set up. Clearly, that is a matter for the Government to decide, and the Commission, in the evidence which it included in its appendix, at any rate furnished two or three alternative suggestions as to the way in which it might be done. More than that, the essence of the recommendation does not lie in the particular scheme, whether it be the Addison, the McGowan or the Geddes scheme, whether the body set up is executive or advisory—those two functions tend to overlap a great deal in practice—but whether there is to be one Minister retained for that work or not. It is full time work for any one man.

The essence of the question raised today, and which the right hon. Gentleman has not answered, is whether this immensely important function of co-ordinating the whole supply of munitions at times of urgency like the present is work that can be done in the spare time of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence Policy. That raises another question, and it was the question to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton addressed himself. The functions of the Minister for the Coordination of Defence are so immensely important that clearly they cannot be exercised effectively in the spare time of a Minister of Munitions and Supply. That is the point upon which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and a good many of us have concentrated again and again within the last year or two, and have been continually put off by the reply that the Government do not see the urgency of the case. I venture to say that in this matter, as in so many other matters, the necessity which is, first of all, pooh-poohed by the Government, eventually gets recognised, after "the locust has eaten the years," by those who speak on behalf of the Government.

It is to this immensely important question of the effective co-ordination of our Departments and of their different doctrines about war, to which the hon. and gallant Member referred just now, that I wish to address myself. Surely, there is no question more vital than that, because, after all, you can to some extent catch up deficiencies in supply. But if your whole organisation is fundamentally wrongly directed, if it is organised for wars which you are not going to wage, and is not organised for wars which you are going to wage, no afterthought, and no previous haste in the production of the wrong sort of supplies will set the situation right. The question which has exercised a great many people very seriously is whether the Minister who is normally responsible for the co-ordination of defence policy has to-day either the time or the authority to carry out his proper duties.

More than one hon. and gallant Member this evening has raised the question of the Naval Air Arm. It is a question of immense and urgent importance, because the whole efficiency of the Navy may depend upon it. Personally, I agree in the main with the conclusions of my two hon. and gallant Friends. But I respectfully suggest that that is not the real issue. The issue is that here is a question which, above all others and before all others, ought to be entrusted to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence Policy, who is the impartial authority responsible to the Cabinet for that type of question. We understand that he has been warned off the course, and that he is not to be allowed to settle it. If that is so, I venture in all humility to suggest that either the Government do not consider him fit to settle that question or they do not take his appointment seriously—one or the other. In connection with the relations of the Navy and the Air Force, there is another very important question upon which more than one hon. Member has touched, namely, the responsibility for the protection of commerce in narrow waters.

Beyond that I do not believe that there is any very great issue on the respective functions of the Navy and Air Force. But there are issues of immense and transcendent importance, affecting not only our whole organisation but our foreign policy, in connection with our ground forces to which, if I may judge by the speech of my right hon. Friend or by the White Paper which the Government have published, no real attention has yet been given, and on which this country, which is only too ready to follow the Government in organising better defence, if it knows what the policy of the Government is, has not been given any clear lead.

Let me take the definition of the task of our ground forces as given in the Government White Paper. It says that there are three main functions. They are garrisons overseas, the military share in home defence, including anti-aircraft defence, and, lastly, "a properly equipped force ready to proceed overseas wherever it may be wanted." "A force."What kind of force, and what size of force? One division? Ten divisions? One hundred divisions? We are not given the slightest indication. "Properly equipped." Yes, but equipped for what kind of war and for what purpose? This is one of the most vital issues of our defence problem, and upon it we have no shadow of guidance. Clearly, there are at any rate two main types of task to which an overseas force can be devoted. One is the taking part with the mass armies of the Continent in a campaign in Western Europe. The other is the very different kind of campaign, with armies of varying size, that we may have to wage at any time either within the confines of our own Empire or in various regions overseas as part of some greater war. This latter type of army we must have in any case. The necessities of Imperial defence compel us to have forces available to send to any threatened point at any moment. But it is a very important question to ask: Must we have the other kind of army? Must we wage land war in Western Europe as a necessary part of our international obligations? In the last War we had to do so because we had no other way of redressing the balance which might otherwise have fatally gone against our Allies. The operation of our Navy was far too slow to help them. Even so, our help would have been utterly vain if it had not been for a whole variety of circumstances, that are never likely to occur again, which gave us months and years in which to create an emergency land force of the same type as the great continental armies of Europe.

The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last said, very truly, that the next war was far more likely to be decided by the forces in existence at the outbreak of the war than by any improvisation that could be slowly created afterwards. That is the position. Shall we he given time again to create an army to play any effective part in deciding a struggle on the Continent? We have not got that army to-day. We have not even got an army comparable to that splendid little force, in many respects superior to any army on the Continent, that we had in August, 1914. To-day, not only in numbers but in equipment of every kind we are lamentably inferior to the armies on the Continent. I venture to say, looking at the recruiting situation as it is in this country to-day and the attitude of our people towards the prospect of taking part in mass warfare on the Continent, that there is no possibility of getting an army comparable to the Continental armies and fit to place alongside of them in war without conscription. Are the Government prepared to face that? If not, they should reconsider the whole question of how we are to co-operate with other countries in the discharge of our international duties or for the protection of our own security.

There was a very interesting article in the "Times" the other day on this question, from which I will quote only one sentence: We go on professing to maintain the object and we do nothing to create an army that will fulfil it. Meanwhile, we allow Continental prepossession to prejudice our whole organisation. Very true words. What is more, that Continental prepossession is a very serious obstacle to recruiting. Our people are essentially individualists. They love, if they have to fight, the kind of fight that means adventure, that means individual skill, the kind of fighting that the Air Force or the Navy give, and which our old traditional wars gave them, and not wars of mass slaughter. What we did in the late War may have been necessary but it was something essentially repugnant to the whole character of our people and it has left memories that are very deep-rooted.

I should like to quote a sentence from a remarkable work just published by a Member of this House, my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg): Our people will do anything in an emergency but they will never again commit themselves by any advance commitments to offensive mass warfare in Europe, and it will only make military reorganisation impossible to insist that such commitments are indispensable. A very powerful statement. Yet if we have commitments on the Continent we have to-day a weapon which was not in our possession in]914, the air weapon, which, as the hon. Member opposite said, is going to play a decisive part in the wars of the future. Not the only part, the land force will still be essential. But the Air Force is going to play the principal part, the decisive part, especially in the early days of the struggle. We are committed, I understand, to building up an Air Force which shall be equal in every respect to any Air Force within reach of us. Are we sure that we are making that pledge good? That is a very essential question, and I do not know that we have yet received a satisfactory answer. If we do make the pledge good, and if we have an Air Force as strong as that of any combatant in Europe then, surely, the intervention of that Force—and it can intervene within the first hour of the war—must be strong enough to turn the scales in any contest.

The other day in introducing the Army Estimates the Secretary of State for War said that if we declared that we were only going to intervene by air, or that we only pledged ourselves to intervene by air, it would create despondency on the part of those depending on our support. Why? Surely, our air assistance which ex hypothesi is equal to at least 100 per cent. of their own air force, must be more to them than the addition a few weeks later of a land force amounting to 3 or 4 per cent. of their land force, with the contingency of another 3 or 4 per cent. coming along a few weeks or a few months later, when the whole war may have been decided. Surely, from the point of view both of recruiting and of effective contribution to the Continental war if, as the hon. Member opposite says, our financial resources are not unlimited, then we must make quite sure that we have an Air Force that will play a decisive part in such a combat, and let us devote the organisation of our land forces to tasks which they have to fulfil in any case, and for which there is no alternative.

We certainly want overseas forces very different in character, in organisation and in numbers from those required for a war in Flanders. We want, in the first instance, a small force permanently mobilised and available to be sent at any moment to centres of disturbance in the Empire where quick intervention is often infinitely more important than subsequent intervention on a large scale. My right hon. Friend spoke as if we had such a force. We have not. By mobilising our reserves, to the laughter of Europe, we scraped up something like a division to send to Palestine. If by any chance that had not been quite enough, where should we have been? Can anyone say that the recent troubles in Palestine are the only troubles that we shall have in the Middle. East, or in some part of the Empire? We want a small force of something like two divisions always available and situated where it can be most strategically effective. My own suggestion would be that one division should be kept here and the other somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Cyprus or Palestine, where it could be most readily available for despatch in any direction. We also want for our purposes a larger force of, it may be, four, five or six divisions. In a long war the number might have to be extended.

There may well be, in fact, there is certain to be in the next 20 or 30 years somewhere in the Near East, the Middle East or the Far East a critical situation when a land force of one or two divisions will not be enough, but where, on the other hand, we shall not want to enlist the whole manhood of this country. Over and above that we want additional reinforcements in our Colonial garrisons in peace time. Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Palestine, Aden, Singapore, all want strengthening not only in anti-aircraft defences but in ordinary troops. Incidentally I believe that we are making a great mistake in our recruiting methods if we ignore the value we can get out of local forces whether in Malta or Cyprus, or those splendid Assyrians who gave us such excellent service in the past, and whom we have requited so ill. We could get real value for our defence in these various garrisons.

The force we want for these overseas purposes is a force that the existing Cardwell system cannot give us. I have spoken more than once on that question, and I will not delay the House by going into detail. The system cannot give vs what we need, in the first place because it was organised to create only one sort of army on mobilisation, an army which is a mere by-product of the linked-battalion system, and bears no relation to any strategic purpose whatever; and, in the second place, because it is a system which is so unjust to the recruit that it kills recruiting. While the system is very convenient for the War Office it takes away a man during the best years of his life, and does not let him go back in time to get into employment alongside his fellows. On the other hand it does not give him a career. One of the reasons why the Guards have no difficulty in getting recruits is their short-term service, and the Navy have no difficulty in getting recruits because it gives a career. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken when he says that the Army offers a career.

On the Army Estimates the Secretary of State for War said—and there is something in it—that the best recruiting sergeant is the contented soldier, the happy warrior, as he called him. But the worst enemy of recruiting is the unhappy ex-warrior, the man who feels that having been in the Army has wrecked his career. We shall never get a satisfactory system, not even by improving leave conditions, until we touch the fundamental problem, namely, the conditions of service which you are prepared to give to recruits. I think the problem may be solved in the main on the lines Mr. Arnold Forster once attempted to solve it—a short service Army, enabling those who want to go into civil life to go back in plenty of time to have a chance with their fellows of employment, and thus creating a large reserve, and then a smaller long-service Army for oversea garrisons with a further permanently mobilised force at home. That is a suggestion which deserves serious consideration, and I hope what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Cardwell system in his speech means that consideration will be given to it now.

Entirely separate, and no less important, is the question of our own home defence against air attack. Nobody can deny that it may be a terribly serious thing, and if we are inadequately provided for defence it may be so serious as to destroy our hopes of further resistance within the first few days or weeks of the war. The danger arises, not, I believe, from the terrorising of our civilian population. The courage of our people would, I think, be unbroken whatever happened in that way, and I do not believe that our enemies will ever have half enough aeroplanes and bombs to be able to devote them to the purpose of terrorism, and away from the much more urgent task of going for the material and equipment upon which our fighting forces and the life of our civilian population depends. Their whole object will be to cut the sinews of our fighting strength and paralyse our civilian life. For that reason they will concentrate on the central government, the docks, railway stations, bridges, warehouses, waterworks, railways, gas-works, and stores; and the danger of their succeeding would depend directly upon the fact whether there was or was not some measure of defence prepared.

No measure of defence will stop aeroplanes coming over, but the accuracy with which they can inflict damage is reduced to the merest fraction the moment there is an effective resistance. That means that, apart from the balloon circle round London, a most excellent idea, and apart from any zone of intense coastal defence, we have to provide for the defence of every vital vulnerable point. That means the provision of anti-aircraft artillery and highly skilled equipment for the more important points, and for the rest apparatus for smoke-screens, anti-aircraft machine guns, provision for dealing with gas and fire, as well as also small ground forces to deal with the possibility of small forces being dropped by parachute in their neighbourhood.

The point I wish to make—and I think it is a point of vital substance—is that for the purposes of overseas warfare, in territories with a sparse population and a shortage of transport, we want above all an army of quality, a relatively small army, because mobility is everything and quality is everything. For the purposes of defence against air attack we cannot have mobility. No organisation that we can create can move from one point to another as quickly as an aeroplane, so we must have each vulnerable point protected on the spot. That necessarily means large numbers of men. The right hon. Gentleman talked about two divisions of the Territorial Army being devoted to anti-aircraft work, one in Southern England and the other to anti-aircraft work in the Midlands. You will want 10 divisions of Territorials to almost every county! You are not going to deal with This problem with half a Territorial force. You have to reckon on a force of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men before you can possibly deal with this particular problem. On the other hand, if does not follow that you want the kind of force you would use in a war on the continent or elsewhere. It is a force which does not necessarily require uniforms or parade drill, or formation into brigades and divisions and all the other paraphernalia. of mobile war. It should be an organisation like the Navy, based on the unit that has to be defended, based directly on the station or the munition factory. If you do that, your task is enormously eased in many respects. For one thing, you need not in war time mobilise men away from their work; they can go on doing their work until the very last moment when the alarm rings; they can carry on their work as Nehemiah described the work of rebuilding Jerusalem was carried on: For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so budded. That would be the best practical organisation for dealing with this very difficult problem. More than that, I believe it is the only kind of organisation that would be adapted to the psychology of our people.

I do not believe there is the slightest chance of getting the numbers required for anti-aircraft defence by enlisting men in an enlarged Territorial Force of the present type. That enlarged Territorial Force is wanted for many purposes; but something over and above that is wanted, something much more flexible, much simpler—something that makes a much more direct appeal to a man's desire to defend his own work and his own home. Unless you do that—and, perhaps, even if you do that—you will not get away without some form of compulsion, of universal service for the elementary task of actually defending a man's home on the spot. The Royal Commission recommended that, when it comes to a struggle for existence, industry should be conscripted. There should no longer be unfair discrimination in favour of the employer and the man who stay at home over the employer and the man who go abroad. If you have got to have that, then you may very well parallel it with the equal duty of taking part in the defence of the industries by which they live and the homes in which they live.

If I may, I should like to summarise in a sentence or two what I would throw out to my right hon. Friend as a suggestion of a feasible way of dealing with the problem of our ground forces. First of all, we should decide that in a continental war we shall give all the help we can in the air and make sure it is effective, but not attempt again—at any rate not pledge ourselves again—to intervene with ground forces. Secondly, we ought to build up by long service a highly-trained army skilled in every form of effort that can contribute to military success, beginning with the rifle and machine gun, passing on to artillery work, learning how to do mechanical transport work, learning, if necessary, how to ride on a pony or a camel or move about on snow on skis—really handy men, as handy as the Navy has ever turned out. Behind that we should have a Regular Army on short service, enabling its men to go into ordinary civilian life and build up a really large Reserve Force. Behind that, for home defence, we should have an effective first line Territorial Force. Behind that again there should be a local Defence Force organised essentially on local lines and as far as possible on non-military lines. If I might use a parallel, I would say on fire brigade lines. That might, I believe, meet the problem of our ground Defence, which cannot be ignored, for it is an essential complement of the work of both the Navy and the Air Force.

I put forward these suggestions not because I think that is the only possible scheme or the best scheme that we can adopt, but in order to indicate to the House the kind of problem with which we are confronted, and the kind of complete reorganisation that is necessary if we are to be secure. I hope the calamity of war may be averted for all time, but it is equally possible that it may come upon us at any moment. I believe the nation would stand behind the Government in any reorganisation—however far-reaching, however great the sacrifices demanded—if they felt that the Government had really faced the problem as a whole, had probed it to its foundation and were themselves communicating that enthusiasm and passion in their task which alone will inspire the nation to follow. It is leadership that we want, and I confess, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), that when I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, I did not feel that there was much of the spirit that would lead a single man to make a sacrifice for his country. There was regret over the years that the locust hath eaten, but as regards the present a certain, perhaps it is too much to say complacency, but at any rate a certain lack of clear vision or the consciousness that clear vision is required. I confess that the Debate so far has left me anything but encouraged. I only hope that the speech which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty is to make will give me and the House that encouragement of which we are so sorely in need if we are to communicate it to our constituents outside and get the support of unanimous nation in face of the terrible dangers which at present confront us.

10.14 p.m.


The Government have welcomed this Debate, and they have particularly welcomed the atmosphere in which it has been conducted. We have heard a number of thoughtful and well-instructed speeches, but the significant fact about them is that no speaker has questioned the gravity of the situation and no speaker has questioned the need for rearmament. Let people outside this Chamber note that fact, and particularly let foreign countries note it. Criticisms have been made and suggestions have been offered: the Government resent neither the one nor the other. We are glad to hear the kind of suggestions that have been made this afternoon, and I was particularly glad to hear the suggestions just made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who always speaks with great knowledge and authority upon questions of defence. So far as I am concerned I will try, I hope at not too great length, to deal with the greater part of those suggestions and criticisms. I say to the House at the outset that, naturally, I shall approach those which do not concern my own Department with some diffidence. None the less, I will try to deal with them, for I feel sure that my Service colleagues will agree with me that, while individually responsible for our own particular Departments, collectively we are responsible for all the Departments represented in the Government and for each others' policy.

Let me begin with the criticisms that have been made against my own Department. I note with some satisfaction that they have not been numerous and that they have not been formidable. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith), who opened the discussion in a very interesting and attractive speech, criticised one of my speeches. I expect there are a great many things in most of my speeches that are open to criticism. But let me at once disabuse him of any feeling he may have had in his mind that we were following this programme of rearmament for its own sake, and were not closely regarding the course of events in the world at large. What I did say at Margate, and what I repeat now, is that if there are discussions upon disarmament and the reduction of armaments, they cannot begin upon the status quo. They cannot assume the weakness of Great Britain and the British Empire. Let them by all means start at the proper time. We should all like to see reduction of armaments. But when the question is discussed it must be discussed upon the basis of a proper standard of security for this country and the Empire.

The hon. Member made a criticism about the committee that has been appointed to advise the Admiralty upon difficult questions connected with contracts, and he quoted the fact that the committee has seldom met. That is perfectly true. It has not had more than one or two meetings, and for this reason. The Admiralty system of costings is well-established. It is surrounded by a number of excellent checks. The costs can be checked by the costs of corresponding work in the dockyards. As far as we can judge, no very new and difficult questions are likely to arise. When, therefore, I presided at one of the opening meetings of this committee and discussed the question of their activities with Sir Malcolm Robertson, the chairman, and the members of the committee, we all agreed that they should be called together only when an actual difficulty arose. That we have already done in one case and the committee gave us very valuable assistance. We are going to call them together for another and bigger case connected with the question of armour. The fact is that even though the committee has not had more than one or two formal meetings, Sir Malcolm Robertson has been in very close touch with the Admiralty and authorises me to say that so far as he and we are concerned, the arrangement is working as we always intended.

I pass from that question concerning the Admiralty to the old and difficult question of the Fleet Air Arm. I was embroiled in that question for seven years of my life in the early days of aviation. I suppose that no one in this House realises better than I do the complexities of the problems connected with it. On the one hand, there is the passionate belief of the Air Force in the unity of the air and in the distinctive character of the Air Arm; on the other hand, there is the equally strong conviction of the Navy that, however important it may be that there should be a Fleet Air Arm in the field of air strategy, in the field of naval tactics the control of sea-borne aircraft is as essential to the efficiency of the Fleet as the control of naval guns or naval torpedoes. How, Sir, can these two divergent views be reconciled? So far the attempt has been made to find the least objectionable point of contact between the two Services. Somehow or other, there must be a point of contact between the Navy and the An Force. Have we found the best? That is the question, and I feel sure that no hon. Member would expect me, who, in the nature of things, must be a partisan on one side or the other, to impress my opinion upon the House this evening. Suffice it to say that, despite some of the criticisms made in the course of the Debate, the question is very much in the minds of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, and perhaps most of anyone in the Government in my own mind.

I pass from the Fleet Air Arm to the questions that are raised in connection with the so-called controversy between the bomb and the battleship, and let me, in two or three sentences, make the position clear. We do not worship big ships as such. We were anxious to reduce the size of battleships. We did our best, by international agreement, to make a reduction possible. We failed. We feel that we could not run the risk of having ships substantially less strong than the ships of other great naval Powers. Secondly, the committee came to the view that of all warships battleships are the least vulncrable; that is to say, that if aircraft made battleships obsolete, a fortiori they made much more obsolete every other type of ship in the Fleet. Thirdly, the committee took account of the fact that, however powerful aeroplanes may be in the narrow seas, over four-fifths of the seas of the world they cannot operate. That being so, the committee unanimously reaffirmed, not because they were anxious to bolster up the status quo, but because they were convinced by the evidence which they received, the need for battleships in our naval programme.

It is incorrect to say as the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) said a few minutes ago, that we gave the orders for the new battleships before the committee had reported. We did no such thing. It is incorrect to say, as he said just now, that the Admiralty was driven reluctantly into this inquiry. The Admiralty welcomed this inquiry, and I say, on behalf of the whole board, that we welcomed the chance of an impartial decision on one of these great questions of strategy. Thirdly, it is incorrect to say, as some hon. Member said in the course of the Debate, that the Air Ministry had been the critics on the one side and that the Admiralty had been the defence on the other side. As a matter of fact, the greater part of this report, indeed, the whole of the conclusions were agreed to by the Air and Naval staffs. That is a very satisfactory fact, and I hope that we shall see it in future inquiries that raise these great questions of Imperial defence and the relations between any of the Services.

I pass from these observations on my own Department to the criticisms and the suggestions that have been made about the other two Departments. Let me begin with a word or two on the questions that have been raised about the Army. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook raised a number of important questions in the speech that he has just delivered. I am sure that we have taken note of all of them. Let me, however, deal shortly with one or two of them. He raised questions about the so-called expeditionary force. I should prefer not to call it an expeditionary force. I would rather call it an all-purposes force. If we call it an expeditionary force it presupposes, think, too much the assumption that everything is going to proceed exactly as it proceeded in 1914. That is an assumption to which I certainly should demur. What we are engaged in forming and equipping is an all-purposes force of five divisions that will be able, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested just now, to go anywhere and to carry out whatever responsibilities may be imposed upon it.

Let me say to him that the situation differs materially from the situation in 1914. Then there were in existence definite commitments. There was actually a plan agreed between the French and British General Staffs. In the present case there are no such commitments. We should have to judge the situation when it arises, and my own view is that we would be unwise to make either affirmative or negative commitments as to how or where we are going to use this all-purposes force.

A number of questions were asked about recruiting and the causes that have led to the unsatisfactory results. Here again I speak with some diffidence. I would have thought that to say that the only two reasons that have impeded the progress of recruiting are the Cardwell system and the question of pay were not sufficient. I am inclined to think that there are a number of reasons, and I can assure hon. Members that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has looked into the position and is, I understand, making proposals to remove whatever obstacles are removable.


Will my right hon. Friend answer the question which I asked? It is not clear from the interjection which the Secretary of State for War made during my speech whether there was a regular inquiry proceeding into these matters and, if so, whether the results of the inquiry will be available to the House?


My Noble Friend, I understand, directed his question specifically to the Cardwell system. My right hon. Friend authorises me to say that an inquiry is going on into the Cardwell system and possible alternatives. At present it is being carried out by experts. I do not think my Noble Friend will expect me to give a pledge as to what action we shall take when the inquiry is finished. I am sure that my Noble Friend knows better than anybody that to change the whole system of service in the Army raises a number of difficult issues, and, as he will know better than anybody in the House, it raises a number of issues with the Government of India; but I can assure him that it is a very serious inquiry into those alternatives. I cannot at the present moment say any more, as the inquiry is not yet complete.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any indication of how long the inquiry will take?


No, I cannot say that. Another specific point which was raised was the assertion that Territorials may be transferred from one unit to another, and that that is making recruits reluctant to join the Territorial Force. Let me repeat what my right hon. Friend has said more than once, and said publicly, that there is no foundation for this fear. He has given an undertaking that, short of a great emergency, transfers of that kind will not take place.

Let me pass from Army questions to those connected with the Air Force, and I would begin with the questions as to the progress of the Air programme. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air will be the last person to resent questions of that kind. We all know how anxious the country is about the Air programme and how eagerly it wishes for information as to its progress. I must be careful to avoid exciting undue optimism on the one hand or undue pessimism on the other, but I can tell my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that there is no foundation whatever for the statement which he quoted, though I do not think he made himself responsible for it, that we are vastly behind-hand with our programme. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence gave a number of particulars as to the personnel of the Air Force, and I think any hon. Member who listened to those figures will agree with me when I say that there is no cause for the feeling that, so far as personnel is concerned, we are vastly behind with our programme.

How far, then, can I make the same affirmation upon other features of the Air programme? I can tell the House that so far as the bigger programme is concerned, that is to say, the programme in which the smaller 1937 programme was merged, the position is satisfactory. The 1937 programme is to a certain extent scrapped. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour), who raised questions about it, will be the first to understand that the immediate effect of adopting a, bigger programme was to make substantial changes in the earlier programme. We had, for instance, to take units out of the 1937 programme to make a training backbone for the increased number of squadrons. What is important is not so much the 1937 programme that has been superseded, as the larger programme into which it is merged. There I am authorised to say that the position is satisfactory. So far as aircraft is concerned, the production had not quite come up to the estimates, but is not far off the estimates. So far as engines are concerned, the production has been better than the estimates. I do not want to prophesy as to the future. The position is fluid, but it is none the less satisfactory to be able to tell the House that, at any rate in present conditions, the position is satisfactory. On the whole, our forecasts of the strength of other air forces proves to be accurate; on the other hand, our own estimates have also proved to be accurate. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend can develop his criticisms on my speech later, when perhaps he will devote himself to the consideration which I have just put before the House, namely, that so far as aircraft are concerned, the production has almost come up to the estimate, and that so far as engines are concerned, production has exceeded it.

Another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) was about the vulnerability of the big air-engine centre of Coventry. I agree with him that it is a formidable and difficult position. The fact is that around Coventry is concentrated the motor industry, and it is in connection with the motor industry rather than with the aircraft industry, that the shadow system has to grow up, around the engine-making firms. I fear, therefore, that, in the nature of things, there must be a considerable concentration of engine production in the motor industry district. What I can tell him is that, as soon as that became clear, we included Coventry in the zone of air defence, and that, so far as that side of it is concerned, we are trying to make this all-important district as secure as we can.

I pass from these questions of the programme to the questions that the right hon. Gentleman raised about the so-called Nuffield controversy, and further information as to what was intended from the six shadow firms in the event of war. I understand that the position is as follows: There was a question between vertical and horizontal production, a question that pervades almost every branch of industry, as to whether it is better to produce the whole of the cornmodity in one factory or to proceed with the system of the division of labour. That, I understand, was the issue between Lord Nuffield and my right hon. Friend and the other participants in the shadow industry. The plan is to get production going as quickly as possible, and it was thought by the firms who are taking part—indeed, by all the firms except Lord Nuffield—that the quickest way to proceed was to proceed at the start by the system of division of labour. They were all agreed that, if they had attempted to concentrate the entire production in this or that factory, inevitably there would have been delays at the start. Accordingly, the start has been made on these lines, but it is intended, when once they are fairly started and have learned the work, to give them further jigs and gauges and machine tools and to make it possible, in the event of war or an emergency, that they should carry out the whole process under one roof. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, will see that the Air Ministry and the firms concerned are definitely assuming two stages. The first is the simple stage consisting of the division of labour; the second is the more complicated stage when a single factory, or one or two factories, will produce the whole of the engines.


Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that subject, would he be good enough to tell the House why Lord Nuffield objects to this shadow system, if that is the system which he puts into operation himself in his own factories?


I think the hon. Member had better turn to the White Paper, which goes in great detail into the issues between Lord Nuffield and the Air Ministry. I think the satisfactory conclusion is that both sides have agreed to differ, and that Lord Nuffield is going to give his unrivalled experience to the help of another Department, the War Office.

I pass naturally from the Nuffield controversy to the even more controversial question of a Ministry of Supply, the question that has occupied a very large part of the discussion this afternoon. Let me say to the House that we have no objection on principle to a Ministry of Supply. The only question that interests us is: Will a new Minister and a new Ministry improve matters and expedite the carrying out of the programme? My own view is that a Minister of Supply or a Ministry of Supply without powers will be worse than useless. If powers re to be given to a Minister of Supply, they will have to be in the nature of the powers that were given to the Ministry of Munitions towards the end of the War. I do not believe, myself, that there is a half-way house between giving the Minister of Supply full powers and going on with much the same kind of system that we have at present. Has the time arrived for giving the Minister these exceptional powers? Has the time arrived when it is necessary to make great changes in the world of industry and labour, when it is necessary to conscript certain processes of production, when it is necessary to make what will undoubtedly amount to a great upheaval in the economic life of the country?

I do not wish to exaggerate the disadvantages of that upheaval. They are sufficiently obvious in themselves. They must strike directly at the development of trade recovery. They will make a number of very difficult problems between capital and labour. They might compromise our export trade. They probably would, whatever they might do in the future, make considerable dislocation in the immediate present. We may come to a position when it is necessary to assume powers of this kind. I can assure the House that no prejudices will stand in the way of the Governments when they believe that the time has actually come. They do, however, think that at present—I say particularly at present, for they have no desire to prejudge what may be the case in the future—the time has not arrived. They do believe that the programme is proceeding not unsatisfactorily and that the time has not yet come when a revolutionary change should be made.

Viscount WOLMER

My right hon. Friend has used a phrase that the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence used, which was rather obscure to us. He said the time has not come. Can he give the House any idea what change of circumstances he has in mind when he, talks of a coming time which may alter the policy of the Government?


I can answer my Noble Friend in a single sentence. What I meant was if production went badly and our programme was badly lagging, and secondly, if the state of the world became substantially worse than it is now.


Will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he agrees with the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence that this question of a Ministry of Supply must be reviewed in a few weeks? What is going to happen in these few weeks?


All that my right hon. Friend quite obviously meant—and I repeat it—is that we are constantly reviewing it.


You cannot snake up your minds.

Sir S. H0ARE

It is very easy for my right hon. Friend to make interjections of that kind. He knows as well as anyone in the House, perhaps better than most of us, that the situation is very fluid.


I do. I agree.


I need not continue the argument. My right hon. Friend agrees that the situation is fluid. That seems to be a good reason for not taking up a rigid attitude at the moment. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend's interjections are beginning to remind me of our long controversies over India, which I had hoped were finished for ever. It is like old times to hear him sitting below the Gangway interrupting. I have now dealt with the main questions that have formed the principal subject of the Debate.

Let we come to a short description of the general attitude of the Government towards all these difficulties. My Noble Friend the Member for Horsham made a characteristic and smashing attack on the complacency of the Front Bench. We do not in the least resent that attack.


It is very seldom that my right hon. Friend and I are in disagreement, but he must not say that I said anything of the sort. What I did was to snake an appeal to the Government, addressed directly to the Prime Minister and based on his speech last night, to make a far more striking appeal to his fellow countrymen to do their duty.


Let me not find myself in disagrement with my Noble Friend, but he did describe us as middle-aged gentlemen with an old chairman whom we did not wish to vote out of the chair. Let me say also, in reply to the right hon. Member for Keithley, who said that we were obscurantists thinking only of the status quo, that nothing could be further from the truth. We are on no account complacent. We realise that although progress has been made a vast amount of urgent work still needs to be done. We realise that both in the field of supply and in the field of strategy there are whole series of urgent questions that need settling. We realise the gravity of the world situation. We feel just as strongly as he feels the need for speed. We are just as anxious as he is to mobilise the fullest possible support of the country. I have done what I could in my own Department to stimulate interest in the naval programme, and to ensure that we have the fullest possible flow of recruits. That is typical of the action of the whole Government. We are determined to proceed with this programme with the least possible delay. We believe there is no cause at present for changing its course. We do not wish to dogmatise about the future, and we tell the House that if the programme does go too slowly we will give hon. Members the reasons and ask for power to take whatever action is necessary to expedite it. Further than that, we are most anxious to carry behind the programme not the members of this or that party but the country as a whole; not only the employers of labour but the men working in the yards and factories.


You have not started with the men yet.


I have been making a general tour of the dockyards, and I intend to go and see the men in industry as well. So far as the dockyards are concerned, there is a splendid feeling among the workers. I hope and I believe that feeling is typical of labour generally in the country. I must be careful not to make any kind of appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite which might embarrass them or me, but we shall attempt so to carry through our programme as to have behind it the greatest measure of support in all parties in the land and among all walks of life.


Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]

Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.