§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move,That this House, jealous of the rights and liberties of the subject, regrets the action of the Government in dismissing summarily five workmen from their employment in the Royal dockyards without informing them of what offence they were accused or affording them any opportunity of making any defence; believes that such action is contrary to the principles of British justice and detrimental to the best interests of the national service; and, taking note that under the regulations relating to discipline salaried officers are entitled to be supplied with particulars of any charges against them and to be given full opportunity of reply, is of opinion that this procedure should be applied in the present instance and in all future cases.This Motion has been put down after very careful consideration, not primarily with any special intention to censure His Majesty's Government, but in the hope that what we regard as a false step might be retrieved. We have done this in the public interest, because we feel that the matter is one which requires early consideration by this House. In the first place, I want to make two points perfectly clear. The first is that the question at issue is not whether the dismissal of the five men was justified or not, for on 'that the public has no information on which to form a judgment. If it be the case that some of these men, or all of them, have been guilty of the gravest misconduct, the need for this discussion would still remain. The second point is this. My hon. Friends realise, and I realise, that men employed in His Majesty's dockyards may be engaged on work of a highly confidential nature. We appreciate that in such work there must be the highest standard of rectitude among the employes, and if it were proved that any man or men were guilty of acting against the national interest, were guilty of a criminal offence, had stooped to treason, the trade unions concerned would be as condemnatory of them a s the Board of Admiralty. I want to say most emphatically—I can say it with confidence and with authority—that no responsible trade union in this country will have any lot or part in treason.
§ Mr. Greenwood
The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten) should not interrupt a serious Debate of 786 this kind. I shall try in this Debate to behave as worthily as Members of the House should behave on questions of this kind. The point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is that on this issue, which is a vital issue of principle, this House and the public are in the dark, and public opinion, especially public opinion in the dockyard areas, is very perturbed. It would appear, also, that the matter has caused some amount of uneasiness in the mind of the First Lord of the Admiralty. His very lengthy and elaborate answer in the House a week ago to a question put by my right hon. Friend, his attempt to allay the anxieties of those he called the "loyal workers" in the dockyards, seem to show that he himself felt that the matter is one of no ordinary importance. I find the "Times" to-day has a leading article which I am bound to say seems to me, again, to be the measure of the Government's grave anxiety on this question. It must be an inspired leading article, for as far as I can find out it contains infoimation on this matter which has not hitherto been made public. Therefore, I am assuming that the First Lord himself realises that these cases are of some considerable importance, cases to which he himself has given a certain amount of attention, and cases which might give rise to a public issue of some importance.
What are the facts known to the public? The facts are, broadly, that five employes in His Majesty's dockyards, most of them men with long and continuous service in the dockyards, and one of them an established servant, were dismissed at a moment's notice without cause given, and without any opportunity of stating a case. The First Lord, in his long answer in the House, used the term "subversive activities." "Subversive" is a word which has now become part of the small currency of politics among hon. Members who do not happen to agree with hon. Members on this side of the House. I have taken the trouble to look up the dictionary to find out what the term "to subvert" means, and I find it means "to overthrow from the foundations, to ruin utterly, to overturn, to destroy." The implication in the First Lord's answer was that these five humble workmen have been engaged in such serious and nefarious activities as those. I hope we shall not get into the position in this House that, just because some of us want 787 to overthrow the Government from the foundations, to ruin it utterly, to overturn it and destroy it, they are necessarily subversive activities.
The terms of the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the question of the Leader of the Opposition have not only given the public the vague impression of serious charges, probably amounting to high treason, but have placed on the foreheads of five men an indelible brand, and cast them into the outer darkness, damned for ever, with no prospect of ever again obtaining steady employment. I, like others, have had many letters, and information has come to my hand this morning which shows the fate that lies before these five men. I do not wish in any way to make any charges which are wrong, but it would appear that the Admiralty, not satisfied with having dismissed these men, have taken steps to make it virtually impossible for them to obtain employment elsewhere. I have quite definite information of a circular letter which has been issued by the North-East Coast Engineering Employers' Association, which is part of the Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation, to all the firms which are affiliated to it, giving the names of the men recently dismissed from the Admiralty. The letter, it is true, conveys no other information, but I happen to know, and other Members of this House on both sides know, that this is the usual method when employers wish to blacklist a man of whom one employer disapproves.
From whom did the Engineering and Allied Employers' National Federation get these names? They have not been officially disclosed in this House; they have not been officially disclosed in the Press. I think one or two, or perhaps three, names have leaked out into the Press, and I come to the conclusion that this is another of those leakages, and that this information could have leaked only from the Admiralty. So that the Admiralty not only dismisses these men, not only ends their careers in His Majesty's dockyards, but sentences them to industrial death and cares nothing whatever about their wives and families. That side of it is a matter which, I am sure, is of some concern to this House. While the inexorable, relentless discipline of the Lords of the Admiralty appears 788 to be utterly regardless of the human aspect of this problem, the public cannot forget that the circumstances in which the dismissals took place, the cloak of mystery in which the proceedings have been shrouded, have effectively cast these men from the pale of employment for ever.
Among officers employed by the Admiralty there are provisions for cases of this kind. These are Regulations going back some little time, but pretty recent:REGULATION 27 (DISCIPLINARY QUESTIONS).—Where a serious disciplinary charge other than one which may give rise to criminal proceedings is brought against a civil salaried officer, for example, where the penalty may be dismissal, the following procedure should be adopted:That seems to me to be in accordance with the common principles of British justice. And we have had recent cases. Mr. Baillie Stewart, who was recently released from the Tower of London after having been charged with the gravest of all crimes against the State, was at least allowed a court-martial, and was allowed to put his case. We have had in recent years two cases of highly-placed civil servants, the Gregory case and the Bullock case, the Bullock case only about a year or 18 months ago, where there was a most elaborate investigation and where the reports went out of their way to say: "We are not casting aspersions on their characters."
- A.—The officer should be given in advance a written statement defining the charge and setting up particulars of the facts relied upon to support the charge.
- B.—He should be required to submit a reply to the charge against him, but if there is conflict of evidence between the charge and the officer's written reply the officer may, if he so desires, represent his case orally.
- C.—The officer in such circumstances will have the right to represent his case orally before a suitable officer of the Department other than his immediate superior.
- D.—In representing his case orally the officer should be allowed, if he so desires, to have the assistance of a friend or colleague, who may be an association representative, present with him."
When the First Lord of the Admiralty at the end of 1935 was guilty of sabotaging the League of Nations, sabotage of the worst kind, the Prime Minister did not come to his aid, but at least this House gave the First Lord a fair opportunity to make a statement, and that statement was heard or read by every Member of this House. But there are Regulations also affecting the men. I 789 quote from the Home Dockyard Regulations of 1925. I shall read only the operative words of Regulation 49, which says:If any of the workpeople are charged with insubordination, turbulence or inebriety—and a number of other crimes, including spitting—or with any other breach of the rules and regulations of His Majesty's dockyards or other establishments, the superintendent shall proceed, with the assistance of the principal officer of the department to which the person belongs, to investigate the circumstances.The procedure is not so elaborate; it is not so complete as in the case of officers, but in Sub-section (4) of Regulation 49, "Workpeople charged with offences—procedure," we find:Workpeople charged with any of the offences referred to in this article are to be given an opportunity of being heard in their own defence before punishment is awarded.This procedure quite clearly has not been applied to the case of the five men whom we are now discussing, and I want to affirm—I do not believe a single Member of the House, in whatever quarter he sits, will disagree—the two fundamental rights of the British citizen, however! humble he may be: one, that if charges are made against him for which he can be punished and virtually outlawed he has a right to be informed of the charges which are made against him; and the second, which goes with the first, is that if a man is charged in this country he ought to have a reasonable right to defend himself against the charges which have been made.
The First Lord, as I have pointed out already, recognised that this was a serious matter. He even went to the length of appointing a body of people to inquire into the facts, a body consisting of a number of highly placed Civil servants, not all of them in the Admiralty. Why did he do this? Either he thought that he himself, because of his responsibility for the safety of His Majesty's Navy, might be biased and that therefore someone outside would be better to go into the circumstances, or he wished to fortify himself against any criticism which might be made resulting from such decisions as he might take. I think it will be clear to hon. Members that the value of a body of that kind, either to 790 ensure that the facts are really ascertained or as a support against criticism, depends upon the procedure which is adopted. Their value depends upon their impartiality. They must, therefore, regard the matter in a judicial manner. They become, in effect a quasi judicial tribunal.
What does that imply? Not that they must necessarily follow the strict rules of law, but that they should comply with the requirements of natural justice. Natural justice is a somewhat archaic term to use in these days, but we have recently had a very responsible Government Committee which has thrown some light on this question, the Committee on Ministers' Powers, which reported as late as 1932, which was presided over by Sir Leslie Scott, as he then was, and which included in its membership Members of this House, among them the senior Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) and the hon. Member who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. They devoted themselves to this question of natural justice, and they quoted the statement of Lord Ellenborough:It is contrary to the first principles of reason and justice that in any civil or criminal proceedings a man should be condemned before he is heard.The Committee then went on to say:Although natural justice does not fall within those definite and well-recognised rules of law which English Courts of Justice enforce, we think that it is beyond doubt that there are certain canons of judicial conduct to which any persons who have to give judicial or quasi-judicial decisions ought to conform. The principles on which they rest are implicit in the rule of law.The second principle which the Committee laid down was that:No party ought to be condemned unheard and if his right to be heard is to be a reality he must know in good time the case which he has to meet.I venture to suggest that no hon. Member in the House at this moment would dissent from those two propositions. What has happened in this particular case is that the men have not been informed of what they are accused. They have been given no opportunity of defending themselves. The body which the First Lord set up to inquire into the case did not act in accordance with the principles of natural justice. It heard only one side of the case.
791 I have the impression—I hope I am wrong—that the Lords of the Admiralty are extremely high-handed in their methods of dealing with their employes. Since this matter became one of public comment, I, in common with others, have had a number of letters from people who have been dismissed by the Lords of the Admiralty. There is one from the wife of an assistant engineer who was taken on under contract for two years to serve in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. He was dismissed at a moment's notice without any reason being given. I will quote an extract from an Admiralty letter which, in spite of the Regulations, shows the line which the Admiralty take in matters of this kind. The letter says:There is in all contracts of service with the Crown a general term imported by the law and in the public interests that the servant may be dismissed at pleasure without compensation even though there may have been in the contract of employment express terms inconsistent with such a power.I am only an ordinary layman; perhaps that is why I see this question with a clarity that many lawyers would not—I understand that the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence is to speak in this Debate. I am informed, however, that that letter of the Admiralty—the overriding power of dismissal whether there is a contract for service of a definite term or not—is really bad law. I have been provided with the information that in Reilly v. Rex, a case which appeared before the Privy Council as recently as 1934, that contention of the Admiralty was expressly repudiated. A Canadian judge had held the view taken by the Admiralty, but Lord Atkin, in his judgment, said:Their Lordships are not prepared to accede to this view of the contract, if contract there be. If the term of the appointment definitely prescribes a term and expressly provides for a power to determine for cause stated, it appears necessarily to follow that any implication of a power to dismiss at pleasure is excluded.That judgment was subsequent to the letter which I have received from the wife of this dismissed man. She is still denied justice, and everything in the correspondence goes to show that her husband became a marked man because he dared to stand up for his elementary rights.
These five men who are our special concern to-day are British subjects dismissed for an offence which was merely 792 hinted at in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman a week ago. I remember very well some other British subjects who were accused by their employers, a foreign Power, of sabotage. I remember the Home Secretary coming to, the House—I have refreshed my memory of his speech on 5th April, 1933—and whipping it into a fury in the name of outraged justice. The right hon. Gentleman told us that as soon as the information of those arrests reached our Ambassador in the U.S.S.R. he did what was right and proper. He immediately sent to make inquiries, and asked three questions: 1. On what charge had the arrests been made? 2. Where the arrested persons now were? 3. Whether it was permissible for the arrested persons to communicate with the Embassy or one of their own colleagues?
Now let us compare the present case. Five men were dismissed. As soon as possible my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked a question about the matter. There were three points in his question: Whether these men were informed of what the charge was; whether they were given any opportunity of making a defence, and whether they were allowed advice. The answer was a blank negative to all three questions. I can imagine what would have been the state of indignation of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary if M. Litvinov had dared then to send such an answer. Our Ambassador said—and this is reported in the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I have referred—that theEnglish man-in-the-street would be totally unable to comprehend the arrest … of well-known honourable British subjects on what could only be a criminal charge, the nature of which was still undisclosed 36 hours later."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1933: col. 1774, Vol. 276.]Well, the English man-in-the-street cannot very well comprehend the dismissal of honourable British subjects—it does not matter whether they are distinguished or not—for what must be presumably, a grave criminal charge the nature of which, days after the dismissal has taken place, has not yet been disclosed. I suggest to the House that it is not yet too late for the public to be convinced that the men concerned have had fair treatment. I have here sworn affidavits from three of the five men dismissed. I do not pre- 793 tend that I know whether they are correct in every particular, but I will quote one of them—I mention no name:I was born on the 10th day of June, 1891, at Turnchapel, near Plymouth, and iived there until I was 10 years of age. My father was a member of His Majesty's Forces, being a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery. When I was so I went with my father and mother and lived in the Garrison Quarters at the Citadel, Plymouth. I was educated in the Army School, until I was 14 years of age. I then left school and obtained employment with Messrs. Dickenson & Co., Army contractors of Plymouth. I was there until I was 20 years of age. I then obtained employment at His Majesty's Dockyard, Devonport. I was employed there, except for a period during the Great War, until 9th January, 1937, when I was discharged. I saw war service in Palestine, joining the Army as a volunteer in November, 1915, with the First Fifth Devonshire Territorials. I was discharged from the Army in July, 1919. I went back to my employment at the Dockyard. Both my characters at school and in the Army were good. I am a married man with three children between 18 and a) years of age.That is one of the men who, without any warning of the blow which was to fall upon him, has been put out on to the streets of Devonport. I could give particulars of other cases. I do not wish to quote the whole of these affidavits. Another from one of the five men says that his mother was left a widow when he was 10 years of age. He attended at Greenwich Naval School. He was there from 10½ to 15 years of age. His father died of injuries he received in the Navy. He was examined by the Medical Officer of the Navy and failed in the examination. He then went back to his native town. Then he obtained employment in the dockyard where he has been ever since.
These are cases of men who, whatever their political views may have been or may be, have had long service—up to now apparently satisfactory service—and who have been treated as badly as men can be treated. I repeat that I do not think it is too late yet to convince the people of this country that justice has been meted out to these men. We have never asked for a public inquiry, but we want an inquiry which will take into account the case which these men and their friends can put, an inquiry which looks at both sides, one which will satisfy public opinion, which will do justice to the men and, what is equally important, will allay feeling in His Majesty's dockyards. This is very important. Every 794 post now brings me letters from people employed or with relatives employed in His Majesty's dockyards, and there is evidence that the spirit of fear and suspicion has been intensified—suspicion of friends. I have a case recorded of how one of the dismissed men called at a fellow employe's house, and he was asked by his friend's wife to go before it was known that he had been there. She warned her husband, with tears in her eyes: "You will be the next to go." That is not an isolated case. I will cite one letter from a man who quotes a letter which he had received from his son-in-law, and he says:I had a letter from my son-in-law this morning from Devonport. He is a sailor finishing his time there. He has about nine months to do. Perhaps his views on the dockyard question may be interesting to you. At any rate, hear what he says.This is the quotation:'I dare say you have read in your paper about the dismissals from this dockyard. You would not believe what a stir it has caused, although you can't hear a word said about it in the yard. Everybody is as quiet as Mary's little lamb, and if you should mention anything about these men who were sacked, they all start looking at one another, and it's just the same in the public-houses'"—I understand that those are places where men are among their friends. It goes on:—"'they all walk in fear of getting the sack, and not one of them dare say a word to his work-mate in case he is talking to a 'tec.'That is a pretty condition for His Majesty's dockyards. The effect on the morale of the dockyards must be of the gravest possible kind. His Majesty's Government are anxious about re-armament, and in that the dockyards play an important part. What value is there in taking action which is setting man against man and brother against brother in the dockyards because of these clouds of suspicion which are over the heads of everybody employed?
But there is an even broader aspect of the problem than this, and here I know I shall get support from the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), whose speech in Leeds I read with interest in the Press to-day. With democracy challenged by dictatorship, there is no place to-day in this country for despotism and tyranny, not even on the part of His Majesty's Government. Justice, liberty, and the right to a fair trial should be upheld. We have had 795 great speeches from the Prime Minister in which he has, with his hand on his heart, declared for the maintenance of all democratic principles. Here now five men are walking the streets, with families dependent upon them, because they have been denied the elements of British justice. This Parliament has defended the liberty of the subject and has proclaimed the principle of the equality of all people before the law, whoever they may be. The history of this country resounds throughout the centuries with heroic struggles and sacrifices made in the interests of justice and liberty, in circumstances quite parallel to these. To condemn men without informing them of the charges against them, to convict them without an opportunity of explanation and defence, and to harry them down the road of life as social lepers, is to strike an irreparable blow at the most prized of our privileges. I hope that, with the stormy seas of dictatorship battering at and lapping the shores of these islands, the Government will be bold enough on this occasion to declare their adhesion to the fundamental principle of democracy, the rights and the liberty of the people.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Samuel Hoare)
I have no cause of complaint against the tone in which the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has proposed his Motion. I would only omit his personal reference to my own affairs a year ago, but it may be that I am biased on that subject. Apart from that, I have no cause to complain of the tone or the gravity with which he approached an issue of great importance.
A question of this kind is bound to create feeling. Affecting the hearts and minds of many hon. Members, it is bound to stimulate controversy, and it is at least satisfactory to remark, at the outset of my observations, that there is a general field of agreement upon which there seems to be no difference in the House at all. There is full agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the attitude of himself and his party generally towards the security of the nation as a whole and towards the safety of the men of the ships of His Majesty's Navy. There is no difference in this House whatever upon that proposition. Nor, I would ask him to believe 796 me when I say, is there any difference between us in our detestation of autocratic methods—[Horn. MEMBERS:Oh!"]I will substantiate, in the course of my remarks, what I am now stating. It is a fact that we on this side of the House are just as much opposed to autocratic and dictatorial methods as is anybody on the other side of the House, especially when, it may be, those autocratic methods depend for their efficacy upon mystery and secrecy. We are very conscious of the fact that at this time, above all others, when democratic liberties are threatened in so many parts of the world, we must scrutinise with the most meticulous care any action, I do not mind by what Government it is taken, that seems to run counter to our instinct for fair play or to our conceptions of the rights and liberties of individual citizens.
On that account, as First Lord of the Admiralty, I am very glad that this Debate is taking place, and I welcome the opportunity of putting the facts before the House of Commons, the best tribunal in the world for testing them, and I ask hon. Members on all sides of the House to follow me, with the care with which they have followed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the statement that I am now going to make to the House. In the course of this statement, I shall have to go into some detail, but I would ask hon. Members, before I deal with detail, to keep constantly in their minds two questions, both of which will, I think, help them to come to a wise decision at the end of this Debate. They are two questions in particular that seem to me to be fundamental to the whole course of this discussion. First of all, could the Government have taken any other action than the action that they took? Secondly, assuming that there was no other course open to them, did they safeguard their action by every possible precaution to avoid a miscarriage of justice? I would ask hon. Members during the course of my speech, and indeed during the course of the whole of this Debate, to keep those two questions constantly in their minds—firstly, was there any other course open to the Government; and, secondly, supposing that there was no other course open to the Government, did the Government safeguard the course that they were taking by every precaution possible to avoid a miscarriage of justice?
797 Having drawn the attention of the House to those two fundamental questions, let me say a word about the character and the conditions of the work in the Royal dockyards. We hear a great deal about the dockyards at Question Time. Dockyard Members have a reputation for being very active, and my somewhat long experience in the House reminds me of the persistence with which dockyard Members, quite rightly, always press upon the attention of this House the interests of their constituencies and the rights of the men working in the Royal dockyards. Yet, in spite of that fact, I believe there are a good many Members in the House who do not sit for dockyard seats, who none the less are not altogether conversant with the character of the work in the dockyards and with the conditions under which the men work.
Let me give the House a few facts in order that they may be able to understand the conditions under which these men are engaged. There are at present about 58,000 workmen employed in His Majesty's dockyards and naval establishments at home, of whom about 49,000 are called hired workmen and about 9,500 are called established workers. The numbers employed vary greatly from time to time. For instance, in the dockyards alone these were 57,000 employes in 1919 and only 27,00o employes in 1930. Except for established workmen, discharge is, unfortunately, a regular liability of employment. Men understand that they may be discharged because there is no work for them, or because they are not suitable for the particular work to be done, without any reflection on their conduct or their general ability. Once a year every hired workman receives formal notice of discharge and is re-entered if required. A hired dockyard workman gets no guarantee of permanent employment. He is employed as long as he is willing to remain and his services are required.
As to the established men, when a man is placed on the established list he becomes eligible under certain conditions for a pension or gratuity on retirement, and although no guarantee of permanent employment is given, he is not usually discharged before reaching the age of 60, except for ill health, incapacity, miscon- 798 duct or abolition of office. As to the disciplinary questions, they are set out as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us in the current dockyard regulations. The three principal regulations are 27, 49 and 324. I need not read them to the House unless hon. Members desire me to do so, especially as the right hon. Gentleman has already read the relevant extracts. The substance of them is that with civil salaried officer and workmen alike, where a charge is made, it should be stated to him and he should be given the opportunity of making a reply, in the case of the workmen orally, in the case of the salaried officer in writing. In both cases this procedure applies to certain specific charges of a disciplinary character. In both cases, none the less, it is equally possible to discharge an employé on the grounds that it is no longer desired to retain his services. Both classes of employé are equally subject to the well-established constitutional principle—in spite of the case just quoted by the right hon. Gentleman—that the Crown can terminate the services of any of its employés, apart from the judiciary, at any time without reason given. I shall return to this aspect of the case later in my speech. For the moment, I am stating the conditions of service in the dockyards, and I will deal in a later part of my speech with the question as to whether the Government were justified or not in this case in relying upon the reason of "services no longer required" for the discharge of the men. So much for the conditions under which men are working in the Royal dockyards.
Let me now say something about the character of their work. The work upon which these men are engaged is, for the most part, either the construction of new ships for the Royal Navy or the repair of existing ships. Much of this work, as I know from my own personal experience, is work of a very responsible and secret character. There is, for instance, experimental work going on in the dockyards of great secrecy and of immense importance to the development of the Navy. The very nature of the work upon which these men are employed places them in a category which is very special and almost unique. A wrong act, intentional or unintentional, may endanger not only the ships of His Majesty's Navy but the lives of the 799 officers and men in the ships. With ships as complicated as they are to-day, it might lead to loss of control. It might lead, during manoeuvres in peace time, to a serious naval catastrophe. A wrong act, intentional or unintentional, might put a ship out of action in an engagement and alter the result of a battle.
These are very formidable contingencies, and they show to the House the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the men working in the dockyards and the great responsibility placed on the shoulders of the Government as a whole and of the Board of Admiralty in particular, to see that nothing is done to shake the confidence of the officers and men of the Navy in the work of the men in the dockyards. We all know that sailors carry their lives in their own hands, but it is not always remembered that their lives may be just as much in the hands of the men who are building and repairing the ships in which they go afloat. I hope I have said enough to impress upon the House the great responsibility of the work in the dockyards, and the heavy responsibility which is on the shoulders of the Government to see that that work is loyally carried out, and the necessity of employing in the dockyards only men in whom the Government can repose confidence.
Ten or 12 years ago a new and very formidable problem was added to the problems of dockyard administration. Up to that time there had been occasional attempts to obtain secret information from the men working in the dockyards. It was, as I say, about Do or 12 years ago, however, that a concentrated attempt was made to spread disaffection in the dockyards and even to spread mutiny among the naval ratings. The state of affairs was serious, and the result was that special directions were sent to the dockyards directions that have been in force ever since then whatever Government was in office—in which great stress was laid on the necessity of doing everything possible to ensure that only loyal men on whom we could depend should be employed. This action had some result, but it by no means eliminated the dangers. Indeed, in the last year or two the trouble went on and became even more formidable. A series of very disturbing incidents took 800 place. The House may have heard disjointedly one or two of them. Let me give the House a list of the more serious of them.
"War Afridi" (oiler) at Devonport. In March, 1933, sand and brass filings appear to have been placed in the machinery while the ship was in dry dock.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary "Oleander," also docked at Devonport. On 16th October, 1933, nuts were discovered in the machinery, causing stoppage of the main circulating engine and the mast rope was unrove. On investigation it was apparent that the articles must have been inserted deliberately.
His Majesty's Ship "Oberon" (submarine), also docked at Devonport. Here objects were found to have been placed in the port main motor, probably between 30th March and 8th April, 1935. It was not possible to establish the identity of the person or persons responsible. This occurred through the insertion of two large bolts, a nut, and a piece of stiff copper wire into one of the main motors. It was done while the submarine was undergoing refit in the dockyard, when the motors were opened up and dockyard men working on them.
His Majesty's Ship "Royal Oak" (battleship), also docked at Devonport. A pin was discovered in the fire control cable on 27th November, 1935. Extensive inquiries were made into the occurrence. The damage was done skilfully, and in such a way that its detection was rendered very difficult.
His Majesty's Ship "Cumberland" (cruiser). A needle was found driven into an electric cable; the occurrence took place between 16th December, 1935, and January, 1936. Upon investigation it was clear that the damage was premeditated and malicious, and that, having regard to other instances of the type, the damage was done at the instigation of some superior organisation, and was not the work of a practical joker or of an isolated malcontent.
§ Mr. G. Hardie
Have any of these cases happened in private dockyards where the work is given out to firms?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am dealing now with His Majesty's dockyards. Other cases 801 did take place, I believe, in private dockyards as well. The House will have observed the gravity of these cases. A fragment placed in the motor of a submarine, and the submarine may be unable to reach the surface and the whole of the ship's company may be drowned. A pin in the electric control of a battleship, and the whole gunnery of the battleship may be put out of action. Hon. Members will also realise, when they consider the conditions under which acts of the kind take place, that it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain a conviction against the guilty men.
In face of these disturbing events the Government were bound to intensify their supervision and to take more drastic steps to prevent the recurrence of such very dangerous incidents. It was incumbent upon the Government to take the necessary action to remove men in whom they could not repose confidence, and to have in the yards only men in whom they could repose confidence. In the course of the subsequent inquiries it emerged beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were men in the dockyard service whose actions and whose associations forced the Government to distrust their loyalty. It was not a question of men holding or expressing political views. Any man in the clockyards can have any political views that he wishes. We do not interfere with them. Indeed, we give a man every facility to take part in the normal political life of the country if he so wills. [An HON. MEMBER: "On one side!"] No, not on one side. Only the other day I was delighted to be able to congratulate a man who, I believe, is leader of the local Labour party in Plymouth, a dockyard hand, who has received the honour of being made the first Labour Lord Mayor of Plymouth. We gave him every facility during his year of office to carry out his duties.
It was not a question of men holding or expressing mere political views; nor was it a question of so interpreting the phrase "subversive activities" on lines suggested by the right hon. Member for Wakefield so as to cover every kind of reasonable and normal political activity. When, therefore, I said in answer to a question last week that Ilearned in the autumn of the subversive activities of certain men calculated to endanger the safety and welfare of the State,I meant something much more definite 802 than the possession of any political views. I meant quite definitely actions and associations that were calculated to incite to acts detrimental to the safety of the State and the Navy, and in particular to acts of sabotage, to mutiny and to disaffection among the men in the State's service. The inquiries led me irresistibly to the conclusion that we could not repose the required confidence in certain men, and that the dockyards would not be safe as long as these men were in them. I reported the case to the Cabinet. Let me disabuse the right hon. Gentleman of the impression that he seems to have that here was an autocratic Admiralty, that here were antiquated admirals using dictatorial and irresponsible methods. There was nothing of the kind. From start to finish this case was considered by the Cabinet, and the procedure that we adopted was adopted after the fullest consideration by the Government as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, naturally raised the question why, if we thought so gravely of the conduct and associations of these five men, we did not prosecute them. My answer is that we acted as any employer would have acted in the circumstances. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Let hon. Members think of the position for a moment. An employer may have a suspicion, indeed, a grave suspicion, of someone in his employment; it may he a servant or it may be an employé in a business or factory. Does he always prosecute him? I would have said that in nine cases out of ten he does not. It may be that the information on which he bases his suspicion is of a confidential character. It may be that another employé in whom he can place faith has given him the information, and he is not prepared to betray that confidence. I would say to hon. Members on all sides of the House that the normal course for an employer to take when he has not confidence as to the conduct or the associations of one of his employés is to discharge the man; and often discharge, from the man's point of view, is a much kinder action that prosecution.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The manifest interest in the House in relation to prosecution naturally makes it inevitable that I 803 should refer to it. The course we should have preferred would have been to have had a normal inquiry with an opportunity for the men to state their case, with all the evidence to be adduced, and with the kind of procedure that would normally be adopted in cases connected with the Civil Service, or in cases connected with courts of law. That is a course we should have preferred, but we were confronted with the difficulty that the information at our disposal was necessarily secret and confidential, and was obtained from sources which, while legitimate and reliable, could not in the interests of the security of the State be disclosed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I know as well as any hon. Member the great and natural prejudice there is against the Secret Service agents' reports and all the elements of espionage and contra-espionage. There is instinctively a prejudice against those methods in the minds of every hon. Member, but I do say to hon. Members opposite that, whether we are the Government of the day or they are the Government of the day, it will be equally essential in the interests of the security of the State that the Government should have its sources of information and should have its means of combating the active attacks that are made upon the security of the nation by outside organisations. I am quite sure that if we abandoned our machinery of intelligence, if we took any action that destroyed its utility for the future, this country—and I say this country rather than this Government—would find itself at a grave disadvantage in the world to-day. The fault of having to intensify activities of this kind is not ours. It is the direct result of the campaigns that have been taking place in the last 10 or 15 years. If we are deprived of this weapon to meet them, I say Lo hon. Gentlemen opposite that it will place this country at a grave disadvantage.
In any case, we came to the conclusion that we were not prepared to disclose the sources of our information and to endanger the system of our intelligence service. I put the matter perfectly plainly and bluntly before the House. Taking that view, what would have been gained by telling the men in detail of the cause of their discharge? [Interruption.] Let hon. Members think again. Suppose we had said to these men, as I have said to- 804 day in the House, "Your conduct and associations are such that we consider them to be calculated to lead to disaffection and mutiny, and, it may be to sabotage." The men would have denied the charge. They would have said to us, "Prove your case, produce your evidence and bring the witnesses into court." I have told the House as clearly as I could that, in the interests of national security, we were not prepared to take this action. We were not prepared to betray the confidence of men upon whom we could rely. We were not prepared to weaken and destroy a necessary weapon in the armoury of the nation. The Government came to the view that no useful purpose could be served by giving the men the details of their discharge. They took the view that the proper course to adopt in the circumstances was to follow the course that has not infrequently been adopted in the past, and to give as the reason of their discharge that their services were no longer required. That is a reason given to many men in the past. I expect that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) will know from his own recollection that there have frequently been cases where men have left the dockyards, and the only reason that has been given has been, "Services no longer required." Indeed, that is one of the reasons for discharge actually set out in the dockyard regulations.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
Whatever has happened in the past, I can find no precedent for a public statement by the Admiralty to the effect that five men have been discharged.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. We did not make a public statement first. If it had not been for the publicity given by the men themselves and their friends there need have been no publicity at all. The men were discharged on the Saturday. We made no statement at all, and we should have made no statement, had there not started during the next two or three days an agitation on the men's behalf, accompanied by great publicity; and it was only on the following Tuesday, I think, that the Admiralty made a statement on the subject at all.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Let me come back to the Government's decision, with which I was dealing before the interchange of views between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. We came definitely to the view that it was not possible to disclose the sources of our information, and that being so, we must safeguard the procedure in every possible way, not to save ourselves, I would ask hon. Members opposite to believe, in the interests of the men themselves. Before we actually proceeded to discharge the men, we did our utmost to check the view we had provisionally formed by the inquiry to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has alluded. It was an inquiry of the same calibre as the inquiries that dealt with the cases to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It was an inquiry carried out by very senior civil servants. As I told the House the other day, I have seen all of them, and they assured me that each of them was meticulously careful, in the course of this inquiry, to give every kind of allowance and attention to the conduct of the men whose fate they were considering. I can assure the House that each of the members of this inquiry, if he did anything, did weight the scales in favour of these men, and yet, notwithstanding that fact, they came to the unanimous and decided conclusion that it was not safe to allow these men to remain any longer in our service.
§ Mr. Attlee
Did any of the members of this tribunal ever suggest that they might have evidence from the men themselves?
§ Sir S. Hoare
No, they did not—I do not think they did, but I will check that up. The right hon. Gentleman will see that, having taken the line that we took—and I claim that it was the only line in the circumstances—that we were not prepared to disclose the sources of our information, it would have been impossible for the investigators to have followed things up in that way.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I would prefer not to give the names of civil servants. I think it is better that Ministers should take the full responsibility.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I can assure the hon. Member that they were civil servants of 806 great position and great impartiality, but I would prefer, unless I am pressed, not to give their names. The Government adopted this very exceptional precaution of having an inquiry carried out by impartial civil servants of great responsibility. They were advised that it was unsafe that these men should remain in the service of the State, and I claim that the Government could come to no other decision than that the men must be discharged. They took the view that it was not safe for the men to remain in the dockyards. They took the view, further, that no other course of action was open to them and no other procedure was open to them, and they were reassured in two directions: They were confident that no other procedure was open to them, and they were also confident that, in the nature of things, cases of this kind must, we hope, take place only exceptionally.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the anxieties in the dockyards, the great atmosphere of suspicion that seemed to have spread over the dockyards, according to his information. I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that that statement does not bear out at all the information which I am receiving direct from the dockyards. The labour organisations in the dockyards were, not unnaturally, anxious. There was a meeting of the Industrial Council last week. I should like to pay a tribute to the moderation, the caution, and the common sense with which the employes' side of the Council approached this question. It seemed to us that what made them anxious was not so much the case of the five men but lest this exceptional and abnormal procedure should be extended over the whole field of labour relations. I am here to say to the House quite categorically that cases of this kind must, in the nature of things, be exceptional This procedure would only be used in cases where it was definitely hostile to the interests of the State to disclose the sources of information and to treat the cases under normal procedure. I hope and believe these cases will be extremely rare. All my information goes to show that the great body of workers in the dockyards are loyal to the core. They resent the action of men such as the men with whom we are dealing. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do not know what it is."] I am stating facts. I have been in very close touch with the dockyards for many weeks and many 807 months, and what I am saying is the truth.
§ Sir S. Hoare
There has been a good deal of suspicion for some time. These activities have been going on, and men in the dockyards have intensely resented them, and I myself shall be very much surprised if the kind of reactions which the right hon. Gentleman opposite contemplated really takes place. I believe that the men in the dockyards are loyal to the core, and wish to see disloyalty uprooted from one end to the other of the dockyards. I have put the case before the House. I have told the House frankly and unreservedly why it was that we were not prepared to adopt the normal procedure of an inquiry. I say it was in the interests of the State that we took this course, and that any other course would have endangered the interests of the State. In view of these facts I claim that we took the only action that was open to us, and I ask the House to-day to give us not only a great majority in the Lobby but, what it much more important, the support of the conviction of a great body of men that, first of all we took the only course that was open to us, and, secondly, that we have safeguarded that course by every method possible to avoid miscarriage of justice.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
The House will realise that it is not very easy to follow the First Lord in the speech he has just made, because he has given us certain new matter which was not contained in his original statement. Nevertheless, I will express the hope that he will be kind enough to listen to what I have to say, or that the Minister who is going to deal with the matter finally will be kind enough to listen, because I have rather a new point of view to put, which is not the same as that of the First Lord, nor the same as that which we heard from my hon. Friends above the Gangway. I can express what we on these benches feel about matters of this kind in three very simple general conclusions. I have been thinking this matter over very carefully, having been asked by my hon. Friends to speak for them and realising all the difficulties of it. The first point 808 is that it is an extremely serious thing that men should be discharged without having any charge formulated or without having any opportunity to meet it. My second point is that it is possible, however, that in the national interest action of that kind is not only justifiable but necessary. But, thirdly, I do not think it is justifiable that that should be done in this case, or in any other future cases—because this matter may grow—simply on the decision of the executive Government.
This is a matter on which the House of Commons should be very jealous for the rights of the subject, quite apart from any question of general trust in the Government or any particular Minister, and none of us has any feeling against the First Lord in this matter. Invariably in such cases there should be some independent review of the facts by someone whom the whole House would trust, and only if the person reviewing the facts is satisfied that the Government have acted rightly, both in the matter and the manner of the discharges, should the House approve the course which the Executive have taken. That means that I hope that before the end of the Debate the Government may feel that they have not said quite the last word on the subject.
I will proceed to elaborate those three points as briefly as I can. First, as to the seriousness of discharging men without informing them of the charge against them. There is no doubt that these discharges must be considered by the men, by employers, by everybody who knows the facts—and everybody does in the West of England—as something entirely different from the week-to-week, almost day-to-day, discharges of men because of the come and go of dockyard work; that, in effect the men are marked and normally would have no reasonable chance of being again employed in positions of trust and responsibility. That is an exarordinarily serious thing. We were told at first that the case was one of subversive activity. That was the natural phrase to use and I am not criticising it, but I am very glad that the First Lord has a little particularised as to what he meant by it. Some of us were a bit tempted at first to think that the men to whom he referred had tried to persuade other men to adopt some political creed. I do 809 not believe that any of us think that these men were discharged because they themselves held, or were trying to spread, some political doctrine. On the contrary, I believe that the Admiralty realises as well as we all do that the best way to spread extreme views would be to dismiss men because they held them. There is nothing like martyrdom for making missionaries, and there is nothing that makes missionaries more successfully than martyrdom.
We realise that the phrase "subversive activity" must be something far more serious than spreading political views, and that brings me to the second point, that there may be cases in which the Admiralty are justified upon national grounds in the course they have taken. I have made no inquiry and have not been at all in touch with the men. I have been speculating about this matter in my own mind, without having any Government information. I think the First Lord has made it rather clearer to us this afternoon that there is some connection between the dismissals and the acts of sabotage that have taken place. Apart from this particular case, one can feel that there may be cases, both of espionage and of sabotage in which it might be impossible to tell the men with what they were charged without indicating to them exactly how they had been found out.
Take espionage, for example. All of us can conceive of cases in which it would be quite impossible, in the national interest, to risk revealing your counterespionage organisation. I happen to have been at the Foreign Office before the War, and I always took care never to ask any question about our Secret Service—partly because I believe that if I had I should not have received any answer. What happened at that time is common knowledge; the reason why enemy spies did not succeed for one hour in blocking railway lines, much less in blowing up a railway bridge, during the very critical days of embarking the Expeditionary Force, was because we had complete knowledge of the enemy spy service, and mopped them up the moment the War began. Therefore, nothing could be done. That may be the position in the matter of espionage and sabotage.
There may be—it is not necessary for the Government to tell us if there is— 810 some scheme for interfering with the machinery of the ships or of the dockyards on the outbreak of war, and about which our authorities are perfectly or considerably informed. To inform the particular men of the definite charges against them would lead to the sources of the Government's information becoming known and, therefore, becoming useless. The next thing the men would require would be, what activity connected them with some particular action? You would have to tell one man, "We believe you are connected with actions 'A' and T 'B'"; another, that he was connected with actions "C" and "D"; and a third with actions "A" and "C." Even that small amount of information would enable them, on comparing notes afterwards, to be pretty certain who it was that may have indicated what was going on. I know nothing, of course; I am speaking only on general principles, and not even going on the more or less precise information which the First Lord gave us this afternoon. What I have said is, I think, enough to show that I can conceive of circumstances in which the action of the Government might have been justified and necessary.
My third point is a rather serious one, and I want to put it to the Government. Assuming that the men's actions fall within the general category of matters which the First Lord has described and which I have been imagining, I should not be satisfied to leave the matter there. Although I have a great respect for that inquiry by the permanent civil servants, I think there is a matter of principle. This House should refuse to allow the men's elementary rights, under our practice of petition, which is a part of our very being, to be taken away simply on the judgment, however carefully formed, of the Executive. If we do that once, it will become easier to do it a second time, and the time after that it will be easier still. There might easily arise a state of things in which there were most serious possibilities—I am not putting it higher—of a real miscarriage of justice. That prospect is quite intolerable to me and my hon. Friends. The House ought to have some outside opinion on the two facts of whether there is incontrovertible and sufficient evidence in these cases to justify a dismissal, and whether the national interest involved 811 in saying nothing to the men overcomes the interest which everyone of us feels that the men should have a fair chance of hearing the charges made against them.
As to who should be asked to give that information and to review the matters from those two very simple points of view, I do not want to make a definite or positive suggestion. I notice that the "Spectator" newspaper, which is a moderate and influential organ of opinion, suggested last week that Lord Sankey might be asked to do so, as they were unwilling to leave the matter where the Government had put it. That might be excellent. He was a House of Commons man whom we all trust, though he has not had a career in the law. There is Lord Ullswater. I think I could also name someone in the 'House of Commons itself, who is here present; I should think the Government might ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), whom we could all trust to look into the matter quite as honourably as we could ourselves and to give us definite information about it. I hope very sincerely that before the Debate is concluded the Government will make some offer of that kind. The principle involved of allowing the Executive to take action of this kind, however careful an inquiry it might have made by persons who are under the Executive and not by anyone who is independent of the Executive, is extremely serious. I do not think we should enter upon it willingly or that these matters should pass into the hands and judgment of the Executive without review by someone of whom the House in general would approve.
I do not want to delay the House. I think my point has been made clear, and I hope that before the Debate concludes the Government will be able to indicate that they will be willing to take that action. I am sure that the First Lord will realise that I am not taking the line which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) took, and that I want him to do nothing more than not ask the House to accept simply the opinion of the Executive in matters of this kind.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Lambert
As an old member of the Board of Admiralty and also as a Devonshire Member, possibly I might say a few words on this rather distasteful subject. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) opened the Debate with a very powerful speech, one of the best speeches he has made here. He quoted one or two letters to show that there was a considerable amount of unrest and fear in the dockyards. That has not reached me, as a Devonshire Member. I have been a Devonshire Member for a good many years, and I think people know me very well, but I have not had a single letter about this subject. My first impression was that the Admiralty had been rather high-handed, but, listening to the First Lord this afternoon, I learned that he has kept the Cabinet informed step by step. I am not going to suggest that the Cabinet consists of omniscient oracles, but I know that they are not such a set of prime idiots as to go out of their way to flout the House of Commons. This House is the fairest Assembly in the world, and a place where anything like injustice will receive a very severe reprimand. In this case one cannot get away from the facts. There have been very disturbing incidents.
§ Mr. Lambert
That is what we should like to know, and before I sit down I shall say a word about that to the Admiralty. These incidents are really disturbing. There is sabotage. There is no question that sabotage is a deliberate act. I have heard of spontaneous combustion, but never of spontaneous sabotage. Somebody must be responsible. It is a very serious offence on the vessels upon which it is practised. Take submarines. I cannot imagine anything worse that sabotage on a submarine, and I am sure that everybody would agree with me. A submarine is a box of tricks. If anything goes wrong, 20 or 25 men might dive in the sea and never come up again. That is an appalling thought. Any man who deliberately commits any injury to a submarine is guilty of a most diabolical act.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
I did not understand the First Lord to say that there was any connection between the action of sabotage and these men.
§ Mr. Lambert
The hon. Member will realise that when such things occur somebody must be responsible.
§ Mr. Lambert
I do not suppose that the Admiral Superintendent would sabotage a submarine. Therefore, I cannot help thinking, not that the Admiralty have done more than their duty, but that they have done less than their duty in not finding out about this before. As I understood my right hon. Friend, he said that these acts of sabotage look place in 1935. Has nothing been done since then? I can quite understand the difficulty of the Admiralty—
§ Mr. Lambert
Has any disciplinary action been taken? We rely on the Navy for our safety, and we rely on the Admiralty to ensure that there shall be no action subversive of discipline in the Navy. I understand the difficulty, and I acquit the First Lord entirely of blame for his—what shall I call it?—somewhat high-handed but necessary action. These men could not be informed of what they were charged with—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because at once, if they were charged with subversive action, that would be a defamatory statement.
§ Mr. Lambert
I think so but I will give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman on law but not on politics. If he says I am wrong on the question of law, then I am wrong, but only on law. It is an extraordinarily difficult matter for the Admiralty to divulge the sources of their information. It is perfectly true that we must have a Secret Service. I hate it; there is no man on the opposite side of the House who hates armaments more than I do; I loathe them all; but this is all part of the accursed system into which the world has got. [Interruption.] I think I had better not argue with my hon. Friend opposite, though I have plenty that I could say to him if I wanted to. It would be complete lunacy on the part of the Government to disclose 814 the sources of their information; as we have to have this Secret Service, I do not think it is possible that the Government could have divulged their sources of information.
The Admiralty have been blamed because of the publicity that there has been; but the Admiralty did not cause that publicity. The Admiralty simply said to the men that their services were no longer required. That was reported in the Press, there was a considerable amount of agitation, and, of couse, there was publicity. Questions were asked here, and that was the way to give the matter the greatest publicity of all. But I do not think the Admiralty were to blame for the publicity. They were very quiet and very steady; they never said a word to anyone; these five men were simply told that their services were no longer required. Then, again, the Admiralty have not taken up the position of high-handed Admirals of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke. I do not think I would like to have my civil liberty at the disposal of Admirals who have been accustomed to discipline on the sea. The Admiralty brought in civil servants. I do not think the Government could have done more.
§ Mr. Lambert
When the hon. Gentleman has had experience of the Civil Service of this country, he will know that they are impartial and serve each party with equal fidelity. I have seen them serving right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Lambert
They are not quite in the same category as the civil servants who inquired into this case.
§ Mr. Lambert
The Civil Service is recruited from people of a very high standard of intellect and of honesty—
§ Mr. Lambert
How can the hon. Member say that there is a high standard in the dockyards when these acts of sabotage are taking place?
§ Mr. Lambert
I do not know what their standard is, but I say that men who sabotage submarines ought to be boiled—
§ Mr. Maxton
What evidence has been brought before the right hon. Gentleman to-day to show that the acts of sabotage, which I do not deny took place, were brought about by men in the employ of the dockyards at all?
§ Mr. Lambert
I can only take the inquiries of the responsible Department. If you cannot take the inquiries and the word of the heads of Departments responsible to this House, all government ceases. [Interruption.] Somebody must have caused these incidents. The Admiralty had sources of information. They have told us this afternoon that they have had the matter inquired into by three civil servants, and what more they could have done I honestly do not know.
§ Mr. Lambert
What about the working men if a vessel in which they went to sea was wrecked through sabotage? What about the working men then?
§ Mr. Lambert
I have never shirked controversy with any Labour man[Interruption.]—I hope the hon. Gentleman will not attribute motives to other people.
§ Mr. Lambert
I say again that I do not think the Admiralty could have done anything more. It is a very disagreeable situation, and I am sure no one regrets it more than the Admiralty itself. I hope, and here I express my own con- 816 viction very clearly, that, if there are any attempts at sabotage, any attempts at incitement to mutiny in the Royal Navy, the Admiralty will take the most drastic steps to find out who is responsible and will punish them relentlessly.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I find myself quite unable to appreciate the mentality of a Minister who gives an explanation such as we have had in the speech of the First Lord this afternoon. It is true that there have been some very disturbing incidents in the dockyards, and no one here suggests that, if they can be found, the saboteurs should not be dealt with as stringently as the law allows. But that is not the question which we are discussing. That is, if I may say so respectfully to the First Lord, a red herring which he has drawn across the trail. The question that we are discussing this afternoon is whether or not five individuals have been rightly branded by the Admiralty as under grave suspicion of sabotage, high treason, espionage, or some other crime so serious in its nature that it cannot even be disclosed to the men who committed it.
I could understand it perfectly well if the First Lord had said, "The Government have the right to discharge any of their employés at any moment. They are engaged at Government pleasure; we no longer had need of the services of these five men, and they were therefore discharged." If the First Lord had taken up that attitude, one could at least have understood the logic of it. But he has not done that. He has said: "These are such exceptional cases that I felt it was necessary to take some other steps in order to try to ascertain whether or not what I was doing was justified, and I therefore, in fairness to the men and to satisfy myself, ordered an inquiry by eminent members of the Civil Service." We do not know who they are; no doubt they were selected because he thought they were suitable persons to conduct such an inquiry; but the trouble is that there never has been an inquiry. All that there has been has been the confirmation of the gossip of the Secret Service officials, without any testing whatsoever by these officials. There has been no sworn testimony at all, so far as one could gather from the First Lord's speech. The Secret Service officials have not, so far 817 as I can ascertain from his speech, been produced before the civil servants who had to make the inquiry; they have not been tested or cross-examined on their evidence. All that the civil servants have had, so far as I can ascertain—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—is some statement submitted to them by the Admiralty, based upon information from Secret Service officials and informers. It would be a misuse of language to call such a thing an inquiry a t all; it is nothing more than a face-saving device in order to try to add weight to testimony and evidence to which no weight whatsoever should be attached.
It has generally been considered, as the right hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion stated, that there are certain quite primary rights of natural justice as regards accusations against individuals of serious crimes, and, be it marked, it is the exceptional procedure that has been adopted here that has cast grave suspicion upon the men. It is nothing that the men have done; it is the exceptional procedure which has been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman that is responsible for this grave suspicion; and this farce of an inquiry has not assisted in sifting the reliability of the information that has come to the Admiralty, which could be the only objective of holding any inquiry. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is perfectly aware of the fact that, had these men been of the officer class, he could not have resisted an inquiry in this House, he could not have resisted it under the regulations, and he would not have resisted it.
It is perfectly idle for him to say that these matters are so secret that they must not be disclosed. Every espionage trial deals with most secret matters. They are dealt with in camera. Have they ever leaked out? Has it ever been discovered as the result of a trial in camera on a matter of that kind—there have been dozens of them—that some grave disservice has been done to the State as the result of the matters dealt with in those inquiries leaking out? There is, therefore, no excuse, where a private inquiry in camera is being asked for, for saying that such an inquiry might jeopardise the public interest as regards the Navy. I was in charge of a munitions factory in the early stages of the War and we had a number of cases of serious sabotage at the beginning of the setting up of that 818 factory. We at once publicly introduced observers in order, if possible, to catch those who were committing these acts, and we found that a much more effective way of stopping them than working through the agents of M.I.5, who had been trying to discover through gossip who was causing them. We certainly found that the information that was given us by those secret agents was wholly unreliable in a great number of cases and was nothing more than the tittle-tattle of the meal rooms and other places where they circulated.
It is upon that kind of evidence, as far as I can understand, that in the present case the First Lord is proceeding. In the case of the late Secretary for the Colonies or the Member of the House who was accused in gossip of giving away Cabinet secrets, every one at once said that the only fair thing to do, when you get suspicions about like that, is to have an inquiry and settle the matter one way or the other. It was claimed as a right in that case that they should have some form of inquiry in order to clear themselves from the suspicion which would otherwise attach to them for the rest of their lives. These five men are just as important, as human beings, as were that Cabinet Minister and that Member of the House, and are just as much entitled to the consideration of this House in the clearing of their good name as if they were the most important people in the country. For the right hon. Gentleman to say that in these circumstances there was no other method open to the Government is a travesty of the facts. He says, "We could not tell these people the facts without disclosing the source of our information." One is pretty familiar in the law with what are called pleadings in an action, and one of the things one never does in pleadings is to disclose one's evidence. One has to disclose the whole of the facts upon which one is going to rely to the other side, but it never means disclosing the sources of evidence at all. What it means is telling the actual happenings upon which you are going to rely.
The right hon. Gentleman talks of the associations of these men. What are their associations? They are something actual. It is that Bill Smith has been seen with Harry Jones. That is the association. Why not tell him so if that is what you 819 are accusing him of? It may be that it was not Bill Smith. He may be able to prove that he has never seen Harry Jones in his life. There is no need to tell him who saw them together or who says that he has been to certain houses or has had certain documents, or whatever the gossip is. All these are facts which, without disclosing any evidence or any source of information, can be put before him, and he can be given the chance, perhaps, to prove that there was a complete misunderstanding. One knows that one's own actions are misunderstood. I should be extremely sorry to have my actions judged always on the view of them even of my best friends, much less by the view of my enemies, and perhaps least of all by the views of the police.
There could have been no harm in putting before these people, without disclosing the sources of information, the facts that were relied upon as showing that they were undesirable people. If that had been done, and they could have been given to them on the understanding that they should not be further disclosed, if that were necessary, and that they should have their opportunity in camera before some impartial person who would take evidence upon oath and cross-examine them if necessary and inquire into the rightness of the evidence, they would have had an opportunity of proving that the facts were not true, and I should not regret it if they were proved to be responsible for the sabotage or whatever it might be. If they are responsible, they should be found responsible and should suffer the consequences accordingly. What I am concerned about is that these people should have the right which the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to claim for himself. Supposing to-morrow for a second time the Prime Minister were to dismiss him and, as he left the Admiralty, he was handed this note, "Your services are not required to-morrow." Suppose he had no opportunity of discussing the matter and was not allowed to know the accusation or to make a statement in the House. If he came here and said what he thought about that procedure, you, Sir, would stop him for his unparliamentary language. Seriously, I appeal to the House as a whole, considering these facts, to say that these men are entitled to have put before them the bare 820 facts upon which these dismissals took place.
There is another aspect of this matter to which I want to draw attention. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has said that this has caused a good deal of disquietude amongst dockyard hands. I have seen some of them since this happened, in making inquiries on another matter. It is true. It has caused the greatest disquietude, as always when it is suspected that people are open to undefended attack by secret police and informers. It is the typical procedure of Fascist and all dictatorial countries and I do not defend it in any country. The undefended attack of secret police and informers is indefensible wherever it may occur. But that is exactly and precisely what has happened in the present case and this is the story that is getting current. I do not say that it is true at all, but I point it out to the right hon. Gentleman in order that he may see the reaction to this. Some months ago these secret police and others were turned on to the job of finding out the origin of this sabotage. They failed, but it became necessary for them, in order to justify themselves, to get hold of some one before they chucked the job and, as a result, they picked on five innocent men. The right hon. Gentleman makes a face of disagreement. I am not saying that it is a fact. I am saying that it is the natural sort of story which may arise when these five men find themselves not even acquainted with the facts upon which they are substantially convicted. If that is to be the atmosphere of His Majesty's dockyards, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is going to get that contentment and loyalty of which he has boasted.
I have acquaintance with only one of these cases, and I should like to give the House the information—it has been published in the Press—about one of these men, to show the sort of man he is and how easy it would be to make gossip about such a man which might be turned by someone else into gossip about subversive activities. This is a man who was dismissed from Sheerness, a certain Henry Law, and the "Sheerness Times" sets out these facts. It says:He is well known locally as being keenly interested in the welfare of the bottom dog and on two occasions has stood as a candidate 821 mainly on behalf of the unemployed at the Sheerness Council election.A lot of people would regard that as subversive activities. I know Members of This House who would talk about that man as a Red at once. The newspaper proceeds to say that the writer interviewed Mr. Law, who saidI was dumbfounded when I opened the envelope handed to me on Saturday and found it contained a slip stating that my services were no longer required. I tried to ascertain the reason and was eventually informed that, if I sent in a letter. I should receive a reply. The reply that came to hand from the Chief Constructor said that he was directed by the Captain Superintendent to inform me that I was discharged by order of the Admiralty. I have critically examined myself yet fail to discover where I have overstepped the confines common to all. The matter is of serious import to my family and myself in that, as I see it, a stigma is attached to my name which reflects itself and jeopardises my chances of ever obtaining future employment. I am definitely not a member of the Communist party nor of any political party. As a matter of fact, I am not even a member of my trade union. I have taken part in the drainage rate agitation and have had my goods distrained on for not paying the rate, but there are many resisters to this rate in the town and I can hardly think that that has any bearing on my case.There is a man who has stated his own views as regards the sort of thing which might possibly have had relation to his dismissal. What he has said may be entirely false—I do not know—but in the circumstances the public can only see what he states when interviewed by the Press. There is no opportunity for him to make any case for himself and it is not surprising that one gets a letter from such a man in these terms.As one of those recently dismissed from His Majesty's dockyard, I beg that you will do the utmost in your power to force an inquiry into the discharge. Need I assure you that I am innocent of any act of sabotage, espionage or subversive activity while in the employ of the yard. My position is rendered desperate. Branded with this stigma, I acutely feel the damnable injustice inflicted upon me and mine.I think that letter would be written by any Member of the House who had had similar treatment and found himself in similar circumstances. I accept that we must protect the necessary secrecy of all that is going on in the dockyards, accept, if we must, the necessity for the Secret Service and the use of information from informers, but also let us regard the vital, human, civil interests of those five men. I believe that it is perfectly possible for 822 the right hon. Gentleman to have an inquiry which would be no more dangerous to the interests of this country than a spy trial is in time of war or at any other time. They are things which have happened commonly, and inquiries which have been held in camera have never, as far as I know, resulted in any danger whatever. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, What is there to prevent a similar procedure in this case? His answer probably will be, if he gives that answer as frankly as, I am sure, he would wish to, "The evidence we have in the Admiralty is not sufficient to stand up to such an inquiry. It is only, unfortunately, suspicion and gossip, but we have woven it together into a net which we believe has succeeded in catching these five men." Has the right hon. Gentleman himself interviewed these informers or these members of the secret police? Will he tell us that? Will he answer that question? Quite clearly, he has not.
§ Sir S. Hoare
The hon. and learned Member must not draw any inference at all. I refused to make any statement at all.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I ask the country to draw that inference because there is nothing dangerous to the welfare of the country to know that the First Lord of the Admiralty cares sufficiently for the civil rights of the dockyard employes to make personal inquiries into the accusations against them. He cannot in these circumstances hide himself behind the public interest in refusing to answer a perfectly simple and straightforward question. It might have been some possible mitigation if he had said that he personally had seen these informers and secret police officials, and that they were the type of people upon whom, having seen them, he thought one could rely. I have seen a number of them in the past, and the greatest number of them have been of the type of people upon whom one could not rely, taking the ordinary judgment of human values.
There is another matter which I desire to raise, which is associated with this question and as to which I have given the right hon. Gentleman private notice. I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman on 21st December and informed him that I had information from a reliable source that Fascist propaganda was being allowed to proceed freely in the Chatham 823 dockyard, especially by the open sale within the dockyard of copies of the Fascist papers "The Blackshirt" and "Action" by officials of the local Fascist branch, whereas the sale or distribution of any other political literature, meaning Socialist or Communist, was stringently and strictly prohibited. I asked him to make inquiries in Chatham dockyard as to whether this was so or not. He stated in his reply:I am informed that there is no evidence that any Fascist papers have been brought into Chatham dockyard. No literature containing political propaganda of any kind is allowed to be brought in, and any such papers, if found, whether they be Fascist, Socialist or Communist, are confiscated and sent to the Admiral Superintendent.I drew the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the unfortunate omission of the words "Conservative and Liberal," and he said that he had intended in a subsequent letter that they also should be included. It was, no doubt, a temporary oversight of the draftsman of the letter.
Since then I have again received information to precisely the same effect, and I have charged myself with the duty of investigating first-hand, from people in the dockyard, the reliability of that allegation. I cannot, of course, pledge myself for the accuracy of the statements beyond saying that I have tested them to the best of my ability and I personally believe them to be true. I have ascertained the name of one at least of the men who is openly doing this Fascist propaganda, and I have communicated it confidentially to the First Lord of the Admiralty. I will now tell the House the facts as I have ascertained them. For some weeks this particular person to whom I refer had a large Fascist sign up on the outside of his locker, in order that everybody who passed by might see precisely what his political views were, and he has been continuing that open propaganda and the giving out of the "Blackshirt," "Action," and copies of "Die Sturmer," and also a pamphlet entitled "The Truth about the Jews" in the dockyard itself. In addition he has been distributing documents, two of which I have here, which were picked up on the floor of the shop where he works and which are issued by a body which has the attractive name of "The Union for Word Veracity"—its other name is the 824 "Fichte-Bund," and its office is at 30, Jung Fernsteig, Hamburg—with the injunction, "Please distribute the pamphlets among your friends." One of them is "Adolph Hitler's Contribution to the Promotion of European Peace," and, if I may say so, a dockyard seems a safe place for such a document.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I was rather hoping that the hon. and learned Gentleman would show me some way in which this is a matter which comes within the Motion which is before the House. It does not seem to me to do so, and I think that the subject of German propaganda is hardly pertinent to the Motion we are now discussing.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It comes, in my submission, in this way. We are dealing here with suggestions as regards subversive activities that have been made against five men. I have reported the case to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am going to ask him whether the same steps have been taken and inquiries made as regards this case as in the case of the five men. The other document which was picked up was the General Staff's Report of a European Great Power. Needless to say these are both quite well known documents of Nazi propaganda, and both have been freely distributed in the Chatham dockyard. Another activity of this gentleman was this: On one occasion he was privately showing to all the people in the dockyard his photograph as one of those who took part in the East End Fascist demonstration on one of the more recent occasions. This goes on perfectly openly among the men at the dockyard, and it has not been stopped, nor, as far as I can ascertain, have there been any signs of any inquiries being made into it since I wrote the letter to the First Lord of the Admiralty on 21st December.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I mean signs among the men. I am not suggesting that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not make his inquiry, but those who are working in association with this man, all of whom are quite aware of the secret police, informers and spies who were about, have commented on the fact that, in spite of the fear of other people who hold different views, this gentleman is permitted to continue just as freely as before his propaganda on the Fascist side, whereas propaganda on the other side is 825 most stringently cut down, to the extent, indeed, of the men's lockers being searched once, twice, and thrice a week very often, to see whether they contain anything, and yet this man's locker for many weeks had the Fascist sign upon it.
§ Sir S. Hoare
If I may interrupt the hon. and learned Member for a sentence or two, I would say that his statement of the case does not at all conform to the information I received. I have been looking very fully into this case, and I can assure him that if the rule has been broken—and I myself have no evidence that it has been broken—we shall certainly see that it is carried out, and put a stop to the practice.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but that hardly covers the point. During the last six months, as he has told us, there has been a searching inquiry going on in all these dockyards, and this propaganda has been undiscovered. If my information is correct—and I can give the right hon. Gentleman the names of reliable people in Chatham Dockyard who are prepared to swear that this has been happening—it is obvious, if that has been so, that the people who have been making the searching inquiry knew of it perfectly well and have permitted it to go on. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Are his secret investigators so inefficient that they could not report the open sale of these Fascist documents in Chatham Dockyard? If so, their information about the men who have been sacked must be even more unreliable. I do not want to waste the time of the House stressing any further this point, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to notice the fact that if this has been permitted, there is someone a good deal higher up than the man who is distributing the Fascist papers who is in sympathy with his action.
If that is to be allowed to go on, does not the right hon. Gentleman see the reaction upon the other people in the dockyard who happen to hold other political views, who are quite rightly stopped, if it is the rule of the Admiralty, from taking in papers and other documents, when they see this sort of thing going on week after week, and this man boasts of the number of people he has got hold of in the various shops, 826 and goes openly about the dockyard carrying on this propaganda? I do, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman not merely to satisfy himself, if he finds the information accurate, by taking some steps to stop this individual from doing what he is doing now, but also to make inquiries why it has been allowed to go on for so long.
Finally, on the graver and more important problem with which we are directly concerned here to-night, I am perfectly certain that if the Members of this House will, with their imagination, place themselves in the position of these men and their families, with the whole of their future lives stretched out before them, in which they have now been deprived of all possibility of securing permanent employment, and in which they have to bear the stigma of having committed some crime so grievous that it cannot even be disclosed to the men themselves—if hon. Members put themselves in that position and think what their feelings would be, they will not allow, I am sure, any mere excuse of the dangers, which are unreal if the proper procedure is adopted, to stand in their way. There is a procedure which, while perhaps not giving the fullest measure of justice which a public trial could give to these men, could give them a large measure of justice; that is to acquaint them of the facts, have an independent tribunal sitting in camera, and give them a full opportunity of explaining their view on the facts of which they are accused, and of bringing evidence to refute them if necessary. If that were done then, at least, some remnant of British justice would be saved.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
I think everyone will agree that this Debate has done no discredit to the House of Commons. It does not seem to me to be an occasion when one should use such weapons of invective as one possesses, and certainly speakers on both sides have refrained from doing so. Even the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, who is so much in the light and glitter of contemporary events, has made a very restrained and obviously a very sincere speech. I agree that questions of high policy are involved in this matter. On the one hand, you have the fact that the case for an inquiry is supported by a trade union leader of the position and 827 integrity of Mr. Bevin. I may say as a political opponent that I think all of us on this side of the House would be prepared to take heed of what he said. On the other hand, you have the security and well-being of the most important of the Defence services to consider. I should like to say a word about that, because I am not sure that it has been sufficiently emphasised in the Debate.
It cannot be denied that most disturbing incidents have occurred in the dockyards, and that, however slightly, they have undoubtedly endangered the lives of the men working in His Majesty's ships. We have had a whole series of these events. I am not in the secrets of the Admiralty and I have no more information than any other Member of the House, but it is obvious to anyone approaching the matter with an unbiased mind that these incidents which have occurred, not only in the public dockyards but in private dockyards as well, show that there is, to use a common phrase, some master mind or organisation behind them. They have been carried out with devilish ingenuity, and it is only by the good luck which we generally meet with in this country that a major disaster has not been caused. The First Lord of the Admiralty referred to the way in which these men, with all the knowledge obviously possessed by highly-skilled technicians, have endeavoured to destroy machinery, and in one case endangered the lives of men working in submarines.
I think the whole House will agree that one should speak one's own mind and seek to state the truth, and I would say that even if injustice were done to these men, which I deny, I would rather that injustice were done to five men than that the lives of 500 men were endangered. I know that it is easy enough for us to talk, to sit comfortably on these benches and to dilate on the principles of British justice. It is well that we should do so, but there is another side to the question. If the lives of men in the Navy are being endangered by acts of this kind, you cannot take ordinary action to deal with the situation. You cannot treat it as a negligible matter. It is not a negligible matter. Moreover, it has created comment in other countries besides our own. Such a thing is very damaging to the prestige of this country. [Interruption.] I do not understand the interruption of 828 hon. Members opposite. Either these incidents have occurred or they have not occurred. Everybody knows that they have occurred. [Interruption.] Do hon. Members deny that these incidents have occurred? Do I take it to be the argumentative case of right hon. and hon. Members opposite—I am not referring to the case of these men, but to the incidents which have been given by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and which have been put into an official communique—that these things have not occurred?
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Is it the case of the Noble Lord that these five men were responsible for those occurrences?
§ Earl Winterton
If the hon. Member will listen to my argument I will endeavour to deal with that. Hon. Members opposite must not get excited over this matter. We are as much concerned for the safety of the country as they are, and also that justice should be done to these men. We understood from the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate that he admitted that if it could be proved that these cases had occurred, no punishment was too heavy. I was merely endeavouring to stress the gravity of the cases that have occurred and was going on to say that in my opinion you could not afford to proceed by leisurely methods of lengthy investigations, with witnesses on both sides, followed by the preparation of evidence, as in police court proceedings, because all the time these cases were going on. While you were doing that, you might have other disasters.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The procedure that has been adopted is precisely that. All these inquiries were made and this Committee sat before the dismissals. It is not a question of delay, but having, instead of this type of inquiry, a proper inquiry.
§ Earl Winterton
The answer is purely a mathematical one. It would have doubled the time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Of course it would. The hon. and learned Member, if I may say so, must not be a verdant green. We are living in a world of reality and not of pantomime. If you had had judicial proceedings following on long investigations it would have doubled the time. The hon. and learned Member said that we could have had a trial in camera. That 829 would not have been very easy, and meanwhile the mischief might have gone on. The danger to the State from public judicial proceedings might have been very great and might even have involved us with foreign countries. Surely, the shortest and simplest way to cut out this tumour that existed in the public dockyard services, and which might easily have become a most serious running sore, was to get rid of the men whose continued employment in the dockyard an impartial and dispassionate inquiry declared to be prejudicial to the interests of the State. You can always get a cheap cheer in the House of Commons for attacking the Secret Service. All I would say is that a good many hon. Members on both sides of the House owe their lives to what the Secret Service did in the War. It is cheap enough to attack them as spies, but most of us rather discount that sort of criticism. Even if it were true that these men were as often wrong as the hon. and learned Member suggested, he omitted to tell us that there was exactly that impartial inquiry which the circumstances demanded. There was an inquiry by four persons of position, two of whom, I understand, are civil servants. The hon. and learned Member described this inquiry as a face-saving device. I imagine that he will agree with me that a trained civil servant is as good a man to investigate a case of this kind as anyone else.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Provided he has material, but in this case, unfortunately, he had no evidence, he did not see any of the witnesses on either side, and he had no case at all from one side.
§ Earl Winterton
That is a most astonishing statement. Again, I must apply the term "verdant green" to the hon. and learned Member's method of approaching this matter. Does he really suppose that four men of the position of these investigators went to the dockyard, sat down and said, "Tom, Dick and Harry are guilty and we are going to fire them"? Of course, they had evidence.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The Noble Lord says, "Of course, they had evidence." I challenged the First Lord, when I was speaking, as to whether they had. I said that, according to his speech, they had not, and I was not contradicted. I, therefore, assumed that I was right in proceeding on that basis, that they had 830 no sworn testimony from any of the individuals.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I did not contradict the hon. and learned Member, but I said that he had no right to draw that inference.
§ Sir S. Cripps
On a point of correction. May I say that the right hon. Gentleman never even rose from his place and never even nodded dissent when I said that. The point on which he interrupted me was a much later point, when I asked him did he individually see these men.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Then I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to tell us that this court, which the Noble Lord is telling me that I was wrong about, saw or examined any witnesses.
§ Earl Winterton
Everyone with any sense of respect for the security services of this country must agree—I do not think that there would be any dissent, with the possible exception of one hon. Member—that certain matters ought not and cannot be brought out in Debate. It is impossible for the First Lord of the Admiralty to get up and say that this Committee saw "A" or "B," and took evidence.
§ Earl Winterton
All I assert is that a committee or commission of inquiry of the type in question would not have been doing their duty—
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and learned Member is making a charge against civil servants of not doing their duty.
§ Earl Winterton
That is the same thing. If you send down a committte of inquiry and say that they are to inquire into matter affecting the lives and future of the men working in the dockyards, and if it is said that these men did not do their duty because they could not, then 831 it is a very serious charge against the civil servants in question.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I do not desire to make any charge against any of the civil servants in question. We have not been told that they ever went to a dockyard. I understood that they sat in Whitehall. We have not been told that they ever saw or inquired into any evidence whatsoever. I understand that they did not. They merely examined the papers from the Admiralty to see what view they would have formed on the papers, and whether it was the same as that of the First Lord.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and learned Member is doing scant justice to the intelligence or the patriotism of these men. He said that it was a face-saving inquiry. Whose face did they wish to save?
§ Earl Winterton
That, again, is a very serious charge against civil servants sitting as investigators. The hon. and learned Member is trying to build up, with the support, I am sorry to say, of his erstwhile friends above the Gangway, an elaborate case of chicanery and corruption against the First Lord of the Admiralty, and these persons.
§ Earl Winterton
Such a case does not hold water. Let us recall for a moment, and let the anxious supporters of justice above the Gangway recall to their minds, how these cases are dealt with in some other countries. England is not the only place where there have been cases of this kind occurring. There is swift dealing with them in Russia, Italy or Germany. Similar cases have occurred in democratic countries. There were cases before the War in this country, when men were found to be carrying on actions in the dockyards inimical to the highest interests of the State, and they were instantly dismissed. I remember a similar case in France. I happened to be in the French Chamber when the matter was debated. In a democratic country like France the answer that was given by the then Minister of Marine is a very good answer for any Member of the Government to-day. The charge in this particular instance in France was that three men had been dismissed from Toulon dockyard apparently on the ground that they had been committing sabotage, but 832 the Opposition charge was that they were dismissed because they were Socialists. The Minister of Marine said: "I do not know and I do not care whether these men are Socialists, or Clericals, or anti-Clericals, or Republicans. What their religious and political views are does not concern me. All I know is that their continued presence in the dockyard is a menace to the State, and either they go or I go."
The hon. and learned Member made a great point of some case, which I do not propose to discuss, of alleged dissemination of Fascist literature in the dockyards. If a Socialist Government was in office and anything of that kind went on would not the men who committed it be dealt with? The Socialist Government would take the most drastic means to stop it. If the allegations they have made are true and are found to be true by the First Lord, I have not the slightest doubt that similar drastic action will be taken as in this case and that the men will be instantly dismissed. It is easy to be too mealy-mouthed on these occasions. We live in a dangerous period of great tensity in Europe, when all Sorts of organisations in more than one country are anxious to get information about the dockyards of this country.
§ Earl Winterton
Up to the moment I have not recognised the hon. Member as an authority on our dockyards.
§ Earl Winterton
It only shows the need for tightening up the organisation. These are matters in which the safety and welfare of the State are at issue, and I say that you cannot afford to be too tenderhearted. If there is reasonable reason to suspect that men have been guilty of the diabolical acts which have taken place you have every right to dispense with their services, and however vociferous hon. Members opposite are I say that if they went to any meeting of dockyard workers and asked whether they would have sabotage in the dockyards or drastic 833 action against those who take part in them, they would find an overwhelming opinion supporting the action which the Government have taken.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
The right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has made a strenuous effort to reply to the telling attack of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). He has done it a little too well, just as the First Lord of the Admiralty made his case a little too well. Here we are discussing a Vote of Censure by the Opposition because the Government have dismissed five men from Admiralty dockyards without reason given, and without the men having an opportunity to defend themselves. The reply of the Government, in my view over-emphasised by the right hon. Member for Horsham, is that in Admiralty dockyards over a period of years there has been sabotage of the most dastardly kind, sabotage which would risk the lives of men in submarines and oilers and battleships, and that this was not any casual act of sabotage by some semi-lunatic, but the result of serious plotting and planning of some master mind.
I agree with everything that has been said, that in the case of men who would send fellows out in a submarine to certain death, men who would send others out in an oiler which was going into flames at a crucial moment, and who would send men out in a battleship which was going to lose its power of control at a vital period, no punishment is too severe for action of that kind. But dismissal from the dockyards seems to me to be a descent from the sublime to the ridiculous Is the great master mind among these five? I met one of them. He wrote to me to see if I could get him a ticket for the Strangers' Gallery to hear the debate upon his future. I asked him to come a little earlier so that I could meet him face to face and see the type of criminal with whom I was dealing. I met him to-day, and asked him questions, and he is still in the Gallery for all I know. If he is, I shall be ready to get any hon. Member an opportunity of cross-examining him. I do not know anything about him. He may have personal faults; he is a shipwright, but I am perfectly certain that he is not a master mind who organises wholesale sabotage.
§ Mr. Maxton
Yes, but these humble tools are dispensed with, and the master mind still operates. The highly-paid Secret Service can find out three or four men occupying insignificant positions. I would say this to the First Lord. Shipbuilding is one of the manual industries of which I have some personal knowledge, and in my capacity as a shipyard worker I cannot think of any serious thing that could be done on a ship by a labourer or artisan unless there were persons in higher positions prepared to cast a blind eye. I cannot imagine one solitary thing which could be done by an ordinary rank-and-file workman unless there was a superior officer who was a party to the act. This particular man whom I have met is a shipwright in the Sheerness dockyard. The First Lord of the Admiralty read out an imposing list of the various acts of sabotage. Not one of these acts of sabotage occurred at Sheerness. Why is this man dismissed? Is there evidence that he was a go-be-tween for the master-mind? Is there evidence that he was a go-between between Sheerness, Chatham and Devon-port? Surely without giving away secrets that are going to be detrimental to the State we can be told simple things like that. Why has this Sheerness fellow been dismissed? Is he a liaison officer?
These men were not acting to serve the ends of any political party of the Left in this country. That I know. These acts of sabotage did not take place to serve the ends and purposes of the parties of the Left and, therefore, the conclusion that we must necessarily draw is that these acts were done on behalf of some foreign Power. Is that the case of the Government? Is the evidence in the hands of the Admiralty of such a sort that they believe that these men have acted as the agents of a foreign Power? If so, I am not content that they should be merely dismissed from the dockyards and be allowed to wander freely about this country participating in any other forms of activity hostile to this nation that may be suggested by the German or the Italian States. The First Lord comes here and tells us that five simple working chaps have been dismissed, and that the reasons for their dismissal are so terrible 835 that they cannot be disclosed to anyone. It is not good enough. We want more than that from the First Lord.
If the British Government has been endangered, and is being endangered, if the fabric of our State is in danger of foreign attacks from outside, the dismissal of five men from the dockyards is not putting it right. Something more needs to be done, and something more needs to be told to this House. If it be that these men are just chosen as the scapegoats, as an awful warning to others, it is not fair. It is not fair to take out men on the lowest grades of the country's service and make them responsible for the sins of people who have much greater power and in much higher positions.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
Hon. Members have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) who has certainly put forward an original point of view. Unlike the official Opposition party, he asks for even more severe punishment for the dismissed men. Yesterday when we were discussing the important question of Empire migration the official spokesman for the Opposition the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) thought fit to say that we were wasting our time in talking about such Imperial questions when there were so many domestic matters to be discussed. I do not know whether hon. Members of the Opposition will be able to justify the expenditure to-day of all this Parliamentary time on the present Debate. Underneath the case which the Opposition have put forward is a deep human problem, and, let there be no mistake, we on this side of the House are as much aware of it as hon. Members opposite. But that is not the issue to-day. The problem constantly at the back of our minds when we are discussing social questions is the complete insecurity from which the ordinary employé either on a daily or weekly wage suffers under the present social system. If, therefore, the Opposition put forward on an appropriate occasion a request for an examination by Parliament of the economic position of the working man and the insecurity of his employment, I am sure they would receive the sympathy of the whole House. The Opposition have made a mistake in raising this issue in this form on this occasion. They have misjudged the occasion, 836 and they have, incidentally, done some damage to the cause which they support. In matters of social progress it is in some cases right, as in the movement for equal pay for equal work between women and men in the Civil Service, that the Government should be asked to give a lead, but the Defence Services are not a proper field for social experiments.
Let us consider the Admiralty's position. We are not concerned to-day with the innocence or the guilt of these five men. If they are innocent and have been dismissed, they will have the sympathy of this House. I submit that the Government were right in the action they took. They had an inquiry as exhaustive as was compatible with the public interest, and as a result of the inquiry the Admiralty decided that they could not trust these men to remain further in the Royal dockyards. Whether the Admiralty were right or wrong in distrusting these men is not the question. They may have been entirely wrong, but they are the Admiralty. It is the First Lord's responsibility. If he is not to be allowed to take a decision of that kind he would, I am sure, sooner give place to somebody else. You cannot have the responsibility and at the same time not have the power to remove men whom you distrust. The question we have to decide is whether the Admiralty were right to dismiss these men in the way they did dismiss them, to produce no evidence, to bring no accusation against them, and instead to use the power which the Crown and all other employers possess of informing the men that their services were no longer required? The Opposition have not told us what action they would have had the Government take. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) talked round the subject considerably, without, however, giving any clear indication of what course he felt the Government should have taken.
§ Mr. Sandys
The Motion ignores all the difficulties with which the Admiralty were faced and which the First Lord has mentioned. Three courses of action were 837 open to the Admiralty. The first was to produce the evidence they possessed, and by so doing destroy the whole fabric of the Government's intelligence service, and dry up all the sources of information essential to them for maintaining the security of the Royal dockyards. The second course, having decided that they did not wish in the national interest to publish the evidence, was to retain these men, and thereby risk the lives of the men of the Navy who went to sea, risk the great ships on which we depend for our defence, and ultimately risk the independence and safety of the people of these islands. The third course was the course they adopted—to dismiss these people, giving them the reason that their services were no longer required.
What course do the Opposition advocate that the Government should have taken? The hon and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) said that even if the Government had produced the evidence they possess they might not have been able to prove that these men were guilty of the offences which the Government suspected. It is, I admit, possible that the Government would not have been able to prove that the men had corn-miffed the offences of which they were charged, but that is not the issue. The Government suspected these men of subversive activities in the Royal dockyards, and decided for that reason that they must dispense with their services. Whether or not they had sufficient evidence to prove their case is neither here nor there. The First Lord would have been guilty of a grave act of irresponsibility had he not taken the action which he did. Again, should the Government merely have informed the men of the offences which they were alleged to have committed and told them that in the public interest they could not allow an inquiry? Hon. Members opposite would be the first to declare that it would be utter humbug to say to people, "This is what we think you have done, but we are not going to hear what you have to say." For the men to have denied the charges and for the Government to have refused to procluce its evidence would only have caused further confusion.
The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested there should have been a trial held in camera. What would have happened at that trial? The Government would have had to produce the same 838 evidence and the same witnesses they were unwilling to produce in public. Presumably they would have had to produce the evidence and the witnesses before the very men whom they distrusted. Could these men, if they are distrusted, and if they are eventually perhaps proved guilty, be trusted not to repeat outside the evidence given at a trial held in camera? The question remains, would the Opposition approve of the Government retaining these men whom they distrusted? I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to put themselves in the position of the First Lord. They have decided that, for reasons which they cannot make public, certain men in the Royal dockyards are not in their opinion trustworthy. Would they retain those men in the public service? I hope somebody from the Opposition Benches will give us a reply.
In the Motion of Censure the Opposition refer in a general way to the principles of British justice. They say that the action of the Government was contrary to those principles. The right hon. Member for Wakefield made a lot of play in that connection about the Metro-Vickers case in Soviet Russia. I can see no connection at all. He said that the Home Secretary, then Foreign Secretary, came to the House and spoke with indignation of the feelings and attitude of the man-in-the-street here at the arrest of those men, and their imprisonment without any charge being made against them. There was, very properly, indignation throughout the country at the action taken by the Soviet Government against those men. But the right hon. Gentleman seems to forget that these five men have not been arrested, they have not been thrown into prison, they have not been confronted with a criminal charge, they have not been denied legal advice or communication with their friends. All that has happened is that they have been told that their services are no longer required in the Royal dockyards.
§ Mr. Maxton
Their services are no longer required because the right hon. Gentleman accuses them of some grave and serious criminal acts which he detailed to us to-day.
§ Mr. Sandys
No, the hon. Member is entirely wrong. These men, as I understand it, were employed in the Royal 839 dockyards until the day of their dismissal. They were then informed that their services were no longer required. No charge was made against them. If they afterwards chose to go out and talk among their friends, and suggest that the reason for their dismissal had been that they had been engaged in subversive action, and protest publicly against their dismissal, that is not the First Lord's fault. He did not raise these charges against them, he did not try to blacken their characters, he did not make it difficult for them to obtain civilian employment afterwards. It is entirely the fault of hon. and right hon. Members opposite if these men go about now with blackened characters. All the Government have done is to exercise a right enjoyed by all employers of labour to employ or to dismiss workers at their discretion. That right is enjoyed not only by the Government but also by industrialists. It is also enjoyed by the trade unions.
§ Mr. Sandys
In exactly the same way as it is enjoyed by the Government. All the Government have done has been to exercise their right to dismiss those whom they no longer wish to employ, rights which are the same as those possessed by the trade unions and the co-operative movement and regularly exercised by them in similar circumstances.
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. Gentleman ought not to make that statement. He ought to know about the wages boards and industrial councils, and he ought to know that in no circumstances would the co-operative movement take such action.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not intend to go into the ramifications of the co-operative movement, but I am satisfied that my statement is substantially correct. All I have said is that the rights which the Government have exercised in dismissing these men were no more than the rights enjoyed and exercised by the trade union movement.
§ Mr. Sandys
I will take one instance, although I could give 20 or more instances where that sort of thing has happened. It is the case of a man who 840 was employed in a responsible position by the Transport and General Workers' Union and was dismissed from that position without in any way being informed of the reasons for his dismissal. He wrote and protested to Mr. Ernest Bevin, the general secretary of the union, and after a lapse of two months, during which he made frequent protests, he eventually received a letter from Mr. Bevin informing him that he had been dismissed because certain charges had been made against him. The dismissed man then wrote again to Mr. Bevin protesting and insisting upon his right to an inquiry. Mr. Bevin replied in much the same way as my right hon. Friend, saying that an inquiry could not be granted.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Having referred to the general secretary of the union of which I am a member, will the hon. Gentleman have the courtesy to read the correspondence? Perhaps I may be allowed to inform the hon. Member that the Transport and General Workers' Union, in its rules, gives to every individual member the right to appeal to the annual delegate conference if he cannot get satisfaction through the committee or the executive.
§ Mr. Sandys
Whether or not the Transport and General Workers' Union adheres to its own regulations, I am not, of course, at liberty to say. I shall in certain circumstances be prepared to reveal the name of the man concerned, but I do not see why I should have to give names and addresses when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) read several documents and refused to give the names of the people concerned.
§ Mr. Sandys
That is exactly the case here. The man to whom I am referring was dismissed because certain charges were made against him, and although I have his permission to reveal his name if necessary, I do not see why his character and his name should be blackened by revealing the charges that 841 have been made against him any more than in the case of the five men who have been dismissed from the dockyards.
§ Mr. Thorne
Is the hon. Member not aware of the names of the five men who have been dismissed? Everybody knows them.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am negotiating at the moment with the Front Opposition Bench. Finally, let me say that we all recognise that the First Lord of the Admiralty—not merely the present First Lord, but any First Lord of the Admiralty—has great responsibilities. He has the responsibility for the safeguarding of our shores. He has the responsibility for the welfare and the security of the Royal Navy. I do not see how the House or anybody else can try to fetter the First Lord and dictate to him how he shall carry out those responsibilities. If the House and the country are not satisfied with the way in which the First Lord is carrying out his responsibilities, they must do their best to change the First Lord. The passing of the Vote of Censure would have that effect. However, because this House does not wish to change the First Lord, it will not accept the Motion put forward by the Opposition. I submit that the action taken by the First Lord in this case has been in accordance with British justice; I submit that it has been in accordance with established practice in this country; I submit that it has been in accordance with the public interest; I submit that it has been in accordance with his duty, and for that reason I know that the House to-night will show its confidence in the First Lord of the Admiralty and in the Government in the action they have taken in this case by rejecting by a decisive majority the Motion of Censure.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty seems particularly unfortunate in the type of caase that he occasionally has to bring before the House, and more than unfortunate, if I may say so, in the type of support he gets from his friends behind him. Every speaker who has followed the First Lord to-day has supported blindly the utterly unauthenticated statement made by the First Lord, a mere statement given to him by certain people in the employ of the Government which he accepted unreservedly. It is 842 singularly unfortunate that that type of support should be given. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said that it is better that five men should be punished than that 500 men should lose their lives. That is not the point we are discussing. The point we are discussing is whether these five men were guilty of any or all of the actions enunciated by the First Lord of the Admiralty.
Last week we were told, in answer to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, that these men were discharged because the Admiralty no longer required their services, but to-day the First Lord has tabulated the charges. What are they? They are that these men have been guilty of engendering mutiny, spreading dissatisfaction in the Service and sabotage. Those are the charges that the First Lord has laid at the door of these men, and having laid those charges, we on this side of the House say that he should prove them publicly. That is all we ask. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) to say that he supports blindly the attitude of the First Lord, and that the Opposition do not know what they are seeking in the terms of their Motion. We are seeking a fair and open public trial, with charges definitely laid and substantiated, and if any one of those charges can be substantiated, we say the men should be punished with the utmost rigour of the law.
What is alleged to be the reason for these men doing these things? The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked what was the motive behind these men's actions. Was it the satisfaction of some personal grievance within the dockyard? Was it in support of some foreign Power that has malign intent upon this country? Was it for money? Not a word has been said one way or the other as to what were the reasons or the motives of these men. The First Lord of the Admiralty mentioned that nuts have been placed in engines and a needle forced through an electric cable. The hon. Member for Norwood said that men capable of doing that work would have to be technicians, The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham said that the men who could do that work would be highly technical and skilled men. Who are the men that have been discharged? Three of them were mere labourers.
§ Mr. Sandys
I did not say anything of the sort. I did not refer to technicians. It seems clear that a man of the meanest intelligence can throw screws into an engine.
§ Mr. Smith
One of the men has not been on board a ship for the Admiralty during the last 12 years. I have a sworn statement to that effect. Two of the men are shipwrights, men who work in gangs and never isolated, all of whose actions can be observed, since they can only be in the dockyard or on the ship during the hours of work. The action of the First Lord of the Admiralty in discharging these men on such flimsy evidence, without proved motive, shows that the whole attitude of himself and his colleagues is one that is biased against the men. [Interruption.] Of course, it must be. Here are two hon. Members blindly supporting the action of the First Lord without having a scrap more knowledge than we have—less, if I may say so.
§ Earl Winterton
Here is the hon. Gentleman opposite blindly supporting the testimony of these men without having the slighest chance of knowing whether it is true.
§ Mr. Smith
The Noble Lord says it may be perjury. That may be the case, we do not know; but we ask that a trial should be given and that it should be proved whether it is perjury. I am going to press the First Lord of the Admiralty, or whoever speaks from the Government Bench, to tell us what was the motive behind these men's actions. Were they guilty, in his opinion, of any of the crimes that he has, at least by implication, laid at their door? Were they guilty of spreading dissatisfaction? Were they guilty of engendering mutinous conduct in the Navy? Were they each or any of them personally guilty of the acts of sabotage? Those are the reasons that have been given to the House, and the five men were sacked because of those actions, without any attempt being made to prove that they were the guilty parties.
844 It is all very well to say that we on this side are following a kind of blind alley. We are asking for plain, elementary, British justice. The First Lord said that he did not name these people, but that they had been named because of the Press publicity on their behalf. Did he consult the unions that represent these men? Did he go to the Joint Industrial Council where complaint could be taken? Not at all, but he cites the workers on the Joint Industrial Council that met last week as in support of his claim. Does he know that I stand here, speaking in the name of those men, to say that his action has been responsible for driving a rift completely through the whole of the dockyards of this country? They happen to be members of my union, and I bring to the right hon. Gentleman what they are telling my union; and it is nonsense for the First Lord to adduce as an argument in support of his case that the workers' side of the Joint Industrial Council are supporting his contention.
§ Mr. Smith
The right hon. Gentleman definitely adduced the workers' side of the Joint Industrial Council that met last week as being in support of him in stating that the disaffection will be wiped out. I have not got his actual words, but the OFFICIAL REPORT will prove my statement in the morning.
§ Mr. Smith
We are asking that the Government should give these men a fair trial. It is no use the hon. Member for Norwood saying that the First Lord has been particularly lenient with these men. We are not asking for leniency. We are asking for justice, and, what is more, we demand justice for these men as British citizens. No crime has been proved against them. In fact, every supporter of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman himself have said that they may be innocent and that the Government may not be able to establish their case. Yet these five men are thrown on the scrap-heap to walk the streets stigmatised as persons responsible for engendering mutiny, dissatisfaction, and sabotage, so much so that already a letter has been quoted. Who was responsible for that, I wonder. Names, 845 could not be known except to the source represented by the First Lord. How is it possible for engineering employers to write to their members on the North-East Coast warning them against the employment of these men? That in itself is evidence of the type of propaganda, one might almost call it, that is going on within the Admiralty as representing the Government. We are accused of folly and of not understanding our own Motion. I suppose that the hon. Member for Norwood would say that the Amendment which stands on the Paper is a brilliant thing. It seeks to add, at the end of the Motion:and further notes the procedure adopted by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to ensure loyalty and the safety of its national interests.That is a brainy Amendment, is it not? One could say, on this Amendment, that the men who are being accused as nationals of the Soviet State are at least having a public trial. Is there a single newspaper in the country to-day that has not reported the case from the court in Russia where the men have been accused publicly and are publicly answering those accusations? I am not saying whether the men are guilty or not, but the fact is that they are being publicly tried. These five men have not been tried at all and have never been interrogated. One of the men would in six years' time have taken a £200 gratuity and a pension of £1 5s. a week and was entitled, on 9th January of this year, should illness have overtaken him, to a gratuity of £140 and a pension of £1 a week for life.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member has associated me with the Amendment on the Paper, although I have nothing to do with it, but as he is comparing the case in England with that in Russia, I think he might state whether he thinks the system of justice in Russia is more equitable than it is here.
§ Mr. Smith
I am not foolish enough to be drawn into any asseveration as to the respective merits of the Russian Government and the British Government. As representing the Opposition, we claim elementary British justice for these five men, and I say that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in denying that justice, is copying the worst methods of any dictator who exists in the world to-day. It is for these reasons that we put forward our Motion. We do not want to go into the 846 merits of the case, as to whether or not the men are in any way guilty, but you have stated from the Government side that you distrust these men, and that the distrust is engendered because, as you think, they are in some way connected with spreading dissatisfaction, with mutinous conduct, and with sabotage. Come into the open and prove your case. Charge these men openly and hear the evidence. What does it matter that a few people might have to be revealed as the eavesdroppers, the persons who listen behind closed doors, who even set traps for other people to get the evidence which the right hon. Gentleman needs for these dismissals, for this example, I suppose it might be called, in the Service? We ask, therefore, that the men shall be given a fair trial and that the charges against them shall be stated. If the men are guilty they should be punished with the utmost rigour of the law. Until that is conceded, we on this side will continue to oppose the methods adopted by the Government.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
We have listened to a very vehement speech from the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith), and, as I understood him, he demanded, in the name of Justice, a public trial. That demand on behalf of his party filled me with astonishment since his own leader, the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), when my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty was dealing with objections to a trial, said on behalf of the official Opposition, that he had never suggested a trial for one moment. Shortly afterwards the hon. Member for Rotherhithe gets up from the front Opposition Bench and demands a public trial—a very good example of the normal unity that exists in that party as was so well exemplified at the Edinburgh Conference. I do not want to make verbal or small points on so vital a matter, however, and I believe I have seldom listened to a Debate in which the speeches on both sides have been so obviously and uniformly sincere. That is not perhaps strange, because we have, in my opinion, an extremely difficult problem before us.
On the one hand, we have five men at the present moment labouring under a stigma. I am not going into the question whether they or their friends are responsi- 847 ble for that, or how it arose, but the men are in fact labouring under this stigma, and they are not being given a public trial, or indeed any trial at all, and they have not had—and on this I would agree very largely with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—what a lawyer would call a proper legal inquiry. I admit that fully, and as a lawyer I do not think any member of my profession can think lightly of men suffering under a stigma and deprived of any trial or legal inquiry. It is a very serious thing. But the question which we have to consider is, Can that unfortunate state of affairs be avoided, or is it rendered essential by the overriding consideration of the safety of the State? Here I would repeat the point which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty requested us to keep in our minds throughout the Debate. What else could the Government do? To that question we have had no answer so far, and I am quite confident that when this Debate is read in the country to-morrow, it will be realised that though it is in the form of a Vote of Censure on the Government, those who are really being tried are the Opposition, for the very good reason that the country will ask, What would they have done had they been in power?
I have given hon. and right hon. Members opposite credit for complete sincerity in their sympathy with these men and their horror at five men labouring under a stigma which they have had no chance of removing in a trial, and I ask them to credit those who sit on this side of the House with equal sincerity when we say that we honestly believe that the Government are convinced that they cannot retain these men without endangering the public safety.
§ Mr. Strauss
Agreed. I do not shirk that point, but is it to be said that when questions of public safety and the safety of the nation are involved, you are never to act on suspicion? Let me put a question to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths). Supposing he had a fire in his house, the house in which his wife and children were living—a fire in mysterious circumstances—and he had reason to suspect that it might have been 848 caused by a servant, though he might have no proof of any kind against that servant, would he say that he would not feel justified in getting rid of that servant, if his contract enabled him to do so?
§ Mr. Strauss
I will accept the hon. Member's statement. I ask Members on the other side in all sincerity whether they would not feel justified in acting as I have said. Let me suppose that they had a suspicion of carelessness against a safety man in the mines. Is it to be said that because they could not prove anything, they would be justified in retaining him and endangering the lives of thousands of miners? Obviously they would do nothing of the sort. I ask the House to consider, in all seriousness, what were the alternatives before the Government? If the Government, on the information before them, thought that it was unsafe to retain these men in their employment in the dockyards, what were they to do? Let me suppose that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute them publicly to conviction. Surely it cannot be said that therefore they should be kept on, possibly endangering the lives of those who went to sea in the ships of the Navy.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) suggested that there might have been another form of inquiry, and that the only reason why there had not been such an inquiry was that the Government were dubious of the result and felt that they had not enough evidence to secure a conviction. Supposing that to be true, can it be said that the Government, if they believed that to retain these men would be a danger to the State, should nevertheless retain them? The example was mentioned, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, of an inquiry into the conduct of a former Cabinet Minister. In that case a judicial inquiry was granted because everybody was prepared to accept the result of that inquiry.
§ Mr. Strauss
I think not, for this reason. Suppose that you had an inquiry and that the inquiry resulted in the Scottish verdict of "not proven." Is it to be suggested that the Government should thereupon reinstate these men in their employment in the dockyards even though they believed the continued employment of those men in that capacity to be a public danger? I ask the Leader of the Opposition to say, when he sums up this Debate, whether in those circumstances he would retain those men in dockyard employment notwithstanding the fact that he believed it to be a danger to the public interest to do so.
§ Mr. Strauss
In the circumstances which I was suggesting to the imagination of hon. Members opposite it would certainly be "not guilty," but in this country that verdict includes the Scottish verdict of "not proven," as everybody knows. I hope I have said nothing to lead hon. Members to think that I do not believe in the safeguards of British justice.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not think the hon. Member is nearly so foolish as he is pretending to be. I am supposing that the case could not be prosecuted to a conviction before whatever tribunal might be set up. Then the tribunal would find a verdict of "Not guilty," which would be perfectly proper, but it would still remain utterly improper for the executive Government to retain the man in their employment if they believed that it was dangerous in the interests of the State to do so. I repeat my challenge to the Leader of the Opposition. If his policy in a parallel case would be to have an inquiry and if the inquiry tribunal was not satisfied of the guilt of the men, although the evidence showed grave grounds for suspicion, would he keep those men in national employment in the dockyards?
There is another reason against such a trial, a reason which is known to Mem- 850 bers of every section in the House. It was given by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Whatever the form of your inquiry you would, in such a case, have to disclose your evidence. [HoN. MEMBERS: "And its source."] You would have to disclose not merely the sources of the evidence, but the evidence itself, and that might wreck the future activities of your Intelligence Service. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to make light of it, but there is another question which I would put, since among the back-bench Members opposite at any rate, the Intelligence Service seems to be unpopular. I would ask the Leader of the Opposition whether it is the policy of the Socialist party, if returned to power, to do away with the Intelligence Service. If he answers yes to that question we shall know where we are, but if, as I anticipate, his answer is in the negative, I shall leave him to settle the matter with his own back-benchers.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Is the hon. Member aware that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) did not ask that the sources of the information should be disclosed, but only that the nature of the charge should be disclosed?
§ Mr. Strauss
I paid careful attention to the able speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and I assure the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) that I am not misrepresenting him. I agree that the hon. and learned Member, in regard to telling the men what they were charged with, used the example of pleadings in which you state the facts on which you rely, but not the evidence by which you intend to prove them. But he also demanded an inquiry and made it clear that that inquiry was to be a real inquiry as we lawyers understand it with the sifting of evidence by examination and cross-examination, and it is obviously necessary that at an inquiry of that kind the witnesses themselves should give evidence. I do not think that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, if he were in the House, would differ from my version of what he said.
Before I put a few more questions to hon. Members opposite above the Gangway I would like to deal with the interesting but rather extraordinary proposal of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Liberal Opposition. 851 While recognising the difficult problem which faced the Government and admitting that it might be inevitable that they could not state to the man the charges of which they had evidence, he said nevertheless that it was thoroughly unsatisfactory that the decision should be solely one for the executive Government, and he suggested the reference of the question to some outside body. He used these extraordinary words—that these men should only have been dismissed if there was "incontrovertibly sufficient evidence." That seems to be exactly the same error as that with which I have already dealt. If the evidence is to be incontrovertibly sufficient, you may just as well have a trial. The weakness of the proposal put forward on behalf of the Liberal Opposition is that the decision in such a case must be a decision of the executive Government, because the executive Government will he responsible if things go wrong. If the question is submitted to an outside body, and if the outside body decides that the men must be retained in the Government's employment, and if disaster in your dockyards follows, it is no use indicting the executive Government for it, because the executive Government has been deprived of its power to take the steps which it believes to be necessary.
What we should like to know from some authoritative speaker on the Opposition side is this: Are they prepared to commit themselves to the doctrine that, whatever the suspicions against a man, he must be retained in the public service until by legal inquiry you prove him guilty? Secondly, are you in every case to prosecute even if it involves disclosing the nature and the personnel of your intelligence service at a time when the maintenance of that service at the maximum efficiency is an obvious necessity in the public interest? Thirdly, are the Opposition prepared to do without a secret service, and fourthly, if they had such an inquiry as has been suggested, would they be prepared to abide by the result even to the extent of taking men back into employment whom they believed to be a danger to the State? Nobody recognises more than I do—and indeed it would be extraordinary if any member of my profession failed to do so—that it is a serious thing to place any man under a stigma and to give him no opportunity of ridding 852 himself of it by means of an inquiry. I admit that difficulty and I sympathise with hon. Members opposite who deplore it. Do not let them imagine that those feelings are confined to their side of the House. We on this side feel just as strongly as they do on that point.
What I am asking them to do is to face the facts, and to realise what the difficulties are when you have sabotage in your dockyards, when you believe that there are certain men who, if retained in the dockyard service, may contribute to future acts of sabotage, and when the public safety makes it impossible and useless to have a trial, which if the interests of the men alone were concerned, we would all wish to have. The difficulty is there; none of us can avoid it. I have given hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite credit for sincerity in attempting to guard the interests of these men. I ask with some confidence that, even though it may not be admitted on the Floor of the House, they should credit the Government with equal sincerity in holding the view that the course which they adopted was inevitable in the public interest. There are occasions when the executive Government must be trusted with some degree of discretion, and if right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench ever form a Government, they too may be faced with just such a question as this. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition when he replies will be careful to say nothing which will hamper him should some great national emergency arise when, if ever, his party hold office. When the party opposite bring forward a Vote of Censure of this kind and leave us rather hazy as to what they themselves would do in similar circumstances, they will forgive me for putting certain questions to them in order to elucidate their position. In conclusion I think that on its merits this Vote of Censure must be defeated by an overwhelming majority.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I listened with the greatest attention to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I think if there was any suspicion of coldness or hardness about that speech in the minds of my hon. Friends on these benches, I ought to quote to them an extract from the "Sunday Times" of this week: 853It would be unfair to charge the First Lord with hardness. He is an excellent dinner partner and by his gracefulness of compliment makes women feel their charm and blossom like the rose. Nor does he despise the modern music. When he is preparing a speech I am told he likes to tune in his wireless to the latest jazz.We see, therefore, that we have listened to the statement of a really human Minister. I do not feel that his speech added very much to the information that he gave in answer to a question in the House last week. He linked up these men definitely with the cases of sabotage that have been occurring in the Royal Navy. It would be interesting to know whether the facts that have come to light in connection with all those cases show that each was, indeed, a case of sabotage. While the First Lord has told us that suspicions were aroused last autumn and the usual procedure of investigators, secret police and so on were put into operation, the result is that only five men have come under suspicion and have been discharged. It would be interesting to know how many men had their private lives investigated in the course of that prolonged investigation which has resulted in only five men coming under suspicion.
The First Lord has given no answer to the questions we have put as to why these five men have not been told of the charges made against them, why they have not heard the evidence against them, or why there has been no proper inquiry. I would like to deal with one point which has been raised in opposition to the holding of an inquiry, namely, that if it were held it might give a warning to the supposed master mind behind these five supposedly guilty men that their activities are known. Of course that is already known. If it were indeed the case that there were subversive elements directing the activity of these men, the very fact that the men have been discharged is sufficient to warn those elements that the game is up and that they must lay off the dockyards for some considerable time. In effect, the speech of the First Lord established only one thing, namely, the very novel principle that it is a misdemeanour to be mistrusted. That is a very dangerous principle for a Government to lay down if mistrust is to be followed by dismissal. 854 The only member of the Board of Admiralty whom it is possible to congratulate in connection with this matter is the Civil Lord and I congratulate him because he is out of the country and is, therefore, completely free of the miserable mess in which the Board of Admiralty have got themselves.
If the Board of Admiralty were to leave their present sheltered existence and were to encounter such a gale at sea as they have stirred up in the peaceful dockyards, their combined wisdom would not enable them to weather it. The First Lord rather passed on the responsibility from the Board of Admiralty to the Government, but I think there is no doubt in public opinion that the responsibility lies with the Board of Admiralty—the Sea Lords as well as the First Lord. I cannot imagine what happens to our Admirals when they come ashore and go to the Admiralty. I have heard of people suffering a sea change, but these Admirals seem to suffer a land change, although they are called Sea Lords at the very time they become landlubbers. Discipline is maintained afloat by a mixture of justice with common sense, a sense of humour and a sense of humanity. All these three qualities seem to have been lacking in the Board of Admiralty's treatment of this case. It is very strange in these days to find a body of men adopting this "I am not arguing—I am telling you" attitude which the Board have adopted in this case. The men were dismissed at a moment's notice with no reason given, and their Sea Lordships put their noses in the air and said they have no statement to make. The grand manner suffered a very swift set-back, because, a few days later, we listened to a statement from the First Lord in this House,Julia, vowing she would ne'er consent—consented,and we got a statement from their Lordships. In making it the First Lord runs true to Government form because this Government live on a Hay diet of their own words. We have had another instance of this about the aircraft factory at Maidenhead. It was to be built and the Government would not listen to any reasoning about it, but to-day they tell us that it is not to be built. The Government spend a great deal of their time eating their own words.
855 In his statement the First Lord charged these men with adeparture from the uniform high standard of loyal conduct.of the dockyard personnel, and of having been guilty of subversive activities "calculated to endanger the safety and welfare of the State." All this came under his notice in the autumn, yet the men responsible for it were discharged only this month. All this time, therefore, we have been living on the brink of this horrible volcano with these five men imperilling our safety and welfare. It is a wonder we live to tell the tale with these five dangerous men loose all this time. I thought that prompt action was the motto of the Navy when the alarm bell was sounded, but it has taken from the autumn to January to arrive at this result. We are told that there was an inquiry held by permanent officials. Why are we not told their names? We were given the names of the officials who inquired into the Bullock case. These permanent officials, having looked only at what was put before them, found that the safety of the whole of our hundreds of thousand of tons of Navy and of 100,000 admirals, sick bay stewards, regulating police, boys and other ratings depended on five men being thrown into the street. It must make Hitler and Mussolini water at the mouth to read of such men. If they had five men capable of all that, they would not leave them as dockyard ratings. They would promote them to sea lords and declare war at once. No wonder the First Lord concluded his statement by saying, in the nearest approach to ringing tones which he can command, "My course is clear." But as it took him from the autumn to January to get on his course, it is a wonder the British Empire did not get on the rocks.
If it is all true, why are these dangerous, malignant, powerful men only discharged? Why are they not brought to trial and adequately punished? If they are guilty of bringing us into such serious danger, they deserve very heavy punishment indeed. It is no use saying that their trial or some form of judicial inquiry would have imperilled the safety of the State. Only in the last few days an unhappy man has been discharged after completing his sentence. He was an officer accused of espionage, and much 856 of the evidence against him must have been of a highly secret and confidential nature. That officer was brought to trial and the difficult and dangerous parts of the evidence were heard in camera. He was punished, but the whole country knows that he had a perfectly fair trial although all the evidence was not made public. Why could not the same procedure have been adopted here? It would have been fair to the men and would have been without danger or damage to the State. Why are these men dismissed without even being told of the charge made against them? They were not even interviewed. Can the explanation be that these anonymous inquisitors who only looked at the evidence supplied to them reported to the First Lord that, although they, like the First Lord, were perfectly convinced, yet they had to advise the First Lord that the evidence was not of such a nature as would convince a judge or jury?
The First Lord told us that these investigators, these inquisitors, were unanimous as to the guilt of these men, but in this country guilt of that nature should be established by a judge or jury and not by anonymous investigators. We are or should be past the days of the Star Chamber. Even the Seven Bishops got a trial. Incidentally, they were acquitted. Even in "Alice in Wonderland" they had a trial. It is true that they had the sentence first, but here we do not get even the "Alice in Wonderland" procedure. We get the First Lord as sole arbiter—'I'll be judge, I'll be jury,'Said cunning old Fury;'I'll try the whole caseAnd condemn you to death.'That is what has happened in this case. The Home Secretary, when he is not engaged in searching for that patent squeaking golf ball of his, is very active in telling us that there is not one law for the rich and another for the poor of this country. Observe how it works out in this case. There are five Lords of the Admiralty, lay and sea, on the one side, and, by a happy coincidence, five dockyard workmen on the other. It is one of those satisfactory cases in which each lion had a whole Christian to himself. Can any one imagine the Prime Minister going to the Admiralty, sending for the five temporary and oceanic peers, and saying "Get out the whole lot of you. 857 You are not even to go back to your rooms to get your swords and fountain pens. Out you go!" and then issuing a notice to the Press that he did not intend to make any statement? The idea is absurd, and yet behind the gilt lace and underneath the cocked hat there is no difference between the admiral and the dockyard workman. The workman's character and reputation are just as dear to him as an admiral's character and reputation. Mrs. Workman wants some wages just as much as Mrs. Admiral. Little Master Workman and Miss Workman want to be fed just as much as Little Master Admiral and Miss Admiral. Why is one man flung out summarily when it would be impossible to apply such treatment to the other man?"
The whole treatment is so overbearing, so harsh, so tyrannical, so contrary to all British ideas of justice, that I really think the Board of Admiralty must have had an evening out at the films to see "The Mutiny on the Bounty" and decided at the next board meeting to reintroduce into the Navy the spacious days of Captain Bligh. If everything that the Board and the First Lord insinuate against these men is true, their handling of the matter only becomes all the stupider. It may very well require a clever man to do the wrong thing in the right way, but what are we to think of men of whom the best that can be said is that they did the right thing the wrong way? The conduct of the Board of Admiralty is far more in question than that of the men whom they charge with endangering the safety of the Empire and, by way of an afterthought, the Navy as well. The Board, by its conduct, is placing a very heavy strain upon the confidence of this country and upon the confidence of the dockyard personnel. It was the same story, exactly, at Invergordon—blundering by the Admiralty, and then concealment of their own shortcomings by harsh and vindictive treatment of officers and men, notably of Admiral Tomkinson. On that occasion they forfeited the confidence of the country and the Navy by punishing others when they ought to have resigned themselves; and on this occasion they will similarly forfeit confidence by punishing these men when their own procedure is at fault.
858 I, like other speakers, am expressing no opinion as to the guilt or innocence of these men, but I do say that if their guilt cannot be established then they are entitled to all the benefits of a verdict of "Not guilty." I can express no opinion, because we have no facts whatever to go upon, except that last autumn the First Lord had an attack of the vapours, and since then some anonymous practitioners have prescribed a complete change of air and scenery for five other men, in order that the First Lord may feel better. This is a very vicarious form of blood letting which I do not care much about. I hope that even yet wiser counsels may prevail, and that some form of inquiry may be held which will restore the confidence of the country in the administration of the Admiralty. If this is not done I can only say that this incident will afford one more piece of evidence for those of us who believe that the whole administration of the Navy requires overhauling from top to bottom, that there is something fundamentally wrong with that administration, and that the time is long overdue for an Esher committee of inquiry into its administration.
I have spoken briefly, because I have no wish to reiterate what has already been so admirably said, and I know that many others wish to speak, but I hope that perhaps I have succeeded in firing a few star shells to reveal the position of the flying enemy, though I am afraid that they may escape us by retreating under the forts of their docile, automatic majority, which is always ready to vote for anything under the crack of the whip, and, which I am perfectly certain, will be prepared to vote for this act of injustice also. That automatic majority may vote, but the country will have no doubt as to who has had the honours of this action to-night.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Captain Plugge
Before I joined this august assembly I was passing on day through a dockyard town, and saw the dockyard workers coming out, eight and 16 abreast. I said to one of them, "How many people work inside there?" and the man, after thinking for a moment replied, "Well, I should say about 25 per cent." Since I have had the honour of representing the largest and the oldest dockyard town in this country I have 859 had the opportunity of seeing that no insinuation could be more untrue. There does not exist a finer body of men, a more loyal body of men and of hard workers, than the dockyard workers of to-day. I feel confident, speaking on their behalf, in saying that they would be the first to desire that men who are not prepared to show the loyalty required should be dismissed forthwith. I am also convinced that they are not in sympathy with the opposition's action in making use of this occurrence for party political purposes, and bringing forward this Motion of Censure so rapidly before there has been sufficient time for the matter to be looked into in its proper light. The Admiralty already makes a practice of being readily accessible to the various organisations representing the men in the yards. In this respect I should like to read to the House a telegram which I received to-day:Admiralty Industrial Civil Servants' Federation, representing directly and indirectly 15,000 men in the Admiralty yards, regret dismissal being treated from purely political angle, and is confident that the best solution in such cases is for the Admiralty to discuss any grievance arising therefrom with Admiralty Industrial Civil Servants' Federation and any other appropriate organisation.That is the view of 15,000 employés in the dockyards. Hon. Members may possibly know that Chatham, Portsmouth and Devonport have approximately 30,000 workers.
§ Mr. Fleming
Does that association consist of men of similar type to those who have been dismissed?
§ Captain Plugge
Yes. As I was saying, there are approximately 30,000 employes in Chatham, Portsmouth and Devonport, and this federation represents 15,000.
§ Captain Plugge
I think I have replied already to that question in answering a similar question. They do represent such men.
§ Captain Plugge
Listening to some of the speeches from the Opposition, one 860 would imagine that the Admiralty was created for the purpose of employing men, but the preoccupation of the Admiralty in this instance was for the purpose of building and refitting ships. When the men join the Royal dockyards the conditions of employment are made perfectly clear to them. These include the condition that should their services be no longer required for any reason they must not be offended if they are dismissed on that ground. In the dockyards, generally speaking, men get better terms of employment, and they realise that they are on work of national importance. They have no, sympathy for the manner in which the Labour party have brought forward this Motion of Censure, and are satisfied as dockyard workers that the best method of retaining the respect of the country is that the services of men not regarded as sufficiently loyal should be terminated. Dockyard workers know, on taking up their job, that they are engaged on work of great national importance, that it is work of a confidential character, that they may be sent abroad to other dockyards, that they may have to work during strange hours. They are aware of all these facts; and they know, also, that the Labour party consistently refuse to vote the amount of money which is required to pay for their salaries. Therefore, their sympathy as a whole does not at all lie with the Opposition Motion. Above all, these men are anxious to carry out in a satisfactory manner the work which they think necessary for the country, in order that the country may be in a position to protect their wives and children.
I would like to read to the House an extract from a letter which I have received from Mr. Johnson, the Secretary of the Admiralty Industrial Civil Servants' Federation. He says:They also recognise [meaning the dockyard employés] that it is essential that the Admiralty employés should be above suspicion, and advocate that it is of supreme importance the necessity of maintaining the dockyard service above suspicion, and that our members would like the Admiralty to take every possible step to ensure that no unsuitable men are employed, because only in that way can the good reputation of the majority be maintained, and the Admiralty Dockyards be regarded as more suitable for Naval construction and repair work than other yards.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Will the hon. and gallant Member use his influence with the Admiralty to see that such a good lick-spittle as that man is given promotion?
§ Captain Plugge
What I say is that every Member of this House should use his influence to improve the conditions of the loyal men in the Royal dockyards. There are many examples of the room for improving the conditions of working in the dockyards. I might mention several. I would like to see an increase in pay and in the prospects of promotion. It is with some satisfaction that I note that this question is being looked into, and that conditions are now better than those of other yards.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is going rather wide of the subject of the Debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member has forgotten that there is a very narrow subject for our Debate which is on a Vote of Censure on the action of the Government in dismissing certain men. The subject of dockyard conditions does not seem to have any relevance to this Vote of Censure.
§ Captain Plugge
I apologise. I was trying to get at the cause of the trouble and to point out that the Admiralty was looking into the bettering of the conditions and was now being more cautious in the taking on of casual labour. I wanted to make the point that with a greater number of established men there would be much less casual labour and that is what I understand is now going to take place. I would like to see the system of our dockyards more on all fours with that of the Navy itself, by introducing men at a young age—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot discuss that matter now, within the very narrow limit of the Question which is before the House, which is whether or no there shall be a Vote of Censure upon the Government.
§ Captain Plugge
I will conclude by saying that the action of the Admiralty has toy entire support and that I think they have taken the right and only course of action possible in the circumstances.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Kelly
It is rather surprising that an hon. and gallant Gentleman who is supposed to represent a dockyard town voices support in this House for the action 862 of the Government. It is more surprising that he is prepared to sacrifice the men, for whom he might well speak, rather than see that they have justice. He might realise that this is still England, and that people have a right to know when they are being charged with something, in order that they may defend themselves, particularly when it affects their lives. Reference has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to a telegram which he received from someone who is entirely unknown in a representative capacity, so far as the Admiralty is concerned, and who speaks about representing 15,000 men. Those of us who, for 30 years and more, have been dealing with Chatham and other dockyards at home and abroad, know nothing of those people, who have no representation on the Joint Industrial Council, the Shipbuilding Trades Joint Council or any other councils which deal with the dockyards. I hope, therefore, that the proper weight will be given to the telegram and to the advertisement, which was well described in the reference to the individual who signed it.
The First Lord of the Admiralty told us that there had been grave disquiet with regard to certain happenings in the dockyards, and that there had been brought into the dockyards certain men from the special branch of Scotland Yard. I do not know why they cannot be produced; they are across the road, and we know that they were imported into the dockyards along with Secret Service men. Those people made certain reports to the Admiralty, who appointed a committee to act upon the information laid by those people. It was decided that certain men should not remain in the service of the Admiralty. I remember only one discussion in this House with regard to the Secret Service and I remember Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, who engaged in a great deal of Secret Service work during the War. When we suggested to him during a Debate that no one ever accepted the word of a Secret Service man, he admitted it, and said that they always had another spy spying upon the Secret Service men in order to get at the truth.
That was the position which existed in the dockyards, in which there was a state of things which interfered with the work. People did not know who was the next 863 to be suspected of some offence, with which they probably had no connection or knew nothing of, except that it was reported as happening. In the end, the five men, some of whom have rendered lengthy service and against whom the Admiralty have had no complaint, were dismissed. One of them is a skilled labourer, employed in the paintshop in one of the yards, and by reason of his capacity and intelligence he was engaged in fixing the piecework prices at which the work was to be done. He was fixed upon, and has been sacked, because it was decided that he ought not to be allowed to continue in the service. What has come over the Admiralty that they deal in this way with men whom I know well and who produce that wonderful work to which the Admiralty must give recognition? The dockyard men are now being asked to agree that they have had among them five people who have offended in such a way that they are no longer fit to be in the service of the Admiralty.
The First Lord made a suggestion of which I hope, when he reads it, he will feel the shame and discredit, when he linked up the names of these men with what happened in the submarine, in the cruiser, and with regard to the oiler, inferring throughout his speech that there was some connection between what took place there and these five men. The Admiralty had not the courage or the manliness to face these men with a charge and to ask them, contrary to British justice if you like, to prove their innocence. The Admiralty have not even allowed them to do that, but have said, "No, you are guilty." A commission of certain civil servants was appointed—some say there were three, but I do not know where they got their figures, as we have never been told how many there were—and we were asked by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) to realise how those in the first ranks of the Civil Service were all competent to engage upon these committees of investigation. If I am not prepared to accept that, I am doing no injustice to the Civil Service. Some are excellent civil servants, but they have never been trained for the work of committees of inquiry.
Why cannot we know the names of these prominent civil servants who were 864 engaged on this work? Is that to be secret too? Is it to be against the interests of this country that the names of the particular civil servants, prominent though they be, shall be disclosed? I do not know who they are. I know that there are those in the Civil Service who can be counted as prominent. There are the Permanent Secretaries. I do not know whether they are prominent because they have become Permanent Secretaries and receive higher salaries than technicians. In the Treasury there is one who is called, I think, the First Civil Servant. Is he one of them? We ought to be told the names, so that we may be able to judge as to the competence of that committee to take evidence, to consider evidence, and to come to a decision upon it. It is unfair and unjust to these men that they should be treated in this manner. If they are guilty, face them with it, and give them the chance to answer. They are now left in this position—men who have worked either in the constructive or in the electrical department, and one of them, I know, in the paint shop, which is a very large department of the Admiralty—that people will imagine, particularly among the employés, that they have been guilty of some of the offences which are complained of and which are so serious with regard to the conduct of the Navy. Where is the employment for them? Where are they to secure a position when the Admiralty has attempted to damn them by this un-English, un-British method of dealing with the matter?
The First Lord said, "We are doing what would be done by any employer," but if there were an employer or combination of employers who attempted to do that in this country we should certainly take some action with regard to the victimisation of individuals when they were not given the chance of proving their innocence or having their guilt proved. It may be thought that the men in the dockyards and Admiralty establishments are very quiet about this, but they are very much concerned. A hint was given at the last meeting of the Joint Industrial Council, and the matter has been deferred until the next meeting. It may be thought that they are very quiet about it, but there is a feeling that injustice has been done, and when that is conveyed to the Admiralty 865 I hope there will be no man in the Service who will not be prepared to stand up against the injustice that has been inflicted upon these five men.
The First Lord asked, could the Government have taken any other action? Yes, they could have take other action. No matter what the offence was, no matter what the evidence was that had to be produced, when you are dealing with a body of men, either the 30,000 who were employed in 1930 or the 57,000 or more who are employed now, you cannot deal with them by Secret Service methods. You may succeed for a day or two, but it will not be for much longer. The Government could have placed these men before some body in their own Service, but there has been no investigation inside the Department. These men have not been brought face to face with their own officers, their own foremen, their own charge-hands, their chief constructors, their captain-superintendents, their admiral-superintendents. The only people who seem to be held to blame are these five men, but, if the statement made to-day is correct, it is not these five men who ought to be dealt with, but the people who are responsible for the yard and who permitted a condition of things to arise in which there was such danger to the ships—the admiral-superintendents, the captain-superintendents, the chief constructors, the foremen, and the others who have allowed such a condition of things as has been reported to-day to grow up in the yard. It is not the operatives, it is not the skilled labourers or the mechanics, who should be blamed, but those in authority, who have not been doing their duty. The Admiralty, however, seem to be afraid to take action in that direction.
These men throughout their career have rendered first-class service in the dockyards. They have been employed there for years without the slightest suspicion in regard to their work or conduct. Complaint has not been made against their production or skill or capacity; in fact, they are men with excellent records. Now we have this method. The Special: Branch at Scotland Yard, or the Secret Service, having failed to find out by whom certain things with regard to ships were done, must find some victims in order to justify their existence. This is not new. I notice that on the Front Bench exception is taken to that remark, 866 but some of us have had to deal with the Secret Service in the past when they were trying to justify their existence by charging people with offences that they had never committed. Until they found that there was a strong enough body against them, they were prepared to penalise and punish those people.
The M.I.5 branch of the War Office that we knew and had to deal with throughout the War period, and the Secret Service that we have had to fight and oppose since, are not so secret as they imagine. Some of their doings and movings are well known. I say without hesitation in this House that these people seem to have fixed upon these men because they could not find the real culprits. They could not furnish the information expected of them, so they seized upon these five men, and the Admiralty, not true to the traditions of the conduct of the dockyards, and having little regard for the wonderful men whom they have in their service, are now prepared to sacrifice these men without giving them the chance of defending themselves. I say that it is a discreditable act, and an act which will, when it comes to be written in the future, put this Government in a light that will not show them to advantage.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
I am very sorry to have listened to a portion of the hon. Member's speech. I feel very strongly that it is really not worthy of the Opposition to suggest that there has been a deliberate plot on the part of members of the Secret Service to fasten on five innocent men and that the high officials of the Admiralty, including the First Lord and the committee of which we have heard, have all been deluded by false evidence given by the Secret Service, and that five absolutely and completely innocent men have been deliberately victimised by the authorities in the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Spens
I will answer that in due course. But I am grateful that this Vote of Censure has been moved, because it seems to me that it deals with two very important principles which have always been recognised as rights of the Executive and the Crown. They are that the Crown or the Executive has the right to dismiss, without giving any reason for it, 867 any person from the service of the Crown or the Executive, and the right that a responsible Minister can stand up in public or in this House or can send a message to any court of law that it is against the public interest that any information should be given on any subject, however necessary it may be to do justice to an individual citizen. Those two principles have obtained throughout our history and they are both involved in what we are discussing here. The right of the Executive to dismiss its servants without giving any reason applies not only to subordinate servants such as these, but to every servant. [An HON. MEMBER: "Judges?"] Judges are not servants of the Executive in the same way and no one knows that better than the hon. Member.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and others have claimed as a right that there shall be no dismissal unless the Executive is in a position to prove to a tribunal, public or private, that servants have been guilty of definite acts which justify their dismissal. If that is the true view, it means that no Executive can ever dismiss a servant on suspicion of being about to do something dangerous, because in those circumstances they would never be able to prove to any tribunal that they had any direct evidence. They would only have suspicion and, when you are dealing with this type of case—it may have been evidence; we do not know—but assume against the Admiralty that it was only suspicion that a man was going to do something which would endanger the lives of men in the Service on submarines or battleships, what the Opposition has been claiming is that you have to wait until you are in a position to prove without question that that dangerous act has been committed. That is what the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument comes to and it is that argument that I absolutely challenge, and dissociate myself from. It is essential that any Executive should be able to dismiss on suspicion any servant in any capacity, high or low, without being called upon in the courts of law or elsewhere to give any reason for it, because only so can you be quite certain that you have not locked the stable door after the horse has bolted. That is an essential right of the Executive, and I submit that nothing should be done which 868 in any way impairs or doubts or challenges that right, which is essential to any Executive, whether National Government, Labour, Socialist, Communist, United Front or anything else.
The second point is that it involves this: Often in the course of our history, as that right has been exercised, it has provoked a certain outcry, and quite rightly, but to members of the public it simply resolves itself into a question of trust in the Executive. Do we or do we not trust the particular man or men who have exercised that right? Quite rightly the Opposition say, "No, we do not," and therefore, we have a Vote of Censure. Quite rightly, I hope every supporter of the National Government will make it quite clear that we are absolutely certain that the men who have exercised this great executive power have exercised it justly and rightly in this case. The right of the Executive claiming that they will not disclose information, claiming that they will not do this or that because they claim it is against the public interest, is, I suppose, the right of all others that has been most frequently challenged on behalf of the subject in court after court, not only in this country but in the courts of our Dominions to which our Common Law has gone. I suppose there is no lawyer who does not know that that right has repeatedly had to be exercised by the Executive in the public interest, and it may be that it has resulted in injustice to individuals. There, again, everyone knows that it is one of the great recognised rights of our Executive and, whenever it has been exercised, you have had outcries and the Executive has taken up the position that it was perfectly entitled to take up, that it was against the public interest to say or do or disclose anything more.
Again, it simply comes clown to exactly the same question: Do we trust the particular people who have taken up that attitude in this case? Again I am certain that we on this side intend to show by our votes that we trust our Executive. Again they take up the same attitude and refuse in the public interest to disclose anything more than they have in fact disclosed. As a matter of fact it would have been perfectly possible, and no subject could properly have challenged it, if the Executive had taken up the attitude, "We have dismissed these servants. We 869 refuse to give any reasons. It is against the public interest to say anything more." So far from having taken up that attitude, despite what the Opposition has said, we have had a very considerable amount of information given us as to the circumstances in which it has become necessary to exercise this great right of our Executive. I am convinced that the action taken by the Admiralty would not have been taken unless they were perfectly certain that it was absolutely necessary in the interests of the other men of the Services that it should be taken. I hope we shall make it clear on this side that that is the view taken by all of us.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Will the hon. and learned Member tell us against whom this information has been given?
§ Mr. Spens
The First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that it is against the public interest to give any further information than that which has been given. We do not know on what grounds these particular men have been dismissed, but we are quite certain that the Admiralty used their power of dismissal on a fair and just basis because they believed that it was in the public interest that it should be done.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
A debate upon a Vote of Censure is not perhaps the most convenient way of discussing the matter which we have under consideration today, but it is the only way which has been presented to us, and, therefore, we have to make the best of it. As a rule, a Vote of Censure is concerned with questions of policy upon which most Members can make up their minds very quickly as to the particular terminology of the Vote. To-night it is rather different. We are concerned primarily with the consideration of the position of five ordinary citizens who would not have received any publicity except for an alleged act of injustice towards them on the part of the Government. It is characteristic of this House that, amid all the difficulties and complexities of a European situation and of a world wide situation, it should be prepared to devote 870 itself for one day to the consideration of a question which arises upon the treatment of five persons only. It is a characteristic of which this House should be proud, but in spite of that fact, the treatment of these five persons raises questions of very great importance to the whole country.
In the ordinary case of a Vote of Censure most Members could vote fairly easily on one side or the other. In this case one ought to examine and bear in mind the terms of the Motion. It starts by saying that this House is jealous of the rights and liberties of the subject. I do not imagine that there is anyone in this House who would publicly challenge that statement. The Motion proceeds to regret the fact that five dockyardmen have been dismissed. Nobody will object to that, and as far as I can gather the First Lord of the Admiralty also regretted the fact. It also regrets the fact that these five men should have been dismissed without being informed of the offences of which they were accused or of being given an opportunity of making any defence. Frankly, when I came down to the House to-day, I thought that that statement would have been accepted universally in this House.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) will forgive me for saying that the very last person in this country from whom I should have expected an exception to that statement was a member of the legal profession. I listened with absolute amazement to the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman that in a question like this which affects the fate and the livelihood of even one citizen of this country, we should hear from a member of the legal profession that our main consideration is to express our trust in the particular Executive which happens to be in power. Where would the hon. and learned Member have been to-day if that had been put into practice in years gone by? Where would any one of us have been? It is one of the essential rights of citizenship in this country not to put its trust in the particular Executive unless that executive is acting justly in defence of the liberties of the democracy of this country. The Motion regrets the fact that these five men have not been told what they have been charged with and have not been given an opportunity of defending themselves. Why should 871 not the House regret that fact? Is it not the duty of the House to regret the fact? The First Lord of the Admiralty, I should imagine, himself would agree that it is the fact, and in fact that is the statement he made the other day. I would like to ask whoever speaks for the Government to-night, whether he knows of any case in ordinary circumstances in which a man has been accused of a crime of even the most callous nature in which he has not been told exactly the charge against him? Is there any case in which a charge of the most despicable character has been brought against a British citizen where he has not been told the charge?
Many people think that espionage is one of the most despicable crimes in this country. We have had cases of this sort. We had cases of espionage during the War when certainly the Executive in which the hon. and learned Gentleman put so much trust could fairly claim that they were entitled to take special precautions and measures. We have had cases in war when the defendant has been told the charge against him. In some of the worst cases, and certainly during the last War in one of the worst cases of all, the Government of this country not only told the accused person the charge against him, but even took steps to provide him with counsel in order to enable him to put his defence fairly and properly before the tribunal. If that could be done in one of the worst conceivable charges and in a time of war, is it very remarkable that this House should consider that it is its duty to inquire as to whether similar rights and privileges, if these be privileges, should be afforded to these five persons? I do not think that there is any doubt in the minds of any party that the circumstances are such that it is the Government who are on their trial to-day, and, unlike these five persons, the Government know what the charges against them are, and they have all the power and ability of their members and supporters to produce their defence. What is their defence?
When the question was first raised last week by an hon. Gentleman in this House, the First Lord of the Admiralty, who replied, said that not one of these men had been dismissed because of any political views which he held. Is he prepared to accept that? Not only would it be very unfair on the part of the Government to 872 dismiss a man because of his political views, but it would be the height of folly to dismiss anybody because of his political views. I do not suppose that the First Lord of the Admiralty would lightly commit himself to the dismissal of anybody because of his political views, but to-day, when the question has been raised in a more formal fashion, he comes forward and presents the defence of the Government. What is that defence of the Government put by the right hon. Gentleman? I can put it in the form of two questions. Could the Government have taken any action other than they took? Assuming that they could not take any other action, did they take every precaution to prevent a miscarriage of justice? If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, then, in the language of Members of the Front Bench, the second question does not arise. Could the Government have taken any other action? My answer is, "Yes." They could have taken a very different and a much fairer and much more equitable action. Surely, it is an elementary principle of justice in this country that when a man is accused or even suspected of being guilty of a charge upon which he may be liable to dismissal, he is entitled to be told what the charge is against him.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) has disposed of the rather specious argument used by the First Lord of the Admiralty, that you cannot tell a man what the charge against him is unless you are prepared to tell him who the witnesses were against him. That is a rather futile suggestion to put forward to a body like the House of Commons, the Members of which may be allowed to consider themselves possessed of a certain amount of common sense. The First Lord said that he could not give any more information because it was suggested that these men held subversive views. What are subversive views? And who has suggested that they have held subversive views which they have put into practice to the danger of the country? The only answer that we have had from the First Lord is that they have done some things which it is not in the public interest to disclose. I would ask the House to consider the number of things which the First Lord of the Admiralty 873 has told us it is not in the public interest to disclose.
We are told that it is not in the public interest to disclose who the five men are. I do not know any one of them, so far as I am aware. I do not know the name of any one of them. He has told us that it is not in the public interest to disclose what their political views are and that it is not in the public interest to disclose how they have attempted to put their subversive views into practice. So far as I am aware, with the exception of a few Members who may have better information, the House has no idea what these men have done which is so dangerous to the State. We have been told that it is not in the public interest that the men should know the charge made against them, that it is not in the public interest for the men to have an opportunity of defending themselves, that it is not in the public interest to disclose the source of the information upon which the Admiralty has proceeded, that it is not in the public interest to adopt the normal procedure which would have been adopted, according to the First Lord, in any other similar case, and that it is not in the public interest to state the reason for refusing the men the opportunity of hearing the charge against them or of presenting their defence.
All that we have been told, and not by the First Lord of the Admiralty, is that the men have been guilty of diabolical acts. That is the phrase used by the Noble Lord, the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). He may have much more information than I have or that many Members on this side of the House have, but if these men have been guilty of diabolical acts, why did not the First Lord of the Admiralty tell us so? Why should it have been left to a back-bencher to tell us that these men, whose names I do not know and against whom I know nothing, have been guilty of diabolical acts, seeing that the First Lord has refused to bring any such charge against them?
§ Mr. Radford
In the absence of the Noble Lord, may I say that I well remember what he said? He said that he had no knowledge of the circumstances affecting the men.
§ Mr. Evans
It is not fair for an hon. Member to say that five men may have been guilty of diabolical acts, unless he has something upon which he can base that suggestion. I might get up and say, or any other hon. Member might say, in this House, that some other hon. Member may have been guilty of holding subversive views or of committing diabolical acts; but would the Noble Lord get up outside this House and say that these five men have been guilty of diabolical acts? If he is not prepared to do so, he should not do it in this House unless he has evidence which, I will not say will prove the allegation, but evidence which entitles him to bring that accusation against five of his fellow countrymen, who are as much entitled to be heard, and would have been heard, apart from the action of the First Lord of the Admiralty, as any Member of this House or any member of the public.
What is the other defence put forward by the Government? It is that they have done what any other employer of labour might have done. This is not the occasion to argue whether any employer of labour would have done that, but I will accept the view put by the First Lord of the Admiralty that the Admiralty, like any other employer of labour, is entitled to dismiss a man without assigning a reason.
Is it unreasonable to expect that a Government Department shall at least show a sense of responsibility equal to that of a private employer of labour in the exercise of that right? Would it be unreasonable to expect a Government Department to exercise even a little higher sense of responsibility in the exercise of this right? I challenge the claim which the First Lord has made, that the Board of Admiralty, a great body of which we hear so often in such glorious 875 terms, has a right to dismiss anybody at a moment's notice. Will the First Lord tell me whether he knows of any case of a private employer who, having dismissed five men without assigning a reason, has taken the trouble to publish the fact in the newspapers?
§ Sir S. Hoare
It was not the Board of Admiralty that published it. The publication came out days before the Board of Admiralty made a statement.
§ Mr. Evans
In that observation the First Lord is not treating the House with the usual frankness. In the "Times" of 13th January the following statement appears:The Board of Admiralty yesterday issued the following statement:Five dockyard workers have been discharged…services no longer required. Their Lordships have satisfied themselves that the continued employment of these men is not in the interests of the Naval Service, and their Lordships have no further statement to make.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I repeat what I have already said, that there was no statement at all until three days after there had been a statement published from the other side. The Admiralty were prepared to make no statement.
§ Mr. Evans
Whatever may have been the rumours and reports previously, this statement was issued officially by the Board of Admiralty, and in it they said:Their Lordships have satisfied themselves that the continued employment of these men is not in the interests of the Naval Service and their Lordships have no further statement to make.Does the First Lord really think that the country is going to be satisfied with a statement from people who describe themselves as "their Lordships" that "they have no further statement to make." If five men, whatever their position may be, are dismissed from the service, does the right hon. Gentleman expect the country to sit down satisfied merely because their Lordships are 876 satisfied that "they have no further statement to make"? Surely, when five men are deprived of positions of this sort it is only right that they should have an opportunity of knowing exactly the charge against them and an opportunity of presenting their defence. May I ask the First Lord to bear this in mind? The Navy has been for years, and probably still is, the most popular service in the country, and if their Lordships try to fob off an action of which many people in this country are suspicious—I put it no higher than that—simply by saying that "they have no further statement to make," they are really imperilling the future recruitment of the Navy.
That is the defence which the Government put forward. If that is all they can say is it unreasonable to ask, as my right hon. Friend did earlier, that they will try to satisfy the opinion and conscience of the country by giving a further inquiry to the case of these five men? It is no good the First Lord saying that he has consulted other prominent civil servants. How did he consult them? Has he ever seen them? What did they know? Had they anything before them except the written statement which the First Lord had before him when the matter first came before his notice? Did they have any opportunity at all of considering anything which could be put forward in favour of the five men who were dismissed? Did they have an opportunity of considering the point of view of these five men? They did not.
§ Mr. Evans
We have now heard a little more from the First Lord than we have ever heard before. I understand the First Lord to say that they had an opportunity of considering the case of the five men concerned. Is that true? Did they? Who were the members of this Committee? The First Lord says, "I cannot tell you who they were." I do not want to press for their names. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that they were responsible people, and I accept his assurance, but even responsible people cannot give a judgment without having some evidence before them. What evidence did they have before them? Did they have any evidence other than that which was presented to the First Lord 877 himself? Here is the master-mind! Of the merits of this dispute I probably know much less than anybody except the First Lord of the Admiralty. Was any evidence presented to these gentlemen? Is it contrary to the national interests for the First Lord to tell us? Will he get up and tell us? If he does, I will accept his statement. Will he say that it is contrary to the national interest to tell the House of Commons, which protects, and has to protect, the rights of citizens, whether these three men had any evidence beyond that which was presented to the First Lord himself? Will he tell us this? Did they receive any evidence except evidence in the form of written statements?
§ Mr. Evans
He will not answer it tonight, but somebody will have to answer the question some day. Did any one of the five men ever meet any one of the three members of this body? Had any one of the five men a chance of meeting any one of the five members? That is the height of the wisdom, of the discretion, of the policy and of the sense of fair play of this Government. He has made his case much worse to-day than it was before. There were many Members of this House, myself included, who were prepared to listen to a reasoned defence of the attitude which the Government have adopted. Who can be satisfied tonight, except possibly the hon. and learned Gentleman who thinks that you must trust the particular Executive of the day? Who else can be satisfied with the action of the Government? No Member of this House with any sense of his responsibility to the country can have any option in these circumstances but to vote for simply declaring this: That this House is the guardian and defender of what up to to-day has been regarded universally as one of the elementary rights of British citizenship.
§ 9.27 p.m.
There is no right hon. or hon. Gentleman who does not deplore the necessity for the procedure which the Government have had to employ in this case. We are all very jealous of the liberty of the subject and the justice of this country, but practically every one of the speeches that have been made this afternoon has been 878 made on the basis that these cases of sabotage were on a par with the ordinary cases of crime in this country, and should be adjudicated on under the same procedure. I maintain that that is an entirely wrong basis. The question of sabotage in His Majesty's ships is indisputable. It was deliberate sabotage. It is quite certain from the nature of the sabotage which has been carried out and the examples which have been given to the House by the First Lord of the Admiralty that they were deliberate. There is no question that these cases of sabotage were not carried out by accident. It was a deliberate intention on the part of those who organised these crimes to damage His Majesty's ships. It was sabotage of such a nature that I am certain that the ordinary dockyard employé. independently and of his own initiative, would not have carried out that particular type of sabotage. Behind the man or the men who carried out these crimes on board His Majesty's ships there must have been a definite outside organisation using dockyard employés as their tools to wreck His Majesty's ships and place the ships and crews in danger.
This wrecking of His Majesty's ships is something very new to this country. It is not in accordance with the mentality of the English workman; it is entirely foreign. There must have been in existence a very good organisation in this country directed by some outside power in order to have this work carried out, and in order to endeavour to find out the machinations and workings of this organisation special measures had to be taken by the Admiralty. We have had a good many, I might almost say sneers, at espionage from Members of the Socialist party, as if the method of using a detective was something quite new. This damage to ships, this organised sabotage, and the organisation behind it, required special methods to be taken by the Admiralty and were adopted by them.
I cannot tell you. I am stating to you my convinced opinion. It may be wrong, but I am quite certain it is not wrong. After all, I am entitled to my opinion as much as the hon. Gentleman. It was a foreign organisation, any way. Hon. Members of the Socialist party and of the Liberal party have 879 stressed the importance of a public inquiry as to whether these men were guilty or not.
I will concede that certain hon. Members suggested a private inquiry, but some hon. Members have stressed that there must be a public inquiry. Immediately you have either a public or private inquiry into this case you at once give away the whole of the organisation which has been brought into being to counter this sabotage. Hon. Members are perfectly justified in their opinion that I am wrong, but I am equally justified in my opinion that I am right, and if you have this inquiry, either public or private, and you bring witnesses into the court, you will at once give away the organisation, and you will stultify the whole future work of that organisation, you will render it impossible to compete with the sabotage going on in the dockyards and no more evidence will be forthcoming. For that reason there was no other course open to the Admiralty than the one they have pursued. I would like to impress on hon. Members the seriousness of the two cases which the First Lord mentioned this afternoon.
Two nuts and a stiff piece of copper wire were placed in the armature of the main motor of the submarine "Oberón." Suppose that that submarine had gone to sea in that condition without it having been found out that the main motor had been tampered with, and she had dived. It is more than probable that she would never have come to the surface again and the lives of the officers and men on board that submarine would have been sacrificed. There is not the slightest doubt that all the men on board would have been killed. We have heard a good deal about the wives and children of the five men who have been discharged, but what about the wives and children of the officers and crew of the submarine? That sabotage was a most deliberate endeavour to wreck the submarine and place it in danger, and I am amazed that hon. Members of the Socialist party can agree that that should be carried out and that no steps should be taken unless absolute proof in a court of law is brought against the particular men who have been the cause of it.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Does the hon. and gallant Member now suggest specifically that these five men were responsible for those acts?
I have great pleasure in answering the hon. Member. Certainly not; I do not say those five men were themselves the men who carried out the actual sabotage, but it is evident from what we have been told that they are definitely connected with those who did perpetrate it. The men who have been discharged from the dockyard are men in whom, we have been informed, the Admiralty no longer have confidence, and it is not in the interests of the nation that they should continue to be employed in the dockyard. They are definitely linked up with the sabotage that has taken place in Devonport dockyard. [Interruption.] It is quite obvious. The Admiralty had certain information placed before them. As I understand it, the First Lord was not satisfied that he should take action on that evidence alone, and he therefore appointed a committee to go into the evidence. Whether the committee saw witnesses, whether it saw only the evidence placed before the First Lord or what the evidence was, I do not know; but at any rate the committee was unanimously of the opinion that the five men who have been discharged should be discharged from employment in His Majesty's dockyard. It has been said by various hon. Members that the committee was not in a position to judge. That is rather a serious charge to bring against the members of a committee who, we are told, were all men in important positions, some of them having long been in the service of the country. I think it is very ill-advised of hon. Members of the Socialist party, and hon. Members of the Liberal party also, to suggest that the members of that committee were not competent to do justice to the five men. In any case, there has been a great deal of cavilling at the conclusion to which the members of the committee came.
I think we must be very careful in pursuing our ardent desire, for it is the ardent desire of every hon. Member, to uphold the liberty of the subject and to give justice in the law courts of this country that in doing so, particularly in cases of this nature, we do not in the pursuit of that principle at all costs, 881 sacrifice the security of the country, and in this particular case the efficiency of His Majesty's ships and the safety of the officers and men of His Majesty's Navy. I would like to mention the other example which was given by the First Lord this afternoon, that of the "Royal Oak," which had a steel pin driven into the main cable of the fire control. Does anybody suggest that that was accidental? It was deliberate sabotage, and the result would have been that if the ship had gone to sea and had been called upon to fight, it would have been absolutely impossible for her to do so, for the whole of her fire control would have been thrown out of action, the whole efficiency of the ship would have gone and the whole of the officers and men would have been at the mercy of any enemy whom they met. Does anybody suggest that those who are responsible for having that sort of work carried out should be treated in the same manner as those who commit ordinary crimes? Such a thing is quite impossible. Strong advocate as I am of complete justice as we understand it in courts of law or, in the Services, in courts-martial, I most strongly uphold the procedure carried out by the Government, and I am confident that it was not possible for them to carry out any other procedure.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Thurtle
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) did not mention the name of the organisation of foreign origin which is guilty of these machinations.
It is quite immaterial, as far as my argument is concerned, what particular foreign country was responsible for the organisation, provided that a foreign country was responsible for it. That is the point. That organisation had to be countered.
§ Mr. Thurtle
I was merely going to complain that the hon. and gallant Gentleman beat about the bush a great deal. If he feels that the organisation responsible for those acts of sabotage was an organisation of foreign origin, why did he not come straight out and mention the Fascist party? He made those vague references, but he would not say exactly what he was thinking, I would like to raise one point made by the hon. and 882 gallant Member concerning those acts of sabotage. He was suggesting by implication that hon. Members on this side of the House more or less approved of them.
No. I had no intention of suggesting such a thing. I wished to convey that hon. Members of the Socialist party are suggesting that those responsible for such actions should not be dealt with unless their actions were proved against them in a court of law.
§ Mr. Thurtle
The hon. and gallant Member continues to beg the question and to assume that these five men are guilty of those acts of sabotage. Every hon. Member on this side of the House deplores and abominates such acts, especially when they are going to endanger human lives, and if it could be proved that these five men were indeed guilty of those acts, the House would find hon. Members on this side among the strongest supporters of the most drastic possible punishment of these men. Therefore, I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not continue, without evidence, to make this charge by innuendo against these five men. He can make it with impunity in this House, but if he feels that it is a charge that can be substantiated by evidence, I hope he will go outside this House and make that charge.
I want to say how strongly I shared the feelings of the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) and his disappointment with the House over this issue. I would have thought that if there was one thing for which this House of Commons would stand up more than another, it would be the principle that every man is considered innocent until he is found guilty. We have laid it down in our Motion that this House should safeguard the rights and liberties of the citizens of this country, and it has always been my contention that the House of Commons would rise almost as one man to respond to that elementary function. Yet we find it on this occasion taking a strictly party point of view and refusing to see the gross injustice, according to the ordinary canons, which is being done to these five men by condemning them unheard. I think there is every reason why we should use very strong language indeed in condemning the House of Commons for this abdication of one of its elementary functions.
883 Next I want to deal with some points made by the right hon. Gentleman, who sought to substantiate the action which he has taken. I listened with great care, and I confess that I was struck with the weakness of his case. The Executive should not take extraordinary action of this kind unless it has very strong reasons indeed for doing so. The moment the right hon. Gentleman indulged in that very long preamble, I began to suspect that the reason why he was doing that was that he had no solid case to put forward, and that turned out to be the case. He dwelt upon all sorts of unnecessary and extraneous issues because he had not got a real defence to put up on the particular point at issue. He emphasised the confidential nature of the work upon which these men were engaged. It is confidential only in this sense, that it should not be disclosed to foreign Powers. The Secret Service agents have been watching these men, dogging their footsteps, opening their lockers, and watching their associations, but in spite of that fact and in spite of the fact that one of the men has been in the Service for 20 years, there is no kind of suggestion that these men have divulged the least bit of confidential information to any foreign Power. If that had been the case, the right hon. Gentleman would have welcomed the opportunity of saying so. His case was so weak that if he had been able to buttress it up with that kind of statement, he would have done so.
Take again the case of endangering lives. I took down the right hon. Gentleman's words. He said that action which endangered lives, whether it was intentional or unintentional, deserved this kind of punishment. I submit that there is a whole world of difference between action which is intentional and action which is unintentional. If this thing were done deliberately, with the idea of involving our comrades of the sea service in danger, it would be worthy of the most condign punishment, but if it were just a slip, an accident, that would be an entirely different matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the acts of sabotage at Devonport as being at the instigation of a superior organisation. If he does not know the individuals who performed these acts of sabotage, how does he know which superior organisation is responsible for them? If he can say definitely what the 884 superior organisation is which has caused these acts of sabotage to take place, surely it would be comparatively easy for him to say which particular individuals have done them. But he is not in a position to do so, and if he cannot specify the individuals, I say that he cannot specify the superior organisation which is supposed to have instigated them.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said that it was extremely difficult to convict the guilty persons. We agree with everything that has been said about these acts of sabotage, but we say that if it is difficult to convict the guilty persons, that is no reason why, in irritation or in despair, it may be, you should punish someone who is innocent or whose guilt you cannot prove. He discussed the nature of the evidence and said the Government were forced to discuss the loyalty of these five men because of their actions and their associations. Was there any reason of State why the right hon. Gentleman should not disclose the nature of these associations and of these actions? Will he not tell us what they did which was wrong, the kind of people they mixed with whom they ought not to have mixed with, the kind of organisation with which they were identified with which they ought not to be identified? Unless he does this kind of thing, who in the dockyard service will feel safe or will feel that he is not associating with the wrong kind of person or is not doing something which he ought not to do? The right hon. Gentleman cannot, in fairness to the Service itself, let alone to these five men, leave the matter where it is. He should specify what these organisations are with which men working in the dockyard should have nothing to do, and he should also specify what these actions are which the men should not commit.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, by taking action of this kind, based upon the ex parte statements of secret police agents, agents provocateurs possibly, and people of that kind, is putting a premium on spying and tale-bearing of the worst kind. The information upon which he has acted is said to be secret and confidential, but there has been no test of its validity. The excuse which the right hon. Gentleman put forward, that it was not in the public interest to test the validity of this evidence by means of a court, was utterly destroyed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for 885 East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), who pointed out that there need not be a public inquiry, but that you could have a specially constituted inquiry, conducted in camera, which would give the accused men the elementary British right of being heard on their own behalf, and that at the trial you could formulate the charges without disclosing the sources of your information and there would be no impairment of the efficacy of the Secret Service. I should like to hear the spokesman of the Admiralty reply to that very vital point, because that is the whole basis of the Admiralty's case, that it did not subject these charges to a proper examination because of the fear of the disclosure of some information which will be harmful to the well-being of the nation. Now that a way out of that difficulty has been shown to the right hon. Gentleman, I suggest that if that were a real, bona fide reason for his objection to an inquiry, if it were the major reason, he should, in the light of the information which has now been brought to his attention, be prepared to reconsider his attitude.
It has been suggested in the course of the Debate that the dockyard men were entirely against these five men because they wanted disloyalty rooted out. Of course they want disloyalty rooted out. They are loyal men, and so are we all. We all want disloyalty rooted out. If disloyalty can be discovered in any quarter, high or low, we want that disloyalty rooted out, and you will find Members of this party just as strong as members of any party in assisting in destroying disloyalty of that kind. What I am sure the dockyard men do not want, what we on this side do not want, what every genuine liberty-loving man in this House ought not to want, is that where crimes have been committed and the guilty parties cannot be found, innocent persons should be punished for those crimes without evidence.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
We put down this Vote of Censure because we believe that it is the function of this House to protect the liberty of the subject, and we should have been failing in our duty if we had not taken that action. This House is entitled to the fullest information from the Government, consonant with the public service, and I have been thoroughly disappointed at the statement 886 made by the First Lord this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman fenced with the question. On every possible point he avoided giving information. We all admit the right of a Minister to withhold information if the giving of that information will do damage to this country. But what has emerged in the course of this discussion that ought to be kept secret? One thing only—the system of espionage in force at the dockyards. The one point has been that that ought not to be revealed, and that the personality of the spies ought not to be revealed.
There is no question of concealment of the fact that there has been sabotage. It has been announced in the newspapers. There is no question of any revelation with regard to armaments, ships or anything of that kind. What we have had has been a kind of veiled reference to the proceedings of the First Lord of the Admiralty and to the proceedings of the tribunal of civil servants whom he appointed to assist him. What is there damaging to the public service to prevent our knowing what was the procedure employed by that tribunal? The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he had the cases exhaustively investigated by a body composed of highly placed responsible, experienced, permanent officials. Why should we not know whether these experienced civil servants were given the opportunity of assisting the First Lord in forming his judgment?
The First Lord has to take the responsibility. I take it he did not want anybody to relieve him of the task of coming to a decision. What he wanted was a review of the facts. Where is the difficulty in telling us what facts were put before the tribunal? Why should we not know whether they had the reports of Secret Service agents? It will not give away the system, it will not give away the names—though I always thought that spies had numbers, and not names. Why should we not know whether the members of the tribunal asked to see any of the persons who were suspected? Why should we not know something of the kind of evidence that was submitted? The First Lord has refused persistently to answer any questions. By doing so he seriously embarrassed his chief defender the Noble and gallant Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The Noble and gallant 887 Lord was very gallant on this occasion. He stepped into the breach, and did everything he could to defend the First Lord, but point after point made by him was defeated because the First Lord was mute. The Noble Lord could get no support for any of the contentions he was putting forward. I say the House has not been treated fairly by the Government, and I hope that the Prime Minister will be more frank with the House than the First Lord has been.
Let us come down to the real question at issue, because a great many false issues have been raised. The issue this evening is not the guilt or innocence of these men. This House is not in a position to say whether they are guilty or innocent. It has no evidence. We are not a tribunal. We know nothing about it. It is not a question of the good faith of the First Lord or of these distinguished civil servants. It is not a question of the pros and cons of the employment of spies. That is not the issue either. The plain, simple issue is whether the Government have discharged the obligation which rests upon all of us in this country to act in consonance with the principles of natural justice. Remember that this Government is the Government of Great Britain, and not of some little dictatorship State tucked away somewhere, some State which never had any position of freedom. This is a Government answerable to a House of Commons—a House of Commons with a long record of a fight for liberty—and this House and the people of this country expect the Government to act in relation to its employés in consonance with the principles of natural justice. I say that the Government have not proved to us that they have discharged that obligation.
Last week I put three questions to the First Lord. The first question was whether these men were told of their offence and the answer was "No." The right hon. Gentleman made a very long answer to the question but he never told us straight out what these men were suspected of having done. He talked in evasive and tendentious phrases. He talked of subversive activities. But subversive activities may range all the way from blowing up the Reichstag in Germany to importing the works of Sidney Webb into India. He used words like 888 "disloyalty" but after reading that statement, I had no idea at all what was the real accusation against these men. I agree that sabotage might have been an attempt to introduce the "Daily Worker" into the dockyards. This afternoon he opened, after certain irrelevancies, by detailing to us a number of acts of sabotage which, he said, took place in the dockyard and caused him very grave apprehension. It is an extremely serious act; it is an act which he is bound to do all he can to prevent; but you do not prevent an act of sabotage by sacking the wrong man. Years ago there was a series of crimes in White-chapel called the "Jack the Ripper" murders. They went on a long time, but I never heard that the Home Secretary of that day thought he could prevent them by hanging somebody against whom he had only a suspicion.
Therefore, the mere fact of there being acts of sabotage does not justify the right hon. Gentleman acting on mere suspicion. He told us there had been attempts for 10 years or more to corrupt dockyard men by a foreign Power. I do not know whether it was the same Power all the time, or whether the Power varied from time to time. He implied—and that is where the unfairness of his methods comes in; he never makes a straight accusation at all. He never says, "These men are, in my opinion, guilty of acts of sabotage and have been seduced by a foreign Power to do it. "All he says is," There are acts of sabotage. A foreign Power is suspected," and then he brings in these men. In fact, what he implies is that these men have been guilty of high treason. If he does not mean that, what does he mean? The burden of his speech and the burden of the speeches of hon. Members opposite was that we must get rid of these five men or the Fleet and the lives of all of us would be imperilled by having them in the dockyard. Clearly, if that is so, they mean to imply that these men were guilty of sabotage. Why not say so?
These men have by this afternoon's speeches, added to what has been said before, been in effect accused of being traitors to their country, and they are to be given no opportunity of vindicating their honour. These men are not foreigners. They are Britishers who fought 889 in the War for us and served in peacetime for us. I wonder what would have happened if an accusation like that had been made against some commissioned officer. I heard the hon. and gallant Admiral who sits for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) saying that if there was this monstrous sabotage someone must suffer for it. Suppose he had been in command of a ship which had run ashore, that the ship had been lost and life had been lost, would he think it right that he should at once be dismissed without any court-martial or court of inquiry? I think that we should have heard his voice, and very loudly.
Let us come to the evidence in this case. We have had no summary of what the evidence is. All we know is that the evidence against these men is that of spies. The evidence of spies is a very dangerous form of evidence. I do not doubt for a moment that there are men and women who have served in the secret service from the highest motives and a desire to serve their country, but everybody knows that there are others who do this unpleasant work for money and who do it for either side. We have had experience of industrial spies in this country. They are generally renegades from some extremist organisation, poor wretches who have been bought by the money of the rich to sell their own class. They often develop into agents provocateurs and their position is such that they must show results to hold their jobs. If hon. Members want to study the methods and mentality of the spy, they might very well read the account of the Nazi conspiracy in Spain.
The evidence of spies must be sifted, there must be every opportunity of examining it, and I suggest it is one of those cases where a lawyer might be employed. It is curious that the First Lord got some civil servants to help him, in spite of all the wealth of legal talent in the Government. He does not seem to have had any consideration of the law at all. One rather gathers from that that, as a matter of fact, there was no evidence that would have held water for a moment in a court of law. Perhaps that is why no lawyer was brought in. Let us see what the First Lord's defence is. In the main, it is that defence which has been put up through the ages by every tyrant and dictator, namely, necessity. The 890 security of the State demands the denial of justice to these men. I do not think that he pretends that they have had justice. He never suggested that they have had a fair trial, but what is put forward is that this must be done in the interests of the State. It is the old point that tyrants made, that it is expedient that one man should die for the people. This claim that it is for reasons of State is foreign to all our ideas of justice, and I suggest that once we admit it we destroy the whole position of the right of the subject of this country.
It is true that these men are in a particular position. They are in the service of the State. That gives them certain privileges, although not so many if these 47,000 men are liable to be dismissed at a moment's notice. It is worth while noticing that this vital, important and confidential work, on which the whole community depends, is done by men who, as soon as we have finished with them, we throw on the scrap-heap. It is remarkable what a high standard of loyalty we get from our people, considering how little we give them. But the contention that these reasons of State can come in is possible here because we have to a large extent confined the rights of the subject when he is in the service of the Crown—his rights of one kind and another. Therefore, it is the bounden duty of this House to look after the rights of those who serve the State, because they cannot, as a rule, take action through the courts. Here we have action taken on mere suspicion, on the ground that it is useful for the nation.
An hon. and learned Member opposite suggested that we should always trust the Government. He put it in a very broad general proposition. Our duty in this House is always to watch very closely what the Government do, and see that it does not impinge on the rights of the subject. If we are once going to admit that if Ministers think that a certain number of people in this country are, for one reason or another, dangerous, they can be got out of the way or punished by some kind of frame-up, we are departing very far from all conceptions of justice. The next point, which was put up by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), a very old and experienced Member of this House was, 891 "You must trust the Ministry, you must trust the Civil Service, they are all honourable men." The right hon. Member for South Molton said, "If you do not believe in trusting Ministers and officials what becomes of government?" I say that if we are always to take what Ministers say aria to accept all the acts of officials, what is to become of the function of Parliament? I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is acting in good faith, I have no doubt he has thought that he has been acting for the good of the country, but lots of people have done it in the past without meeting with the favour of this House of Commons. I have no doubt that Charles I thought exactly the same, and so did Strafford.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what was the reason why these men were not told of what offence they were accused, except the explanation that if they had been told they might have asked for some kind of inquiry. I suggest that this form of dismissal was employed so that they should have no chance of raising any point on these very vague charges which are made against them. If, as a matter of fact, they are accused of those specific acts of sabotage —and I do not know why those specific acts were dragged in at such great length by the First Lord unless they are accused of them—surely they could have been given the chance to show that they were absent or could not possibly have been there when they occurred. It ought to be made quite clear now what is the accusation against these men—it is not an accusation, but only a suspicion, but, anyway, they are being punished for it—because it is not a case of their having lost employment with an ordinary employer. These men have been expelled from an employment which they have held for years under conditions which everybody knows affect their characters. Steps have been taken to see that they shall not be employed again, and this evening they have, in effect, been branded as traitors.
The next defence was that it was quite impossible for the First Lord to have acted otherwise than as he has done. I think this Debate has already shown that there is no substance whatever in that contention. It is ridiculous to suggest that you cannot have a trial without 892 giving away the whole of your system of espionage. There were during the War trials in which men were brought to book by spies. There was no difficulty in that, and there was no reason why, if you did not want to have a fully legal trial, you should not have had an inquiry which followed the principles of natural justice. There was no reason why a tribunal should not have seen these men and heard what they had to say, no reason why they should not have seen the spies or the master of the spies. But all that we can gather, and the right hon. Gentleman has had plenty of opportunities of denying it, is that these distinguished civil servants were given second-hand evidence, that they never visited the place, never saw any of the people, and merely confirmed the right hon. Gentleman's judgment of what the evidence might be. You cannot call that justice.
Let me come to what the effect of all this is going to be. It is ridiculous to suggest that by this action you are going to cause general rejoicing in the dockyards. The dockyard people know that they are all under suspicion. I should like to know what is going to happen with regard to these five men if more acts of sabotage take place after they have been expelled. This suspicion will run right through all your Government establishments. There is the danger of the spy system. I was asked whether I would have a spy system or not. There are circumstances when you have to employ spies, when you have foreign countries which indulge in the kind of thing that we know has been done, for instance in Spain, by Nazi spies. Remember that the spy system is extremely dangerous, and that once you move on to a system of a Government denying elementary justice and acting through spies, you are marching towards the time of the dictator and the denial of liberty that you see on the Continent. Nothing rots the whole country more than a spy system. I know a number of instances of various countries to-day where you have that spy system, and if once you get that system running through this country so that every man suspects the other, you will not get good work. The way to conquer this kind of sabotage is to get the people in your dockyards and your establishments working to- 893 gether enthusiastically on a system to root out the thing.
You cannot deal with the matter by importing a number of spies from outside. The action which has been taken will render your spy system quite nugatory, because you will have nothing but whispering and suspicion from one end of the country to the other throughout your munition works. I ask that the Government should meet what I believe is the real demand of this House, free from Government pressure, and that is to say that it is not too late to do justice, and that, without doing any harm to any of the interests of this country, it is perfecly possible to set up a tribunal which will either vindicate these men or find them guilty. Let me close with a last remark, and again remind the House that this is not a question in which the guilt or innocence of these men is in issue. A man caught red-handed in the most atrocious crime is entitled to know the indictment against him, to have a fair trial and full justice, but these men, against whom there is nothing but vague suspicion, have been denied every one.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Baldwin)
I had arranged for my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence to speak in this Debate, but I felt, on consideration, that it was one that ought to be taken at the close by the head of the Government. The matter under discussion is one that concerns the head of the Government perhaps principally, concerning, as it does, all the members of the Government, and it is only right that from him the position of the Government and the country should be put, showing its difficulties and how those difficulties are met. It has to be remembered, also, that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite may some day themselves be the Government, and that these very problems which offer such difficulty and offer such opportunities for criticism —and easy criticism—to an Opposition, they may themselves have to face and decide, when their turn comes, how they will deal with them.
This is an occasion on which, I think, we ought to keep in mind certain very broad and general principles which must affect both administrative and executive action. I have never complained that the Debate was asked for. It is not only 894 natural for an Opposition, but I think it is right, and for two reasons. In the first place it shows how rarely such an event as that which has recently occurred takes place; its very rarity marks it out for notice; and, secondly, it shows how interested all parties are in it, involving the questions which it does, though of course, perhaps, there may be a greater tendency on one side of the House to show their confidence in the Government than on the other. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said—I do not think I am paraphrasing him unfairly—that what was being asked for was an expression of confidence in the Government, that there had been little information, and that it boiled down to this, that it was an expression of confidence in the Government.
Of course, that is true. A Vote of Censure is a vote of want of confidence, and naturally those who oppose it show their confidence in the Government by supporting it. It is quite true that this is essentially a Vote of Confidence in the Government. It happens on very rare occasions that a Government is unable, from the very circumstances of the case, to disclose all that it would like to disclose, and the Government is in those circumstances in a position in which any Government is liable at times to find itself. It will be for the House to decide, and ultimately, possibly, for the country to decide later on, whether, by what we have done, we have done anything to forfeit that confidence or not.
I do not propose to say anything which is not apposite to the occasion; I do not want to waste any time by getting off the direct subject; but I would like, if I may, to approach it in my own way. I want, first of all, to endorse, and I think it is only right to repeat it, what the First Lord made clear about the rights of men in the Royal dockyards to hold any political opinions that they please, provided, I think he said, that they do not interfere in any way with their loyalty. Loyalty is a word that I thought the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite me used perhaps a little lightly. When I use it to-night I use it in this sense, that a loyal man is one in whom we have confidence and on whom we believe we may rely. A different situation arises—this is a question that affects the Government much more than it affects the Opposition; it does not affect them at all—if it is found that political opinions, and the 895 associations and the activities that may go with some opinions, cause those concerned to show less loyalty—loyalty which is inherent in their position as servants of the State. There is no objection to any form of belief—Communism, Fascism, Labour, Tory, anything you like —provided that it finds its expression in the ballot box. There are some places where the ballot box is not popular. What is objected to by public opinion in this country in my belief—we shall certainly do our best to defend the country against it in whatever quarter it may arise—is political theory that seeks its expression in disruption and in destruction.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate was good enough to say something about a speech that I had made on democracy. All the speeches that I have made on that subject I have made with very profound conviction, and I may perhaps be allowed, as I have more time than I had expected, owing to the courtesy of the Leader of the Opposition, to quote a paragraph from a speech that I made at Glasgow last autumn. I said:I think it was very striking when the Trade Union Congress last September refused to have anything to do with Communism. It is a sign of the times and, frankly, it is what I would expect from them. After all, what is that organisation? It represents many millions of my own fellow-countrymen. I have always taken the view that there is more political horse sense in my own fellow-countrymen than among anyone else's fellow.-countrymen, and therefore they can do no other. The men and women who form our trade unions are just like those who work or serve in any other walk of life, and they want progress, but they want to ask for it by orderly means and they do not believe you are going to get progress by creating chaos on the way. They do not want disruptive forces, red or black.That was my creed and is my creed and will be my creed. I have endeavoured, as far as I can, during the whole of my public life to render immune the democracy of this country from the virus of either Communism or Fascism. I have said that partly because I was encouraged to by what the right hon. Gentleman said, but also because it leads on naturally to what I am now going to say. Militant Communism sometimes causes the Government of this country anxiety—not much I admit; nothing like the anxiety that is caused in some other 896 countries—but it is a new development, and Governments before the War did not have to consider it. The War left many evil legacies in this country, but the two worst and the most dangerous to freedom, at least I think so, were these: One is propaganda. I shall not say anything about this because really it is not relevant to what I have to say. I would only say in passing, that I hope and believe we shall never see anything in this country in the direction of propaganda in the same way as we have seen it in some foreign countries. I think the genius of our people is against it. I hope that we shall not be so tried. At any rate, I do not regard that as a danger to our country. The other relic of the War is very insidious and has done incalculable harm all through Europe, and that is violence in politics. It started in the East and it has run right across Europe. It has been less marked in this country than in any country, but, to quote that old saw:Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.We have to do it eternally. I recognise and know exactly what hon. Members mean, and it is because they recognise that in the subject that we are discussing to-day that they initiated this Debate. I told them at the beginning of my speech that I was glad they did, although I do not see eye to eye with them in this matter, and they will not see eye to eye with me. It is a vigilance we must preserve in this country. Perhaps I am more inclined to be vigilant on the one hand than the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is on the other. He seems to be more afraid of Fascism. I take the view, as I have always said, that there would be no Fascists if there were no Communists. I quite recognise the force of what he said about an aggressive Fascism in this country. Where there is no real danger of either force becoming dominant the presence of aggressive Fascism does help to form Communism. I agree with that. I do not believe that now or in the near future either of these alien forces is going to be in power in this country. But the difficulty to a Government, not to an Opposition—I want to make this point again and again—where there is subversive propaganda, is that subversive propaganda may lead and sometimes does lead to action. That is an extremely difficult 897 thing to combat because it runs so largely underground.
I do not propose to quote anything more to-night, and I shall not quote what was said at Plymouth at the Trades Union Congress last September. There were some extraordinarily pertinent observations made on that occasion on that form of political thought, and its disruptive power was put with much more vigour than I usually employ in my speeches, with such vigour that it apparently carried the day at that most important meeting. The difficulty of subversive propaganda that leads or may lead to action running so much underground is that this new danger—I use the word danger—a post-War danger—can only be met, in our view, by the methods with which it is being met on this occasion.
Let me say a few words about the Secret Service. The right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) spoke in rather contemptuous terms about it. I would remind him, and I would remind hon. Members opposite, that so far, tip to to-day, the Secret Service has been an integral part of the organisation of the Government of the country, whether the Government has been a Tory Government or a Labour Government, and each Government in turn, when it gets a vote for that Service, and uses it, is bound to protect it, and always has protected it. I want to make that point very clearly. You are confined to a certain extent by the mere fact that you use it. When I was Financial Secretary to the Treasury, which I was for some years, I had to defend a large number of Secret Service Estimates, because I was Financial Secretary during two years of the War, as well as two and a-half years afterwards. Sometimes hon. Members used to ask questions about it, but I used to take refuge every time in saying: "This Vote would not be called a Secret Service Vote if it was not secret, and therefore I am unable to tell you anything about it." To a certain extent that holds true to-day, We have so far found no other means of investigating cases where we have reason to believe that subversive propaganda is being employed, propaganda that may be serious, and I do not believe, at any rate, I have not been able to find, that there is any other method that 898 can combat it. If there were, I should be most glad to employ it. If and when hon. and right hon. Members opposite come into office it is quite possible that they may have to use the same Service. I do not know whether those who follow me then and who will sit in Opposition will take quite the same line that has been taken to-day, but the Government of the day, in so far as they use that Service, will find themselves equally barred from giving the information which the House usually expects on all subjects from the Government, and which in normal circumstances the Government would be only too glad to give.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), who spoke for the Liberal party—I was sorry that I was unable to wait for his speech, I have been present as much as I could during the Debate—spoke in favour of an arbitrator being appointed. I think he suggested Lord Sankey or my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home). [Horn. MEMBERS: "Lord Ullswater and the right hon. Member for Hillsborough."] I am not sure, because I did not hear him. On that point, I would say that the responsibility for what has happened is the Government's, and nobody else's. The Government must, and do take, full responsibility. They would be cowards if they did not. It has been their action, and they are trying to defend it as well as they can, in the circumstances. [Laughter.] Hon. Members know what I mean when I say, "in the circumstances." It is the responsibility of the Government, and the greater the responsibility the less, in my view, ought the Government to attempt to delegate that responsibility to any man, whoever he may be. I have read in the papers—I am not one who regards as gospel all that I read about my opponents —that there has been some discussion about the expulsion of a member from the Labour party. I was going to offer my services as arbitrator. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) shook his head when I suggested that there was such a possibility, but the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol at the first mention of my name as arbitrator at once washed me out. It shows how difficult it is to find the truth.
Having said that, and having explained what I believe to be the only method by which this particular difficulty can be 899 met, let me add this: I have myself in the course of the last year not only examined the working of this method—it has been used before, and this is not the first time there have been cases like this—and I have examined it in conjunction with some of my friends most qualified to advise me, and with the First Lord, the possibility of some form of appeal or other addition to it which would meet the kind of complaint that has come from hon. Members opposite this evening. I want them to believe this. They may think us very stupid but I hope they will not think us dishonest in this matter. We have tried to see whether there can be grafted on to it something else which would satisfy the feeling which I recognise as being so natural in cases like this. We have failed. If we could see any way in which it could be done we would do it, and if hon. Members opposite when they are on this side of the House can find any procedure which they think is better than the one we have adopted I have no doubt it will become the practice. At the present there is no alternative that we can see. We have had to use it, and we must stand by it in the House tonight. We have to ask for the confidence of the House, and some day for the confidence of the country.
§ Mr. Attlee
The Prime Minister has not dealt with one important point. How does he connect what he has said with regard to Communist activities with the action of these particular men and sabotage? Of what are they accused?
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
Did not a similar situation arise last August when accusations were laid before the Prime Minister against Sir Christopher Bullock. In that case he appointed a commission and notified the public of the names of the tribunal. The tribunal took evidence and Sir Christopher Bullock appeared before it. Why not in this case?
§ The Prime Minister
There is really no similarity between the two cases. It was a painful matter with which I had to deal and it was possible to produce all the, evidence. There was no reason why the 900 evidence should not be taken. Hon. Members more qualified than I, distinguished legal Members behind me, have stated the difficulties in any case of that kind. All Governments have an obligation to preserve two loyalties amongst their servants: loyalty to the State and loyalty to other members of the Service. I want the House to remember—it has been said before, but it cannot be emphasised too strongly—that dockyard men, whether skilled or unskilled, have inherited and maintained traditions as high and as loyal as those of highly placed officers in the Royal Navy itself. Dockyard workers, as far as I know, are proud of their service and do their best to maintain those traditions. Private employment differs perhaps in some ways from employment by the State. If a private employer loses confidence for any reason in the loyalty of any of his men, he can get rid of them if he thinks it desirable for the business and for their fellow-workers. In the same way similar occasions arise under the State. It is an unpleasant duty, but it is a duty that a Government cannot shirk, and we submit the whole of the case that has been debated to-day to the judgment of the House. I am convinced that a considerable majority of this House will feel that the Government have done what they should have done and in the only way that they could have done it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do not expect hon. Members to agree with me. I do not think it possible that they could. But I think the majority of the House will agree with me, and I have faith and believe that not only the House but the country will support us in the action we have taken.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The First Lord of the Admiralty said that io years ago a campaign was started in the Navy. If a campaign was started, the only party that could start such a campaign among the men in the Navy would be the Communist party. If we get the opportunity at any time we will make a campaign among the Navy men and the Army men, but it will be a political campaign directed towards winning them to the support of the party. We cannot win the support of men in the Navy by trying to drown them. The Communist party declares here emphatically that it will oppose by any and every means 901 anything in the nature of sabotage, anything that can endanger the lives of any seamen or soldiers of this country. I have had some experience of what is called subversive activity. During the War my activity was described continually as subversive. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in his memoirs says that my influence was the most sinister influence on the Clyde. I can tell the House that, in connection with the two first K-boats that were built, I was the man who fitted in some of the most important and delicate parts. I have worked in submarines, and I would never tolerate in any circumstances any interference with a submarine that would endanger the lives of the men.
I was the man who put in some of the most delicate instruments in the two airships built at Inchinnan from the captured zeppelins. At that time I was engaged in all kinds of political activities against the Government, against the War and against the rottenness and corruption associated with it; but never in any circumstances could I or those associated with me have any part in such activities as we are referring to now. From my knowledge of the workmen in the dockyards, I declare to the House and to the country that these men who have worked for many hard years of their life in the dockyard are absolutely innocent of any offence. It is a crime on the part of the First Lord and on the part of other hon. Members to try to associate the names of these men with the so-called sabotage. They have had nothing to do with it.
There were two accidents in 1933, but in 1935 there were actual cases of sabotage. That was when the British Navy was being sent to the Mediterranean and was being used for the purpose of trying, to hold back the aggression of another State. Did we not have in this House an exposure of certain subversive activities, and were not the names of those responsible for those activities known? Could not those acts of sabotage be related to the fact that the Navy was being sent, or being prepared at that particular time to go, to the Mediterranean? But
§ they had nothing to do with these five men, and I declare that these men were dismissed because they were suspected of political activities. I do not know any of the men. I only know the name mentioned to-night by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). As the hon. and learned Gentleman stated, that man is not a member of any party, nor even a member of his trade union, although it is obvious that he has been active in his locality in connection with certain questions, and he has probably given offence to some of his immediate superiors.
§ When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said that men in the dockyards were afraid to talk about politics in the public-house, it recalled to my mind an experience I had at a meeting which we were having near here, in Bedford Street. During the meeting we lifted up a trap door and found two gentlemen sitting on the steps leading up from the room below. They were C.I.D. men, and one of them is at present an important official. We dragged them up. I got hold of one and Wally Hannington got hold of the other. One of them exclaimed, "Don't hit us; you may want information from us some day." We took their notebooks from them, and found notes about a conversation in the Shaftesbury Hotel billiard room and a conversation in such and such a public-house, and things of that sort. Most of it was trash; and it was on trash of that sort that these men were sacked.
That this House, jealous of the rights and liberties of the subject, regrets the action of the Government in dismissing summarily five workmen from their employment in the Royal dockyards without informing them of what offence they were accused or affording them any opportunity of making any defence; believes that such action is contrary to the principles of British justice and detrimental to the best interests of the national service; and, taking note that under the regulations relating to discipline salaried officers are entitled to be supplied with particulars of any charges against them and to be given full opportunity of reply, is of opinion that this procedure should be applied in the present instance and in all future cases.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 145; Noes, 330.905
|Division No. 55.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Ammon, C. G.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Adamson, W. M.||Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Potts, J.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, T, (Tradeston)||Price, M. P.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Benson, G.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Bevan, A.||Hollins, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hopkin, D.||Ridley, G.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jagger, J.||Riley, B.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ritson, J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cape, T.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Cassells, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rowson, G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Chater, D.||Kirby, B. V.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Cooks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Short, A.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Silkin, L.|
|Dalton, H.||Leonard, W.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leslie, J. R.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Ede, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacLaren, A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maclean, N.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Thorne, W.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thurtle, E.|
|Frankel, D.||Mander, G. le M.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Gallacher, W.||Marshall, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mathers, G.||Walker, J.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pambroke)||Maxton, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gibbins, J.||Messer, F.||Whiteley, W.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Groves, T. E.||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hardie, G. D.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sir Charles Edwards and Mr. Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bull, B. B.||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Bullock, Capt. M.||Critchley, A.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Burghley, Lord||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Crooke, J. S.|
|Apsley, Lord||Burton, Col. H. W.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Assheton, R.||Butler, R. A.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Cross, R. H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Cary, R. A.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Culverwell, C. T.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Davison, Sir W. H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Dawson, Sir P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br.W.)||De Chair, S. S.|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Channon, H.||Danville, Alfred|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Dodd, J. S.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Doland, G. F.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Christie, J. A.||Donner, P. W.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Drewe, C.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Colfox, Major W. P.||Dugdale, Major T. L.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Colman, N. C. D.||Duggan, H. J.|
|Bracken, B.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Dunglass, Lord|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Dunne, P. R. R.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Eastwood, J. F.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Edge, Sir W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd, G. W.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Loftus, P. C.||Salt, E. W.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Loyat-Fraser, J. A.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lyons, A. M.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Entwistle, C. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Errington, E.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Savery, Servington|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Scott, Lord William|
|Everard, W. L.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Selley, H. R.|
|Fleming, E. L.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Furness, S. N.||McKie, J. H.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Gluckstein, L H.||Macquisten, F. A.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Magnay, T.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Maitland, A.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.||Somerset, T.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Spens, W. P|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Moreing, A. C.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Morgan, R. H.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Storey, S.|
|Homage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||Munro, P.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Nall, Sir J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Holmes, J. S.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Ormsby-Gere, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Heare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Home, Rt. Hon. Sir R. S.||Patrick, C. M.||Touche, G. C.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peake, O.||Train, Sir J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Peat, C. U.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Penny, Sir G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Petherick, M.||Turton, R. H.|
|Hunter, T.||Piekthorn, K. W. M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Pilkington, R.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Porritt, R. W.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Procter, Major H. A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Radford, E. A.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wells, S. R.|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Ramsbotham, H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Kimball, L.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rankin, R.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Rayner, Major R. H.||Wilton, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Raid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Reid, W. Alton (Derby)||Wise, A. R.|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Remer, J. R.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Leigh, Sir J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Rose, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wragg, H.|
|Levy, T.||Rots Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Lewis, O.||Rowlands, G.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Captain Margesson and Sir James Blindell.|