§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Sir T. Inskip
After the preliminary statement of the views of the Opposition, expressed in the discussion yesterday, I thought that the most interesting feature of the speeches from their side was the complete absence of any sort of attack upon any of the main items of the programme which are set out in the White Paper. The programme was not attacked as a whole—I shall speak later about the 1414 right hon. Gentleman's reference to its relation to sound foreign policy—nor was it attacked in part. If any one is well qualified for attacking that part which forms a very formidable factor in the position, namely, the cost of the Navy, it is the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and yet the only criticism that he made was that we are engaged in building capital ships at a higher cost than immediately after the war—in 1921. The statement that these capital ships were laid down or were ordered before the Committee had had an opportunity of considering the case is not accurate, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so. Certain preparatory steps were no doubt taken by firms who expected to receive orders, but no contract or binding obligations were entered into before the House had a perfectly proper opportunity of listening to the statement that was made.
The right hon. Gentleman is also inaccurate, and I am sure that he must realise it on a moment's reflection, in describing the Government's demand to-day as that of a request for a blank cheque. Is he not aware, as stated in the White Paper and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that every single penny which is sought to be expended by the Government will be submitted in the ordinary way in Estimates to the Committee for examination? The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that he will have an opportunity of making the most meticulous examination of those Estimates when they are submitted to the Committee. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's observations about the effect of this programme upon a boom and a slump, with a little mystification. I find it very difficult to reconcile what apparently are his theories about boom with the satisfaction that is felt in every town, county and community with which I have become acquainted in the last 12 months where there is any prospect of receiving an order in connection with the Government's programme. Apparently, if the right hon. Gentleman's theories are right, they are all of them like the Gadarene swine every time they invite a Government contractor to enlarge his activities within the area of their boundaries.
The Government are asked what is the reason for the very large total? I will make one general proposition which will commend itself to every Member of the 1415 Committee, and that is that you never can calculate safety upon a narrow margin. It is quite impossible to arrive at some mathematical figure of certainty and say: "That is just enough to carry us into safety, and we will ask for no more." It is conceivable, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, that in the course of the next five years it may be necessary to ask for even a higher sum or a smaller sum, but the general magnitude of the programme and the sum involved depend upon what I have stated, namely, the necessity, if you are going to be safe and if it is worth while at all to provide for safety, to be quite sure that you have achieved your object. I cannot help thinking that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite appreciate this fact as well as I do, perhaps better.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh in a revealing phrase at the beginning of his speech, which was very significant, in spite of all his financial philosophising, declared his opinion that the co-ordination of Defence is essential in safeguarding a country against a foreign foe. The hon. Member has the root of the matter in himself when he realises that this country must always be safeguarded against a foreign foe, and all this talk about the ambiguity of the Government's foreign policy falls into its proper place when once we realise that, talk as you may about collective security and pooling your forces, in the end the task of any Government worth its name must be, to use the hon. Member's own phrase, the task of making certain that no foreign foe will prevail against you.
My observations this afternoon will be directed mainly to questions which have been asked me, with great courtesy and fairness. I do not complain of any of them. I do not even complain that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland thought it necessary to tell me to my face that he had no confidence at all in me or in the performance of my duties. It is true that he went on to say that he had no confidence at all in the staff which is associated with me. I propose to say something on that subject which I think will perhaps meet his criticisms. May I presume to say, as a very ordinary man, what I understand about the financial position? The Government to-day, fortunately, enjoys in the financial world 1416 an unassailable credit. It is an asset. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to feel some annoyance that this Government after five years of sound administration can borrow without impairing its credit, whereas in their case it was disastrous. That was the whole point of the Treasury Minute to which he referred; they were seeking to borrow upon the security of a fund without any prospect of repaying. The Government have this unassailable asset of credit. Is it to be supposed that we are to wrap this talent in a napkin, bury it and not use it? The right hon. Gentleman knows the fate of those who did that—outer darkness and gnashing of teeth.
I turn now to the matter which has loomed so large in the speeches so far— the relation of this programme to our foreign policy. I think the right hon. Gentleman, if I may say so, would have done better if he had omitted—I do not want to be censorious—if he had omitted the references to the policy of the Dominion Governments. We shall soon have an opportunity of full meeting and conference with the Dominions' accredited representatives. Let them speak through their representatives in their own way. We do not want to involve them in our discussions in this House.
§ Sir T. Inskip
No, we do not. We ask this country to pay for the Defence of the Colonies and Dependencies and those parts of the Empire from which we obtain so much of our raw materials. The Dominions are conscious of their relation with this country. They are making arrangements concerning their own territory in their own expenditure for their own Defence. In so far as the Dominions Governments have to express any opinion on our foreign policy, let it be expressed by them and not by people in this House. Now let me say what is the foreign policy of this country. I am very glad to have this opportunity of educating hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Liberal party and is associated with the Opposition in his criticism, takes the Foreign Secretary as the exponent of a policy which commends itself to him. Let me read what the Foreign Secretary said on 19th January: 1417His Majesty's Government are at present engaged in the active prosecution of the re-equipment of their three fighting Services. Though we are convinced that this is an indispensable means to our objective, it is not our objective. This remains, as I have previously stated, the negotiation of a European settlement and the strengthening of the authority of the League of Nations. We are prepared to co-operate in the common work of political appeasement and economic cooperation."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1937; col.106, Vol. 319.]Is the right hon. Gentleman going to ask us to print that in the Preamble of every White Paper? The Committee will remember the criticism that was made earlier that there was not a word in this White Paper about the League of Nations. If we had referred to it, then would it have satisfied right hon. Gentlemen? Do they really mean that if we had put in the Preamble a quotation from the White Paper of 1936 or of the Foreign Secretary's speech that they would have said, "That is all right, this programme is intended for a laudable purpose"? We know that if we had re-quoted it in this White Paper it would not have made a pin of difference to the speeches made this afternoon. There is no doubt of the intention and wish of the Government so far as the use of the forces which are intended to be equipped up to their proper strength is concerned. I have heard a great deal in this Debate about the relation of our defences to the question of collective security. What does it mean? I do not think that collective security means that we should abandon the duty of national security. Supposing nobody else puts its forces into the pool into which we are to put our forces. Supposing nobody does that. Does it mean that we are not to use these forces to defend ourselves against anybody else who will not co-operate with us?
The fact that we have pooled our defences does not diminish—it increases our responsibilities and our risks. I take the view, which I commend to the Committee, that the responsibility of this nation, this powerful country, to itself and to its prestige in Europe is to-day infinitely greater, because of the responsibility we have pursued in connection with the pacification of Europe. In any case right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot be allowed to say that because the collective security system has in their assumption broken down for 1418 the time being, this country has to refrain from defending itself. It cannot refrain, even in justice to others or in relation to democracy. The right hon. Gentleman surely cannot mean that whether collective security is able to protect this country or not this country should abandon the task of defending itself. That is implicit in the Edinburgh Resolution, because the Labour party said in that Resolution, to which reference is often made, that part of their policy was the maintenance of defensive forces. It was their policy, it was said, to maintain such forces as were consistent with the country's responsibilities as a Member of the League of Nations, the preservation of the rights and liberties of democratic institutions and the preservation of international law.
I would like to know where our democratic institutions would be if this country were defenceless. In this connection the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway assailed the Chancellor of the Exchequer for saying that it was not in the public interest to state in a precise way who were the allies and who were the enemies against whom this programme is directed. Does he seriously suggest that it would have assisted in the peace of the world if my right hon. Friend had opened his statement about this programme by saying that it is directed against nation X or nation Y? Why did the right hon. Gentleman criticise the Chancellor of the Exchequer as having said something improper when he said that it was not expedient or in the public interest to set out our allies and our enemies which might be contemplated?
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
If we are looking to the League our Allies are those other States also allied to the League.
§ Sir T. Inskip
Yes, but supposing a very powerful nation, thought to be associated with us in defending collective security, refuses to do so, does it still remain an ally, or become an enemy? The fact is that on the whole question of the relation of this programme to our foreign policy, though I recognise that the hon. Members opposite would never admit that this Government has any real zeal or conviction in the idea of the League of Nations, that is the ideal to which we are working, and meanwhile we will not neglect that which will be 1419 necessary, whether we have collective security or not.
I pass now to the next criticism that concerns myself more particularly, and it was that there has been no hint of direction, of co-ordination and no hint of any real planning. I sometimes wonder whether these criticisms are passed in any desire to know the plain truth about the facts or whether they are made at random in the darkness of ignorance. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I failed in my duty because I had not co-ordinated the staffs of the different Ministries. I was not aware that it was one of my duties to undertake that part of the duties which fall upon responsible officers in 1he Government Service. I would have very little time left for my other duties if that were so.
Let me invite the Committee to note what is going on in the way of planning. I think it will allay some of the fears and expel the doubts and the anxieties felt. I will give two examples. Take the case of our coast defences, and I speak from chapter and verse, from records and documents upon decisions with which I am familiar from day to day. The figures for coast defence at home and abroad are based upon a minute and meticulous examination of the subject. The first stage taken some time ago was to devise the general principles on which the coast defences of ports are to be based, bearing in mind all the possibilities of the naval or air attack to which the different categories of ports might be exposed. The next stage was to work out for each individual port the actual defences that were required under modern conditions, and the third stage was to discuss with the authorities on the spot the exact location of the different forms of armaments. Suppose we have completed these plans for coast defence. Is that or is it not an example of the co-ordination which the right hon. Gentleman so ardently desired? This is a question upon which representatives of the three Services have been engaged for years, and I want to pay a high tribute to the devotion and the skill which all concerned brought to the discharge of the duties lying upon those responsible to the Services to whom I am going to make reference later.
Now let me come to another question; let us take the question of the anti-aircraft 1420 defence of this country. Here again the first stage was to settle the general principles, and the second stage was again a full examination, conducted by experts not only of all three Services, but of all Departments and interests affected, into the precise degree of protection to be afforded to any particular locality. On this co-ordinated planning the total amount and the character of the defences were calculated and the estimated expenditure followed in natural course. In this way there has resulted elaborate planning and co-ordination, for which I claim no virtue, but I have seen it done. I have seen it day by day. I see those engaged upon it and take into account what are the practical possibilities. These estimates of expenditure are based upon these inquiries and examination. The hypothetical assumptions on which the Estimates have been based are the result of closely co-ordinated effort, as is the detailed planning which has been the result. Will it suffice if I mention one or two more general subjcts? Let us take the reserves of ammunition. Does anybody think that we are planning this matter regarding supplies of ammunition regardless of other things? The reserves of ammunition are calculated with a view to a possibility of an emergency which may take place and always with the idea that we shall have sufficient reserves to cover the period between any outbreak of war and the time when full production by Government and other factories will come into play.
The oganisation of this form of supply is in itself a revelation of the planning which has been completed. I do not think hon. Members realise the extent to which we have had an elaborate and exhaustive review of the capacity of this country to produce armaments of all types to meet the country's needs. We have allotted to the Departments the capacity of this and that firm so that there may be no overlapping and no competition between Departments for the services of the same producer. It has not been haphazard, panic planning, but a deliberate calculation down to the last unit of any particular type of weapon or arm that is required. Let me give an example. We found a definite deficiency of a very precise amount in the capacity for supplying the needs of the Army. What did the Government do? They 1421 forthwith took steps to acquire a well-known engineering undertaking, Scots-wood-on-Tyne, with an enormous actual capacity and a much larger potential capacity. The terms upon which it will be acquired are being carefully considered by the Departments, but it is a response to the detailed consideration of the needs of the country and is part of the completed plan for providing capacity to meet the demands which any emergency, even that of collective security, may make upon us.
Let me present a concrete idea to hon. Members—Government factories. Why are we building Government factories for the purpose of producing ammunition and explosives? Why? During the last War, as everybody remembers, in the fever of necessity factories were designed even up to the last day of the War for the production of sorely needed supplies. There is no time in modern war, especially when the weight of the attack will be felt in the first few weeks, to make preparations which will take 18 months or a year to complete. So much have we planned, that we have felt it to be in the national interest to build factories while we have time, so that they can be available if an emergency should arise. Is that an example or not of planning and preparation? Perhaps some spokesman of the Opposition will tell us the answer.
It is important to point out that although the total sum stated in the White Paper indicates the order of magnitude of the task the Government have to undertake it is not a balance sheet. The programme remains flexible. We hope it may never be necessary, if the Government's policy succeeds, to expend this vast sum, and the White Paper says that modifications are possible either up or down—I hope not up—but it does indicate to the Committee the task which the nation must undertake. The items in the balance sheet will be produced when the Estimates are before the Committee. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for East Edinburgh say that he was not at all surprised by what he found in the White Paper; that he knew well the magnitude of the task and that that he could have written with one exception everything contained in the White Paper. I only wish he would communicate his knowledge to hon. Members sitting behind him.
1422 I have been asked whether we are getting all we want as economically as possible. There is some suspicion that a Government Department enters into a contract a little wildly, without check and without supervision. Not a single contract is entered into on those terms. Where competitive tenders are impossible every tender and contract is subjected to an exhaustive examination by the costings branches. The right hon. Gentleman said that the costings sections have not been reinforced for the purpose of this gigantic task. He is wrong. Surely, he said that inadvertently. If he went into any of the Service Departments he would find that these branches have been recruited by the most competent men who can be found, eminent accountants, experienced in testing costings, and in examining the books of contractors. Government Departments, with the Treasury behind them if necessary, are jealous in protecting the taxpayer and Parliament from any undue exactions from those engaged on Government work.
§ Mr. G. Hardie
With whom were Rootes Securities Limited in competition before they got the contract from the Government?
§ Sir T. Inskip
I know that Rootes Limited is somewhat of a King Charles's head to the hon. Member. The contracts with Rootes Limited were examined in the same way as any other contract. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said that he had no confidence in me or in my staff. If I may deal with my unworthy self first, that is not so important, but it is important that he should have no confidence in the staff. I have stated the part I play with proper modesty. I may say that I have been cognisant of what is being done and hope that on some occasions I may have been able to make a small contribution. But the hon. Member invited us to supplement the staffs by addingmore of the younger and fresh-minded men from the Services to modernise the outlook of the officials at present advising him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th February, 1937, col. 1307, Vol. 320.]Curious to relate the Government have already thought of that. About a year ago, just after I took office although not the consequence of my taking office, the Joint Planning Committee, comprised of men of comparatively junior rank, under the rank of full generals or admirals, 1423 received the assistance of a number of younger men in point of years and junior in rank, and you have in the department of the Committee of Imperial Defence some of the most alert, vigorous, fresh and most open minds that can be found in the Services. There is, fortunately, not wanting a good supply of persons to take their place if any of them should be called away for service on promotion. It is a complete misrepresentation to suppose that I, who am no longer able to claim to be in my late middle age, am associated with a number of respectable Colonel Blimps. The youth and intelligence and experience of these men who have passed through the Staff Colleges and the Imperial Defence College will meet with the approval of the most exacting hon. Members opposite.
What sort of questions do we consider? May I say a word about the fallacy which underlies the suggestion so often made that I have solved no problems? I read in a remarkably friendly statement about myself, a rarely friendly statement, that I have solved no problems and that the solution of the problems of Defence was outside my duties. It is really a fallacy to suppose that the problems of Defence are like a mathematical problem, to which there is a certain answer if only you sit down and think about it long enough. The problems of Defence are questions not of mathematics but of the proper plans to be made to deal with an infinite variety of circumstances. Experience is one thing which helps to make right plans. No doubt intelligence and wide reading are aids to successful planning, and I can say that our experiences of the last year in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Western Mediterranean, in the Spanish Revolution and in Palestine, have all had an effect in helping the Joint Planning Committee and the Chiefs of Staffs to see in actual concrete form emergencies for which plans must be devised.
Nobody believes that plans once made to meet a certain emergency are ever likely to be required to meet an emergency of the same character. There come up constantly for consideration strategical problems for which plans have to be devised. I am glad to say that recently there has been formed a Joint Intelligence Committee, composed of representatives of the three Services, which works 1424 under the Chiefs of Staff. There is also a Committee on Industrial Intelligence in foreign countries. It is impossible for me to disclose the nature of the reports we receive and the information the Joint Intelligence Committee prepares for the Chiefs of Staff. I can only give my assurance to the Committee that they are an immense and indispensable aid to the right planning which continues from day to day in connection with these questions.
The Committee may say, "This is all vague and abstract; tell us something of what you are doing." I have sometimes been interested to read that no plans are being made for the Higher Command or the higher control in war. This has been exhaustively examined, and although I do not suggest that the plans are final and for all time, the plans for setting up a proper control in time of war have been completed but will be kept under consideration. The Government may be blind to some things but it is too much to ask anybody to believe that after all that has been written about the complications of the Great War they really have not thought on how the next war should be carried on as far as the Higher Command is concerned.
Let us take the question of seaborne trade, a notable illustration of the necessity for co-ordination in its true spirit. The Navy, the Air Force and even the Army must play their part in the protection of our seaborne trade. The narrow seas and their dangers have not escaped the notice of the Staffs and myself, and I am glad to say that, although here again they will be subject to revision in any fresh emergency and with every fresh discovery, exhaustive reports have been prepared. The distribution of the imports of food, the diversion of shipping from the East coast to the West coast, the organisation at the ports, the internal distribution and inland transport, the choice of routes—ladies and gentlemen, they have all been—[Interruption.] I remember making that mistake when I was much younger and much more nervous even than I am now. I apologise for my mistake. These matters and another which I was about to mention—the proper defence of vulnerable points against air attack—have been considered, not as "solved problems," but as plans subject to continual consideration.
Time prevents me from dealing with all these topics, but let me mention one 1425 matter which I think will be of interest to the Committee. The accumulation of reserves of raw material is mentioned in the White Paper. Everybody will be aware that there are many commodities which are absolutely essential, and the Government have taken time by the forelock, and stores of those have been provided. I would like to say a word about two other topics. One is the question of food. Naturally this is a question of interest to the public, as indeed it is to the Government. Control and rationing have been prepared for, but I am aware that those are blank cheques, and that the question is. Where are the assets, where is the food? The Government are conscious that rationing is at most a second best. Storage has excited public interest, but if anybody gives a moment's reflection to that, he will see that the very purpose of any plan would be defeated by a premature disclosure of the steps which the Government are bound to take. Hon. Members have little conception of the complexity or the expense of this question. If anybody reflects on the cost of buying—as suggested by Sir Arthur Salter-—12 months' storage of food and the cost of providing storage facilities, he would not wonder that the programme is so expensive.
Another matter to which I will refer briefly is the Army. We have often been asked what is the purpose for which the Army is to be used. Our Regular Army is a small one. Hon. Members opposite will agree with me that it must be equipped with the very best machines, arms and equipment we can give, not only for our own safety but for the purpose of the men whom we are asking to go into the Regular Army. Then there is the Territorial Army. The White Paper discloses that plans are being made to provide the Territorial Army with proper training equipment. It is a small Army even when we put the Territorials with the Regular Army. What is the purpose of this Army? I have been suspected sometimes of saying that it was to be an Army of unlimited size. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland asked whether we were going to have an Imperial force to police the Empire or an Army to wage war on a Continental scale. We are not devising any such Army. We have this small, well-equipped, well-trained Army, and no- 1426 body can say what it may be necessary for any future Government to decide. It is small enough in all conscience for the tasks which it has to perform from time to time. All I can say is that we do not plan to have an Army on' the Continental model. We plan the less on that scale because of the paramount importance nowadays of the Air Force and the danger, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, of attack from the air. We are conscious of the proper proportion that must be maintained between these Services. I am gratified at any rate that in the course of this Debate there has been no suggestion that we are asking the country to maintain an extravagant or expensive Army.
I have tried without unduly trespassing on the time of the Committee to refer to some of the questions which have been asked me. I have been charged in the past with devoting too much of my time to supply. I have not attempted to deal with that except by allusion this afternoon. If I have devoted too much of my time to supply, it is not because that is my major preoccupation, but because the speeches of the Government's critics have been largely directed to questions of supply. I have tried this afternoon to show that the proper balance is observed between those two parts of my duties; indeed they are often so closely related that it would be impossible to divide them. The scale of supply must often be conditioned by the policy for which forces, properly equipped, are required.
I end as I began. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, although they question the Government's allegiance to the League of Nations, have not questioned the size or the necessity for this programme. Other nations are watching this Committee today. Other nations are not interested in our financial questions, whether we shall borrow or pay out of Income Tax or Super-tax. What other nations are interested in is in seeing the measure of unity there is in the nation and in this Committee on this task of making ourselves safe and making ourselves competent to discharge the duties of collective security if that day ever comes. I do not know whether I am too late in the hope I express in this Debate that before it ends right hon. Gentlemen opposite may make one thing plain, although 1427 they regard the Government as financially unsound in the measures they propose to take—I do not mind that, for we are prepared to meet that; what I should mind is that other nations, people abroad and in the Dominions, should have any illusions as to the unanimity which I believe exists in the nation on this question of rearming the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite will not suspect me, I hope, of saying anything arrogant or of exceeding my duties if I make an appeal to him to make it plain in this Debate what I believe is true of the great trade union movement which hon. and right hon. Members opposite represent, that this country is at any rate to-day a great democracy, and that, contrasted with the authoritarian States, it is united in its determination that the democratic institutions of this country should be defended to the utmost of the ability of every Member of the House.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
I think the whole Committee is very grateful to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence for all that part of his speech in which he described the work on which he is engaged. I would like to say at once that he has given me, at any rate, rather a new perspective with regard to that work and a good deal to think of which is new to me. I shall say what was in my mind before he spoke as to what we felt and feel about his work, but I will say at once that in some of the matters which he mentioned to-day as having come within the purview of his Department, he seems to me to have broken new ground in a very valuable direction and to have dealt with things which hitherto we have not felt were really being dealt with adequately.
Before coming to that, however, I wish to make a preliminary point which arises out of something of which we heard a good deal yesterday, that this large measure of borrowing was brought within correct financial principles by saying that the loan would be paid back in a certain fairly limited measure of time, which T suppose would correspond in the main with the utility of the armaments, the battleships, and the buildings on which the money is to be spent. Although I recognise, as all do, the absolute honesty of the Chancellor in his statement of his 1428 intentions, I do not think any Chancellor ought to bind either himself or his successors in these matters of repayment. Of course, we all know that in fact every Chancellor will adjust the repayment of loans, whether it be this loan or any other, to the circumstances of each particular year with which he is dealing.
When I have listened to Budget statements, I have always wondered whether there would ever be a Chancellor who would intimate that he had to deal with a normal year. As far as my experience goes, every year is always abnormal, and that allows special arrangements to be made with regard to debts of any sort or kind. Even if there were any power given to the Chancellor to deal with a certain part of our debt in a certain way, that could be made entirely of no effect by the Chancellor's complete freedom to deal with our total debt from year to year in practically any way he wishes. When I listened to the Chancellor yesterday, it came to my mind that we have heard him within recent months explaining how absurd it would be to earmark the yield of any particular tax or levy to any particular purpose, and when he has explained that to my hon. Friends who represent agricultural constituencies, I have entirely agreed with him; but I am bound to say that I think it is equally absurd to earmark any particular part of our debt to be paid off in any particular time or manner. Therefore, we are not justified in taking credit for the idea that these proposals will become any more defensible because the debt is to be paid off within 30 years.
I would ask the Committee to consider for a moment or two whether the emergency in which the country undoubtedly finds itself, a greater emergency than ever before, justifies our departure from the general doctrine which Chancellors of the Exchequer have so often put forward, that, as long as it is possible, we shall pay as we go along. I have been looking up previous declarations on that question, and I find that they have been made equally definitely by Conservative Chancellors, such as Sir Stafford Northcote, or Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, or Liberals such as Sir William Harcourt or more recently the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was, of course, very much tempted in the days before the War when we were putting forward greater 1429 pressure with regard to armaments, to throw the cost on to debt in order to have more money for the social services which were his more particular concern. When one looks into the reasons which different Chancellors have given at different times against having resort 1o loans if it could possibly be avoided, one cornes back to one main reason which seems always to have been at the back of their minds. It is this: As soon as one gets into the region of loans, one loosens the control and the vigilance which the House can exercise over expenditure.
One of the main reasons why we hesitate so much in approving the policy which the Chancellor has now presented to us is because, with the best will in the world, we feel that the Government have at present no really efficient system of control of expenditure and that, therefore, they should not be encouraged to drift along, as we feel they have hitherto been drifting, without tackling that matter more decidedly. Of course, I refer to what has, until to-day, seemed to me to be the failure of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, judging by the statements which he has hitherto made, to show us that he and his Department were tackling what we think are the essential principles underlying national expenditure on armaments. It is not very easy to explain what I mean, but, as I see it, there are two separate questions which have to be answered by anyone who traverses this field. One is the question of what to do, and the other is the question of how to do it. As the Minister said, it has been chiefly with the latter question, the question of supply, that he has dealt in his previous statements to us.
It seems to us that these two questions ought to be separately handled. I feel that the bigger question, the question of what to do, has been handled supremely well in two periods within my memory. Those were the periods during which Mr. Balfour, as we shall always think of him, and Mr. Asquith were in the chair of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Neither posed as an expert, but both of them—Mr. Balfour in a supremely able manner—saw to it that, if the experts decided that a certain part of our task could best be done by the Navy, it was not necessary that the Army should also be equipped to carry out that same part of the task. I think the Minister for the 1430 Co-ordination of Defence indicated to-day that he has been coming nearer to questions of that kind than we realised before. It did not seem to us, hitherto, that that sort of central question, the question of what we should do, had been getting the attention which it deserved in comparison with what we believe to be the minor question of how to do it, or the question of co-ordinating the services and supplies of the different Ministries. It did not seeem to us, hitherto, that the Minister had any real power of control, for instance, over the Admiralty, which, almost notoriously, has declined to assent to any superior authority on his part.
We also had from the Minister to-day a not quite definite but rather interesting statement about the role of the Army on the Continent. We felt hitherto that the Government had not faced the question of whether, in view of the tremendous development of aircraft power, it would be possible in future for our Army to be engaged in Continental wars as we know them. It must be equipped, of course, for fighting anywhere in the world where we have possessions, but whether, in view of the development of aircraft power, we can so plan as to have an expeditionary force, even a small one, available, as our last expeditionary force was available, to go to the Continent of Europe seems to us a vital question. Hitherto we thought that that question was not being properly considered. I do not want to explain that further, but we had our doubts about those essential matters and also about the question, which is really also a central question, of what should be the relationship of our different Services in view of the tasks which they are now called upon to perform. It seemed to us, as I have said, that hitherto the Minister was dealing with matters which were minor and secondary.
We felt, and still feel, in spite of all this talk about costings departments and estimates, that if you have a special programme covering five years in which a great deal has to be done—a great many buildings erected, a great deal of machinery installed, and a great many people engaged—if you cannot give any more than three or four or five years' security to those people, and if you are employing private firms in work of that kind, then you cannot by any possibility have efficient control of the profits which 1431 they make. With such a tremendous expansion as is postulated in this White Paper, it seems obvious that every firm which can in any way contribute to the gigantic task must be roped in, and the claim which they will all make, that there is no guarantee of any permanence for their staffs or their premises, must prevail over any arguments that a costings department may bring against them, and lead therefore to an enormous growth of what is practically profiteering. That cannot be checked effectively as long as the Government rely mainly on private firms for their munition supplies. In this connection may I say that it is almost an insult to the House of Commons that the Government should have put before the country this enormous programme while they go on, from week to week and from month to month, without telling us their decision on the main recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of Arms.
I turn to another point, and on this I am only echoing the noble words of the Minister towards the end of his speech about the necessity for national unity. I think we ought to explore this loan policy in connection with that subject, and therefore in connection with the probability or otherwise of a European war. Personally, I think that the god of war or, rather, the devil of war has already taken charge practically everywhere. I see no signs of any policy anywhere except the policy of piling up armaments, and I think that the nations which are competing in that policy are, to use the Minister's simile, running violently down a steep place into the sea of mutual destruction. I think a major conflict in Europe in the next 18 months will be extraordinarily difficult to avoid and that no one can possibly tell whether we shall be drawn into it or not. It seems to me, as I have listened to people saying that we ought to keep out of any difficulties in Europe, that they regard war very much as a game of chess which can be played by two opponents while the rest look on in comfort. To me it seems that war is a game of blind man's buff with everybody blindfolded and the liability of collision at any moment between any of them in entirely unexpected ways.
While I hasten to admit that I got a great deal of enlightenment and help from 1432 many parts of the Minister's speech, I am bound to say that it did not help me to clear up what is another central question, namely, What is the foreign policy of the Government and on what principle is it based? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the League, and it is interesting to note that the Chancellor of the Exchequer never mentions the League. It seems to me that the only Minister who ever does mention it in any serious way is the Foreign Secretary, and he always speaks of it so nicely that it seems almost indecent to ask him whether he is going to do anything about it or not. However fairly one tries to examine Ministers' speeches, it is extraordinarily difficult to say whether our policy is based on the League of Nations, or on alliances, or on isolation. If it is difficult for us to do so, it must be more difficult for foreign countries, and that, it seems to me, adds to the likelihood of our being drawn into any great outbreak that may occur abroad.
The point that I want to make is that if war comes in the form in which it must come, with devastating suddenness—any modern war between great Powers—there is one thing that will be as important to us as armaments, and that, as the Minister suggested, is national unity. I think the Government are sometimes too much inclined to feel that because they are called a National Government, they therefore represent the nation. They will have a rude awakening, I imagine, some day, but I do not go into that question now. My point is rather that if we cannot have complete unity, it is of overwhelming importance, if war comes, that there should be as much unity as possible. We do not realise what a marvellous asset it was at the outbreak of the last Great War that there was almost complete unity in this country.
§ Sir F. Acland
The Noble Lord knows the history of that time, very likely, much better than I do, and I think he knows that from the moment Belgium was invaded there was, in essence, unity everywhere—with the people who really counted.
§ Earl Winterton
I was in the House at the time, and I know that the unity came from the House of Commons and not from the Cabinet.
§ Sir F. Acland
I would not accept that view, and I was a member of the Government at that time. I am sorry that my memory and that of the Noble Lord should be in conflict on that question, but he will allow me to proceed with my point. Now that the League has collapsed, we shall not get any unity again like the unity which we had at the beginning of the last War, but surely the nearer we can come to it the better. The connection between that subject and the present loan proposal is this: Although the people outside who will be considering this policy of the Government do not know much about inflation and deflation, and I am very glad of that, yet there are certain things already pretty clear to them and others which will gradually become clear to them. They know, for instance, that here they have a Government which would not, at the bottom of the slump, borrow a farthing to help the distressed areas, but is perfectly willing to borrow these huge sums now. They will realise later that borrowing at once puts up prices in a way that taxation does not, and that with high prices the wealthy man can, to a large extent, choose whether they shall hit him or not, because he need not buy things at the high prices if he does not like them, whereas the poor man must be hit by high prices, because he has to spend all that he has in order to live.
Therefore, they will feel that to the extent to which the Government borrow, the burden of high prices will be distributed unevenly over different classes. It will be an uneven burden, because it will fall much more heavily on the poor people. It avoids the equitable method which applies under taxation, of graduating the burden so as to place the most of it on the shoulders of those who can best afford it and those who will undoubtedly make enormous profits in the gigantic boom which is going to take place. To that extent, the Government are unfairly treating a large proportion of our people, and I think that that may lead to a state of things, with prices soaring upward, for which the Government and the nation may have to pay a very heavy penalty if war breaks out.
There was something of a duel last night between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for 1434 Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). The Chancellor challenged him as to whether he dissented from the general and terrible conclusion of the White Paper that it might be necessary to spend £1,500,000,000 or more on armaments and other relevant things in the next five years. The hon. Member replied that he preferred to consider one thing at a time, and that that was not the primary question before the Committee. I thought that was a fair enough answer; but let me say for myself, and I think I may say it for my hon. Friends too, that I do not assent to the proposition that expenditure on this scale is inevitable. I know how enormously risks have increased since the League was allowed to collapse, but I cannot help recalling the ruling statement of the Prime Minister during the last election:There has not been, there is not, and there will not be any question of great armaments or materially increased forces.We cannot help realising now that when he made that statement he must have known that the League was bound to collapse. He knew quite well then that the bluff of sanctions which worked so well with the electorate had already failed with Mussolini. Seeing that, with that in his mind, he made that statement about armaments, it is very difficult to see what has happened, although so many terrible things have happened since then, which makes the position so utterly different today. As an illustration of the difference, I will quote two short statements made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, one which was quoted by the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) to-day, in which he summarised the speech of the First Lord last May:A democracy must choose the issues on which it will act on their merits.That statement the First Lord to-day reiterated and defended. Compare it with this statement only seven months before:My Government stands, and my country stands with it, for full, steady, and collective resistance to all acts of aggression.Which represents the true mind of the First Lord? I do not think he is a man who is likely to change his mind. I believe his true opinion all the time was expressed in the quotation which the right hon. Member for Hillsborough used to-day. If that is so, it only confirms me in the belief that the policy of July the 1435 year before last was put up as bluff, and that during the election Ministers knew already that that policy had failed. I am not, therefore, convinced that between the last election and now there has been such a deterioration in foreign relations as to justify what seems to be suggested in this White Paper, which is nothing less, I think, than the abandonment of foreign policy as an instrument of peace and the substitution of competition in armaments. We shall look carefully into the Estimates this year, and we on these benches may think it right to support them, as we did last year, but this document which is now before us seems to be a document of despair. We believe that there is a better way, and we shall continue to try to point it out to the country. We shall continue to urge it on the Government, and if that course continues to be as hopeless as it seems to be now, we shall try in due course to make our contribution towards securing an alternative Government which will not despair, as this one seems to me to have done.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross
A matter which has always puzzled me has been resolved by the speech to which we have just listened. I had always wondered whether the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) was as gloomy as he appears to be, and we now know that he is. I do not think I have heard a speech which prophesied death and destruction to all and sundry in a more certain voice. I should think that if anything would have cheered the right hon. Member out of his natural melancholy temper, which would be appropriate to a member of his party, it would be the presence beside him of a kinsman who has intervened with such forcible effect. The only part which I have taken so far in this Debate, which I have attended almost throughout, has been to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party opposite whether he can give the names of the countries which we could count upon as allies against an aggressor. It might be improper, and certainly would be impolitic, for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to theorise about who would be our enemies, but why should it be improper or impolitic for the right hon. Baronet to tell us which nations we can count upon with certainty to support us if we are the 1436 victims of aggression, such aggression as he has denned under the Covenant of the League of Nations? He has not given the name of one country which would fill that honourable role.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
If the hon. Member wishes me to answer his question I have two answers which I can give him. I say, first, that the practical experience of the Abyssinian dispute showed 50 nations marshalled in response to aggression, and that when we feared that the economic pressure in the Mediterranean might bring retaliation upon us and asked for naval assistance from four Powers in the Mediterranean, it was immediately proffered. My second answer is that I have never said that collective security is now a reality, but always that on the basis of the material which was proved, by our experience in the Abyssinian dispute, to be available, the Government ought to create that system of collective security. Our criticism is that they are not starting to do it now.
§ Sir R. Ross
Yes, and the right hon. Baronet ought to create a party large enough to form a Government, but such things are very difficult. Has any country made more efforts towards collective security than ours? If so, let us hear which country it is. This country has done much to support collective security, and the answers which the right hon. Gentleman has given me furnish a notable instance of a case in which the efforts of collective security were unavailing. The case of Abyssinia furnished an occasion which was peculiarly appropriate for the application of economic pressure, but it was unavailing to save Abyssinia. I welcomed the second answer he gave as being a pronouncement which adds to the realities of the situation, realities which he so evidently recognises.
This Debate has not been very enlightening as to the views of the party-opposite on the questions we are discussing, though it is enlightening, perhaps, on their state of mind. One seldom has the confusions of finance brought home to one so clearly as they were in the speech yesterday of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). He used one expression which was staggering to me. I have sat in this House listening to hon. Members opposite demanding increased purchasing power for the poor people of the country, 1437 but yesterday we had the hon. Member for East Edinburgh complaining that more people would have purchasing power, that poor people would have more purchasing power and would compete against one another. What do hon. Members opposite want? For months they complain that poor people have not enough purchasing power, and yesterday an eminent Member of their party was complaining that they would now have too much. I disagree with that suggestion completely.
To-day we have had the speech of the right hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander). I am sorry that he is not now in his place, because I think there is no one else, except one of his colleagues, who could have shown himself such a master of Parliamentary invective in all its forms. It was a speech of sound and fury, but what did it signify? We had flashes of lightning from a woolly internationalism, but the speech produced only one definite pronouncement so far as I could see, and that was the humiliating acknowledgement that in the view of his party we had no hope of defending the Empire by ourselves. Is that the view of hon. and right hon. Members opposite? Have they given up all hope of defending themselves? There is no answer, and so I suppose that is their policy.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Will the hon. Member be good enough to tell us whether he considers that the British Empire alone could fight a war in the Pacific and in Europe? We have 12,000 miles of frontier in Australia alone, and an incalculable number of sea miles to protect. Could the British Empire defend itself in a war in Europe and the Pacific at the same time? Has the British Empire ever done so?
§ Sir R. Ross
The British Empire has never yet been faced by that situation. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. They are very ready with their laughs. They produce a hypothetical situation which could never have occurred in the past. I will answer the hon. Member from history. There has never yet been an occasion in the history of the world when the British Empire was not prepared to defend itself. So far we have never failed to defend ourselves adequately, and, so far as I and my hon. Friends here are capable of it, there will be no 1438 such occasion. Pusillanimous Members opposite have thrown in their hands. They are no longer prepared to rely upon our own resources—if necessary. Of course, I agree that it is not a situation which I—
§ Sir R. Ross
I am very much obliged for the interruption of my hon. compatriot. I think our views are perhaps distinguishable, but I am interested to have an interruption from him. I do not think the incident at the Curragh has the slightest bearing upon the point I was discussing; if so, I do not know what it is, but it was an incident which was one of the most fortunate things that ever happened to this country. I know it is one of the bugbears which the hon. Member, as an advocate of patriotism, perhaps not exactly the same kind of patriotism as mine, has always got in mind.
§ Sir R. Ross
It was no mutiny, but I am not going to discuss the Curragh incident. I will tell hon. Members why. Because you, Captain Bourne, would stop me. I think I know a good deal more about the Curragh incident than some hon. Members opposite who have interrupted, and on another occasion, here or outside, I shall be only too happy to discuss it. One significant feature which comes out of this Debate is pathetic, and that is the belief by hon. Members opposite that somebody is going to fight their battles for them. That is a very dangerous belief for anyone to have. It is all very well; you may get assistance in many spheres, but to get countries to risk the lives of their own people in order to fight for the interests of another country is very difficult to do. It is an almost impossible idealism, which I am sure we have not yet reached in the world.
§ Sir R. Ross
We won the last election on this—that we kept this country out of war with Japan and Italy, which the hon. Member's party would have liked to see the country in. That was one of 1439 the major factors which won the last election, and I think we shall probably win the next election on what hon. Members opposite are saying to-day. I came here expecting to find some reasoned attack on the matters on which the money is proposed to be spent, but no such attack has been made. We have not even had the familiar criticism of battleships, and we generally have some criticism of that sort. As, there has been a recent inquiry on the subject the attack seems to, have died down. We have had no criticism of the cruiser programme; 70 cruisers are the modest needs of this country, relying, as it must in the last event—I emphasise those words, although I hope that we shall never be thrust back on it—on our own Fleet to defend ourselves.
I shall not waste the time of the Committee dealing with points which have not been raised. I would like to address a request to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and to the Government at large, as to the position of the Army. The Minister alluded to-day to the necessity for the Army having the best equipment. That is a view which everyone holds. It is a very small Army and it should make up in the quality, not only of its personnel but of its equipment, for what is lacks in numbers. At the present time it most certainly does not do so. I do not think anyone realises how weak our military forces are. Their functions are adequately set out in the White Paper which was issued in March. That White Paper should be read in conjunction with the White Paper that we have to-day. In paragraph 30 of it there is a definition of the functions of the Army, as far as they can be defined. It has three main functions:To maintain garrisons overseas in various parts of the Empire, to provide the military share in home defence, including anti-aircraft defence, coast defence and internal security, and, lastly, in time of emergency or war to provide a properly equipped force ready to proceed overseas wherever it may be wanted.That last sentence shows that the British Army is intended in emergency to be able to face the best troops in the world.
At the present time the Army is smaller by 21 infantry battalions than it was in 1914. The cavalry has been halved, and our responsibilities have increased. Above all, the reserves have been enormously 1440 diminished. What was called the Special Reserve has disappeared and no substitute force has been put in its place. As regards its equipment, for years the Army was entirely without any anti-tank defence, except that of its own field artillery. We have, I understand, a good, modern, light tank, but the medium tanks are insufficient in number, of obsolete type, and largely worn out. Although I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the effect of the Air Force upon the military forces, I would point out that the White Paper of last March announced the modest increase of four battalions and that we are now told that there are to be only two in the near future. We do not know what regiments will be asked to form them. Of two tank battalions which were put forward, only one is suggested in the immediate future. These are all matters of great importance, and no doubt at a later stage it will be possible to inquire into them in greater detail. I do not propose to do so now.
I should like to allude to the question of factories and of munitions. We are entitled to know what share we shall be asked to fulfil in the provision, not only of men, but if their equipment and munitions. In regard to Northern Ireland, which I represent, on 21st May last year I asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence what share we might expect in that work. Up to the present I think we have not had a single thing, except the provision of one factory for the making of the hulls of flying boats, and the one ship which Northern Ireland gets in the shipbuilding programme. This area is far and away the safest of any industrial area. As regards employment that would be available, we are not in the depressed area, although our average situation as regards employment is certainly worse than the average of this country at the present time. What national factories, if they are to be put on a national basis, will be situated in our country, and will any further establishments be made there for the Air Force? No part of the United Kingdom is so well placed strategically, with a view to protecting traffic coming in from the Atlantic.
Northern Ireland provides the highest proportion of recruits of any area in the United Kingdom. That is a matter in which we are fortunate, and I hope that hon. Members in all quarters of the House 1441 will be able to rival and perhaps surpass the proportion which we at present provide for the defence of our country. I submit that if we supply the men we might also be allowed to supply our proportion of the work for their equipment and the munitions which they will require.
§ Sir R. Ross
I would be surprised if I did not get a sneer from the Labour party whenever I endeavoured to get something for the working men of Northern Ireland. I am asking for the working men; let the hon. Members in front of me remember that. These are national factories. This is no question of capitalists in my country; I am fighting for my own people. Because hon. Members opposite have never yet deluded the people of Northern Ireland to elect a Socialist it does not mean that those people have ceased to be working men. I think that they are well aware of the attitude so consistently taken up by hon. Members and of how much friendliness the working men of Northern Ireland have for the Socialists. That is all that I have to say. I hope that this Resolution will get the approval of the Committee by a very large majority. It is a very prudent measure and a justifiable one for spreading a burden, which we all deplore but which I think a vast majority of us face with resolution, over a period more appropriate to it than merely charging it on the annual Budget.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The hon. Member somewhat misunderstands the mind of the Labour party. We are quite prepared always to defend ourselves. We intend, if the occasion arises, to defend our country, and we are willing to defend democracy and the working class throughout the world if that defence may prove successful. In his passionate desire for isolation and in his hostility to collective security and the League of Nations, I wonder whether the hon. Member will cast his mind back and remember that even Deny would not have been defended successfully if it had not had allies.
§ Sir R. Ross
I certainly have no hostility to the League of Nations, but I think we must be prepared to face the contingent failure of that system. I am 1442 glad that the hon. and gallant Member believes in the principle of "No surrender."
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I am glad of that explanation. The hostility to the League which sometimes comes from the back benches is often misunderstood in this country and abroad as being general public opinion. I believe that the public opinion of this country, Conservative and Labour alike, is overwhelmingly strong in favour of the League of Nations and collective security as the best way of safety. I want, first of all, to respond to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in favour of national unity on this occasion. It must be well understood that if the Labour party go into the Lobby against the Government this evening, it is not against the necessity of spending this money on making our defences adequate. The vote against the Government to-night—in which I shall not partake—is not against protecting the country, but is against the method by which the money is to be raised.
We are unanimous on all sides of the Committee on the question that something has to be done to make England safe. The country is in danger. Something more than the country is in danger -liberty is in danger, and, in the circumstances, we want to make not merely the biggest sacrifice here but the biggest impression upon foreign nations. This has been spoken of as a war measure, and it is a war measure. Just as in August, 1914, we had unanimity, so we have unanimity to-day. We will not go down before the dictatorships. I meet this White Paper with general approval, qualified by doubt. Certainly I strongly approve of re-arming the Army, so that it can face its fate in the next war with the best weapons available. The tendency to go into a war with weapons suitable for the last war has always been fatal to us in the opening stages of a war, and anything that can be done to provide machine guns of the latest pattern, to provide armoured cars of the latest pattern, to provide the best rifles and everything of' that sort, should be done. We do not want to increase the size of the Army; what we want to increase is the safety of the man and his confidence that he has the best weapons available. We have recently seen a terrible example of fighting in Spain. Anyone who has 1443 been reading the accounts of what has been going on there must realise that modem warfare with machines against people without machines cannot possibly be resisted, and the lesson of that war should be sufficient of itself to call for the mechanisation in every degree of the British Army.
I am afraid I differ from some of my colleagues—not from all—in preferring that, if we have to raise £1,500,000,000,it should be done by loan, at least in part. I am still an impenitent inflationist; I prefer to run into debt rather than to pay as I go. Of course, that was a heresy seven years ago, and we should have been burned at the stake for saying anything of the sort, but since then we have had the experience of the admirable action of the Government in putting the pound off gold, which has created a boom in trade and brought about the wave of prosperity of which we hear so much and see so little. I can even agree with my hon. Friend here that all these good Gladstonian theories, all that we learned from John Stuart Mill and the economists, has been destroyed by the sudden discovery that we could do without gold, and have a capital levy without any trouble. I think, too, that the Government have made better provision for keeping control over the expenditure of the money than I was afraid they would. During the War, the first afternoon we voted £100,000,000, and after that it got into thousands. We voted it automatically, the Departments spent it royally, and the Treasury had no check over it whatever. That strengthens the argument for the principle of keeping Treasury control and a Treasury check—particularly a Treasury check on the profits made. Only by the most careful cost accounting can you ensure that firms shall not make extortionate profits out of the need of the British people.
I approve of the emphasis that is laid on the necessity of providing large reserves of ammunition. I remember the War Office in the last War continually stopping the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and, indeed, everyone who was pressing for increased supplies of shells—saying that they were not needed, cutting down the amounts that they were prepared to supply—while our men in Flanders were being shot to pieces 1444 and were unable to reply to the German shells. And that was not merely the case with shells; it was also the case with all those other munitions of war which are not perhaps so obvious as shells and ammunition and rifles.
Lieut.-Colonel C. Kerr
Do I understand the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to say that the War Office were putting a restriction in any way on the number of shells sent out to our Forces?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Perhaps I should put it in a different way. I am taking it from the memoirs of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in whom I should have every confidence as a Minister of Munitions or as Prime Minister. He repeatedly doubled the demands of the War Office in his orders for shells so that the supplies should be greater than the War Office were asking for. That is what we ought to avoid in the future, and that is what we should avoid if we had really large reserves of ammunition for the Army, for the Fleet, and, above all, for the Air Force. When one comes to the question of ammunition for the Air Force, by far the most important form of ammunition is a large reserve of petrol and oil. I hope, when I hear that special provision is to be made for ammunition, that provision will also be made for reserves of oil; and I should like to follow in the shocking footsteps of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Sir R. Ross) by saying that I think some of the derelict mines in my constituency might be used for storing oil. I would be quite safe there.
While approving of these features of the proposals, I also want to secure unity and to deprecate the extraordinarily foolish partisan speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday. I cannot conceive what is the use of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, upon whom the country depends at the present time, who have a responsibility for saving this country from untold disaster, making partisan points seven years old against Members on this side of the House. There is no advantage in it; it destroys the chance of unanimity, and it shows a lamentable lack of intelligence on the part of the right hon. Gentleman as to the seriousness of the position and the duties of his station. You do not expect the Opposition to be always so careful of their language as the Government ought to be.
1445 I come now to the points which I think every reasonable person in the House must criticise in the White Paper. Obviously, if the country is in danger, it is in danger from a special quarter. I would suggest that, in rearming, we should rearm against that danger. I quite agree that it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman, or even for the Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, who tells us a little more than the other people do, to get up and say against whom we are arming, but what we want to know is whether the staffs, all those people who are co-ordinating together, do hear him say, "We are arming against X; the danger is from X." Do we hear him saying to them, or do they hear him saying, "Our Allies in the next war will be So-and-so and What-not; take those into consideration in your plan"?
Looking at this White Paper I should say that it has been drawn up by Colonel Blimps of all sorts with a view to increasing their own Services to the maximum and with a complete disregard for the real needs of the country—all based upon the idea that the country exists for the Navy and not that the Navy exists for the country. Can one, realising what the exact danger is, explain on any other grounds the particular increases demanded? Ammunition for the Army—all right. Ammunition for the Air Force—insufficient; something more must be done. But the Navy? If the danger is where we expect it, then there is only a small navy to fight; there is agreement with us to arm Germany with half our number of ships; it is a country to which, as we have given up the Baltic, we cannot even make ourselves unpleasant. What, then, is the reason for building these battleships at £8,000,000 apiece? What are they for, except to provide comfortable quarters for admirals afloat? The admirals ought to be here in Whitehall, but they like being afloat. That represents, I suppose, £30,000,000, which is not wanted for the pressing danger, but which is wanted by the Colonel Blimps of the Admiralty. But that is not all. There are to be two more aircraft-carrying ships, the cost of which is not given, but I suppose we can reckon it at £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 each. I ask the experts, what are aircraft carriers for? They are to defend the Fleet against attack. There is no danger of our Fleet being attacked by the German Fleet, and, 1446 therefore, there is no need for these aircraft carriers. We do not even know—I do not suppose the First Lord has the faintest idea—where the Fleet will go if war breaks out with Germany. [An HON. MEMBER: "To Belfast Lough."] My impression is that they will go further, and where they go the aircraft carriers will go with them. They are not to defend this country, but to defend the Fleet.
§ Mr. Simmonds
Has it occurred to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the aircraft carriers will take our aircraft to any part of the world where our Fleet might be attacked, not by the German Navy, but by hostile aircraft?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Oh, yes, bless my soul, I had already thought of that. We have all thought of that, and the Colonel Blimps also have thought of it. Our danger is not from Japan; our danger is nearer home. If we are in danger to-day, it is not because of Japan, it is not because of America. All these beautiful plans made up to make us immune from attack from America, from Japan, from Mussolini, or whatever it may be, do not interest me in the least, and they ought not to interest the Front Bench opposite. If the country is in danger, it is in danger from Germany, and what we want to do is to spend our money in the best possible way to save us from Hitler. The hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds) exactly emphasised the point I wish to make. My objection to the White Paper is that it is devised, within the limits of the money available, to make us safe from everywhere. I want to be safe, and certainly safe, from the one danger.
If we are in danger, if we are making this enormous sacrifice of £1,500,000,000 to save ourselves, surely we ought to take into account the fact that we ought to have allies. I see nothing in the White Paper—I dare say it is all right—to indicate that there has been consultation with the staffs of the French Government or the Russian Government. I see nothing to show that there has been any form of co-ordination between the Services. That, no doubt, is satisfactory under the aegis of the Minister, but who is to co-ordinate France, who is to co-ordinate Russia—the people who are in equal danger, and who will be tackled separately if they do not stick together? We have had in the past rather dramatic meetings of the chiefs 1447 of staffs of the French and British armies, and a great deal of junketing and publicity takes place, and a great deal of annoyance to other Powers. What I want to know is whether we can be assured that there is consultation going on quietly and that that consultation has taken shape in this memorandum. I can imagine the French saying: "What we want from you is an irresistible Navy in the Mediterranean to protect us from the dictators down there." I can quite understand the Russians saying, "Do not bother about the Air Force. We have enough aeroplanes to look after them without yours." But although those views would not, I hope, be accepted by the Government, I think that they ought to be taken into account and considered, and that any plan for spending £1,500,000,000 ought to be taken only after all the other elements which make both for danger and for safety have been taken into account and reckoned with before the actual orders go out.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us an account of how the staffs of the Army, Navy and Air Force had combined together to discuss the best means of defending our ports. There, too, I think we may learn from what has been recently happening in Spain. I should have thought after the experience of the last War it would have been quite impossible for ships to bombard ports if those ports had any guns whatever to defend them, and yet we have seen recently Malaga, Valencia and Barcelona, which must be defended by long-range guns, being blown to bits by ships four miles out at sea. It is true they have not reached any guns but they have hit the towns, and I think we should learn from that that it is not enough to have the old-fashioned defence that we had before. It is probably not enough to have air defence by anti-aircraft guns. I take the typical raids that we had on Hartlepool and Scarborough. The batteries of Hartlepool had muzzle loaders, which were useless against the German ships. I hope the right hon. Gentleman is providing one or two eight-inch guns to prevent raids upon open seaside towns. Fortunately nearly all our ports, Newcastle, Hull and London, are well up the estuaries and no raid from ships can take place against them. Fortunately I do not suppose German ships could ever 1448 get to the West Coast at all, but on the East Coast it seems to me that there ought to be got ready as soon as possible adequate defence against raids from German cruisers.
In the same way when you are dealing with the Air Force, there, too, we have been comfortably assured that we have actually the very latest and best machines. I have heard stories from Spain which make that seem rather doubtful. I want to know whether Russian bombers, armour-plated, practically immune from attack except by enemy aircraft guns, are being turned out in sufficient numbers in this country or whether we are tied to a certain pattern. I hear that the latest Italian Savoia fighting planes are better than ours. I should like to know whether the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has insisted on there being some observers representing the Air Force with the armies of the two contending forces in Spain so that we may have at least knowledge as to the latest developments in actual fighting.
§ Mr. Simmonds
I gathered that the right hon. Gentleman said the results of the flying of British aircraft of modern design in Spain do not compare well with those of Russian manufacture. Are there, in fact, any modern British aircraft in Spain which can be compared with Russian aircraft?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
No. The hon. Member must not misunderstand me. This is reported to me from a British flyer flying German and Italian planes. Fortunately there are no British planes there. I am not complaining of the present British planes. I am saying that the Government should have observers to watch the first example of what we must call "civilised" warfare that has taken place for 18 years.
There is a further lesson that we ought to learn from Spain, and it is undoubtedly an argument against the position that I have taken up for a long time past. It appears extremely difficult to bomb a ship at sea. The bombing seems to have been extraordinarily bad, and I hear that the anti-aircraft guns are extremely deadly. There should be an observer on the spot who could give us invaluable information and prevent waste of much of this £1,500,000,000. We have the eternal struggle between the Air Force and the Admiralty, a dispute which has been 1449 going on for 15 years and which gets bitterer an either side as time goes on. We were even contemplating spending a million pounds in an experiment to see whether an air force could destroy a British battleship. We are having an experiment provided for us for nothing, with no risk to us at all, and we should be learning from that experiment in Spain how best we can save ourselves.
It is because the Government are still in the hands of the Service Departments, are still thinking of how much money they can get out of the Treasury and how much they can spend on the three great spending Departments that I suspect this White Paper. It is not that we want a quotation from one of the Foreign Secretary's speeches at the head of the Paper. We want evidence that the immediate danger before the country has been the one thing considered, and that every advantage has been taken of the possibility of collective security and of support from Allies in drawing up a list of our necessary requirements. It is because, above all, there is no evidence that this country has yet committed itself to the idea of collective security for the stabilisation of law and order and peace throughout the world, that there should be any doubt about how we should vote to-night. I think a vote for the Government on this occasion would be best, but let it not be misunderstood by either of the two right hon. Gentlemen there. If my friends go into the Lobby against this expenditure, it is not because they are not prepared to defend their country. It is not because they are not prepared to defend democracy and the working class throughout the world. It is because they doubt the use to which you may put this instrument which should secure peace.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Captain Lumley
The right hon. Gentleman in his opening remarks about national unity said so much better than I can what I want to say that I feel tempted to tear up my notes, and let his appeal stand by itself. However, I will attempt to add to his appeal such arguments as I can produce, because I regard it as of real importance that what should go out from the House in this Debate is the broadest possible united front for all observers to see. This Resolution and the White Paper which accompanies it make it plain that the Government are prepared, so long as it seems 1450 necessary, to rearm the country on a formidable scale. I should regard it as a matter of real regret if in the circumstances that we have to-day anyone should be found to oppose that main intention. After all, we are all agreed on a number of things. No one denies the tension that exists in Europe. No one has sought to belittle the gravity of the crises which have occurred in the last two years. No one is blind to the fact that more crises may arise in future. Certainly no one disputes that this country has an important and even a dominating role to play. We have that measure of agreement, and yet these rearmament proposals are strongly opposed by hon. Members opposite. In their opposition, however, they have left us still in some doubt as to what are the real reasons for their objections. They have seemed to me to swing rather uncertainly between two lines of criticism and we are not quite sure on which they wish to base themselves. At one moment they object to the method of financing rearmament as proposed in this Resolution, and contend that it should not be done by loan. At other times it appears that they object not so much to the method as to the whole policy of rearmament.
Two arguments have been used in objecting to the method of a loan, and about them I should like to say a word. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) condemned this proposal because he said it would mean inflation, and the people who would suffer first would be the old age pensioners, the unemployed and those with fixed incomes. The burden would be placed on the wrong backs. I make no pretence to be an economic theorist, but that strikes me as a curious argument to Come from hon. Members opposite. In the past their party has identified itself with the policy of large schemes of public works. It is true that they have not been very explicit about the method they would employ for financing them, but when they were in office last they made great efforts to promote such schemes. Unless I am mistaken a considerable part of those schemes was financed by loan and I find it rather difficult to understand why they should think that a similar procedure now is wicked and antisocial. I am driven to the conclusion that their argument really amounts to this—it is common to most Oppositions— 1451 that when they propose a thing it is right, noble and a boon to the working class, but that when we do it it is wrong, mean and a deliberate attempt to place further burdens on the poorest sections of the community. I do not think that we can be accused of being unfair if we say that that criticism does not carry very much conviction.
But there is another argument which has been used and with which, I think, we shall all have to agree. It was said that expenditure of this kind on this scale and for a number of years on armaments is bound to affect the standard of living in this country. I should say that it was bound to do so. It may not reduce it, but it is bound to act as a check on the rise of the standard of life in this country, and that makes the proposals of the Government all the more impressive, when they put forward proposals such as this which they admit will have at least a checking effect on the rise of the standard of living, which we on this side of the House have always wanted to see. I believe it to be true that underlying many of the speeches of hon. Members opposite is some hostility to the whole policy of rearmament. We none of us quarrel with their aversion to rearmament. We on this side do not like to see any more than they do huge expenditure on armaments, whether it is made by loan or by increased taxation. We would much rather see such vast sums used for other purposes. But we cannot escape from unpleasant facts by ignoring them, and it is the facts to-day which compel us to face the burden of rearmament. The central issue in this Debate is not whether it is right or wrong to borrow money to finance rearmament, but whether the facts justify such great expenditure.
I should like to make an attempt to state as concisely as I can the facts which make it necessary for the people of this country to shoulder the burden of increased rearmament, for unless these facts are generally accepted public opinion will not be behind these proposals as it ought to be. In attempting to state these facts I do not mean to be provocative to any country, and I shall try to state them in a way which will secure the agreement of hon. Members opposite. I think that they can be put in two quite short sentences. First, there are many nations which are 1452 heavily armed, and their armaments have greater destructive power, have a wider range and can be more swiftly deployed than ever before. Second, it is impossible for any of us to say that all these armaments are in the hands of peace-minded people. On the contrary, we all know that there are those who to-day teach that war is one of the highest of human enterprises and who look with thinly disguised contempt at an institution like the League of Nations which aims at conciliation and law for the settlement of disputes instead of war.
That is a formidable combination—men who appear to delight in war having ready to hand engines of war more powerful than any which have before been devised. I do not think that hon. Members opposite will wish to dispute that these are the essential facts which form the background of the existing situation. I think that we agree on the facts. Neither shall we disagree that these facts make it all the more important to pursue every means in bringing about an appeasement which will ensure peace, in taking every opportunity that offers for continuing to try to secure general disarmament and of taking every opportunity that offers to try to strengthen the machinery of the League. Rearmament cannot diminish but should greatly emphasise the necessity for redoubled efforts on these lines. There, I fear, our agreement ends.
I find it difficult to understand how hon. Members opposite, if they recognise the facts, can advocate the course which they are pursuing in this Debate. It does not seem to square with anything they advocate. We have for some time been familiar with the policy they would pursue in foreign affairs. They demand a more forward foreign policy. They ask continuously that dictators should not be allowed to get away with everything they set their hands to, but with these demands they stop. They will not themselves face up or help the country to face up to the hard unpalatable fact that such a policy needs strength behind it if it is not to be only a poor bluff which is easily seen through. Hon. Members are advocates of collective security. That may be—I think it is—a lofty conception of international policy, but it is easy enough to enunciate a lofty conception but much more difficult to translate it into a practical policy. 1453 Surely we have all learned the lesson of 1935–36, that collective security has no chance of success unless it can collect overwhelming force against an aggressor and unless it is certain that that force will if necessary be used. If these things accompany collective security it may prove to be a deterrent; if they do not it is likely to be only a fruitless aggravation of a difficult situation. But it has no chance to act as a deterrent if there is no force to collect, and in refusing to supply force hon. Members are advocating not a fine conception but rather a dangerous sham.
In the course of the Debate yesterday, some hon. Members opposite complained that the words "collective security" are not even mentioned in the White Paper. That was answered by hon. Members on this side of the House yesterday and again by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to-day. I would like to add this one comment. In my humble view there have been too many words and not enough guns about collective security. This White Paper proposes to supply the guns, and when they are provided will be the time to talk more freely and firmly about collective security. But I assume that what hon. Members had in mind was to suggest that collective security played no part in the policy of the Government, and the main excuse of hon. Members opposite in justification of their opposition to rearmament is that they profess not to know the purpose for which these arms will be used. That excuse has done duty in nearly every Debate and every Vote on which armaments have been discussed. It is becoming a bit thin. It has in fact no justification at all.
Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have on several occasions laid down the aims of British foreign policy. The Foreign Secretary in particular in this House and in the country, in speeches at Leamington and elsewhere, has defined with some precision the purposes for which our arms may be used, and I believe his definition met with general support throughout the country. No doubt his words are familiar to hon. Members. It is not necessary for me to read them; I will just draw attention to one or two things which he said in the speech at Leamington. He pointed out that our arms would be used in accordance with our existing obligations and in 1454 accordance with our vital national interests. He went on to use these words:In addition, our armaments may be used in bringing help to the victim of aggression in any case where in our judgment it would be proper under the provisions of the Covenant to do so.What I would like to ask hon. Members opposite is in what respect do they wish to go beyond that?
§ Mr. R. Acland
Is it not right to say that in that spech the Foreign Secretary said that our arms may and undoubtedly would be used in accordance with our vital national interests and in respect of our obligations, such as France, and that then he used the rather different words that they may be used in bringing help to a victim of aggression? I am speaking from memory.
§ Captain Lumley
I am obliged to the hon. Member, for my right hon. Friend made particular reference to that point. He added—this I think is the answer:I used the word 'may' deliberately since in such an instance there is no automatic obligation to take military action.If he had said "would" he would have been going far beyond the covenant of the League. The question I want to ask hon. Members opposite is in what respect do they go beyond the speeches of the Foreign Secretary? In what respect do they regard his definitions as inadequate? I think that we are entitled to have an answer to those questions. These are matters of great import; the safety of the country, the maintenance of peace, are the subjects at issue. If hon. Members think that we are wrong both in our policy and the methods we are taking to make that policy effective, they owe it to the country to say clearly in what respect their aims differ from ours. I invite them, therefore, to make two things clear. In what way do their aims differ from the Government's and what scale of armaments do they require to make their aims effective? I recall in this connection that a few months ago one of the right hon. Gentlemen who usually sit on the Front Bench opposite declared that his party was passing through an intellectual crisis on foreign policy and armaments. We would like to know whether that intellectual crisis has resolved itself into any conclusion yet. If hon. Members cannot tell us what they want, we must conclude, with much sympathy, that their malady still persists. 1455 If, happily, they have now been restored to certainty and faith, we can look forward to a clear and robust statement of their requirements both in policy and in armaments.
There are one or two matters in addition to collective security on which the attitude of hon. Members opposite to-day seems to be at variance with what they usually advocate. Hon. Members are free with the phrase that peace is indivisible, but they do not instruct the country what that means, that if war breaks out anywhere we all ought to be in it. Surely, they must be either a little less free with the use of such high-sounding phrases or a good deal more free with their support of the preparations which will turn such phrases into policy. I notice that quite a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite have put their names to a Motion which expresses the view that no territory under British rule should be handed over to anyone else. On this side of the House we all applaud that sentiment, but how do they propose to keep British territory if an armed nation or a combination of nations should choose to make a demand for such a transfer? Such a sentiment does not appear to be of much value unless it has behind it some armed force.
There is one other question which I would like to put to hon. Members opposite. I do not think that I am doing them an injustice by saying that they are advocates of close collaboration with two States in particular which are members of the League—France and Russia. I certainly would not complain of their advocacy of such a course, but surely the Governments of these two countries would be justified in complaining, if the only collaboration which hon. Members opposite can offer consists of good-will speeches. With facts as they are in Europe to-day, everything which hon. Members are wont to advocate seems to demand a strongly armed Britain, and yet it appears—I hope that I may be wrong—that on this occasion, as on past occasions, when proposals are made by the Government to strengthen our Forces, the party opposite find some reason for opposing it. I regret that they should take up this attitude of opposition.
We are agreed upon several fundamental things. We all agree that we want 1456 to preserve the free institutions which we regard as essential to our national life. We all recognise too that there are many people outside these islands who look to us with anxious eyes in these days to take a strong stand, if peace is to be maintained and if liberty is to remain in the world. How much better it would be if this House of Commons were unanimous in showing the world that we are resolute in our resolve to devote the great resources of this nation towards this great aim. That would be a united front which would be well worth while. I believe that it would be a great reinforcement to peace, but if, unhappily, unanimity is denied to us by hon. Members opposite, let us then still have a great majority in this House of those who recognise the unwelcome fact that, unless the views of many people in the world are going to change, it may be that in the next few years the strength of our armaments as well as the facility of our arguments may prove decisive in maintaining peace.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I hope that in the course of the few remarks which I address to the Committee, I shall answer the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for York (Captain Lumley), anyway as far as I am concerned. There are, indeed, so many points of objection to the proposals that are before us in the Resolution, that it is extremely difficult to cover the whole of the ground in anything like the space of time which I intend to utilise. We are witnessing the most magnificent subscription to the world suicide pact which has yet been publicised in any country in the world, and the objections upon which I particularly desire to dwell, because so many others have already been adequately covered from these Benches, are the objections which I believe to be the most fundamental and the most cognate. I have never expressed myself in this House or elsewhere as taking the pacifist point of view. I am prepared to acknowledge, as many people are to-day, the necessity for armaments in the circumstances that now beset the world. To me, however, the vital question is not whether there should be or should not be armaments in a particular country, but rather for what purpose and by whom those armaments are likely to be used.
1457 I do not regard the vital divisions in the world to-day as being the divisions between nation and nation. For instance, to take an example, the armaments of Germany might well be welcomed by this country if those who control those armaments and will use them when they come to be used could be relied upon to have a beneficent purpose for their use. Many of us—certainly all of us on this side of the House—hate and fear those armaments because we know the objective with which they have been built up, and that the purpose for which they will be used is both vicious and bad. It is not the arms and the trained men that we regard as so sinister, but it is the powers that are going to order their use when the appropriate moment comes. It is, in fact, Nazi-ism and all that it stands for and all that it implies in aggressiveness and brutality and the suppression of freedom, that we regard as public enemy No. 1 of the world to-day. We have no quarrel with the people in Germany, and we should have no desire or need to consider arming ourselves or creating great armaments in this country against them, if we were convinced of the pacific intent of their rulers, but Herr Hitler's professions of peace, although strong in words, peace which is to come through the strong armaments of Germany, we do not believe to be genuine, because during the last four years we have experienced and witnessed his acts. He is just as ready, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is ready, to profess peaceful intentions. He, no doubt, would express his faith in the Pax Germanica, just as the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite express their faith in the Pax Britannica, and there is, of course, this difference between the two, that Herr Hitler has not yet satisfied his imperial ambitions, whereas our ruling class has done so to a considerable extent at the expense of Germany after the last War.
But the rivalries of the Pax Germanica and the Pax Britannica in the Imperialist conception of those ideas which rules with the two Governments to-day are a very fertile source for the next world war, just as the same feelings, the same policies and the same desires were the origin or one of the great origins of the last War. Indeed, the history of the whole of the last century in this country as to the use of British arms has largely been a history of what, if we were speaking 1458 of the case of Mussolini and Abyssinia, we should call brutal and unprovoked aggression. They have been used continually, either in the conquest or suppression of other peoples, in countries belonging to those other peoples and now brought by that means within the British Empire, or else they have been used to protect our own ownership and interests in those foreign countries. The South African War was a typical example of unprovoked aggression on a weak people in order to acquire the vast wealth of South Africa for the financiers of the City of London. The Great War was a good example of the second, and there is not the slightest indication, in spite of all the vastly increased dangers which are acknowledged in the world to-day, that the Government have any intention whatever of abandoning their traditional Tory outlook upon foreign policy.
I have no doubts in my own mind as to what the foreign policy of the Government is. It is a policy of remaining in loose isolation, but always ready to pick up at any time that ally who seems likely for the moment to be most useful in maintaining the British Imperial position, quite regardless of the deeper and wider interests of world peace as a whole. By so doing, by this policy of uncertainty, they create an atmosphere of doubt which encourages an arms race throughout the world, and puts a premium upon aggressive incidents by the rulers of other countries who hope that they will be able to get away with it in the prevailing atmosphere of dislocation that is created by such a policy. The flimsy camouflage of the references of the Foreign Secretary to the League of Nations and collective security have, in my view, no object whatever, except to deceive the people of this country. He is the Prime Minister's young man, and he is apeing his leader's admitted acts at the last election when he deliberately went out to deceive the people of this country upon the policy of the Government.
Some of the Foreign Secretary's colleagues, when challenged—not usually otherwise—give a vague and grudging lip-service to the League of Nations and collective security, in a manner that is quite adequate, I should hope, to convince everybody of their complete insincerity in that matter. The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1459 yesterday, when he was interrupted, and his subsequent explanations were certainly sufficient to convince me of his complete insincerity. Indeed, the right hon. Gentlemen opposite have, in their conduct as a Cabinet, thoroughly proved in the last six years, by their acts, not by their words, that insincerity, and have succeeded in destroying any possibility of the effectiveness of any method of collective security in the world to-day. I think it is really almost too childish for even them to believe that these principles, the principles of the Covenant of the League and of collective security, can be thrown overboard whenever it does not suit them to carry those colours internationally, and then can be fished up again and utilised when the British Empire might find it convenient to call in aid the assistance of other Powers.
Quite shamelessly and publicly they have thrown away these resources of peace, and now, of course, they are too thoroughly distrusted throughout the world for them to be able to rely, as they themselves admit, upon any measure of collective security. The surrender to Japan over Manchuria, the surrender to Germany over the continuously aggressive tactics of Hitler, the surrender to Mussolini over the Abyssinian incident, the refusal to enter into any pact or arrangement with Russia and France for the purpose of preserving collective security in Europe to-day, and the sacrifice of Spanish democracy to the forces of international Fascism are the acts of a Government that regards the major danger in the world to-day as being the growth of working-class power and not as being an attack from any other nation; and in that danger they are naturally gravitating towards their fellow capitalist Governments, whether those be democratic, autocratic, or Fascist. What we are concerned with to-day are the rights and the powers of the common people throughout the world, not the property and the profits of the respective ruling classes in the capitalist countries.
The question that I ask myself is whether the provision of this £400,000,000 is going to benefit or enlarge the rights, or even protect such rights as still survive, of the masses of the people in the world. It may be that with a Government which could be trusted to advance these causes, the causes of the common people, such an 1460 expenditure might be necessary and unavoidable, though in my view it could never be sound or proper to postpone the burden to future generations by making that expenditure out of loan moneys instead of out of taxation; but when I am asked to trust this Government with the expenditure of that money, then I answer, without hesitation, "Not at any price." I am absolutely certain that the increased armaments that this money will give them the power to control will be used for thoroughly vicious purposes in the future, exactly as they have been used by their predecessors in the past. They will be used for the continued domination of the subject peoples, such, for instance, as the people of India. That will be made more certain by the increase of this power. War, if it is engaged in, will be for the protection of the property and interests of the few and will not be for the winning of greater freedom for the use of the common people, either here or in other countries.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson
The hon. and learned Member is continually using the term "the common people." Are the common people not the people who returned us by overwhelming majorities?
§ Sir S. Cripps
They are only the deluded common people. The diplomacy which will be reinforced, if diplomacy is reinforced, by these methods of the Government plan will be the diplomacy of imperialist rivalry and class domination which has marked this Government from its very inception. In fact, we shall be encouraging all those very evil things against which the workers of this country have organised themselves politically to fight, and we shall be giving new strength and greater power, by placing these great resources in the hands of the Government, to a ruling class whose whole history proves them capable of governing only in their own interests. If I am asked, as no doubt I might be, "What then would you do in the face of this Fascist menace?" my first answer would be certainly not to trust this Government, who are far more likely to be the allies of Fascism than the allies of Russia or any other working-class country; and my second answer would be that if the people of this country want protection against Fascism, they must understand that they can only get such protection by giving the control 1461 of their foreign policy and of their armed forces to some other Government which they can trust.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not concerned as to whether I am in any Government or not. I am concerned with the safety of the masses of the people in this and in other countries. If the people want protection against Fascism, they will only get it by giving control to some other Government, which they can trust not only to protect them from this menace of Fascism, which I most willingly acknowledge to be present in the world, but also to do what this Government have steadfastly refused to do, in spite of every pressure that has been brought to bear upon them during the last five years, by people of all classes and conditions in this country, that is, to initiate some real policy of peace, not a policy of maintaining political peace on a substratum of continual economic warfare, but a policy going to the root of the causes of war, which even the most reactionary to-day are prepared to admit are economic in their origin and are not merely political and emotional, as used so often to be the case.
One would have thought that there had been enough demonstration during the last 18 years that you will inevitably drift nearer and nearer to war if you merely try to rely upon occasional political conferences and discussions internationally, while leaving all the time the economic rivalries of the world working day in and day out in the creation of the conditions which will produce war. Yet, in spite of these 18 years of experience, these 18 years of continued failure in the world, and the obvious and rapid approach to a fresh era of war, the Government have done nothing, literally nothing, during the last six years even to begin to explore a policy of economic peace.
When one is considering this problem, it is necessary to consider who is going to suffer most if this Motion is passed. Certainly not the ruling class. Nobody, I think, in this Committee would deny that proposition. They have the opportunity of using their wealth to obtain all the good pickings that go to the wealthy in 1462 boom periods. A fresh period of profiteering is opening up to them, and there are boom conditions on the Stock Exchange. A rise in prices brings no great hardship to the ruling class. Their incomes rise very much more quickly than the prices. Even already profits and luxury expenditure are going up well ahead of the rise in prices, and the profits which are going to the wealthy are out of all proportion to the meagre rises that have been obtained by the wage earners. It is the poor housewife and her family who will feel the pinch as wages crawl up far behind the price-rise in the next few months and years.
That will be the case if the armaments are never used, and then, when the end of this great programme comes, as come it must one day, unless, as the Chancellor suggests, the back of civilisation is to be broken under the continued load, there will be the most cataclysmic slump that this country has ever known, and then the poor will suffer even more terribly than they did on the last occasion. The boom period of pawnbroking will then be ushered in, and the only drawback will be that there will be such a glut in the market that even those resources will be valueless to the ever-growing crowd of unemployed who will be thrown on to the labour market. If the armaments are used, then millions of the common people in this country and in other countries will perish, and in what remains of civilisation, if anything remains, they will live a life of anguished poverty as they did after the last war. The great mass of the people will undoubtedly have to pay the main price of the suffering and tragedy in either of the events. Surely, then, they have a right to lay down their own conditions if they are to be called upon to make all this vast sacrifice, and the only safe condition that, in my view, they can impose is that they should have the control, through their own Government and their own political party, of both armaments and foreign policy, which will condition the use to which those armaments will or will not be put.
Without the working class the rest of this country can do absolutely nothing to make armaments or to man the arms when they have been made. Workers are vitally necessary to carry out those tasks for the nation if those tasks are to be carried through. They have the right, 1463 therefore, to demand to govern and control the nation and its foreign policy, which will determine how those arms shall be utilised; not to govern it vicariously through the admitted deceptions of a reactionary Prime Minister, but to govern it directly through their own party and their own policy. If the minority in this country, the ruling class, who control all the wealth and the money, want the protection that only the workers can give them in these circumstances, then as a condition of that protection they should be prepared to put themselves politically and economically in the minority position which they ought rightly to occupy.
My attitude, therefore, is this, that I shall resist to the last giving to this Government any further power for evil—evil demonstrated by the traditions of the class to which they belong and by the history of their whole foreign policy from 1931 down to to-day. I shall do my utmost to urge the common people of this country to refuse their assistance, financially and materially, to this Government, so that they may insist, as they have to pay the toll of tragedy and suffering, that they shall have the power to govern the affairs of the country through their own political representatives. In that way, at least, they may have a chance of obviating the appalling conditions which, whatever happens, war or no war, are bound to be the outcome of the continuance in power of this Government.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
I have no intention to follow the hon. and learned Member into the various arguments that he advanced. But he attacked the Government for not making war on Japan over Manchuria, and I should like to remind him, as I have reminded hon. Members before in this House, that the Socialist Government of which he was a member made it impossible, by shutting down the naval base at Singapore, for Great Britain to wage any war in the Far East. I ought to know what I am talking about, because for three years I commanded the Fleet that was destined to go to the Far East in case of trouble. In those circumstances it would have been absolutely futile for the Fleet to have gone east of Suez.
1464 I am sorry that the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is not here, because I should have liked him to hear my view that the opinions he expressed at the beginning of his speech more closely represent the opinions of the working man in the street than do the views expressed by the last speaker and other Socialists on the benches opposite. If the right hon. and gallant Member had been present I might have been tempted into following him in regard to questions of naval strategy. I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words on this Resolution, because ever since my active career in the Navy came to an end, nearly six years ago, I have gone all over the country stressing the vital importance of rearming in the interests of peace and security, and the obvious fact that a Defence loan was the only possible way of providing the enormous sum that would be needed to make good the immense deficiencies which have accumulated while successive Governments have been disarming in the vain hope of getting other countries to follow their example.
I do not propose to go into the details of the Resolution, which were lucidly explained by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and have been so scathingly attacked by speakers on the opposite benches, but I should like to remind the right hon. and gallant Member for New-castle-under-Lyme and the last speaker that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom they both attacked so hotly, is the same Chancellor of the Exchequer who found the finances of the nation in a state of disastrous bankruptcy after two years of Socialist administration, and that he is the same Chancellor of the Exchequer who lifted the finances of the country into a state of prosperity which is the envy of the whole world. Moreover, the people of the country respect and trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while they have every reason profoundly to distrust the finance policy of the Socialist Opposition.
Until human nature changes it is a deplorable fact that risk of war cannot be regarded as banished, although I and others like myself who have seen something of war are fearfully keen to make war impossible. After every great war exhaustion, the apparent remoteness of another war, and the need for economy 1465 and retrenchment have brought about disarmament. The triumphs which Great Britain has enjoyed or the tribulations which she has suffered have depended on the extent to which she has rearmed before it is too late, Or the extent to which she has disarmed and the measure of her unpreparedness for the next war. I do not want to weary the House with history, but the ever-recurring lessons of history are of great value to those who come after, and I should like to refer to one or two points which have a particular bearing on the Resolution. In 1815, at the end of the Napcleonic wars, British sea power was supreme. To quote Napoleon's own words:In all my plans I have always been thwarted by the British Fleet.For the next 100 years the Navy's task was limited to co-operating with the Army in the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, and a few small minor wars, in surveying and charting the seven seas, in police duties all over the world and in the suppression of piracy and slavery. The British Navy in those 100 years was a great factor in the preservation of world peace. British sea power was not challenged for about 70 years, but the Government of 1870, believing that there would be no more war, cut down the Navy most drastically. Hundreds of officers and men were axed and discharged under what is known as the Childers scheme—Mr. Childers being the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time—and a very small Fleet was kept in being. France and Russia took advantage of this opportunity and began to build modern fleets and became our potential enemies, just as other nations have been doing in the last few years. During the Napoleonic wars people living on the south coast of England were terrified of invasion, and martello towers were strung right round the coast. In the early 'eighties history repeated itself and immense sums were spent on the building of great fortifications to allay the fear of the blue funk school, who have their counterpart to-day in those evil geniuses of Imperial Defence who are obsessed with the fear of the bombardment of London, to the exclusion of all other considerations of national defence.
In those days, however, there was a blue water school, as there is to-day, but, fortunately for Great Britain and the Empire, a young naval captain, Lord 1466 Charles Beresford, went on half pay and entered Parliament to call attention to the deplorable state of the Navy. Thanks mainly to his efforts the country woke up to the fact that the security of the nation and its overseas Colonies was entirely dependent on the possession of sea power, and that while vast sums were being squandered on fortifications our sea power had dwindled to such an extent that the British Navy was incapable of protecting the trade and sea communications of the country against the modern fleets that were being built up by France and Russia. Beresford was well supported in both Houses of Parliament and the Naval Defence Act was passed in May, 1889. That Act authorised the Government to build 70 ships and to spread the expenditure over five years, as is proposed under this Resolution.
It is interesting to read the Debates that took place in 1889. The criticisms are so painfully similar to those which have been put forward by the Opposition ever since the Government announced that they intended to restore our defences. The supporters of the Naval Defence Act declared that it was intended to maintain the peace of Europe, to protect our Colonies and commerce and to render our shores safe from attack. The opponents said that the Government's proposals were an incentive to war. Here is one quotation:Instead of peddling with new guns and new ships, the Government should enter into negotiations with other nations.Another speaker said:You are going to build enormous ships that will cost you a million sterling each. How do we know that any one of these may not at any moment be shattered to pieces by dynamite torpedoes?It is the same old story, but at the present time the opponents say that the ships, may be destroyed by bombs from the air—all the same appeals to fear, with which we who have been striving hard for years to get our defences put into order, are so familiar. The 1889 Act was passed by a majority of two to one and was acclaimed throughout the country, despite the frenzied denunciations of the Opposition of that day. I will give one more quotation:If the people realised how their money was being wasted, those who occupy the Front Benches would have been swept away with ignominy.1467 Nevertheless this wise measure was the foundation of our modern Navy which helped to keep the peace for 20 years. In 1914 a Liberal Government in office, determined to maintain peace and to keep out of Continental entanglements, found itself involved in a war for which the country was utterly unprepared except in regard to the Navy—and we have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for the preparedness of the Navy at that time— and a small Army which held the ring at terrible cost while the youth and manhood of the Empire was trained to meet the ordeal before it.
Never during the past 300 years has Great Britain's sea power been relatively so low as it is to-day, and in estimating sea power I include the strength of the Mercantile Marine. An immense effort will be necessary to restore our sea power, and I am thankful that this wise and statesmanlike measure gives hope that it will be properly restored before it is too late. Ever since I entered this House I have pleaded with the Opposition to put questions of Defence outside party politics. What a splendid thing it would be, and what an effect it would have all over the world, particularly in the totalitarian States, if this democratic House of Parliament would show a united front and demonstrate to the whole world that it means to rearm in order to give security to the Empire and enable Great Britain to play its traditional part in keeping world peace. I would like to support the concluding words of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence which he expresed in moving terms. May I suggest to hon. Members opposite that before they finally decide to carry this matter to a Division they should remember what happened in 1889 and reflect upon what would have happened in 1914 if the Opposition of 1889 had had their way?
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down made an appeal to us on these benches to present a united front on the question of national Defence. There is a united front on national Defence, but the question is what is meant by national Defence? That is the issue that divides the other side of the House from this side. Having said that, I should like to 1468 know what would have been the response of the hon. and gallant Member if seven years ago we from that side of the House had made an appeal for a united front in the borrowing of £100,000,000 for the defence of the morale and the livelihood and the health and the spirits of the unemployed of this country? What would have been the response if we had asked for that to be put outside the realm of party politics? I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member would not have been so ready to place that above party politics.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
The hon. Member must not conclude that my sympathies with the working classes are not as keen as his.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Whereas seven years ago it was said to be wrong to borrow £100,000,000 to save the poor masses of our population, it is considered right now to borrow £400,000,000 for purposes of Defence. That is the position that has not been explained. It has been said that it is a matter of confidence, but confidence is largely a manufactured thing. Speaker after speaker on the other side of the House has made the boast that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is the man who is responsible for restoring the confidence of this country and that the Labour Government of 1931 was responsible for destroying it. I deplore the dishonesty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in sitting there and allowing that statement to be made by one speaker after another from his side of the House when he himself stated in the country that the crisis and the lack of confidence in 1931 were not brought about by the Labour Government at all.
I have a report of his speech, and as this matter of confidence and crisis is of vital application to the validity of the proposal to borrow money rather than spend it out of income, I think I am entitled to read an extract from that report. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer said in 1931. when the crisis was supposed to be over:I make this statement at once, that the financial troubles have not come upon us through anything that was done in this country or by the late Government.That was the Labour Government. I think it is regrettable, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having made such an admission, that speaker after speaker for 1469 years should repeat that false charge, and that the Chancellor should never take it upon himself to refute it. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—no friend of ours—speaking on the same theme, said in 1932 in this House:I thought, myself, that there was a good deal of exaggeration about the crisis which arose last August and September—and a certain amount of manipulation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1932; col. 1175, Vol. 265.]I think we are entitled, on the authority of those great experts in finance, to say that there is no validity in the contention that this Government is entitled to borrow money for armaments while the Labour Government was not entitled to borrow for the vital needs of the poorer sections of the population.
§ Mr. Stuart Russell
May I ask the hon. Member to give the place and date of the speeches he has quoted, and also whether he has given the House full and fair extracts from those speeches, or whether what he has quoted was followed by some qualification?
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I will give the hon. Gentleman the information he asks for. I can assure him I am not in the habit of making garbled quotations. These speeches are not susceptible of any other meaning. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was made at Sheffield on 15th October. 1931, and if the hon. Member finds that I have quoted it accurately I shall be obliged if he will propagate that information among his friends. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping spoke in this House on 4th May, 1932.
The fundamental question which has arisen in the course of this Debate is whether or not this country would be wise or prudent to rely upon the principle of collective security at this stage and in the present state of the world. Quite frankly I confess that at the present moment that would be an untenable position to take up. Obviously, collective security and the present strength of the League of Nations do not in present circumstances provide sufficient protection against the menaces which surround us. But whose fault is that?
In the face of all the rebuffs and the betrayals which the principle of collective security and of the League of Nations has had to bear in the last few years, it 1470 would be more than a miracle if at present that were established as an international principle. It is only two or three years ago that the present Prime Minister was stumping the country expressing his doubts as to whether at that stage there was any usefulness in collective security. The whole history of the diplomacy of this country since the War has been a story of reluctance by Conservative Governments to accept that principle of collective security. It is necessary to mention only a few instances. There was the bombardment of Corfu by Italy; there was the invasion of Lithuania and Memel; there was—the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary must bear his part of the blame for this, although no doubt he thinks he has a very good defence—the invasion of Manchuria by Japan; and there was the final calamity of the betrayal of the principle of collective security when the Italian Dictator was allowed to invade Abyssinia and get away with it.
I say that if successive Conservative Governments in this country since the War had taken a strong stand, collective security would be enthroned to-day as a principle of peace upon which the nations could rely. We intend to maintain the full force of our effort towards bringing about that situation.
We have been asked from the other side whether or not we are in favour of the degree of rearmament which is now being proposed. I am going to admit quite frankly that that places hon. Members on this side of the House in a considerable and honest difficulty. I have always disbelieved in the wisdom and morality of competitive armaments. I believe that since the War, British Governments, influenced by former French Governments, have failed to implement the disarmament contemplated by the Treaty of Versailles, and have failed to tackle the economic and political causes of war. I believe that that failure has brought us to the position we are in to-day. But if by reason of these blunders in policy we are confronted with a deterioration in the international situation which makes us admit that at the moment it is necessary to strengthen our armaments, then I say that, whether we support or abstain from opposing these increased armaments, we are entitled in so doing to reject responsibility for the blunders in foreign policy 1471 which have brought about the necessity for re-armament.
As far as I am concerned—although I am not prepared to commit myself to support or oppose any particular item of armaments—that is my attitude towards any armament proposals that are put forward.
I want to deal with the reiterated claim that these are defensive armaments. I am not so sure whether, in the true sense of the term, they are defensive armaments. There is a saying in the most elementary books on strategy that offence is the soul of defence. If we examine the present world situation we might be able to apply the converse—namely, that defence is the soul of offence. If the nation is merely going to stand pat on the present position, if we say that we are going to make no concessions or alterations in the map of the world, no economic concessions, that what we have we hold, and that if anybody attacks us they do so at their peril, I cannot regard that as a true defensive attitude. Unless the present and any other Government are prepared to tackle the economic and territorial causes of war it is impossible for us to say that they are standing only on the defensive in holding to what they possess. Here I find myself quite frankly in a different position to some of my hon. Friends. The whole political story of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander) has been one of pacific intention, but he joins with many others in repeatedly pestering the Government to give a pledge that in no circumstances will they restore to Germany the colonies which were taken from her. That is a dangerous and untenable attitude. If we were to put ourselves in the position of Germany to-day and had to contemplate the Polish Corridor, lack of colonies and lack of economic opportunities, we should never accept permanent peace until there had been a rectification of that position. It is regrettable that we have responsible ex-Ministers like the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and hon. Members like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East who say that in no circumstances must we listen to the claim of other nations for a restoration of their colonies.
§ Mr. Mander
Let me make my position clear, as it differs from that of some hon. Members. I entirely agree that so long 1472 as we maintain individual Colonies Germany has a legitimate claim, but I would get over that by developing the mandate system, by placing all Colonies under the international control of the League of Nations.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
That has not been always the position of the hon. Member, because the burden of his appeals to the Government has been for an assurance that in no circumstances will Germany's Colonies be returned. He now says that so long as there is the system of Colonies owned by separate nations, he is in favour of giving Germany her fair share.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
I am in favour of having the question put before a tribunal of equity as part of the general pacification of the world. If Germany is prepared to enter into disarmament on the basis of justice all round I would give Germany such measures of economic and territorial adjustment as an international tribunal of equity might decide. If we are going into such a tribunal with our minds made up, if we say that we do not propose to make any concessions, there will be no permanent pacification for the world. We must remove these causes of war. If we do not we shall go on with rearmament, which finally will mean conflagration. I have long sought for an opportunity to put my point of view on these matters, and I am glad of this opportunity, however much offence it may give in some quarters.
In dealing with these armament proposals we shall want to satisfy ourselves that there are no blunders in the general conception of the armaments policy of this country, that is, in the general architecture of our armaments policy. I am wholy unconvinced that these matters have been tackled by the authorities who are responsible. Let me read a statement made by the present First Lord of the Admiralty:As our lives depend on a free passage through the seven seas of the world the Fleet must be strong enough to go anywhere and carry out its duty in any conditions. It is our determination to have such a Fleet, and to build it with the least possible delay.That means a Fleet of a remarkable size. When we seat our Fleet to the Mediterranean, although it had a 1473 superiority of five to one, it was quite ineffective for the purpose for which it was sent. I want to know whether the Government have tackled the problem as to what are to be the functions of the great battleships—the bulk of the expenditure we are being asked to sanction is for the Fleet. The Mediterranean was an example of the futility of the Fleet in narrow waters. I heard the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence say that he believed the Fleet had overcome the menace of the submarine and the torpedo. If my figures are correct only 85 submarines were sunk by this country during the whole of 1918, and that was only 19 more than in 1917, with all the best antisubmarine devices we then had. Since then there has been a new menace of small, fast motor-boats, carrying torpedoes, and the vast development of the air menace. I am no Air Force partisan, although that was the Service in which I spent a considerable number of years, but I am utterly unable to see for what purpose those great battleships can be used.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, who appears to have changed his view on this point, said that the great battleships must be able to go out into the high seas, four-fifths of the oceans of the world, where aeroplanes can never reach. But the strange fact is that those are the four-fifths of the oceans which do not matter. It is the narrow waters that will decide the results of the next war; it is in those narrow waters that the issues will be fought out. I sincerely hope that on that point we shall be able to have a certain amount of further information. If we look over the whole history of the wars of the world, we shall see that they were not fought out on the great oceans, or in the Dominions and the Colonies. There were minor battles fought there, but the last word was said in Europe. It was in Europe that the treaties of peace were decided.
I would like to say, finally, that I think it is a great mistake for the whole of the Defence organisation to be left in the hands of one Minister, both for supply and for strategic questions. If the speeches which we hear from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence are a typical example of the ground which he has to cover in a day's work, I am not a bit surprised that he finds himself a little muddle-headed when he tackles these problems. I took the trouble after 1474 the last speech but one that he made to make a list of the subjects with which he dealt, and I think it would be worth while for the Committee to hear them. In the course of 40 minutes, this is the range of subjects which he attempted to cover: the Royal Commission on the Private Manufacture of Arms, a disquisition on the defensive character of the programme, the importance of the Fleet in a scheme of Defence, air expansion, scientific armaments research, labour difficulties, organisation of the Territorial Army, the Fleet Air Arm, Aeroplane—Battleship Inquiry, strategic use of the Army, a disquisition on recruiting, the training of Royal Air Force Reserves, the shadow scheme of aircraft manufacture, training of labour, and the advisability of a Ministry of Supply.
To those of us who spend so much of our time appealing for a clarification and a planned scheme in dealing with the Defence Services it seems lamentable that we are not able to arrange our debates so as to avoid the necessity of ranging over so wide a field.
I think it is impossible for one Minister to try to bring together two jigsaw puzzles at the same time, one dealing with questions of supply and the other dealing with questions of Defence. An entirely different type of man is wanted for them. The type of mind that can focus on questions of supply is not interested in questions of strategy. The type of mind which can envisage the whole of the strategic problems on the map of the world is unutterably bored with questions of supply and details such as have to be dealt with by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. We want somebody who understands these questions. I am not at all sure that the present Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is the right man for that part of the work. I do not think it is the learning of his profession which is wanted for such a job. I think someone ought to be appointed who has some knowledge of these strategical questions. I do not say he ought to be a soldier or a sailor, for I have no faith in that type of mind; but I think someone ought to be appointed who has had a little more experience of such things than the present Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. He has no knowledge of military operations. I do not think he has ever seen 1475 any military operation more important than the changing of the Guard in Whitehall. Therefore, I hope we shall have somebody put into that position who at any rate speaks the language, for until that is done I, for one, shall not have full confidence in the general architecture of the Defence scheme of the Government.
§ 8.30 p.m.
I would like for a moment to dwell on one or two of the points raised by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones). With regard to the hon. Member's criticism of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, I think he was a little hard on the right hon. Gentleman. I admit that in the speech of 40 minutes' duration to which the hon. Member referred and to which I listened, the right hon. Gentleman did cover a great deal of ground; but surely that is the type of man one wants in that position—a man who can co-ordinate all those big matters. It would be inadvisable for a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to be a soldier of much knowledge or a sailor of much knowledge. We need a man who is capable of taking the chair when all this great and intricate technical knowledge comes before him for purposes of coordination in the arranging of the Defences of the country.
Another point of the hon. Member's speech to which I would like to refer is his attack on the Government for having refused, in 1931, to borrow £100,000,000 for the purpose of creating work to absorb the unemployed. I wonder whether the hon. Member has really thought about that matter very much? The great difficulty which everybody has had, hon. Members opposite as well as hon. Members on this side, has been to find out how to devise schemes which would be worth financing, which would not be a burden after they were completed and which at the time of their creation and their completion would not put other men out of work. That has been the great difficulty. In the present case, in the terrible necessity for spending this vast sum on armaments, we are not competing with any other industry.
Perhaps the hon. Member will ask it later on, for I wish to develop my argument now.
The hon. Member will find an opportunity of asking his question later on. My point is that in this terrible necessity of spending this vast sum, there will be no interference with the general trade of the country; in fact, it will help unemployment. It is terrible to think that this is the thing which will do that, but undoubtedly it will. Hon. Members opposite say that all of this will benefit a small number of very rich people. Is that really true? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] How much of this £1,500,000,000 do hon. Members suppose will go in wages? I should think the whole lot of it, if it could be technically analyzed. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Hon. Members cannot get away from that fact. There is the cost of the material, which, after all, has to be produced by labour—that is, to a great extent, wages.
I have listened most attentively to hon. Members who have spoken. If I were saying anything untrue or unreasonable, I would bow to any hon. Member who interrupted me, but I do not think frivolous interruptions are necessary on an occasion of this sort, for the matter is far too serious. Another point has been raised by hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to 1931. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the crisis in that year was not due to hon. Members opposite or the Labour Government. It was due to world conditions. But I do find fault with hon. Gentlemen opposite and their Government in that connection, because they found themselves incapable of dealing with the crisis when it did arise and they said, "We cannot go on like this and we must allow somebody else to take on the job." [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. That is actually what took place and I am glad to notice that the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) seems to be in agreement with me. Therefore, I think it is unkind of hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise, as they have done, the Government which lifted the country out of 1477 that crisis and restored it to a condition of prosperity which I am sure they themselves never expected to exist to-day.
I thought that in yesterday's Debate and to some extent in to-day's much irrelevant matter was introduced. After all, this is a very simple question. There is nothing complicated about it. I think the man in the street and Members of this House, and indeed the Empire as a whole, all agree that we want adequate protection. That being so, we want to know what price we have to pay for it. The Opposition, it seems to me, are creeping about in an atmosphere of dark ignorance on this subject. How can anybody in this Committee know as well as the Government the price which it is necessary to pay? I am not so sure, indeed, that hon. Members opposite have attempted to criticise the amount very much but it is clear that the Government must know from the information which they alone can have at their disposal what is the necessary amount, and the Government have said that the necessary amount is £1,500,000,000 in the next five years.
The present position is unprecedented as far as this country is concerned. I am sure that hon. Members opposite are just as keen as we are on this side to see that there is adequate protection for the peoples of the Empire. We are always having thrown in our faces the deplorable examples of what happened in regard to Japan and Abyssinia. In that connection I would only say that it appears to me that the party opposite is really the warlike party. They wanted to go to war over those questions. I suppose they will get into office some day, though it does not appear likely just now, and the great anxiety in my mind is to ensure, if this warlike party opposite get into office, there will be an adequate force to protect the country when they proceed to give effect to their belicose ideas. I think that remark applies also, to a great extent, to my erstwhile colleagues, the Liberals, because they, I think, were in favour of closing the Suez Canal on a recent occasion and if they were to get into power, we should require adequate forces to carry out their policy.
Reference has been made to the Treaty of Versailles. This situation has been brought about to a great extent because the Treaty of Versailles was not carried out by a great many of the countries con- 1478 cerned, in regard to disarmament. We were the only people who did carry out that disarmament undertaking and that is why our position is as it is to-day. I ask hon. Members to suppose what would have been the position if we had not carried out that disarmament and if we had piled up arms as other nations did.
Russia, France, Germany, Italy and everybody else. Suppose we had built up armaments in the same way as those countries have done within the last few years. I am sure we would, by now, have spent more than £1,500,000,000 and I am confident that a great many of the armaments thus acquired by us would be obsolete now. Driven into this position as we have been driven into it by the arming of other countries, is it not the case that—provided that we are safe now and I believe we are just about safe—we have not only saved money, but are providing ourselves with an up-to-date fighting machine as a result of this resolution. I feel complete confidence in the Government in this matter and I do not understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite do not feel as I do about it. Unless the Opposition believe that the Government are deliberately dishonest—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—If they take that view, I have nothing more to say to them but I see no justification for it at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read the Prime Minister's speech.] The Prime Minister has always stated fully and exactly the intentions of the Government and it is easy for any man who is not prejudiced either by party or by class to appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said. [Interruption.] I know that the Liberal Socialists will get angry at what I say but they will get their opportunity of replying to me instead of interrupting. I am certain that there is no dishonesty about the Government's policy and I cannot help feeling that if hon. Members opposite were on this side of the House, under the same conditions, they would be doing exactly what the Government are doing to-day. I whole heartily support this Resolution with absolute confidence in the Prime Minister and the Government.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Quibell
It has been said in the Debate that this sum for rearmament is 1479 a staggering amount. It certainly staggers some of us on this side. We had really believed that the object of the Government, working through the Foreign Secretary, was so to strengthen the League of Nations that this country would only be called upon to contribute what would be regarded as its adequate share in order to protect this country against an aggressor. This is a staggering sum for which to ask in a time of peace. What exercises the minds of many hon. Members, not alone those on this side of the Committee, is this: Against whom is it that we are arming, and with whom are we likely to be at war? The hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Lieut.-Colonel Kerr) said that was well understood, that it was known. It may have been made known to hon. Members opposite at some of those meetings which were the subject of complaint at Question Time, but it certainly has not been conveyed to Members of this House as a whole who collectively are responsible for passing or rejecting this Vote. I should like to know whether it is Germany, or Italy, or a combination of the two, or who it is, because the men and women of this country will want to know, especially those who suffered as a consequence of being led up the garden at the time of the last war. Like a previous speaker on this side, I am not prepared to leave this country unready to meet a contingency such as arose with the last war, not in the least, and I believe that in the main my colleagues are prepared to vote the necessary amounts, providing we can ascertain from the Government what they are, in order that we may protect this country.
I remember that almost at the beginning of the last war I was in a town which was subjected to one of the first air raids on this country. Something like no bombs were dropped on that town, which had not a single rifle or soldier or anything to give the slightest protection to the inhabitants. The Government of that day, some of the members of which are still in this House, had the audacity, in order to give confidence to the people, to put a wooden gun on the top of some works in Hull. Hull was raided almost nightly by the Zeppelins, but no protection was afforded. I saw houses which had been destroyed, I saw people, absolutely defenceless, and 1480 almost frantic, running miles and taking with them their possessions in perambulators. Since then I have seriously believed that it was the duty of successive Governments, including this Government, to do everything in their power to see that bombardment from the air was abolished for ever as a method of warfare, but in the munition centre in which I live there is still a constant fear and dread of what may happen if there is an outbreak of war in which enemy air forces are employed.
At the last election we were asked to trust the Government and the Prime Minister. The Government ought to be in a position to judge events infinitely better than those of us on this side of the Committee, who are not in possession of information such as the Government must of necessity have, or ought to have; but I say there ought to be means of taking this House more completely into the confidence of the Government. As far as trusting the Prime Minister is concerned, he would be the last man whom I should trust in a matter of this kind, after the statement he made at the last election that he would be no longer responsible for the defence of this country, because, so far as the Navy was concerned, there was scarcely a capital ship which was capable of discharging any responsibility that was placed upon it. What Government was responsible for that? Why was not the country told, and why was not this House told? If conditions were as he described them in his speeches during that election, all I can say is that instead of being honoured and trusted he really deserves impeachment. Do not the Government realise that the people of this country would have more confidence in them if they had treated some of those who came through the last War a little more generously? That would have given them more confidence in the Government on this occasion. This loan will have a most profound effect upon many people in different parts of the country, some of whom are the sons and relatives of those who fought in the last War and some of whom still possess a pair of crutches but have not a single penny, pension except the 10s. a week from the Prince of Wales' Fund. The Government say they want to create an efficient army and are trying to stimulate recruiting and part of the difficulties they experience in that task arise from the lack of confidence among 1481 the people that the Government will secure greater measure of justice for men who may be maimed in a future war.
It is said that this money will give work to the unemployed. Taking the long view of finding work of a permanent character, I should have preferred the Government to raise a loan in order to provide some of the bridges necessary for the defence of the East Coast; I should like to have seen the money spent on something more useful than armaments, something of a more productive character. What the Government ought to have done was to summon another conference. The people of this country evidently possess a peace mind, they desire peace. Hon. Members opposite say they desire peace as much as we on these benches. If they do, why not urge upon Ministers to take their courage in their hands and summon another conference to recreate the League of Nations and see whether accommodation cannot be found for those nations which are at present standing outside the League? They should also recreate a peace mind and, in general, make as big an effort for peace as we are making in the preparations for war.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I want to make one further and very brief reference to what the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) has just said concerning the German colonies. I am opposed to their being given back to Germany, either as colonies or under Mandate, because of the question of the treatment of natives and the point of view of strategy, but I think that legitimate grievances should be met in the way I have indicated, by extension of the Mandate system and the internationalisation of colonies altogether.
We shall vote against this Motion with the conviction that we are doing absolutely the right thing. We are not opposed to supplying whatever arms are required by the State in order to defend ourselves against possible enemies, and we feel it is right that we should play our part—an adequate and proportional part—in any system of collective defence that exists, but we think that the particular method chosen, of payment by loan and mortgaging the future, is entirely indefensible and contrary to the interests of the country. I should have thought that if we wanted to impress other countries with our determination to 1482 go forward at all costs with the necessary rearmament, the heroic course would be to say: "We are going to bear the burdens, however heavy they may be, upon our own shoulders, like men, as we did in the crisis of 1931. We will not run away from it."
The Government are again running away from their responsibility by putting it on to the future. If you cannot get the whole of the finance required out of the taxes, by increasing the Income Tax, Super-tax and other taxes, then it is my point of view, and I do not know whether anyone else shares it, that it would be far better to have a capital levy here and now, and far better than adopting the method proposed by the Government. Before the War, the Germans, when they were going in for their great rearmament scheme, had a levy on capital which worked perfectly satisfactorily and provided them with all that they wanted. I do not say that that is necessary, but I certainly think that we ought not to shrink from it if the money cannot be raised from taxation. Nothing would raise our prestige and show our determination to the world more than a really heroic method of that kind.
The real point is that the Government are afraid once again to place upon the shoulders of the people the burdens in which they, most unnecessarily, have involved them. They are on the run once more, and they are trying to give the impression that we can run a war, or preparations for war, on the cheap, which is an entirely unsound idea. Another advantage that would come from bearing the financial burdens now is that the persons who would be affected by having to pay a high rate of taxation would be so shocked and so outraged by the taxes placed upon them that they would turn round to the Government and say: "This is no joke. We cannot tolerate a policy which involves us in Surtax and Income Tax of this kind. You must adopt a different policy which will lead us in the direction of peace, as can be done even to-day. If you cannot do so, we will have a Government that will do it."
I say frankly that I do not see any alternative to the present Government. The forces on the left, the progressive forces, and in those I include Conservatives as well as Members of the Labour party, are so distracted with fighting each other and unable to agree, although agree 1483 ment would be quite easy, that the Government of this country is a gift to the present National Government within any foreseeable future. That could be changed if the Government would only return to the policy on which they won the General Election of 1935. The whole aspect of world affairs would be changed. Some reference has been made to the fact that the Foreign Secretary puts everything in most admirable sentiments about the Government's policy being based on the League of Nations. So he does. He does it honestly and in an attractive way, and a feeling of false security is created. There is a feeling that things must really be all right because he puts them so nicely; but, of course, nothing ever happens, and a policy of exactly the contrary is in practice carried out.
The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence made a very interesting speech to-day. I am sure he is doing his best. He used a great many Biblical expressions, and I am going to quote one that has been used by somebody about him. It may be quite untrue but I have heard it said that in his task he shows signs of being "faint, yet pursuing." Whatever vigour he may or may not show, he is certainly pursuing something. The point is, what is the policy that he and the Government are pursuing? A lot of light has been thrown on that during the past two days, and it has been revealed, as I have suspected for a long time, that they are pursuing a policy of isolation. They do not pretend that they take the collective system and the League of Nations seriously. I do not think I am doing them an injustice. They quite sincerely hold that view. They may look upon it as an ideal for the dim and distant future but, apart from certain commitments on the Continent with France and Belgium, their policy is one of isolation.
The question has been put, and it is a proper question: "Who are the allies in the collective system on whom we can rely?" I would ask which of our possible allies can rely upon our word, after the betrayal of Abyssinia? Who is going to trust our word to carry out our obligations? Putting that question aside I would answer the very legitimate question that has been put, as to whom could we rely upon? The policy for which we stand on this side of the House is that 1484 which is so well represented on that side by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and a number of other hon. Members. It is not a policy confined to this side of the House at all. Many warm supporters are led by the right hon. Gentleman. When he was asked: "What would you do in the case of Germany or Russia? Which would you fight for or against?" he said: "The answer is easy. I should be against the aggressor." I suggest that if the Government were to make it clear that we are willing to go all out with all our Forces, not drawing back as in recent examples, we could rely upon a system of alliances. After all, the League of Nations is only an alliance of all loyal nations against a potential aggressor. We could rely upon France, Belgium, Russia, Poland, the Little Entente countries, the Balkans, Turkey, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries. One would hope that all the others would come in, and Germany and Italy, too. If they did not, they would rightly be encircled. Any aggressor deserves to be encircled; that is the object of the League of Nations system.
In answer to the question which has been put, I say that we could rely on those nations, if properly led by us. The forces are still overwhelmingly on the side of right, decency and peace throughout the world. That would require definite arrangements; there would have to be staff talks; and, if those arrangements were made, action would never be necessary, because, if it were known that you had that overwhelming strength ready to act against an aggressor, he would never dare to come up against you. It is the knowledge that such arrangements do not exist, and the belief that we might not play our part, that is encouraging the dictators to strike out right and left, as they are inclined to do at the present time.
To-day I ventured to ask the Prime Minister a question which I have asked him before: Whether, in view of the gravity of the situation and the great desirability, which has been expressed in the House to-day, of national unity in defence and foreign policy, he would not invite the Leaders of the Opposition—I am speaking entirely on my own responsibility—to confer with him and see, even yet, if it is not possible to find unity. He gave a reply which I cannot help feeling 1485 was unworthy of the head of the Government—that the initiative does not rest with him, that the Opposition must approach him. I venture to hope that he will reconsider the matter, and, as the head of the Government in this time of peril, consider the advisability of issuing invitations of that kind and seeing how far we can get towards unity. It might well be that it would fail, but, on the other hand, it might succeed, and, if it did succeed, the advantages to this people and to the world as a whole would be so immense that I submit that it is well worth trying.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Hardie
I am glad that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has returned, because to-day he made a very serious statement, a statement which apparently he has been too busy to see was an uninformed statement. He said that all the money that is to be spent will come under the review of Parliament, and every detail of expenditure will be meticulously examined. I am sure he has been too busy to read the daily reports of questions and answers in the House. For a long time Members on this side have been trying to get down to what has been done in his Department since the first Vote went through. We have been trying to get from the Under-Secretary of State for Air the prices that were being paid for certain lands that were being bought for aerodromes, but we have been told that for some reason or other we could not possibly have that information. That does not seem to imply that there is the meticulous care about expenditure which the Minister tried to impress upon the Committee to-day.
Not only in the Air Ministry, but in every other Department where there has been something to be made, the usual manipulations have been at work. Whether the Minister realises that or not I do not know, but his statement to-day shows that all that is being done is not meticulously examined. There are certain people on certain committees on certain subjects in regard to aerodromes being built and aerodrome material being bought, and some of these individuals are now selling those materials to the aerodrome people. If there had been that great care in regard to expenditure that the Minister spoke of, we should have known to-day what those things were. I know that this Debate is supposed to 1486 be one of confidence, but I always like to get away from that, because it is the way to allow people to get away with the swag without being seen. Even in laying down foundations and making roads there are certain materials used. Why could not the Minister tell us that certain people on certain committees are selling materials for that purpose? That is the kind of thing that took place in the last War. Do we not remember Gretna? Do we not remember the money that was flung by the million into Gretna? Do we not know the swindling that took place in the building of Gretna? The Labour Government when it was in office but not in power tried to get a grip on that in order to put it to use, when all that the Tory Government could do was to sell the plant, which cost £2,000,000, to someone in Carlisle to pull down and sell in pieces at so much a pound.
The Government are always in the hands of people called industrialists, and it is they who are going to get a grip on this after it has got through the financial manipulators in what is called the City. This meticulous examination is a question for the Minister's Department and the Air Ministry, but they are either incapable of giving answers or do not wish to expose what is taking place. If it would help them to get hold of the individuals, I would not mind being quiet, but I would like them either to tell us who the individuals are or say they do not know. Ever since this expenditure has been suggested there has been that gloating anticipation of those who hope to participate in the profits. These things may be for the destruction of their own relatives, but there is always this question of something for nothing that seems to impel them forward. I have always believed in paying as I go. It is a working-class idea. You do not want to have your grocer calling at your door; it is not good; and if we were doing right we should be paying as we go.
Suppose that this country receives a visitation of 1,000 aeroplanes which destroy all the buildings. That would be a trial so far as property is concerned, but what is left? You would still have the land. The Duke of Westminster would then have something to work upon to rebuild what had been destroyed. Seeing that in the last War the values of land were increased, and that even now 1487 they are increasing as a result of this proposed expenditure, why should there not be a direct charge—a levy—on the value of the land? These values are being created by the expenditure of public money; every penny that is going to be spent in the armaments business, or in buying land or building materials, or in putting up buildings, all tends towards, to put it mildly, profiteering. That is a mild and gentlemanly word; the truthful word is a very ugly word. That swindling is going on now there is no doubt. In every paper that deals in any way with financial business you see exactly what this thing means to those who are manipulating financial business. They know what it means and they are making the most out of it. Whenever there is money about, something like a great big claw comes out, and no effort is made to find out whether the money is being spent properly or not. The meticulous idea of the Minister is far wide of the mark, and he ought to know it. He is going to be in trouble very soon, because information leaks out. Do not forget that every works contains working men, and it is a very simple matter to make deductions when you are used to that method of finding out what is taking place.
I hope the Minister will see to it that, whenever a question is put down, it will be honestly answered. If you are not going to give the information, say, "We are not going to tell you." Do not evade it or put it off. If you can tell us, then tell us the truth. The Minister is in possession of information now in regard to certain operations that took place when the first proposals for rearmament were made, when certain firms dealing in aircraft came into the field. He knows that he was being pressed on all hands by big interests in the City and that representatives of the City were even in the House trying to press him. The expenditure of the money that we are going to vote means, we are told, new buildings. Why is it necessary to put up new buildings when you have buildings already erected which are suitable? We had to pay through the nose for the use of land at Gretna and, when we had finished with it, we handed it back to the landlord for an old song. When you pass it in the train it makes you feel how the country was denuded and drained of 1488 money that it badly needed when the War finished. Can the Minister tell us if any of the land or buildings used in the last War are being used now? I hope we shall get answers to questions that we put down which will tell us exactly what is taking place.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter
I congratulate the Government on their courage in bringing forward these two White Papers. They are very fine indeed, and they will show the world our determination to put our Defence Forces right. Our Defence Forces have caused many Members in the House and people in the country grave anxiety during the last three years. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) brought up the question of battleships, and I agree with every word that he said. We airmen claim that it is possible to put a battleship out of action if you can drop a bomb down her funnel or in the vicinity of her propeller. You turn her into a lame duck. The Government, through pressure, set up a committee to go into the whole question of bomb versus battleship. It was a very fair inquiry. I gave evidence, and the conclusion that the committee came to is summed up in a White Paper (Cmd. 5301). May I read a paragraph:We have given full consideration to the information already available as the result of the various experiments, and it is plain to us that capital ships cannot be constructed so as to be indestructible by bombing from the air. This would probably be true even if the factors of speed, armament and weight were disregarded in the design of the ship so that the thickness of the defensive armour could be indefinitely increased.The Committee say that the battleship is vulnerable to air attack. That is all that we airmen have claimed. We have said it for years. The Committee find that we were perfectly right, and now we have in this White Paper on Defence provision being made for two battleships in the next programme and three after that, and they cost something like £8,000,000 apiece. That is a very large sum of money—a stepping stone towards the replacing of the whole of the capital ships allowed under the Washington Treaty, namely, 15 at £8,000,000 each, or £120,000,000.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Is not the true meaning of the Committee's report that the aeroplane will get the better of the capital ship if the capital ship keeps quite still and does not defend itself?
§ Sir M. Sueter
In the American experiment one bomb dropped down the funnel of a destroyer and blew her to pieces. Another bomb dropped near a submarine and cut her in two. The House may vote this money for battleships and our countrymen may notice it, but they can never say in a future war, if some of our capital ships are destroyed or made into lame ducks by a bomb, that the airmen did not warn their countrymen. That is all I ever wanted to do. I wanted to warn my countrymen that that sort of thing could happen by bombing from the air. I was at Malta last month and saw the "Hood," the "Queen Elizabeth" and two other battleships lying in the Grand Harbour. They were enormous targets for any air attack. I think the Government are very wise in increasing the number of cruisers. I should have liked to have seen the money voted for battleships go into cruisers, destroyers and submarines. We cannot well have too many cruisers when we remember that it took some 40 ships to hunt down the "Emden." It would have been much wiser if we had put the money that had been taken for battleships into cruisers, destroyers and submarines.
I am glad to see that the Government are increasing our tank battalions, and I hope that they will go into the question of the medium tank, which I believe is not as efficient as it might be. We have coming along a light tank of which I hear good reports. We want to see our men trained in the use of the most modern equipment that science can produce. We have had interesting Debates lately on Air strength, and we have been told there is a lag in Air development. The reason given is that there is a lack of skilled labour. If I can have the attention of the Co-ordinating Minister for one moment, because this might interest him—
§ Sir T. Inskip
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon, but it was a matter of some importance that I was discussing.
§ Sir M. Sueter
Thank you. Members come here to air their views, and if Ministers cannot pay attention to them they had better go outside. I do not mean that offensively; we back-benchers do sometimes want a little attention. I was saying that there is an appreciable lag in Air development, and we are told 1490 it is due to lack of skilled labour and to the fact that some factories do not function as well as others. Who is looking into this question of skilled labour? Is there anybody who sees whether there is a surplus in one place, and whether that surplus might go to some air factory? Who is looking into the question of priority? Do the tanks or do the aircraft get priority? These questions want attention by someone.
Then there is the question of factory sites. We had a proposal for a factory at Maidenhead, but eventually it was turned down. It was said that you could get 5,000 people round Maidenhead to go into the factory. I can tell the Coordinating Minister that you cannot get a few hundred. I live near Maidenhead, and I cannot even get a gardener. They all go into the Morris works. Whoever told the Co-ordinating Minister that he could get 5,000 men there did not know what he was talking about. I submit to the Prime Minister that it is high time we had an Under-Secretary for Supplies to look into these questions and to help the Co-ordinating Minister. It would relieve him of a lot of detail work and leave him free to handle the bigger problems. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones) gave a list of the subjects with which the Coordinating Minister has dealt. There was a colossal number, and it is high time the Minister was relieved from some of that work so that he can use his big brain on the larger question of Defence policy.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Erskine Hill
I want to congratulate the Government on facing up to the reality of war. As I have listened to the Debate, and particularly to hon. Members opposite, two vivid pictures have formed themselves in my mind. The first picture is of the General Election in 1910 when, as a boy, I attended a political meeting at which, in answer to the question of a heckler, a Liberal statesman replied that there was no danger of war and that in any event our defences were amply secure. The next picture is in France in the year 1915, when there was no adequate protection—many hon. Members on both sides will recollect the situation—when owing to the lack of shells it was impossible for us to fulfil our part as adequately as we should have done, and 1491 when a great many lives were lost. I know that if there should be another war hon. Members opposite, as hon. Members on this side, will do their part, but I think that if such a situation should arise most hon. Members would be glad that the Government had taken the line they have done now in putting forward the scheme outlined in the White Paper. I do not know whether, if there had been a loan of this sort before 1914, the War might have been avoided—it is at least arguable that it might have been—but I am certain that the War would have been much shorter in duration and that a great many British lives would have been saved.
It may be that the House will be discussing shortly in what way it is possible to improve the lot of the serving soldier, sailor and airman, but before we do that you will have to make clear to the relatives of those whom you are asking to serve that the men in every Service will be adequately protected, and that the tools they have to use will be of the most up-to-date kind. If you do not do that you are exposing them to an improper risk. Many hon. Members, I hope, will think twice before voting against this Resolution when they realise that in the years that lie ahead they may be glad that they have allowed the Government to take proper measures for the defence of the country. There is another aspect of the question. It is that those who are in command in the totalitarian States should realise that our democracy is in earnest, that we may have been slow in making proper preparations but that we are in earnest, and we will not allow ourselves to have imposed on us from outside ideas that are foreign to what we have been brought up to believe is right, and that any attempt to interfere with ourselves and our Colonies will meet with that sort of action which the history of this country has shown will always be taken when we have improper interference from outside.
I welcome the action of the Government in taking these steps which have appeared necessary to them, and, after all, they alone are the people who know how to protect this country and the Empire. For those reasons the House should have faith in those who know what the situation is and should rally round, after all, what is the national 1492 cause. It is quite beside the point to say whether the Government were right or wrong in any action they have taken in the past as regards the League of Nations. The question for us to decide to-night is whether the state of affairs in Europe demands that we should take what would seem to be the sane and proper steps to defend ourselves. It will be recognised that in strengthening the British Navy, which has done so much recently in the troubles in Spain, we are strengthening something which will act, as it has acted in the past, in the interests of peace. In strengthening our Air Force, it will be recognised by all those who are willing to think rightly, that we are doing it to prevent any country thinking that it can come and attack us and impose its will upon us. I can picture no greater effort in the cause of peace than supporting the Government in these really bold steps which they have taken to ensure our safety, and, by so doing, to secure the peace of the world.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
On a point of Order. I want to ask, Captain Bourne, whether it is proper for both the Whip and yourself to negotiate for speakers to come into this Debate—and it is quite evident that many of these speakers have nothing to say—while other hon. Members have been sitting here all the evening attempting to take part in the Debate.
§ Whereupon the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN named the hon. Member for disregarding the authority of the Chair, and left the Chair to report the circumstance to the House.1493
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair, and the DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN reported that Mr. MCGOVERN had been named by him to the Committee as disregarding the authority of the Chair.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Baldwin)
I beg to move, "That Mr. McGovern be suspended from the service of the House."
§ Question put.
§ Mr. Maxton
I have seen occasions when the Chair would allow a word or two of appeal to be made on an occasion like this.
§ Mr. Maxton
I accept your Ruling, but I have been present in the House on occasions when Mr. Speaker has been
§ willing to listen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] If that is to be the attitude then there will be more. I am making a plea to you, Sir, upon grounds that have been frequently put in this House. Of course, if you insist, I have to bow to your Ruling, but I have been present in this House on many occasions such as this when Mr. Speaker has been willing to listen to representations of the circumstances which might have arisen at a time when he was not present.
§ Mr. Maxton
Is there not a precedent for not carrying out the Rules of the House in these circumstances and thus allowing a member of the party, one of whose members is to be suspended, to make an appeal to you?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have no alternative. The Question has been put, "That Mr. McGovern be suspended from the service of the House."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 25.1495
|Division No. 83.]||AYES.||[9.45 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Granville, E. L.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Cranborne, Viscount||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Craven-Ellis, W.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Crooke, J. S.||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbre, W.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Grimston, R. V.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Cross, R. H.||Guy, J. C. M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Crossley, A. C.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Dalton, H.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Haneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Dawson, Sir P.||Hepworth, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Denville, Alfred||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Benson, G.||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Drewe, C.||Hopkin, D.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hopkinson, A.|
|Bracken, B.||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Dunglass, Lord||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Eckersley, P. T.||Hunter, T.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Edmondton, Major Sir J.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Ellis, Sir G.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Emery, J. F.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Errington, E.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Channon, H.||Everard, W. L.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Fildes, Sir H.||Lawson, J. J.|
|Choriton, A. E. L.||Findlay, Sir E.||Leach, W.|
|Clarke, F. E. (Hartford)||Furness, S. N.||Leckie, J. A.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Levy, T.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Pilkington, R.||Storey, S.|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Price, M. P.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Ramsbotham, H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Remer, J. R.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Ridley, G.||Train, Sir J.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Turton, R. H.|
|Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Mander, G. le M.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Rothschild, J. A. de||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Rowlands, G.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. W.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Milner, Major J.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Westwood, J.|
|Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Sandys, E. D.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Scott, Lord William||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Seely, Sir H. M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Selley, H. R.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Shinwell, E.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Orr-Ewing, I L.||Short, A.||Wragg, H.|
|Owen, Major G.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Simpson, F. B.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Parkinson, J. A.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Patrick, C. M.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Sir George Penny and Commander Southby.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Messer, F.|
|Batey, J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Potts, J.|
|Brooke, W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ritson, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dobbie, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gallacher, W.||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Maxton, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Stephen.|
§ Mr. McGovern
I accept the decision of the House, Mr. Speaker, having made an honest and sincere protest against the unfair conduct of the proceedings.
§ The hon. Member then withdrew.
§ Mr. Maxton
Yes, Sir. I rise to put this point to you: Frequently in this House I have seen incidents of this description occur in Committee, and when the Speaker came to the Chair an opportunity was given for representations to be made on behalf of the hon. Member who was incurring the pain of 1496 the House. I have heard of such representations being made by the Leader of the Opposition, and I have heard spokesmen from the Government Bench endeavouring to arrive at some more satisfactory solution of the difficulty. You, Sir, denied to me on this occasion the opportunity to do what has been granted on many occasions in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—and, Mr. Speaker, I propose, at the very earliest opportunity, to place on the Paper a Motion calling attention to the conduct of the Deputy-Chairman of Committees in misdirecting the proceedings of this House.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member rose to a point of Order. I do not know whether he asked me if I was in order in doing what I did, but I can only say that I have refreshed my memory, and I repeat that I was only carrying out the orders of the House.
§ Mr. Maxton
I have not called in question the fact that you were obeying the Rules of the House. I am merely calling in question the fact that you did not allow to me considerations that have always been shown by your predecessors.