§ [FIFTH DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [29th October] to Question [26th October]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"— [Captain Balfour.]
Which Amendment was, at the end of the Question, to add the words:
But regret that Your Majesty's advisers by their weak and vacillating policy in Foreign Affairs, which has gravely imperilled the prospects of lasting peace and national security, betrayed the principles of the League of Nations and seriously diminished British influence, and by their lack of any constructive and fundamental proposals for raising the standard of life of the people or for establishing economic prosperity upon a just and enduring basis, have forfeited the confidence of this House."—[Mr. Herbert Morrison.]
Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I rise to support the Amendment moved on Friday by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), in a very powerful speech which I only regret I was unable to hear, owing to other engagements, but which I read with great pleasure. He has given the Foreign Secretary a good deal to answer. I, myself, intend to say something about the international situation before I sit down, but, since our Amendment is, as it were, a two-pronged fork, I propose first to put a little pressure on the domestic prong.
If I may I would say a word on the apparently vexed question of the cost of living. It appears to be the purpose of Ministers on that bench to argue that the cost of living has not risen and is not rising; but the unemployed know better; 564 the housewives and the old age pensioners know better; and even the officials of the Ministry of Labour know better. I have here one or two figures. I will not weary the House with many, but, if we take the general index of the cost of living, it is rising at an accelerated pace. Whereas in October, 1936, it stood at 148, and the food price index at 132, six months later, in April last, the general index had risen by three points to 151 and the food price index by three points to 135. My hon. Friends and I foretold in debate last April and May, with regret but with accuracy, that the rise would continue and accelerate; and we attributed this in considerable measure to the financial policy the Government were pursuing, in borrowing for armaments instead of paying their way by making rich people pay more taxation. This proved correct, and in the six months up to 1st October last the general index rose from 151 to 158, a rise of seven points, and the general food index rose from 135 to 143, a rise of eight points, and the rise is still continuing and still accelerating. I give only one more figure to illustrate, although I have in my hand a long list—which any hon. Member can obtain—of the Ministry of Labour's retail food prices of particular commodities. I take the price of salt butter, which rose between October, 1936, and October, 1937, from 1s. 2½d. to 1s. 3¾d. a lb., and in the Press this morning I read that it is now up to is. 8d. This is typical, and the Government will not be able to persuade anybody, outside the ranks of their supporters in this House, that this rise in prices is not real, and is not serious.
Broadly speaking, there are two reasons in our view for this rise. Let me say here that comparison with October, 1929—or even as the Home Secretary attempted, with an even earlier date—is beside the question; it is not of interest to young housewives and mothers of families who were not married in 1929. Since 1929, hundreds of thousands of new families have come into being, and many people have qualified for old age pensions who had not qualified at that time. They are concerned with what is happening now, and not with what was happening eight or nine years ago. The reasons for this rise are, in our view, first, the inflationary finance of the Government. We expressed that opinion in the Debates 565 on the Budget and we reassert them now. We said then that, if the Government had a five-year plan for a £400,000,000 deficit, that was inflationary finance, and was bound to force up the general level of prices. Further than this, so far as food prices are concerned, we say the rise in prices of the necessities of life is due to deliberate restriction of the supply of foodstuffs, by the Government's policy.
None of us here has any objection to—indeed we would all welcome—a greatly increased supply of food grown in this country under proper conditions, and, in particular, with a proper living wage for those who work on the land. We would support any suitable measure designed to achieve that. I might recall that when we endeavoured to secure, during the debates on some of the Government's subsidies, a living wage of £2 a week for agricultural workers, hon. Members opposite, including those for agricultural constituencies, went into the Lobby against it, a fact which their constituents will not quickly forget. In principle, since we would welcome an increased supply of home-grown food, we would have no objection to a properly-arranged scheme of subsidies, very different from the present miscellaneous scheme, which would have the effect of giving us a larger, more plentiful and cheaper supply of food, subject to proper conditions of life and labour on the land. That is not what we are getting. Not only are we not getting that, but the figures of production of food have been falling off in recent years. We are not getting the increased supply of food required in this country nor are the Government taking steps to get it from overseas.
I give one illustration only, which has not, I think, been mentioned before. From New Zealand there came to this country for the Imperial Conference a very able Finance Minister, Mr. Walter Nash, Minister for Finance and Markets of that Dominion, with a scheme and an offer which he made to this country—an offer which was rejected—to supply to this country an unlimited quantity, within the possibilities of New Zealand production, of dairy products and other foodstuffs which New Zealand can produce. He made the offer to devote all the rest of the exchange obtained, after debt charges had been met, by selling foodstuffs from New Zealand to this 566 country to the purchase of British manufactured goods. That was a wonderfully good offer, I should have thought; but the Government turned it down, and we have not yet had any explanation of their conduct in this matter. They threw away a very valuble additional market for British manufactured goods. And their action in this case although more flagrant than in some other cases, is typical of the policy of planned scarcity in regard to the food supply that they have followed for years.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
All New Zealand products are free imports into this country, are they not?
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman had any conversation with Mr. Nash on the details of his plan, as I did, but I can assure him that the offer would have led, had it been accepted, to a very great increase in the volume of trade in both directions, of foodstuffs from New Zealand to this country and manufactured goods from this country to New Zealand. Will the Government tell us, at any rate, why this particular proposal was turned down? Food prices are rising. That rise is bringing great distress to large sections of people; it is bringing great distress to the Special Areas, where a very large proportion of the people still subsist on unemployment assistance and public assistance. The Government have said no word in the King's Speech about the distressed areas. It would be of advantage to the House if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is to reply, could find some word to say about the distressed areas, because those of us who represent those constituencies are conscious that a very great deal more indeed must be done before the terrible blot which these areas still impose on the industrial map of this country is removed. I quote from an article in the "Times" this morning by a representative of that paper who is touring the Special Areas:There are in these Special Areas men and wives who still have to be numbered in hundreds of thousands, their home life blighted by the curse of unemployment.And he continues by giving particular illustrations of areas, including the area of South-West Durham, which I in part have the honour to represent, where no appreciable improvement at all has 567 occurred in spite of all the legislation and administrative efforts of the Government.
May I say a few words in passing, as a bridge between the subject of distressed areas and the subject of Defence, on the location of industry. "Years have been lost" as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney said in regard to air raid precautions—" years have been lost through the inactivity of the Government." Equally so with regard to the location of industry. Few of those who have studied the problem of the distressed areas—here I include persons of all parties and of no party— few of those who have given careful study to the problem of these areas would deny the statement that it is essential, if these areas are to be restored to even a tolerable prosperity, that new industries should be introduced; and this can come about only if the Government by one means or another, by financial inducements on a larger scale than hitherto, or better still, by a certain control over the location of new industries, exercised by and on behalf of the State—unless the Government so act on behalf of these areas. Years have passed, more than three years I think since Sir Malcolm Stewart, when he was the Commissioner for the Special Areas, made a most striking report on the increasing danger in respect of national Defence, the increasing danger to this country viewed as a composite air target if the present tendency for the agglomeration of industry and population in Greater London and in great Midland industrial areas such as Birmingham and other mass populations, was allowed to continue.
More than three years ago that warning was given. What has been done? A Royal Commission has been set up. It is still sitting, just beginning to sit. Whoever thought of a Royal Commission, whatever else may be said for it, as an appropriate method for dealing with a terribly urgent problem which may make all the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of people? While the Commission is sitting in a leisurely way, receiving evidence from Government Departments and private persons, the vulnerability of this country and island is growing from week to week and from month to month. The Government are still allowing new industries to be set up 568 in the Greater London area, in the neighbourhood of Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds and the rest, and all this time in the distressed areas there are going begging sites which are far more suitable from the point of view of vulnerability for these new industrial establishments, particularly those connected with the making of armaments. About shadow factories a little information is now being given out. Birmingham and Coventry for armament manufacture—what targets! The right place for new arms factories, even though the additional problem has to be faced of transferring trained personnel from other industrial centres, is in South Wales, the West of Scotland beyond the Pennines, on the Cumberland coast, and even up some of the Durham dales on this side of the Pennines. These are relatively invulnerable sites.
It is a curious chance which the Government have missed, that the relatively distressed areas of the country are also the relatively invulnerable areas. There these new munition plants should be set up. If that had been done the Government would have diminished the distress of prolonged unemployment and would also have diminished the vulnerability of the aggregate arms plant and of the industry of the country as a whole. It has not been done. A Royal Commission is sitting. The Royal Commission will continue to sit, these factories will continue to drift uncontrolled to the areas of greatest danger, and those places where men are still waiting and longing to work will continue to wait, and no aid will come to them along the road which it might so easily have been carried by a far-sighted Government.
A few words about the coming slump, about which I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer is still sceptical. I shall not quote in support of the belief that a slump is coming either persons of LeftWing political opinion or academic economists who are suppose to earn their living by studying these questions. I shall quote instead a recently ennobled captain of industry, who said:While we are taking every precaution to protect the country against attack, it is even more necessary to protect it against cycles of depression which have hitherto followed good times. I say to the Government and those concerned in industry, 'Plan now'.Those words were spoken on 20th October by Lord Austin, speaking at the 569 Austin Motor Company banquet in London. Although the Government have hitherto ignored both Socialist politicians and academic economists, I hope that they will pay some heed to a recently ennobled captain of industry. If we could only get Lord Nuffield to back up the plea perhaps some attention would be paid to it. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is still a complete sceptic as to the relative imminence of a trade slump, and, if not, whether the Government are taking any steps to guard against it.
The question of pensions is one to which my hon. Friends have given much attention. There are two reasons for that, partly because for a long while we have been convinced that the existing scale of old age pensions and widows' pensions is grossly inadequate, and partly because with the rise in the cost of living the hardships to the old persons who have to subsist upon 10s. a week have been greatly increased. Indeed, there is hardly a section of the community more defenceless against the rise in the cost of living than the aged population. The party with which I am associated put forth a little while ago a detailed scheme. The present Prime Minister did us the honour to read it, but said that there was nothing doing. We have noted that. The right hon. Gentleman said that having regard to the large amount of money to be spent on armaments there was nothing left to help the old people by way of an increase of the present rates of pensions. That statement has been duly noted. I wish to say here that we do not for a moment accept the view that it is impossible both to provide what armaments are necessary for this country and to make better provision for those who arc particularly the victims of the rise in the cost of living owing to the general mismanagement of domestic policy by the Government. External defence is indeed necessary, but internal defence against poverty and destitution is not less necessary, and we shall continue to press for justice to be done and proper consideration to be given to practical schemes such as that to which I have referred, for the improvement of the social services and in particular for bringing some contribution to the happiness and comfort and self-respect of our aged population.
I shall now turn to the other section of my right hon. Friend's Amendment. 570 I understand that the Foreign Secretary is to speak in the Debate. He has already much to answer, but we would be grateful to him if he would offer— that is if he can—any alternative solution to that put forward by my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. How can it be explained that His Majesty's Government, in all their permutations and commutations—four successive Foreign Secretaries, three of them still in the Cabinet and one of them acting leader of the House, successive Ministers of the Defence Departments, one right hon. Gentleman not thought to be a shining success at the War Office recently sent to sea but still a member of the Cabinet—how comes it about that this galaxy of talent, though continuing in office by swapping offices for six years, has so continually backed the wrong horse and taken the wrong side in decisions upon international policy? My right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment was driven to conclude, after an exhaustive examination of the evidence, that it was because the Government were continually blinded by class prejudices and class sympathies. He came to that conclusion, after an exhaustive examination of all the evidence. No doubt the Foreign Secretary will be able either to confirm that view or to give us another explanation. But in support of the hypothesis of my right hon. Friend I desire to quote—I apologise for quoting it for the second time in this House— the statement of a high authority who will not be suspected of Marxian philosophic leanings, with particular reference to the Mediterranean and the situation that would arise there is the event of a victory by General Franco. The authority upon whom I rely, not only in this matter but in many others, wrote as follows:The danger is so obvious that it is difficult to understand the eagerness with which some of the most avowedly patriotic sections of the British public have desired a rebel success. Class prejudice and property sense would seem to have blinded their strategic sight.That was written by Captain Liddell Hart, the military correspondent of the "Times." I frankly say that having endeavoured, like my right hon. Friend who moved the Amendment and Captain Liddell Hart, to get to the bottom of this most perplexing problem in psychology, I can find no alternative explanations to those which my right hon. Friend and 571 Captain Liddell Hart have put forward. Let me put the thing in a sentence to make it clear. Right through the Spanish business I believe it has been in the minds of Members of the Government and others of their supporters that a dinner party with General Franco as host would be rather a more high-class affair than one with Senor Negrin; and that the conversation would be more agreeable after dinner. I am trying to put the thing in a simple way, and I believe that that at bottom is the root of the trouble. Each to his own kind. At any rate, whatever may be the explanation, can it be denied that since 1931 the international outlook has grown blacker each year, blacker for Great Britain, blacker for the British Commonwealth and blacker for the great mass of humanity which desires only to live its life in peace? Indeed it cannot get much blacker—and I say this very seriously—without a fatal stormburst that will drown our civilisation in blood. Though hon. Members may dispute what I say about the historical background or about this or that technical problem, they will not dispute that the situation to-day is exceedingly menacing, and it is well that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary is going to give us the latest account of the situation. I hope that he will tell us not only what he proposes to say to foreign representatives, but also what he proposes to do.
I submit that for the last six years British foreign policy has been one long disorderly retreat from strong, well-prepared and easily defensible positions which the Government inherited in 193I. I am now talking about international affairs, but I am quite prepared to argue that point on other grounds. There can be no serious question about it. In 1931 there had been created for the safety of this country a series of strong defences. There was a strong League of Nations, and no powerful Air Forces in foreign countries on the scale there are to-day. Foreign air power was relatively weak in 1931. In Germany, in particular, there was very little of it—there may have been a little clandestine building—and in Italy also there was comparatively little. And I would ask hon. Members to note that it was Italy which made the proposal at Geneva which His Majesty's Government 572 rejected in the early days of the Disarmament Conference that all bombing aeroplanes should be swept away. In addition to this, the general situation was relatively peaceful in 1931, there were no wars in sight, with or without a declaration of war. Since then there has been a long process of disorderly retreat from strong positions to weak positions, from easily defensible positions to positions very difficult to defend; each line to which the Government have fallen back has been weaker than the one before. There has been this great retreat from Geneva, this great retreat from security and from treaty obligations.
In 1931 the right hon. Genlteman who is now leading the House made the first great surrender, the surrender to Japan. He abandoned China to her fate. In Mr. Stimson's own words he personally rebuffed Mr. Stimson and the United States Government, rejected their offers of co-operation. This was the beginning of the backward slide, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was its originator. In 1932 came the Disarmament Conference. The right hon. Gentleman was prominent there also. He and Lord Londonderry between them wrecked the Disarmament Conference—a great combination. Lord Londonderry was dismissed by Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, but he has been re-instated by the new Prime Minister. He has been made Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation, and he has been re-instated as entertainerin-Chief to the Conservative party in the eve-of-Parliament beano, as Lord Curzon would have called it. Evidently his stock is rising again. It was Lord Londonderry, let us not forget, who in a moment of confidence in their Lordships' House said:I had the utmost difficulty in preserving the use of the bombing aeroplane.Listen how those words sound better and better as the months pass. "Even," said the noble Lord, in the same confession:on the frontiers of the Middle East and in IndiaEven in China, even in Spain, even in Abyssinia. To-morrow, even where? If one incident more than another was a token of fate, if one moment's demoralisation was more than another for this country and the world, it was that moment at Geneva in the Disarmament Conference in the early days of His Majesty's Government threw their 573 obstructive weight against proposals coming forward, with great support from many quarters, for drastic limitations of the air arm. That was one of the wrong turns in British foreign policy, and it is difficult to forgive those who were entangled in that decision. In 1933 and 1934, the Disarmament Conference having broken down and German democracy having been wrecked, Herr Hitler came into power and started to arm. He armed without let or hindrance. I am not sure that His Majesty's Government made even a formal protest against the breaking of that part of the Versailles Treaty which proscribed a German Air Force. But it should be noted that His Majesty's Government not only let. Herr Hitler arm in the air without let or hindrance, but they allowed him to get ahead of this country in the air. The Government, which is talking so much to-day about air defence, allowed Germany to outbuild us in the air. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary went to Berlin to have a friendly chat with Herr Hitler and heard for the first time that Germany had more aeroplanes than we had; it came to him as a great surprise. But this most disquieting incident in the record of this Government, which speaks so much about rearmament, is that it is made worse by the fact that Lord Baldwin, as he is now, deliberately deceived the country on this matter and later on told the House that he had deceived the country. In 1936, looking back in the days preceding the last General Election Lord Baldwin said:From 1933 I and my friends were all very worried about what was happening in Europe.… My position as the leader of a great party was not altogether a comfortable one. …That, I suppose, is true of all leaders of great parties at all times:Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was re-arming and that we must re-arm. … I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1936; col. 1144, Vol. 317.]Therefore, Lord Baldwin did not tell the country that Germany was re-arming, he delayed a process of enlightenment which was most desirable from the point of view of the genera] interest. It is well we should know what people are doing, particularly if they have certain ideologic prejudices. That knowledge was held back from the country by the late Prime 574 Minister and from that act of concealment many evils have flowed. After this delay the retreat continued; it became a rout when Signor Mussolini put his troops through the Red Sea into Abyssinia. At that time the present Foreign Secretary had succeeded his predecessor who was rejected because the Hoare-Laval agreement scandalised the conscience of the country. But the right hon. Gentleman, having succeeded to his high office, led the rout at Geneva, and Signor Mussolini at that time conceived at once a hatred and contempt for this country which in the eye of history may be most important. It was the incapacity of the Government to warn him not to go to Abyssinia or, once he had started to stop him, but they did neither of these things. [HON. MEMBERS: "War!"] You will get war, if you go on as you are going, and you will get it soon and you will get it without allies and without bases. That is where we are drifting through the action of the Government. From 1914 to 1918 many nations were with us, which are likely to be against us on the next occasion. These are plain facts in the record of the foreign policy of this so-called National Government, but no Government has more grossly betrayed the national interest of this country.
Finally, we come to Spain and the farce of non-intervention. That has been much debated lately and I merely refer to it in passing. This country is now threatened as never before since 1918. We are talking about air raid precautions; it has become a topic of polite conversation. We are still talking. It is true we have had an answer at Question Time this afternoon, but up to now it has been only talking. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very rightly accused by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney of having wasted precious years when he was Home Secretary, having had to leave the Foreign Office. One of his chief duties there was to study the question of defence against air attack, which was a growing menace as a result of the follies of his own policy as Foreign Secretary. Now the right hon. Gentleman has moved to the Treasury and my right hon. Friend is hopeful that his successor at the Home Office is going to be a little quicker than the right hon. Gentleman. But even as Chancellor of the Exchequer the right hon. Gentleman is haggling over half- 575 pence, with the local authorities, whether the Government shall pay 6o or 80 per cent. or some other per cent. towards pressing forward with what is a most vital factor in the defences of these islands. Perhaps I might offer the suggestion that the best air raid precaution that we could have would be to get rid of the present Government and put another one in its place; but for the moment that particular air raid precaution must, I suppose, be postponed.
May I glance now at the international situation as we see it? There are three great Powers, Germany, Italy and Japan, and it would be an exaggeration to say that any of them is exceptionally friendly towards this country, even under a National Government. Those countries have certain qualities and certain ambitions in common which could be satisfied, in large part, only at the expense of certain possessions and privileges now British-owned. They have all placed their national economy and their national mentality alike on a war basis, and they are preparing, without any concealment, on the greatest scale of which they are severally capable—and the Japanese are having a dress rehearsal of the process— for a great war.
We cannot be quite sure that if that great war came we should not be one of the victims of their armaments. Moreover, there is a tendency for them to draw more closely together. They have forged a link between themselves, which is also a bit of food for simpletons, in the socalled Anti-Comintern Pact. I often think that one of the ways in which those class-based delusions, to which I referred earlier on, are most skilfully fed, by German and Japanese propagandists in particular, is by pretending that our own point of common interest with them is anti-Communism. Of course, all English gentlemen properly brought up will agree with that. Therefore, you have there the basis of an understanding, either positive, against Russia, or negative, to stand aside while somebody else does something to Russia. It is so simple that it ought not to deceive anybody, but I fear that it has deceived some hon. Members opposite. The Anti-Comintern Pact is a very clever catch. It will not catch us, but I am not sure that it is not catching some Members of the Government.
576 There you have a potential combination, and if it became actual, it would be a very formidable combination. Where is our potential combination to put up against it? Is there one? Where are our friends? Some of them are getting rather tired, some are losing faith, and some are not encouraged by what happened in the Mediterranean in 1935. It would be wise to have in mind a potential combination in case the one of which I am speaking came to be a reality. Some of us think that that potential combination might yet be found through the League of Nations. In spite of all that this Government has done to weaken the League, we still believe in it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has expressed a belief in it too. Is anything like that in the mind of the Government? Are they working at all towards the consolidation of an alternative potential combination which might perhaps, if it showed itself just a little above the surface of diplomatic possibilities, prevent that other combination from becoming as dangerous as it might become?
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary is going to some more conferences, to which I expect he will refer in the course of his speech; but if he will forgive me for saying so, I am reminded when I look at him, of one of the cartoons of the immortal Low. It is a cartoon in which there are represented two dictators, fully armed, each followed by a file of fully armed men, steel-helmeted and with rifles with fixed bayonets on their shoulders, and the right hon. Gentleman is shown in civilian dress. as is proper in a democracy, dancing about in front of those two dictators, who are boldly marching onwards, dancing ever backwards, extending a piece of paper and crying pitifully, "Autograph, please!" Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman remembers that particular masterpiece of Low. Such a retreat, involuntary and undignified, is not, I believe, a very efficacious form of diplomatic action. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us this afternoon not only what he is going to say, but what he is going to do. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman many speeches, amiable, eloquent and full of well-turned phrases; but they have all withered away when the moment for action and decision has arisen. If 577 there is one thing above all others which discredits democratic politics, it is this terrible divorce between brave words and cowardly acts, between speeches and deeds. I hope the right hon Gentleman will not be led up the garden once more. He has been led up the garden many times, particularly in regard to Spain, by what has been said to him by the representatives of other States. I hope that will not happen again. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us in his speech some statement of his intentions.
I have tried—although I do not pretend to expect that hon. Members opposite will agree with everything that I have said—to make this contribution to the problem. I have tried to bring the House to realise that we are in the midst of an extremely grave world situation. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney warned the Government, in his speech on Friday last, that we were in danger of drifting—and "drift" is the word that expresses it—into semi-isolation, with hardly any friends or sure allies, or any sure basis for common action agreed upon, drifting in the direction of a first-class war against one firstclass Power, or a combination of two or even three Powers. This British Commonwealth is vulnerable, its scattered lifelines are all open to the knife of these people, and there is no evidence— and it is this that appals my hon. Friends and myself—that the Government are really aware of these dangers, or that if the Government are aware of them, they are taking any really effective steps to deal with them. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, "What are the Government going to do about it?" Let us have some assurance. Even at this late hour we might get a little comfort from the assurance that the Government are not quite blind to all the lessons of the last six disastrous years. Although they will not admit it here in Debate, it would be something if we could feel that in their hearts they knew that these had been years full of the most disastrous mistakes in the sphere of foreign policy, and that now, at long last, there is about to be a change of emphasis, of purpose and of direction.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
The hon. Member for 578 Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) began his speech with a number of references to the domestic situation. I do not conceal from the House that it would be welcome to me to speak upon that subject for a while, just as welcome as it seems to be to many hon. Members to speak on foreign affairs; but as the hon. Gentleman truly said, the Government have many criticisms to answer arising out of this Debate. I will at the outset concede him one point. He asked me whether the Government are aware of the seriousness of the international situation. Of course we are. That is why I regretted one or two of the sentences spoken by the hon. Gentleman, who is usually so prudent, as befits him with his Foreign Office experience, in what he says to the House. It is because we realise how serious the situation is that I am not going to waste much of the time of the House this afternoon in debating once again what happened in 1931, 1932, 1933 and so forth. It is above all with the present situation and criticisms of it that I wish to deal.
I will say only one thing, in passing, of the last few years. The hon. Gentleman said that the main burden of responsibility lies with His Majesty's Government. As far as I know, nobody pretends that this Government has ever failed to observe itself the international obligations to which it has set its name. We have referred every dispute in which we have ever been concerned to arbitration, as we were bound to do. Certainly, all that could be done by precept and example has been done, and if there is criticism, it is against our ability, not alone, but in conjunction with and sharing the responsibility with others, to en-, force the role of policeman. We have observed our own obligations, but we have not been able to compel everybody else to observe theirs. I want, in speaking this afternoon, to concentrate mainly upon four speeches that were in criticism of the Government —the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). The critics of the foreign policy of the Government possess one great advantage in that they may indulge in almost un- 579 limited indiscretion—and if I may say so with respect, they have not been shy in that connection—in their criticism, whereas the Foreign Secretary of the day is inevitably limited by considerations of even more importance than making a good case for the Government in this House. Many a point has to be reluctantly set aside because its use might constitute an abuse in a more important sphere; but there are occasions when restraint may surely be to some extent relaxed, and I want this afternoon, as nearly as I feel I can, to approach that condition which Lord Baldwin once described as being "appallingly frank." I would like to begin with a reference, not to any of the speeches to which I want to reply, but to a question that was put to me a little earlier this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). I asked him to be good enough to allow me to answer that question during the Debate, which I thought would be a more appropriate moment. His question had to do with certain aspects of the Colonial problem. The House will no doubt have observed that during recent days a country that had itself, as the outcome of the Great War, gained very considerable accessions of territory in Europe and also received certain territorial concessions in Africa from countries which were her Allies in the Great War, has now championed the claim of Germany to African possessions. I do not desire to add anything at this moment about this claim so far as it concerns Germany and ourselves. But I must now declare plainly that we do not admit the right of any Government to call upon us for a contribution when there is no evidence to show that that Government are prepared to make any contribution on their own account.
Now I come to some of the criticisms which have been uttered. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in his references to the Nyon Agreement contrasted the promptitude with which, he said, we had acted there, with the delays of the Non-Intervention Committee, arguing that we were active for Imperialist interests, but less active in what concerns international law. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's censure. The right hon. Gentleman drew this distinction and I wish to point out to the House that it has no existence whatever 580 in fact. It is difficult to imagine an arrangement which is less exclusively concerned with our own interests. The Agreement was reached among all the Powers there, to protect the freedom of commerce in the Mediterranean. It is true that action falls almost exclusively on our Navy and the French Navy, but we are not acting and have not been acting, all these weeks, on our own behalf alone. The ships of all nations were being sunk —Danish, Dutch, even Russian—and all those nations are now having their commerce protected as well as our own. We reported what we had done to the Council of the League, who certainly did not feel that we had been either selfish or Imperialist and, indeed, expressed their approval of what we had done.
As I have said, I do not wish to go at length over the past, but there are two references which I wish to make in answer to what fell from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs when he was speaking about the Manchurian affair and the events of 1931, said there had been a complete failure to take action in connection with that dispute. He also said that there had been complete agreement among the Members of the League. I would ask him with respect, "agreement to take what action?" It is perfectly true, of course, that Members of the League were agreed upon the resolution which was passed and which resulted in the withdrawal of Japan from the League, but if he means by "agreement," agreement upon action to impose economic sanctions, then, with respect, I say that he is wrong. I was not there, but I have taken the trouble to have the records searched, and as far as I can discover there was no proposal made at the League, at any time during that dispute, to put economic sanctions upon Japan. So, I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he means when he says that there was complete agreement among Members of the League to take action, and gives the impression that it was we alone who were not prepared to take it.
Then, on another matter, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down gave with some skill an impression which is often given on the public platform. I admit at once, and the world knows it, that the sanctions imposed in the 581 Abyssinian dispute failed of their effect, but the hon. Gentleman gave the impression that the League was most anxious to impose all sorts of further and more serious sanctions and that it was we who held back. That must be known to the House to be an utterly false impression. After all, there were three great Powers in the League at that time. Is the hon. Gentleman going to suggest that it was the France of that day that was so anxious to impose more sanctions? He knows just as well as I do, what were the views of the French Government of that time. If the criticism is, and I admit the force of it, that we took off sanctions, in the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite too soon, then I would remind him of the suggestion which he made himself in that Debate: "Do not take them off now, but go on as you are until September." Surely it is clear to anybody that the continuation of these sanctions from July to September would have made no difference whatever to the result, once the military victory had been gained. If the hon. Gentleman does not agree with my version, let him look up the speech of M. Litvinoff. In an extremely frank speech at the Assembly he told us that there were those who urged the League to put on more sanctions. Then he worked out details to show that even of the sanctions that had been voted a quarter of them had not been applied at all by the nations of the League—that a quarter of the nations had not applied the sanctions which were imposed.
I do not want to elaborate these past events, but I feel that if the House is to arrive at a fair estimate, it should take account, not only of the natural desire to criticise the Government, but of the realities of the international situation. As I listened to the hon. Member for Derby I must say that I thought he must have pride of place in unreality. I deal first with his comments about the Spanish dispute and the League. He complained— and knowing his sincere belief in the League, I understand the sentiment which forces his complaint—that the League did not handle the Spanish dispute. He knows, of course, that on two occasions the League itself by unanimous resolution blessed the work of the Non-Intervention Committee. I know the hon. Gentleman thinks that that action was solely due to my Machiavellian influence. He has been good enough to say so in 582 his speeches in the country. He seems to blame me; he seems to think that the League would have loved to seize this prickly and difficult problem, but that I would not let them do what they wanted to do.
Let me assure him that the League never showed any enthusiasm to handle the Spanish problem, for the very simple reason that the League knew how sharp were the divergencies of views within that organisation about Spain. Twice they approved the reference of the matter to the Non-Intervention Committee. The third time that it had to deal with the question was in the Assembly this year, but this time the blame cannot rest on my shoulders because on this occasion His Majesty's Government, fortunately, was represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the French Government were represented by M. Blum. I think the Committee wrestled for days, and I am not sure that they did not also wrestle by night, trying to secure agreement on a resolution which they could put before the whole Assembly. At length they thought they had got it. They brought it before the Assembly and, as the House know, two voted against it. What is more important is that 14 abstained. I make no secret of the fact, that no League resolution could have stronger support or stronger patronage than the fact that England and France together were in favour and this resolution asked for no action whatever. Even so, there were 14 abstensions, and the House can see for itself what the position would have been if an attempt had been made to induce the League to do what the hon. Gentleman wants and to impose sanctions in the Spanish dispute.
Whatever the merits or otherwise of trying to impose sanctions in the Spanish dispute, there was never the remotest chance of the League doing anything of the kind, and, frankly, I do not think it right to come to this House even to discuss the possibility of these things, when we know how utterly unreal it all is. The truth is, and it must be faced, that the whole world does not look upon the Spanish dispute exactly in the same way as hon. Gentlemen opposite. There are, discreditable though hon. Gentlemen opposite no doubt think it, a great many nations, Members of the League, who want General Franco to win.
§ Mr. Eden
There are those who believe that Communist propaganda is more responsible for the state of Spain than any other organism, and hon. Members will find that that belief is particularly strong among South American States who are related in blood to the Spanish people. I am not saying that that is my view or that it is not my view. That is immaterial for the sake of my argument. The point which the House has to take into account is that on this issue the League and the world and public opinion in the great democracies are very sharply divided, and if we do not face that fact, it is, frankly, useless to attempt to discuss this Spanish problem at all.
The hon. Gentleman's other complaint was that League action had not been taken in China, but that action had been taken—again, as it happens, not on our initiative—to refer this Far Eastern dispute to the signatories of the Nine-Power Treaty. The hon. Gentleman refuses to appreciate the difference between the position which the United States Government occupy at Geneva and the position which they will occupy at Brussels, but surely that difference is vital. At Geneva the United States representative was only an observer, taking no part in the proceedings and having no responsibility for the decision. We all know that any action, whatever the character of that action, that can be taken in this Far Eastern dispute does essentially depend upon the cooperation of the United States, and I say without hesitation, unlike the hon. Gentleman, that in order to get the full cooperation on an equal basis of the United States Government in an international conference, I would travel, not only from Geneva to Brussels, but from Melbourne to Alaska, more particularly in the present state of the international situation.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman made deprecatory references to the man who was until recently Prime Minister of Belgium, M. Van Zeeland.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I said that the British Government had used him as an agent; 584 that it was obviously very difficult for M. Van Zeeland to refuse, and that I regretted very greatly that they had so used him.
§ Mr. Eden
I hope the hon. Gentleman will carry that explanation further, because I want to do justice to a man who is now in a very difficult position. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that M. Van Zeeland has been subject to attacks by Fascist organisations in his own country and I am quite honestly surprised that the hon. Gentleman should wish to include M. Van Zeeland in his indictment of His Majesty's Government. He said that M. Van Zeeland was our cat's paw during what he called the Hoare-Laval proposals. M. Van Zeeland had nothing whatever to do with those proposals. Then, the hon. Gentleman said, or implied, that as a result of pressure from us the Conference was being held at Brussels. It is not always easy to lift the veil of diplomatic secrecy and confidence, but as this is a small matter, though perhaps rather important to one person, I feel I ought to make it clear that the initiative for the holding of the Conference in Brussels never came from us at all, but from the United States Government itself. I ask the House to believe that I am not trying to score a debating point.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
May I ask whether that request came after the decision had been made at Geneva to hold the Conference outside Geneva?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Is it not a fact that the proposal had been made in Geneva and that Mr. Cordell Hull had made it plain that he would rather come to Geneva than go outside?
§ Mr. Eden
No, the hon. Gentleman is quite unjustified in his statement. The point that I am making and that he is trying to sidetrack is that, while it was agreed that the Nine-Power Conference should be held, it was the United States Government, and not us, that suggested Brussels as the meeting place. Therefore, this is the point, that the charge that M. Van Zeeland was our catspaw is wholly unjustified, and I say that deliberately, because during the 585 Rhineland incident of the Spring of last year, to which hon. Members opposite in their own manifesto have drawn attention as being one of the most critical periods through which we have passed—and it was—during that time the then Belgian Prime Minister played a very considerable part in ensuring that the consequences of that incident were not more serious for Europe than they have been. I apologise for that digression, but I wished to make it.
Now may I come to the criticisms of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs? He drew, with all that brilliant eloquence that seems to grow stronger rather than dimmer with the passage of years, a highly coloured picture of the international situation and of the Spanish situation in particular, but, like many accomplished lightning artists, the right hon. Gentleman left out all those elements in the composition of his picture which he found most inconvenient. Perhaps I ought not to endeavour to embark on an artistic metaphor in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), so I will change it to a metaphor more in tone with the speech which the right hon. Gentleman delivered—a bellicose metaphor. Some of us remember an experience which we had during the war years from a certain form of trench mortar. That trench mortar used to arrive in our trenches and used to hurl towards the enemy a very powerful explosive, and, having done so, used to be withdrawn into other areas, leaving it to those unfortunates who were in the front-line trench to bear the consequences of the indignant wrath of the enemy. We used to call those trench mortars, perhaps not very respectfully, "circuses," and I confess they were not at all popular with us in the line at that time. I think the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in its action on the international situation, was perhaps not unlike the activities of that trench mortar.
The right hon. Gentleman's indictment was not really an indictment against nonintervention as such; it was an indictment based on charges that non-intervention had worked most unfairly towards the Spanish Government. That is the case on which I want to concentrate and to deal with the House with more frankness than has been possible hitherto, though not even now with as much frankness as 586 I should wish. The right hon. Gentleman did not, if I may say so, tell the whole story. There was one point with which I agreed entirely, and that was when he said it was easy to exaggerate the importance of the foreign nationals in Spain. It is, but it is not easy to exaggerate their political importance—not at all—because until each one is withdrawn, there will not be a return of confidence to the Mediterranean. But it is easy to exaggerate their military importance, because each side has now hundreds of thousands of men under arms, and the foreign element in that sense is not so important. But if they are to be proclaimed, if, for instance, the hon. Member for Derby is to advertise the Italian victory at Santander, equally I think we must proclaim, if only in justice to very brave men, the fact that the International Brigade saved Madrid a year ago.
The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly concentrated, not on the question of men, but on the question of material. He said, and I agree, that it was the most important element to be considered. I confess I was surprised that one who was Prime Minister of this country in the Great War should have left out of all his calculations a most important element— the sea. The right hon. Gentleman said the Spanish Government had only one frontier, their frontier with France. That is not true. They have another, a vitally important frontier, the sea, and everybody who has watched the course of this war closely knows the very important factor which the freedom of access to Spanish ports in the East has been to the Spanish Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that submarines were sinking the ships. So they were, for a few short weeks, but that has now all ceased.
§ Mr. Eden
By an aeroplane, not by a submarine. One of the results of the Nyon Agreement, though not its aim, has been to facilitate the arrival of very large quantities of material to Spanish Government ports, and, of course, there have been, the House must know perfectly well, enormous quantities of material arriving in Spanish Government ports throughout the year. There is no need for me to dive into Secret Service sources. I have only to look at the official figures of the 587 Soviet Government themselves, which they have published. This is the "Daily Telegraph" report, published on Saturday, but I must say at once that it confirms the general trend of the official figures which we have got. This report gives the figures for nine months, but they are proportionately the same as our figures, which are for seven months.
§ Mr. Eden
This is from Moscow last Friday, and these figures, official Soviet Government figures, show that Spain is now Soviet Russia's third best customer and that she took from Russia in the last nine months 440,000 tons of goods. valued at 3,5oo,000. The trade was hardly complementary, because at the same time Spain only exported 44,000 tons of goods. One interesting thing which these figures show is that from January to September this year Russia shipped to Spain nearly 10 times as much in weight and 4½ times as much in value as in the corresponding period for 1936. [Interruption.] I am not saying it is wrong; I am only asking hon. Members to note the fact. Some of these increases are very interesting. For instance, there is a very large figure for tractors, there is a very large figure for fertilisers, and so on, and there are large figures, of course, as one would expect, for oil, oil products, and so forth. I go on to a Russian Army publication with which hon. Members opposite, I expect, or some of them, will be familiar, called the "Red Star." That refers to the crushing superiority of the Republican Air Force in Spain and it claims that German and Italian machines are entirely outclassed by the single-seater fighters and fast bombers of the Government forces. Of course, it does not say where they came from.
§ Mr. Eden
Friday last. Then it goes on to claim that since 1st August the Nationalists have lost in aerial combat 50 planes, against a Government loss of 25. I cannot vouch for the figures; I am merely giving them to the House. It says, in addition to this, that110 Nationalist machines have, it is claimed, been destroyed in raids on aerodromes, as against a loss of only 25 Government planes in similar circumstances.588 The point that I want to make is, as the House knows perfectly well, that on the Government side there are also large arrivals of war materials and that on the Government side Russian tanks and Russian aeroplanes have played a most important part in the war. When the right hon. Gentleman was taking the example of those places in the North, Bilbao and so forth, he must know that those were areas to which these Russian tanks and Russian aeroplanes could not effectively be got. It was not a question of the Spanish Government not having materials, but that they could not get them to the places where they wished to use them, and that is the chief contention that I want to make—the importance of the command of the sea.
Mr. Lloyd George
My case was not that no material had been received, either from Russia or possibly from France, and, I believe, Mexico, but that this agreement had operated in such a way that there was an overwhelming superiority in the quantities which came from Germany and Italy in comparison with what came to the Valencia Government. After all, from what I know of munitions, even if all that 3,500,000 had been spent on them, it would not have amounted to much.
§ Mr. Eden
I am very reluctant to weight the scales. I would like to give as much information as I can. I wish to be as fair as I can, and I think it fair to say this, that I could not stand at this Box and tell the House that during the Summer months of this year there had been more material reaching the insurgent forces than there had been reaching the Government forces. I could not say that. It certainly has been very large, but that is not still, if I may say so, the point that I want to make. The point that I want to make is the connection of the position at sea with the fact that the Government of Spain got, not only war material, but anything at all. Does anybody dispute this, that had there not been foreign intervention in this war, one of two things would have happened—either it would have been over long since, or, alternatively, belligerent rights would have been granted? That would certainly have been the normal course to pursue in a dispute of this kind. I have only to point out that our plan, which came before the Non-Intervention Committee in the summer, allowed for the granting of belligerent rights in certain 589 conditions and that every nation in Europe, except Russia, assented.
If we are agreed upon that, I will explain the deduction that I make from it. Can anyone doubt this? Supposing it is admitted that normally belligerent rights would have been granted, the granting of such rights in the present conditions would have been immensely beneficial to the Power which is strongest at sea, which, of course, at present are the insurgent forces. What happened was that that non-intervention sought to create a new form of neutrality. Say, if you will, that it has succeeded or failed, but a result of that new form of neutrality has been that belligerent rights have not been granted, and a result of that has been to deprive the Power that is strongest at sea—surely this country, of all others, should understand the importance of that—of the use of its superiority. I say that at the moment the insurgent forces are paying a very heavy price at sea for the assistance they may be receiving from foreign nationals on land. There are many good judges who have watched this war who cannot understand why some time before the insurgent forces have not made a bargain of letting go the foreigners on their soil and using the immense power which would be put in their hands by even a limited form of belligerent rights.
Duchess of Atholl
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the insurgent forces as being now the strongest at sea. May I ask him whether, if what he calls a normal form of neutrality had been adopted at the beginning, it would have inured to the advantage of the insurgents? Were they then stronger at sea?
§ Mr. Eden
For the first few weeks the Government were stronger at sea, but on the north coast of Spain the ships of General Franco are stronger now. I do not wish to labour this point. I have to deal with an aspect of the question quite different from that which concerns hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have to deal with the two chief complaints of the insurgent authorities. What are they? First, what happened at Bilbao where British ships—and only British ships, let it be admitted virtually forced their way into the harbour, brought help to the gamson, and without doubt extended the duration of the conflict. We were the only people who did it. Secondly, I 590 have to deal with the complaint about belligerent rights. There is an answer to both. The answer is, "Because you have enjoyed non-intervention you cannot enjoy the privileges which would otherwise have been yours."
I put these points because I want the House to appreciate that in balancing the situation the right hon. Gentleman—unwittingly I am sure—did not give what I believe to be a fair weighing of the pros and cons in this matter. It is by no means so easy to demonstrate that the weight of a policy of non-intervention has been on one side. I venture to forecast that when full details are given of what has arrived in Spain on both sides in the way of munitions and so forth, hon. Members on the other side of the House will have some surprises. Before I conclude that part of the subject I would like to refer to one other criticism made by the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always speak—I understand it is their sentiment and their conviction—as though in Spain itself the nation were nine-tenths pro Government and perhaps one-tenth pro-Franco, and that foreign intervention has made all the difference. That is not so. I will give one example. The other day the Communist party in France made some complaint about the transfer of refugees back to Spain. There was some complaint about the way in which these refugees had been handled and the "Populaire," the Socialist paper of France, in its answer set out the figures. It said that all these refugees were given the option to go back to whatever part of Spain they liked and the result was fifty-fifty; approximately 22,000 went to Franco and 22,000 to the Government side. If you take an average of the population of Spain you would find, I believe, that average division of numbers—
§ Mr. Thurtle
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Prime Minister, Dr. Negrin, told me that there are over 4,000,000 Spanish people out of the population of 26,000,000 who have come over voluntarily from the country governed by Franco to Government territory because they prefer to be under that regime? He' said, further, that the fact that 4,000,000, had come over like that indicated that there were many more millions who would come over if they could.
§ Mr. Eden
Of course I am not contesting the good faith of what he said, but even the hon. Member must realise that he is something of a partisan in this matter. The only point I wish to make is that the main object of this non-intervention policy—and here, with respect, I join issue with the right hon. Gentleman—has not been to help one side or another in Spain. We may have our own sentiments as to what we want to happen in this matter, but the main object has been to neutralise and localise this war and to prevent it spreading to Europe as a whole. I venture to say that that is not an unimportant contribution to put into the scales at a time like this. The right hon. Gentleman swept it aside and said that there was not going to be a war anywhere. It is easy to say that from the Opposition. It is not so easy to act upon that assumption as the Government of the country. Recently a very similar charge was made against the French Government at the Bournemouth of the French Socialist party. I think that the Bournemouth was Marseilles. M. Blum dealt with it very effectively, and I should like to quote a word of what he said in answer to charges very similar to those with which a more suspect individual like myself has to deal:Call non-intervention a lie, a fiction if you like, but the fact remains that it has helped to stop a general war. I am told I have only increased the dangers of war in the future. But the fact is that time has not been working against us, and if to-day there are grave dangers, we are in a different position from that of last year, and that thanks to this so-called fiction. France is now united, agreement with Great Britain is complete "—I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman never once referred to France—the international situation is changed, international opinion has changed.As regards the increased danger of war in the future, M. Blum went on to say:I will not accept this line of argument; the party will never accept it. It is the sort of argument used to justify a preventive war.As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman I felt that in his speech he did not finish what he had to say, that the logical conclusion of his speech was not the mere opening of a frontier, which I believe 592 might well make no material difference to the result of the war, but either active intervention by ourselves or else a preventive war.
I want to come to a point often debated about the Spanish situation. There are those who are convinced that, supposing the insurgent forces are victorious, the result will be a Spain in active alliance with a foreign policy directed against this country. I do not accept that. We are just as alive to the dangers as hon. Members opposite; but there are strong forces working in another direction, forces of trade and commerce, forces of geography. This country is still, and will continue to be, I trust, the greatest naval Power in Europe. That is not without its effect when it is known that we have no intention, no kind of after-thought, either direct or indirect, about the territorial integrity and the political independence of Spain. Spaniards know that very well. They know very well, too, that no British war material has killed any Spaniard on either side. These factors will, I believe, be important in the future. I am not going to accept the argument that when this conflict is over and supposing there be an insurgent victory, it is inevitable that such a Government will be hostile to this country. We have every desire to live on friendly terms with Spain, whatever be the ultimate outcome of this conflict; and I believe that Spain—and those who prophesy an early decision may be wrong—whatever the outcome, will share that sentiment. Supposing those who use that argument are right. Supposing that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland is right when he tells us that General Franco must not be allowed to win. If that is the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I repeat that it is no good talking about the opening of frontiers. If that is your view, you have to take action to ensure a certain result, and the only action which would be effective is actual intervention on our own part. Unless you are to do that it is no use speaking in such a threatening way.
§ Mr. Dalton
The right hon. Gentleman is not quoting me quite correctly. I said that it is a British interest that General Franco should not win.
§ Mr. Eden
I have the hon. Gentleman's words here—I do say that on broad interests General Franco must not win.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1937; col. 1820, Vol. 326.]593 I want to deal with a very important speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney. I want first to take the preliminary point which he made. He spoke, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland has spoken to-day, about class consciousness, which, he said, was responsible for the alleged mistakes in our foreign policy. It is a very unpleasant sounding phrase and I have not the least idea what it means, but I would note in passing that the hon. Gentleman and I had the privilege of being educated at the same public school and that we proceeded to colleges associated with that public school in the two universities. I do not know whether that is what is meant by class consciousness. There is only one difference between us: he was an ornament both at Eton and at King's, whereas I was neither an ornament at Eton nor at Christ Church. Otherwise it is an exact description of what he called just now, "each to his own kind."
§ Mr. Dalton
If the right lion. Gentleman is bringing the discussion down to what I may call a personal plane, it is worth observing that the authority I quoted in support of my right hon. Friend's diagnosis was himself educated at Eton and Corpus Christi, Cambridge, namely, the military correspondent of the "Times."
§ Mr. Eden
It becomes more and more interesting. I imagine that what the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney mean is that because this is a Centre, or, if you prefer to call it, a Right Government, therefore we like to associate with Centre and Right Governments in foreign policy. If this ridiculous phrase has any meaning at all, that is what it means. At the moment it so happens that our most intimate relations by far in foreign affairs are with the French Government, who are a Government of the Left, and I am bound to say that in the many exchanges I have been privileged to have with French Ministers, of the Left, Right or Centre, in the course of the last two years, I have never known one who came up to me and said, "I would like to be your friend but, look out, I am terrified of class consciousness."
Let me come back to the right hon. Member for South Hackney. None of us on this side of the House differs from 594 him in the aims which he put forward. Nobody more than the Foreign Secretary of this country desires a world organisation whose authority shall be unchallenged. We know only too well that only when the world enjoys such an authority will peace unquestionably be supreme. But I have to face, as the right hon. Member for South Hackney has not got to face, the practical difficulties and the weakness in the League membership to-day. I am not arguing whose fault that is—say it is all our fault if you wish. The difficulty is that of seven great Powers only three are now actively participating members of the League. How can any one possibly say "If you only could put faith and confidence into it you will have the overwhelming force of the League." The force of the League is not overwhelming at the present time. Nobody regrets it more than I do.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about "semi-isolation." If he would use another phrase and talk about "incomplete security" I should entirely agree with him. But do hon. Members opposite really believe that the advent of a Socialist Government here would change all that? I must respectfully point out that in France it has not changed it, and it would not change it, believe me, if there were a Socialist Government here. I should be only too anxious to change the Government if I thought the advent of a Socialist Government in this country would bring about a miraculous change in the international situation, but it would not, because the causes go much deeper, and, with respect, they were beginning to make themselves felt as far back as 193I. If he, the right hon. Gentleman, will turn up the debates of that year he will find the phrase in which I, as an insignificant Member of the Opposition, drew his attention to certain anxieties which were beginning to appear—he thought they were beginning to appear, in his view. These processes are processes much wider than those we have been considering this afternoon. We shall not get an enduring peace, I care not what Government is in power in this country, until all nations accept to be bound, as we accept to be bound, by international law, and until the force against any potential aggressor is overwhelming. Neither of these conditions exists to-day and that is why we view 595 with such anxiety the international situation.
I agree with every word which has been said in the Debate about the unsatisfactory state of the world to-day. I deplore as much as the hon. Member the growing disrespect for Treaties, and we see only too clearly the ultimate consequences if that practice continues. In that connection I have noted of late a tendency to use as part of the diplomatic machinery methods which are highly dangerous. There is an inclination to threaten, to issue orders from the housetops, to proclaim what is virtually an ultimatum and to call it peace. Such methods will never have any response here. Such orders will never be obeyed by the British public. We are ready enough to make our contribution to the peace of the world. We are ready enough to discuss difficulties and issues with those concerned, but we are not prepared to stand and deliver at anyone's command.
Let me, then, in response to the hon. Gentleman's plea, try to sum up the foundations of our foreign policy in the uncertain conditions which exist to-day. While we are determined, should the necessity arise, to defend our own vital interests and fulfil our international obligations, we will embark on no action which would be contrary to the text or the spirit of the Covenant, or contrary to the Pact of Paris which we have signed. We believe in the principle of the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and we will do our utmost to secure a general acceptance and observance of that principle. While we recognise that the League is at present seriously handicapped by incomplete membership, we believe it still provides the best means for obtaining that result. We shall not be deaf to proposals for League reform, provided they are really calculated to strengthen international confidence and to make the League more capable of fulfilling the aims I have outlined. Such being our object it follows —and here I answer the hon. Gentleman —that we will join no anti-Communist and no anti-Fascist bloc. It is nations' foreign policies, not their internal policies, with which we are concerned. We will work wholeheartedly with other nations who are like-minded with us, and there are many such. We offer co-operation 596 to all, but we will accept dictation from none.
In my speech I have failed to make, and I appreciate it, any reference to the task to which I go to-night, and perhaps the House will allow me just to say this. The hon. Gentleman defined the other day in a remarkable speech his desire for co-operation with the United States. He used certain words which were to this effect: Would we in this dangerous and difficult Far Eastern situationgo in step with the United States, not rushing ahead of anything they are prepared to do, but being prepared to go as[...] far and as fast as they."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1937; col. 1812. Vol. 326.]I wholly accept that definition as our guide. We realise, in conditions as they are in the world to-day we must realise, the difficulties of the Far Eastern situation, and I can only assure the House that it is in that spirit that I go to Brussels to-night, anxious to contribute what little lies in my power in a situation in which nobody can envy the Foreign Secretary of the day.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts
I am sure the whole House will agree with me in wishing the Foreign Secretary success in the work to which he referred at the end of his speech, but I hope he will forgive me if I add that our good wishes are tempered to some extent by a dash of fear. We have listened to him this evening explaining away one failure after another, and we hope that he will not in the course of a month or two have to explain away a failure at Brussels. I cannot hope to follow the Foreign Secretary in any detail, either in the felicity of his language or in his knowledge of affairs, but I should like to say quite simply and plainly that his eloquent speech has not given us any hope as to what he is going to do in the face of the foreign situation. There were hints in that speech that if General Franco did win may be it would not after all be such a blow to British foreign interests. I do not believe that to be the case. A quotation which he made from the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) he criticised somewhat strongly, but it is exactly that attitude on the part of other Powers in Europe, particularly of Mussolini and Hitler, which is creating the problem to-day, the attitude that they will win whatever happens. We ask the Government, "What are you going to do 597 in face of that? "Will you put up forever with the delays in the Non-Intervention Committee, delays which prevent any action being taken when that action matters?
The Foreign Secretary pointed out that the question of foreign volunteers was no longer of the greatest moment. Perhaps that is why he is on the point of getting an agreement. It has always been so. The time factor has been essential throughout the Spanish War, and it has always been possible for a non-intervention agreement to get any action delayed sufficiently long to make that action of little importance. I and many other Members on this side are convinced that nonintervention has made General Franco's victory if by no means certain at any rate possible. Non-intervention in the early days prevented that remarkable uprush of popular opinion on the side of the Spanish Government from overwhelming the rebels before it was possible for General Franco to organise his forces and obtain sufficient equipment from his foreign allies to make effective use of such man power as he had. Non-intervention this time last year was crucial. If the Spanish Government had had the means at its disposal then that it has now, General Franco would never have reached Madrid. If, later, the Italians and the Germans had not supplied aeroplanes in overwhelming numbers, Madrid would never have been bombed, and Madrid might well have been liberated from the attacks of Franco. On the North coast it was the same. But I will not follow this argument in any detail.
All that we on this side are convinced of is that the dictator countries have seen to it that General Franco has always received the equipment he needed. Of course the Russians have sent in arms. If they had not sent in arms Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona would have been in the position in which Bilbao, Santander and Gijon arc to-day. The meaning of the defeat of the northern armies is that non-intervention was effective against the Government. The argument with regard to refugees is totally inconclusive. If the House realised as much as some of us who have been engaged with Spanish relief realise what the policy of piracy has meant in shortage of food and starvation for the millions of refugees who have fled before General 598 Franco into Catalonia, they would express no wonder that refugees in France prefer to go back to that part of Spain which happens, for geographical reasons, to have the natural food supplies of the country. There is one remark of the Foreign Secretary's upon which I would like to comment. If I did not misunderstand him he said that the policy of France had not changed under the present Government.
§ Mr. Roberts
I want to get that point quite clear. The change of Government in France has not, he says, affected the international situation; the disaster is that the change in France did not come in time to save the League over Abyssinia and that the British Government were not strong enough to carry that policy, which they say was their policy, against the opposition of the French Government. If only we had had M. Chautemps in control of French affairs when M. Laval was Prime Minister. Where is M. Laval, and where is the present Home Secretary, the men who made the agreement which destroyed the possibilities of effective League action? M. Laval is almost forgotten, apparently, in French politics, but the British public have not had the same opportunity of passing the same verdict upon the other Foreign Minister who drew up that policy. Some of us on this side of the House wish that it were not always in foreign affairs a game of Box and Cox, in which one country has a progressive Government believing in the League of Nations at a time when another country has not. Some of us believe that if there were a Government in this country of the same complexion as the present Government of France, the foreign situation would indeed be different.
The Foreign Secretary quoted to-day some very interesting remarks by M. Blum. I did not take them down, but I think the whole purport of them was that M. Blum had to feel his way carefully until he got a united country behind him. That is a somewhat fundamental point which M. Blum put very clearly to his Radical conference. The British Government have behind them a party that is utterly divided and which cannot make up its mind whether it 599 wants to follow its natural prejudices and instincts to support General Franco; whether to put those instincts first or the interests of the Empire and of Democracy. I had it put very clearly to me in the train only yesterday. I may say that I was exercising the privilege of a Member of Parliament in travelling first-class. I do not want to enter into the purely personal quarrel as to old school ties. I had not and have not that privilege of wearing that tie. My companion put the matter to me perfectly clearly when I asked him what he thought of the Spanish War. He said: "It is, of course, difficult to overcome one's natural inclinations to hope that General Franco will win, and yet, as this conflict develops, one becomes more conscious that his victory would be contrary to the interests of the British Empire." I did not indicate what my views were, and his view was but absolutely succinctly. That is the difficulty of the foreign policy of the British Government to-day. The Government are supported by a party and a group in this country who cannot make up their minds whether they fear Socialism more than they fear the Nationalist threat to the British Empire by Marxism and Fascism.
The Amendment which is before the House is very wide, and gives us the opportunity of discussing both home affairs and foreign affairs. I would like to consider for a few moments the background of foreign affairs. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary—if I may be allowed to make one personal criticism—believes too much in the danger of indiscretions and the corresponding value of the tactful word. Perhaps his own tact and capacity for putting things in a pleasant way make him a little too inclined to think that there are no fundamental troubles in the world to-day, economic and political, which cannot be smoothed over by pleasant words. The economic conditions of the world at the present time may have temporarily improved, but some of us believe that that improvement is based on thoroughly fallacious economic makeshifts. The programmes of rearmament being carried out, not only in this country but in every country in the world, are responsible to a very large extent for the diminution in unemployment and the improvement in the international situation, from an 600 economic point of view. That is the opinion expressed by the International Labour Office in its report. If that is true, it is as insecure a foundation for economic and political peace as one well could find. I believe that the League of Nations Year Book give us the figures for international trade. Taking the period 1925–29 as the index of 100, international trade is worth to-day only 37 per cent. in gold units of what it was in that period. The prosperity that we enjoy at the present time is based on no increase of international trade.
Speaking on Friday, the Home Secretary drew a very pleasant picture of the conditions, in this country in particular, and he threw down two challenges to the Opposition. One was to find another country whose social and economic improvement was comparable with ours under the National Government, and the other, to say that rearmament was providing a substantial part of the economic revival which has taken place. With regard to rearmament, the speeches of Members of the Treasury Front Bench rather remind me of our ancestors, who, after completing the Christmas dinner, used to comment on the fowl, the goose, as a very awkward one, too large for one and not large enough for two. The fowl of rearmament is apparently too large to permit of any considerable improvements in the social services and yet too small to account for any increase in the employment figures or in the economic output of the country. It is, anyway, of very convenient size to the Front Bench, because it allows them to do what they wish to do and prevents them doing what we wish them to do.
With regard to any other country showing as great an economic. improvement in the last few years as our own, the Home Secretary threw down in particular the challenge that Russia—-he mentioned Russia specifically—could not show such an improvement. It is not for me to expatiate upon the development of Russian industry, but I would point out that the economic development of that country has been so marked since 1929 that all world figures published by the League of Nations have to be shown both with and without Russia. The Russian figures distort the figures of other countries because the increase has been so much greater in that country than in any other. 601 I believe that the total industrial output has increased by 386 per cent., a percentage far and away beyond anything which any other country can present. As I say, it is not for me to draw special attention to that fact, but I think we should take notice of it. Other countries have regained the position in trade which they held in 1929, or have surpassed it. Sweden, Denmark, the Baltic and Scandinavian countries, New Zealand and South Africa all have an external trade greater than that of 1929. In addition, they all employ more men than they did then. It is difficult to say exactly what their price levels are, but, according to the figures of the League of Nations, in none of them has the cost of living risen above the 1929 figure. So I suggest to the Government that they had better not be too sanguine as to the pre-eminent position which this country holds.
As to their armament programme I am bewildered by the enormous figures, and the only way to arrive at a true perspective of what the figures amount to is to compare one expenditure with another. I would point out that the additional amount that we are spending this year on armaments, £200,000,000 above the normal level of about £100,000,000 spent in the years preceding the rearmament programme, represents very nearly the total output of agricultural products in wholesale firms. That is to say, the total output of one of the largest industries in Great Britain is being spent at the present time in rearmament. I have worked out one or two interesting figures, which show that 500,000 council houses per year could be built with the money that is being spent upon the additional armaments programme. In my constituency the women are very concerned at the present time at the low consumption of milk. It may be that other hon. Members have received a certain number of letters from their women constituents. We have heard of guns being preferred in Germany to butter; apparently in this country the sacrifice that we are to make for our guns is milk. I find that every school child could be supplied with one pint of milk every weekday for nearly 20 years, including school holidays, with the additional amount that we are spending on armaments in one year. That is the degree of rearmament which we in this country alone are undergoing.
602 Let it not be forgotten that this rearmament policy is being followed by every country. A few years ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) proposed a modest expenditure of some £100,000,000 on works of national importance. In those days it was assumed that an expenditure of £200 in capital would put one man into direct employment, and that that might be multiplied by one-and-a-half if indirect employment were included. If that be so, an expenditure of £200,000,000 at the present time would be employing in this country 1,500,000 men, and that would account for the sharp decrease in the number of people unemployed. At the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs proposed those plans, it was clearly specified by economists who supported him that that policy would not really be effective unless it were carried out by other countries and were an international policy. To-day, having refused the advice of economists to return to Free Trade, having succeeded in reducing international trade to about a third of its former value, and having, further, refused to carry out an international policy of economic capital development, the countries of the world have at last agreed to co-operate in an international policy of rearmament, and that has been the basis of the world recovery, coming as it does, no doubt, in a time of cyclical improvement. That has been the only policy which internationally has found favour among the nations of the world.
We believe that the rearmament policy in this country has effected the economic improvement which we admit has taken place, but I do not know that I am prepared to be very pleased at the fact that, after eight long years, we may just possibly have climbed back to the position of economic prosperity that existed in 1929. I do not know that that is such a very great accomplishment for the combined talents of a National Government to have achieved. I may be expecting too much, but I believe that, if the policy of economic development which was recommended years ago, the policy of capital expenditure, not for unproductive armaments, but for productive forces, had been put into force then, we should have got back to the 1929 level in perhaps half the time it has taken the Government to do 603 so. There is no doubt at all that it is the rearmament programme which has effected the recent improvement in the figures. [Interruption.] It is very likely that without rearmament we should have already seen a serious recession in employment.
In 1933, there was 35 per cent. of unemployment in the iron mining industry, an industry in which I am interested. Is it the Protectionist poliicy of this country which reduced that figure by 1936 to 1I.3 per cent? It is, as everybody knows, the demand for iron for rearmament. Can it be that the unemployment in the iron and steel industry, which in 1933 was 32 per cent., has been reduced to 12.8 per cent. as a result of Protection alone? [An HON. MEMBER; "Reorganisation."] Reorganisation succeeded in putting up the output to such an extent that Lord Nuffield complains that he is unable to buy steel. In shipbuilding, an unemployment figure of 55.1 per cent. has been reduced to 27 per cent. That may be partly the result of increased building of commercial shipping, but the value of the increase in commercial shipping, the figures for which I have not with me at the moment, compares very unfavourably with the value of the increased naval shipping that is being built at the present time. The point I wish to make is that unemployment was worst in the heavy export trades. There has never been much unemployment in food manufacturing, processing, printing and distribution, and the percentage to-day is much as it was in 1933. Where unemployment was heavy was in the heavy export trades. But our export trade has not gone up. These heavy industries have been turned to the manufacture of armaments. That is where their increased production has gone. But that is, we hope, a purely temporary outlet for their production, and it is no firm basis of prosperity whatever.
I must comment on the disingenuous way in which the Home Secretary selected his statistics. When it was convenient to him, he referred to the summer of 1931, the very bottom of the slump. When it was convenient, he referred to 1933. When it was not convenient to refer to either of those years, as in the case of the statistics for our foreign trade, he merely mentioned that exports and imports had gone up by some 37 per cent. in the last two years. He quite forgot to say that 604 the international turnover of our own trade, exports and imports included, is little more than half what it was in 1929. There are good arguments from the economic point of view for stimulating trade temporarily by increasing Government activity in public works during a slump, to break the vicious circle of under-consumption and under production; but to distort the structure of industry, as it is being distorted to-day, by the concentration of heavy industries and others upon armaments, must inevitably lead to a far deeper trough of depression when, as may very well happen, the cyclical recession in trade coincides with the end of the rearmament boom.
We again point out that in the Gracious Speech there is no reference whatever to the Special Areas, which are beginning, with the improvement of trade in other districts, to stand out again as islands where the level of unemployment has not decreased in the same proportion as it has elsewhere. We say that this is the time to be looking ahead, this is the time to be planning, this is the time, as far as the distressed areas are concerned, not to he planning ahead, but to be acting. At the present time we are sacrificing quite a number of things for the sake of rearmament. The Minister of Transport the other day told a deputation that he must decline to consider schemes for road bridges over the Forth and Tay until the pressure of defence requirements was less great, but now is the time to consider them and have them ready. The statement is reported from Hastings that materials for making a Belisha crossing had been ordered, but that, owing to the rearmament programme, there was difficulty in getting them. Everybody knows that orders for ordinary commercial purposes are being hung up because it is not possible to obtain delivery.
We are sacrificing, not only the normal development of the country for this rearmament programme, but we are also, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, sacrificing the development of our social services. It may he true that in Germany they prefer guns to butter, but in this country, apparently, the old people will have to go on on 10s. a week because we prefer guns to pensions for old people. The Prime Minister, speaking at Scarborough, said:Safety cannot be attained without sacrifice.… I cannot see any prospect of our 605 being able in the near future to introduce reforms which would add substantially to the present enormous annual expenditure of the country.In other words, we can spend £200,000,000 on armaments, but we cannot spend anything more on pensions. We can afford £11,000,000, £12,000,000 or £15,000,000 for the Special Areas; we can afford £200,000,000 for armaments. And what is happening in this country is happening in every country of the world. To-day every country is engaged in this armaments race, and people are going short. While they may be working, they are going short of necessities, because they are working at utterly useless production. That is another of our complaints. The policy of the Foreign Secretary is not saving either this country or the world from this useless activity, from this useless building of competitive armaments which many of us fear will end in a catastrophe—the same catastrophe in which armaments races have always ended. In the meantime it is distorting the economic life, not only of this country, but of the whole world. We are sacrificing benefits which are the right of all men; we are sacrificing the decent standards of living which would be available were it not for the pressure of this overwhelming burden.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
I know that this evening I may claim the indulgence which is traditionally extended to Members when they address the House for the first time. I hope I shall not wittingly trespass beyond the proper bounds, but that, should I unwittingly do so, the House will attribute my transgression to my want of experience of its procedure.
The discussion which has been provoked by this Amendment has been devoted very largely to the foreign situation, and if I devote my remarks this evening largely to other matters, I hope the House will appreciate that I do not underrate in any way the supreme importance of foreign affairs, and that I do not dissent in any way from the course which the Government are taking to deal with a situation of unparalleled gravity and complexity.
Before I pass to other things I will offer one observation on the foreign situation. It has been said that the keynote 606 of this Amendment is security. We on this side would be the last persons to underrate the importance of the security of British interests, and it is indeed a source of satisfaction to us to know that the Amendment has been prompted, in part at least, by a desire to promote the security of British interests. We welcome that declaration not only as a matter for satisfaction, but as a matter for relief, But the question of security has very often been bound up with another set of problems which relate to international cooperation. We should all agree that unless effective means of co-operation for peace between nations can be found, the hopes for an enduring European peace are likely to be slender. During these post-war years questions of national security have often been found to stand in the way of a solution of the problems of international co-operation, and sometimes it has also happened that considerations of the security of some nations or of one particular nation have been advanced as a cloak for a policy, the motives of which were of a very different character.
To-day the continued functioning of the policy of non-intervention must be the most urgent manifestation of the policy of international co-operation. Nobody would claim that non-intervention has been an unqualified success, but it is equally true to say that it has certainly not been the failure, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) would have the House believe. As far as I understand the policy of non-intervention, it was never intended, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out this afternoon, to bring about all those results which the right hon. Gentleman said it has failed to achieve. The main object of the policy of non-intervention has been to confine the Spanish war to the bounds of Spain and to prevent it spreading beyond those bounds. If that is the object, surely we are entitled to say that it has been completely successful. For that result the Foreign Secretary, more than any other statesman in Europe, has been responsible. No doubt in the past critics of the right hon. Gentleman have not been wanting, but I am quite sure that on this side of the House and outside this House there is to-day nothing but admiration for the infinite patience, the infinite resource and the infinite per- 607 sistence with which the right hon. Gentleman has pursued the objects of his policy. It would be nothing short of a misfortune if, at this stage, we should permit some fancied issue of national security to put an end to what, after all, are the last remnants of our hopes and efforts at international co-operation in this matter.
As the House knows, I have recently had a special opportunity of testing public opinion on matters such as this. I am quite sure that I am expressing the views of those who sent me to this House when I say that they are quite satisfied to leave the safeguarding of British interests in the hands of this Government. They are quite satisfied that the Government have shown by their record, and by their courageous policy of re-equipping our Defence Services,—while hon. Members on the opposite side of the House were certainly not convinced of the wisdom of that course—that the security of British interests can be left more safely in the hands of the Government than in the hands of any Government which hon. Members opposite are ever likely to form.
I pass to the other part of the Amendment. There the criticism is that no fundamental proposals are advanced to ameliorate the conditions of the nation. But the argument has really gone beyond that. The criticism has really been, that the changes in industrial activity, in trade conditions and in the position with regard to employment, which undoubtedly have taken place, have really been of no benefit to anyone. It is said that, if you look behind the scenes, take into account the changes in price levels and matters of that sort, what has happened has really done nobody any good at all. Surely that argument carries with it its own refutation. If that is right, what we have to do is to go back to the depths of the depression when the trade of the world and of this country was wholly stagnant. I do not want, in a maiden speech, to dwell upon an argument of that description, because the evidence which we can find for ourselves—we find it among our constituents, in the correspondence which reaches us, and from the evidence of our own daily observations, makes quite plain what has taken place. There has, in fact, been 608 an improvement of no inconsiderable magnitude in the conditions of the people of this country as a whole. Nobody is going to be persuaded that the revival which has taken place is not a reality, any more than anybody was persuaded the crisis which existed in 1931 was not really a crisis at all.
If that argument has been advanced, hon. Members who have put it forward have allowed themselves to be misled by the use of statistics, which are very dangerous things. Whether statistics show that there has been an improvement in the circumstances of anybody or not largely depends upon how you look at the statistics. But if we want to consider whether there has been some fundamental improvement—and by fundamental I conceive is meant some permanent improvement in the conditions of the people—the comparison we have to make is between the conditions as they exist today and the conditions as they existed during the last period of comparatively normal world trade. It is not enough to compare conditions to-day with those which existed in one country alone. We have to make comparisons with the last period not only when this country was normally prosperous, but when the countries of the world were also normally prosperous. The figures which the Home Secretary gave on Friday afternoon were very convincing. The right hon. Gentleman showed very plainly that there had been an advance in real wages since the year 1929. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right when he drew his comparison between the conditions as they exist to-day and the conditions as they existed in 1929. There has been an improvement in the conditions of the population, and are we not entitled to claim that it is the policy of the Government which has brought about this improvement? The proposals of the Government, which have been carried into effect in the past, and of which we have a further instalment in the Gracious Speech, have led to this fundamental improvement.
It was suggested that the Government were indifferent to the economic and social security of the population, and it was said—in particular by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison)—that the Government were indifferent not only to the interests of the manual workers but to the interests 609 of the middle classes as well. I am sure that hon. Members who represent constituencies similar to my constituency know very well that that view is certainly not widespread among our constituents. The Government, by the scheme which was carried into law in the last Session enabling persons to enjoy the benefits of public pensions schemes who had previously been excluded from those schemes, have given abundant proof that they are anxious to bring about the economic security of the middle classes. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent that scheme will bring a measure of security to many homes which is not there to-day.
There is a particular section of that community about whom I should like to say a final word. I am concerned for the ex-servicemen in Government service who began their service in unestablished posts. I fully appreciate the difficulty which the Chancellor of the Exchequer naturally finds in reopening a question which has been regarded as closed. Nevertheless, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will yet see his way to permit that investigation to take place into the conditions of their service which they so much desire.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Simpson
I am certain the House will desire me to maintain the tradition of extending to the hon. Member who has just spoken its congratulations on his speech. Although we do not necessarily agree with his observations and deductions, we have listened with interest and pleasure to what he has said, and we hope that on future occasions we may have the benefit of his speeches.
Those hon. Members who were privileged to listen to the Foreign Secretary this afternoon would be churlish if they did not wish him well in his immediate endeavours. I am certain also that those hon. Members who are earnest and enthusiastic in regard to the League of Nations may have derived more encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman's speech than they have had from Government declarations recently in regard to the Government's attitude to the League. Although I have to proceed to some criticism of the Government in regard to their foreign policy and their attitude to the League, that does not mean 610 in any sense an indictment of the speech to which we have listened to-day, but refers rather to the long history of Government mistakes and omissions in foreign policy.
In the lengthy Debates on the Gracious Speech many metaphors have been used and a number of epithets employed, most of them uncomplimentary, I imagine, to the Government and the Gracious Speech. Anticipating the passing of this Amendment, I venture on an epitaph which the Government's policy deserves:These rulers so mismanaged power, By craven fears imperilled peace, They lost to those who liked war less, But found in justice fear's release.It may not be that the occasion will arise for the immediate application of that epitaph, but it is none the less well deserved.
We have been warned that in discussing foreign affairs there is great need for caution and for less extravagant language than we might be prone to use in connection with some of our other discussions, but in reviewing the Government's policy, particularly in relation to the League, there is every justification for strong langauge. Someone, I think it was the Leader of the Opposition, referred to the Foreign Secretary's speech on 21st October as a cynical speech in relation to the present situation. The Foreign Secretary said:There will be no indifference on the part of the Government where it is clear that vital British interests are threatened."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 21st October, 1937; col. 61, Vol. 327.]With regard to that statement, I think there was justification in the reference. Some of us think that justice, honour and humanitarianism ought to be not unworthy British interests. The statement by the Foreign Secretary relates to the right of way in the Mediterranean. Although those of us on these benches are not insensible to the commercial and economic interests of this country, or to our legitimate rights and duties with regard to the Empire as a whole, I think that if I attempted in a single sentence to distinguish between the policies of the two sides of the House I should say that on these benches we are less concerned with the Imperial right of way than with the international way of right. I know that a phrase of that kind may incur the criticism of the Prime Minister, seeing that he 611 said the other day that on this side of the House we are the victims of phrases and words. I suggest that phrases and words are a stock-in-trade of all parties, and that phrases may mean something or nothing. Unfortunately, the Government have given up the use of fine phrases. In connection with the League they seem to have emancipated themselves so completely that they have failed to refer to it in the Gracious Speech. As the international situation becomes more acute and more serious in character, there is a greater need for stressing the need of the League of Nations. No one would pretend that the League has been a complete success, but even so, that is no justification for retreating and falling back on systems that have been proved not only to be complete failures in diplomacy but definitely disastrous in regard to war and peace. By the Government's present retreat into the precarious equipoise of Powers described years ago and into old alliances rather than collective security, they are retreating away from law and security.
In these Debates the party on these benches has been twitted frequently in regard to its attitude on rearmament. Within my recollection this party has never officially refused to provide armed force behind the law. What we have done has been to repudiate the use of force without the law or as a substitute for it. In existing circumstances our resorting to a greatly increased rearmament programme is indicative in itself of our failure in the realm of diplomacy and reason. No one will under-estimate the task of the Foreign Secretary at the present time or pretend that he can impose his own or the policy of this Government in his diplomatic efforts, but I am certain that, having regard to some of our experiences at the hands of the diplomats recently, we may well he tempted to think of the modern diplomat as a cross between the Sphinx and a chameleon. If those are the qualifications of diplomacy in the world to-day, they are cleverly cheap and terribly costly.
The Prime Minister said in regard to the speech of a colleague of mine that his references to collective security and the principles of the League of Nations were merely words and phrases and not policy at all. He indicated that sound 612 and general propositions were not policy in themselves, and went on to argue that we had to relate policy to particular circumstances. Obviously, there is the realm of everyday diplomacy and the field of expediency, and in that regard there is a mixing and combination between policy and expediency which is exceedingly dangerous at the present time. If we had in this country a Government which showed a firm, determined consistent and reiterated policy, that would be the easiest way to simplify diplomacy, because the world would be able to assess in advance what our attitude is likely to be in a particular situation. That is the only way the attitude of this country can be well understood abroad and its policy rightly judged at home.
It is possibly only a platitude now to assert that this party has never stood for peace at any price, but they certainly do not stand for friendliness regardless of merit, and when one reads in the Gracious Speech that our relations with foreign Powers remain friendly, there appears to be rather more than a touch of facetiousness in that statement. For instance, the Prime Minister made an elaborate defence of the Italian Government and quoted the Italian Foreign Minister as saying:The integrity of the present territories of Spain shall in all circumstances remain intact and unmodified.But one found next day the "Daily Telegraph" correspondent in Rome saying:It is confidently believed here that General Franco's complete victory is now in sight. It is therefore necessary, it is held, to decide on the work of the Rome-Berlin axis in developing political, commercial and industrial zones of influence in Spain.To talk about friendly relations in circumstances of that kind seems to rob the phrase of all real substance. Again, when we have been solemnly discussing non-intervention with the other Powers, and at the same time we have known of tens of thousands of troops being sent into another country and telegrams of congratulation on their successes, and we find a Power with whom we are said to be in friendly relationship devastating the land of another Power, raining death and destruction on women and children and denying the decencies of civilisation, it puts a very big strain on a declaration such as that contained in the Gracious Speech.
613 There are hon. Members opposite who in regard to criticism of this kind immediately say: "You are asking for war." At any rate we ought to be courageous to say very emphatically that the other Powers are not playing the game. We might possibly intensify the terms of criticism and remember that in this great city a religious leader, in the height of his indignation at atrocities not much greater than we have experienced during the last few months, declared: "God damn the Sultan." If we prefer in these days rather more refined terms of denunciation, we ought to know what the Government are likely to say in their own delicate manner. If we are not to express our indignation by any sort of objective morality, we have the right to inquire whose turn will it be next to come under the activities that have had such dire results in other countries. Which will be the next jewel to be seized for the dictator's crown? While this sort of policy is allowed to operate without vigorous protest and final action if necessary on the part of this country, we merely see the extension and glorification of force, contempt for democracy and discussion on the part of one of the countries to which I am referring.
Again, if it is to be a further taunt that, in using these terms and indulging in this criticism, we are to be dubbed a war party, I observe again that there is still a very long distance between vigorous diplomatic protest and activity with other nations like-minded to ourselves and the last resort of force. There has been a considerable amount of scoffing at hon. Members on these benches who are absolute pacifists, but, after all, we are in complete agreement with those friends of ours in the matter of sentiment at any rate, and in opinion up to the final physical application of force. At least, it seems to me that we ought to mobilise all the moral force in the world that we can command, and have the courage to declare for the right, whatever our subsequent action may be; and I think we further have a right to ask what have the Government done in other directions, short of a declaration of war. The Italian Government have recently withdrawn their Ambassador from a certain country in Europe. We have made, maybe, theatrical or spectacular proposals—one may call them that—for gestures which are an expression of opinion, 614 but the dictator countries are continually using methods of that kind, which, I suppose, they think are of some importance and value.
We may further consider what we may do in the realm of financial and commercial boycott. In view of the actions of the dictators in other countries than our own, we ought to exert every means, short of war, as an indication of our attitude. The Foreign Secretary, further, in the speech to which I referred a moment ago, offered some sort of tentative overtures, to these benches, I suppose, in the direction of national unity. I believe there is some centre of gravity in the national conscience, but I do not believe it is to be found in the National Government. I think they have small claim to be regarded as custodians of the will of the people at the present time. When the hon. Member who last spoke said he was fortified by communications from his constituents and people in other parts of the country, we can say, with equal emphasis, that our policy is equally supported in the same way. If there is any feeling at present that we are exploiting the international situation for party purposes, or allowing a partisan spirit to enter into a realm of discussion that ought to be free from such excitements, I think the party opposite cannot claim any sort of absolution. There have been several references to party conferences at our coastal resorts, and I noticed that at the Conservative Conference at Scarborough—whether the Prime Minister was fortunate in his chronicler or not, I do not know, but I read this in one of the leading Conservative newspapers in an editorial on his speech:
The sudden thrusts, the teasing quirks, the deliberate dragging of red herrings ac10ss the Socialist path, these were the laughter raisers, the cheer prompters of his speech.In the matter of party criticism I think there can be little to choose, or nothing in favour of the party opposite. Later in that speech, the Prime Minister referred to dishonesty in politics, referring, in particular, to the scheme for very modest pensions proposed and propagated by the Labour party. There are many hon. Members in this House who, not without reason, are impatient at the amount of Parliamentary time occupied by international and foreign affairs, but, fortunately or otherwise, we cannot escape 615 the fact that there is a definite and inevitable connection between the international situation and our domestic issues. Any failure to secure peace and co-operation abroad inevitably means impoverishment at home. If the Government are proud of their so-called prosperity and recovery, real or comparative, there is very little merit in that claim. Again, I find in a Sunday paper the other day an observation to this effect:The Socialist opposition is hard put to it to find means of contesting the growth of trade and employment and steady improvement in national wellbeing.Again, in the very same issue of the same paper there is an extended report of a very stimulating and noteworthy speech by Mr. Cordell Hull. In that speech he is reported as saying:Armed conflict disrupts and destroys all those numerous relationships which advance and ennoble the lives of individuals and of nations. It harnesses to the chariot of its death-dealing fury the energies and abilities which should be devoted to the promotion of human welfare. It lowers every standard of civilised existence.Therefore, you have in the same paper on the same day a complete and definite refutation of the soundness of the kind of recovery for which the Government are taking credit. When the Home Secretary on Friday said, with some complacency, and apparently with some degree of pride, that not more than one-third of the shipbuilding which is being undertaken in this country at present is to be devoted to war-like purposes he showed the staggering disproportion that exists, and that is an indication that this and other countries could become a paradise for the people as a whole if we could save ourselves from such a disproportion in the use of our national resources. I feel that the Amendment for which this party is responsible is only too well justified by all the facts. We see to-day the dictators stalking the earth, bringing terror, murder and bloodshed in their train, and, not only robbing the world of peace, but destroying the possibilities of, and the fruits of, co-operation, the policy which alone can bring prosperity in which all may share. Neither this nor any other Government can justify itself at present in any timid temporising with the present situation, doing less than declaring the objectives of the League, and, if necessary, fighting for their 616 ascendancy. If people are so pessimistic as to think we should fail again in that endeavour, at any rate, if we do fail, it will be a redeeming failure and resurrecting hope. I hope the Government will take warning by the Amendment we have tabled, and that, if it is not carried, at any rate they will be influenced by the alternative policy advocated from these benches.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. Member who has just spoken said in the early part of his speech that we on this side have congratulated ourselves that we have emancipated ourselves from phrases. I am glad that that is so, for it is clear that the hon. Member himself and his friends are still hiding behind phrases. They have never yet come down to any kind of reality so far as foreign affairs are concerned. In the many debates which have taken place on Spain there has been a tendency on the part of the Opposition to use British interests as a smoke-screen behind which they can forward the interests of the Spanish Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech the week before last in this House, on the Adjournment, said they would support international interests, but not purely British interests. He cannot have it both ways. He cannot therefore protest if purely British interests are affected. Let us be quite clear where they stand. He referred to Nyon. Nyon is a clear case, a clear-cut issue affecting British interests. The country was behind the Government.
When it comes to the whole question of Spain and the Spanish Civil War everyone knows that the country is deeply divided. Everyone knows that the Government could not command that support that they had at Nyon. The Opposition have, in regard to the troubles in the Far East, gone a long way towards supporting the imposition of sanctions against Japan. I hope economic sanctions will never again be imposed unless this country is prepared and willing to support them, in the last resort, with military sanctions, and unless the position has been clearly and definitely explained to the electors. On no other basis will we be able to carry out the kind of policy which the Opposition have been proposing. They have not, so far as I am aware, ever explained to the country what might happen if economic sanctions were actually imposed. 617 The whole Far Eastern problem has led to a considerable amount of misunderstanding as to the position of the United States. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) made the statement last Thursday:We are now entitled to count in 130,000,000 Americans who are in favour of upholding the sanctity of international law, and who would give us all the practical cooperation we should require."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1937; col. 285. Vol. 328.]What justification has the hon. Gentleman for that statement? What is the support we are to expect? Are we to receive from 130,000,000 of Americans support for economic sanctions? Are we to receive support for military sanctions? Has Congress been consulted, and has the Senate given its consent? I ask the hon. Member—he is sitting there—to support that statement he has made.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Presumably the hon. Gentleman has read the speech by President Roosevelt in which he said he was prepared to quarantine Japan.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Quarantine obviously means cutting off relations with Japan. Obviously, the United States Government itself could not put forward a proposal to the League of Nations for that purpose, but, if our Government did meet the proposal and asked for the co-operation of the American Government, I am perfectly certain we should have that co-operation, as we could have had it over Abyssinia two years ago.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
There has been no statement made in America which could justify the argument of the hon. Member. President Roosevelt never said anything which would justify that statement and no one knows better than the hon. Member, who is a great authority on these matters, that President Roosevelt could never have made such statement and he did not mean to say what the hon. Member is trying to put into his mouth. He knows the constitutional position of the United States of America. I can remember, and the hon. Member will remember quite clearly, the days when President Wilson tried to impose the League of Nations on the United States of America. He was standing then at the summit of his power; America had never had such prestige in the world as at that 618 time, and in the end his party was defeated and America, as we know, never became a member of the League. The statement of the hon. Member, which is calculated to deceive the country, is an utterly irresponsible statement, with no vestige of truth in it. I am a strong believer in closer co-operation with the United States, and the sooner it can be brought about the nearer shall we be to the end of our difficulties. But we are not helping President Roosevelt, nor will he thank the hon. Member for trying to put into his mouth statements which he never made, and which we are quite certain in the present circumstances he would not make.
The Opposition have a habit of talking a great deal about dictators. They denounce them quite gaily when it is a question of Italy or Japan, but, like Agag, they walk very delicately when it comes to the case of Germany. I would like to see a little more courage in the Opposition when they are facing Germany for, after all, every other problem is small compared with the German problem. Germany is the central problem. It is in South-Eastern Europe that the real danger spots are to be found. We cannot, of course, be bound, we never shall be bound in any automatic way, but we cannot remain indifferent to the problems of South-Eastern Europe; and these problems, as hon. Members will be aware who have been following the correspondence in the "Times" are very closely related to the question of the surrender of the ex-German Colonies. In the course of that correspondence in the "Times" the drummers of retreat have been few, but they have been called up over and over again, and they have shown a tendency to support a policy which I might describe as diplomacy of fright. Many of them have recommended a speedy surrender. They now have the powerful support of Signor Mussolini. Many of the arguments used in the course of this correspondence were no doubt used by the Anglo-Saxon Government of King Ethelred the Unready at the time when it was decided to buy off the aggressor.
This correspondence, however, is having a very bad effect in Europe to-day. A friend of mine who returned only recently from Central Europe says that we are looked upon there very much as Turkey used to be in the old days, as the "sick man of Europe." [HON. 619 MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, hon. Members opposite may well say that, but I will come to their own relationship to this problem. Only last Friday the "Berliner Zeitung" wrote:When the 'Times' states that the time must come when the question of German rights shall be discussed it is a sign which we gladly welcome. Does not this voice prove that the hitherto unbroken front is crumbling?The Conservative party have twice pronounced on this subject, and I believe that the party in the country is far ahead of the Government. It is time the Government made up their mind in regard to this question, and I hope that they will take a much firmer line than they have taken in the past.
Here is a real, definite British interest. There is no Spanish problem, no question of intervention, no necessity for divisions in this country. It is a question between Germany and this country. We have been debating foreign affairs for many days, yet this question has never been mentioned in this House until this afternoon it was mentioned by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The conduct of this discussion on the ex-German colonies has been carried on by a great powerful journal. It seems to me that this is the place where this question should be raised. Would surrender indeed make for peace, which is our main object? That seems to me the real question we have to consider. Would it make the slightest difference to German aims or deflect German ambitions in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, to which, as I have said, we cannot remain indifferent, if we surrendered to threats—they would surely be the starting off point for new demands. The dictatorships would then be convinced of the decadence of our democracy, and war would be brought much closer than it is to-day. It is significant that at their conference held last Sunday the French Radical party took a line on this question as definite as that taken at the Conservative Conference at Scarborough. I would like to ask the Opposition—have they considered, or are they considering, this question? They are the alternative Government and they have made no pronouncement whatever in regard to the problem of the ex-German Colonies. The country, after all, is entitled to know 620 their views on this question. It knows the views of the Conservative party, and I trust that in the near future the Opposition will make some statement.
There is one other point in connection with this correspondence in the "Times"—I apologise for referring to it once again, but it does seem to me that it should be dealt with in this House—and that is the charge continually made by correspondents that His Majesty's Government have refused to negotiate it with Germany. Every time that an "apparent offer" has been made by Herr Hitler it has been followed by an effort on the part of this Government to start negotiations and, as the published documents prove, they have in every case failed to receive any response from the German Government, and the fact that the visit of the German Foreign Minister last summer was cancelled should surely prove, if proof be necessary, that His Majesty's Government are doing all in their power to try to bring about appeasement in Europe but are receiving no encouragement from Berlin. These charges which are being continually levelled against them do not help the cause of peace. This afternoon we had from the Secretary of. State for Foreign Affairs a most striking speech. The hopes of dictators that he will fall will be belied, for he has established himself in the hearts not only of this House but of the whole people. I do not believe that there is any escape from the difficulties which surround us by a policy of flight, such as has been recommended in the powerful journal to which I have referred. You cannot buy off an aggressor. I believe the only possible way of dealing with this problem satisfactorily is to push on steadily and as quickly as we can with our rearmament programme, and at the same time to show a steady, determined and, if need be, a conciliatory front, to the dictator Powers.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
I rise to support the Amendment. I desire to make some comment on the King's Speech, and more particularly on the omissions from the King's Speech, which in this supposed era of prosperity is more notable for the things that it leaves out than for what it contains. I should like to refer to one or two things that have been said during the course of this Debate, and I 621 was particularly struck by the speech of the Tight hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport, who waxed very eloquent when quoting from a Socialist pamphlet entitled "Socialism and the Condition of the People." I have listened to the Minister of Transport on many occasions, and have marvelled at the ability and versatility he has shown, but on this occasion when he was dealing with this pamphlet it was necessary for him to go back to the days of Queen Elizabeth—that was a tremendous jump in time—and he pointed to the sailors of those days who sailed the seas to find new lands, not with Government assistance, but entirely from a spirit of pioneering and private enterprise. I always had the idea that they went for something else—they went for loot. But the right hon. Gentleman did not tell the whole of the story. To finish it off he might have told us what happened to Raleign. What did private enterprise do to Raleigh in the end?
When we look at the shipping industry to-day, what a different state of affairs. He ought to have told us about that. I have the report relating to the subsidy on tramp shipping, which shows that in 1936 this industry received a subsidy of £1,991,015. They do not need now to go across the seas for treasure; they do not need to go for gold to the Spanish Main; they get it at home out of the Exchequer. But private enterprise has done something else. Private enterprise, I suppose, would be directing Dunlops when it wrote down its share capital. Private enterprise would be directing Baldwins when they reduced their share capital by £3,000,000. Who has been directing the industry that is now responsible for the condition of our Special Areas? Who has been directing the housing provisions which are condemning hundreds and thousands, even millions of our people, to live in conditions in which hon. Members opposite would not keep their dogs or horses? I do not want to say hard things, but I must say in all friendliness that the Government are bound to know that these conditions exist, and should take some steps to remedy them.
There is another matter which is very important. The Gracious Speech speaks of the unification of coal royalties under national control and a further re- 622 organisation of the coal mining industry. I deplore that there is no mention of miners' pensions. I find from the report of the Secretary for Mines for 1935 that during the time the National Government have been in office, from 1931 to 1935, the number employed in the industry has dropped roughly by 90,000, but the accident rate has continually increased. There is an increase of 2 per cent. in the accident rate for 1935 as against 1931. The accident rate for 1935 is 23.12 per cent., which means that practically one-quarter of the men and lads employed in the industry have an accident during the year, an appalling state of affairs. In the town where I reside, an inquest was held this week-end on a boy who was killed after only a week in the mine, and I notice they are going to alter the height at the place where the boy's head got between the tub and the girder. There will probably be £15 compensation, not the value of a pony. But surely this work should have been done before the accident happened. Why have we to wait until an accident happens before we remove the danger? If the Government, this National Government, would take hold of this compensation question and give the men adequate compensation, it would be the most direct road to safety for miners. The present 30s. per week maximum is entirely inadequate.
The report also points out that 19,000 miners are suffering from industrial diseases and that there are 11,000 new cases of men who are condemned, branded, as having practically no hope of any work in the industry they have followed all their lives. I also find that there is 12s. in the pound for compensation and legal and medical expenses. A man who is wanting compensation has not a dog's chance against the medical and legal fraternity, and this 12s. is to be divided among the three. The sooner the Government remove this great injustice the sooner shall we give a measure of satisfaction to the people engaged in the mining industry. Let me say a word about pensions, as I feel I should not be doing my duty if I failed to do so. The Government talk about the enormous prosperity of the country, and hope that it will be maintained. I have a letter here from a man in my constituency called Shield, a significant name. As an old man he looks to the Government to be his shield and buckler. He is in 623 receipt of an old age pension. He writes:I am writing to you on behalf of myself and others. We are drawing our old age pensions, and are absolutely at our wits' end as to how to make ends meet after rent and insurance are met.It is of no use the Financial Secretary saying that the old age pension was increased from 5s. to 10s. because the cost of living was so much higher than it is to-day. Our answer is that when it was fixed at 5s. it was much too low, and that when it was raised to 10s. it was too low. and with the steep rise in the cost of living we have had recently it is now impossible for them to make ends meet.
What about unemployment? I understand there is to be a special concession in exceptional cases. There has been consideration under the regulations of the Unemployment Assistance Board for special needs for some time, but that is not what we are asking. We are asking for a general raising of the standard. A man who has not been employed for four or five years ought not to have to go cap in hand and say that the bedding is going and there is no linen in the drawer. He ought to know that in his own right he is entitled to a benefit which will maintain him in a decent standard of life. Why? Because the country has absolutely failed to provide him with a job. This is a serious problem. I visited our social centre the other day, and the secretary, who is not a man who is with us in politics—I feel sure he is not—but who is very sympathetic and doing very good work, said to me that the problem was that 75 per cent. of the men who were there were over 50 years of age without a chance of getting a job again.
Let me put this position. When the majority of these men became unemployed it was in the period of depression when wages were at their lowest. There has been some advance in wages, and also some advance in the cost of living. I am not arguing which is the greater; it is not necessary, because the cost of living is beating the rise in wages, as it always does. But this is the point. These men when they became unemployed were in receipt of low wages and the regulations say that a man must not draw more benefit than he would receive in wages. These men whose wages were on the lowest level are therefore suffer- 624 ing a double reduction. They are penalised in two ways. First, there is a reduction in his benefit if any member of his family has received any advance in wages, and, in addition, the cost of living is now bearing hardly upon him. I submit that if there has been an increase of wages in the category in which he was employed, his benefit should be raised. Only by that means can you give common justice to these men.
Let me say one further word on a matter which has a direct bearing on the health and life of our people. The Minister of Health expounded at length on the housing conditions and the great work which has been done since the Armistice in relation to slum clearance and provisions for overcrowding. The financial provisions in regard to slum clearance have been extended until the Spring of next year, but what I want to know is this. There is a proposal to introduce a measure to amend the financial provisions in regard to slum clearance and the abatement of overcrowding. Will it be possible for the Minister who is to reply to tell the House whether the provisions to be made for slum clearance in the rural areas are something in addition to the present financial arrangement for the urban areas? May we have an answer to that? If it is the Government's intention to subtract an amount from urban slum clearance in order to make provision for rural slum clearance, that will be a very bad day's work. There is a great deal of slum clearance work to be done. We are busy with that work, but there is a tremendous amount yet to be done. The people are clamouring for better houses; they are demanding that they shall be able to live in decent hygienic conditions. Therefore, I would like to have an answer to the question I asked. It would be disastrous if this Government or any Government attempted to take money away from urban slum clearance in order to provide for rural slum clearance. I will conclude by saying that the Gracious Speech on this occasion is more remarkable for what it omits than for what it contains.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Viscount Elmley
I did not altogether agree with some of the things that were said by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor), but I certainly agree with the latter part of his speech, in which 625 he asked for some information about rural housing. I am grateful to hon. Members opposite for framing their Amendment in such a way that a number of subjects may be discussed, but I suggest that they have forgotten a small but none the less very important part of the Gracious Speech—that which refers to rural housing. Already I have had evidence that that part of the Gracious Speech has given general satisfaction to many people in the countryside who have been waiting for years to get houses. The figures in my own constituency are one in 38 out of a population of about 50,000. I think that the local authorities also, who so far have known that it was no good their building houses which could be let only at rents which the country people could not afford to pay, will be very gratified by that part of the Gracious Speech.
Unfortunately, during a number of years the housing position in the countryside has been gradually deteriorating. Worse still, some recent legislation, although I am sure it has done good in many directions, has not done good in the vital way of providing in the countryside houses that could be let at rents which people could afford to pay. In that respect, the legislation has missed its mark. No longer need that he so. On the same day as the Gracious Speech was delivered, there was published the report of a committee which went very thoroughly into this question, and I suggest that the Government could not do better than proceed on the lines recommended by that committee. If they did so, it would mean that local authorities could build houses which could be let at rents within the means of agricultural workers, fishermen and many other similar people, which so far it has been impossible for them to do. I think that all those who know the countryside will agree with the recommendations in that report.
The committee very wisely suggests that building in future should be as near as possible to the villages concerned. No doubt it had in mind the main disadvantage of a housing estate such as Becontree, which, whatever else it may have done, has made it more difficult and expensive for people to get to and from their work. In the countryside, people would be affected to an even greater degree, since, generally speaking, there are in the countryside nothing like the 626 transport facilities that exist in a place such as Becontree. I suggest that His Majesty's Government should very seriously consider including in their Bill some provision by which not only would houses be built as near as possible to the villages concerned, but by which land could be compulsorily acquired for that purpose. By doing that, they would checkmate a number of speculators who, having read the Gracious Speech, the report and the Government's Bill, might buy up land. I think that is a point into which it would be worth while inquiring. In conclusion, everybody who is concerned hopes that the Government will carry out that part of its programme as rapidly as possible, and I would respectfully urge them to do so.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Dunn
The King's Speech covers a very wide range of subjects and makes it possible for hon. Members to deal with a number of points, many of which have already been raised. I do not intend to refer to the first part of the Amendment, but to deal briefly with one or two points in the second part. I have read and reread the Gracious Speech. Far be it from me to say that it does not include a number of small measures which will serve a useful purpose, but I have tried to measure it by reference to what I had in mind when I fought an election in order to become a Member of the House. My main desire and purpose was to do something which, in a small way, would relieve the real problem of poverty in this country. When I test the King's Speech on that basis—and I submit that the efforts of the House should be directed towards attacking the problem of poverty—I am aghast at how little it contributes to that problem from which the country is suffering.
Does that Speech attack the land problem? It does not. Is there anything in the Speech which deals with profiteers, who are mainly responsible for the rise in the cost of living? There is nothing in the King's Speech on that subject. Is there anything which deals with vested interests? There is nothing. On Friday morning, I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and I was so much struck by his opening statement in replying to our Amendment, that I wish to quote some of his remarks, in order that I may try 627 to correct him in two points which he made. The right hon. Gentleman said:At the outset of this Debate, which is to run over two days and is to cover a very wide field, I want to state a certain series of facts to which I invite the attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I ask them to refute them, if they can, and if they cannot refute them, they are a complete answer to almost every one of the charges which the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon. I will not repeat certain of the facts that have already been given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health in the field of health and housing. They are, however, very relevant to the Amendment that has just been moved by the right hon. Gentleman. We heard two days ago of this fine record in improvements in health and housing that materially have led to a higher standard of life in the country in recent years. They stand on record, and I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to deal with them in the course of the Debate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1937; 441, Vol. 328.]I wish to deal with those two points. In the first place, in my view the Minister of Health did not say a word in his speech which in any way mitigated our entire dissatisfaction with the housing conditions of the people of this country. The Government know full well that municipal housing has been slowed down, and indeed, the Minister of Health, speaking in the Debate last week, deliberately advised us that contracts which were being sent in to him were being slowed down by his Department. When the Minister of Health takes credit to himself for the housing conditions of the people, and says that they have considerably improved under the National Government, I think we are entitled to examine the facts. What are the facts? Broadly, the position is that 3,000,000 houses have been built since the War. Two million of them have been built either to let or for private profit, and 1,000,000 have been built by the municipal authorities and the local authorities for the people who really need them. I take the view that the 1,000,000 houses that have been built by the local authorities are a real communal and national asset, and are part of the fundamental things that really matter.
With regard to the social and economic effects of the policy of the Government in dealing with local authorities as they are at the present time, I submit that the fundamental issues are that the landlord, the speculative builder and the building society have walked away with handsome profits out of the 2,000,000 houses that 628 have been built by speculative builders and people of that description. Where those houses have been sold, the owner-occupiers are now in the awkward position of struggling to meet the charges upon them either from the building societies or in consequence of the profits which the builders have made in erecting the houses. These owner-occupiers are very anxious about their commitments, and many of them have to give up in despair. When the National Government, after 1931, withdrew the provisions of the 1924 Housing Act, they were responsible for striking a blow at the housing problem of this country, because up to that time houses could be built and let at rentals which were within the capacity of the people who most sorely needed them.
I submit that there are thousands of people in this country who have no security of employment and who are committed to payments in consequence of house purchase. They have to struggle to meet commitments which will be a problem to them for the remainder of their days. I am not saying anything about sweeping away the slums. The slums ought to be swept away, and everybody on this side welcomes any effort in that direction. I am not saying anything about the building of cheap cottages for the agricultural labourer. The agricultural labourer's wages of 32s. a week do not permit him to revel in housing luxury. But I deplore the fact that the Minister of Health should have told the House that he favoured the reconditioning of wornout houses. In my view, that is a wrong policy, and one to which we ought not to subscribe. I have just returned from the Tyneside and the housing conditions of the people living on Tyneside, in a division which is represented by a Tory in this House, are a perfect scandal and disgrace. As an Englishman, I am proud of my country and I wish to make it a country fit for British people. When I see our people on the Tyneside living under filthy, poverty-stricken conditions, I say it is a disgrace to the Government and to this country, and I am amazed that the Government should take pride in saying that they are dealing with the problem of housing.
It is not only to the question of housing that we are asked to direct our attention. There is also the question of health. It is astonishing how complacent the Govern- 629 ment appear to be in regard to the problems of unemployment and poverty. I find on looking through the report of the public assistance committee of the West Riding of Yorkshire that there are more people in receipt of relief this year than there were in 1936, and there were more in 1936 than in 1935. The report states that in the year 1936 there were 21,995 cases, while in 1937 the figure was 22,007. Apparently, therefore, despite all the prosperity of which we hear, more people are becoming chargeable to public assistance. I also find that in 1937 as compared with 1935, there was approximately 95 per cent. of additional expenditure on cases requiring special treatment, while the actual cost of domiciliary relief which was £554,000 in March, 1931, was £901,000 in March, 1937. In view of these figures it is amazing that the Government should be so complacent about the question of poverty and the health of the people. The House will also be astonished to learn that in two of the best hospitals in the West Riding, and two of the best hospitals in the country, the present Ministry of Health has refused to allow nurses to be trained to nurse the sick within the county itself, and petitions are being presented to the Ministry in reference to that matter.
I do not wish to survey a wide field, but when the Home Secretary asks us to direct our attention to these important matters, I think we are entitled to answer him by presenting these facts. Statistics, we are told, are very awkward things. It has been said that you can make figures prove almost anything. I have also heard it said that figures never lie, but that liars can make use of figures. I am not suggesting, of course, that anyone in any Department comes under that particular heading, but figures can be presented in an amazing way. Very little regard apparently is being paid to the real problem of unemployment. There is certainly no reference to it in the King's Speech. Are we to assume then that the Government are satisfied because the figure has come down to 1,300,000? In effect there are 4,000,000 people in this country receiving benefits of one kind or another under the Insurance Acts and that in a time of prosperity. Nobody can argue that these people are wealthy. A person cannot live in luxury on 30s. a week. But the Government appear to assume that the people of the country 630 are satisfied with the present condition of things. Having been all over the country, I can assure them that I find deep dissatisfaction everywhere at the way in which the poorest of the poor are being treated at the present time.
The question of ex-service men has been raised on both sides of the House. I put a series of questions to the Minister of Pensions and the Secretary of State for War asking whether it was right, apart from the question of pensions, that married men of 26 and under in the Army should be called upon to serve on foreign soil while their wives are drawing public assistance and relief at home. It is a scandal, and it applies not only to the Army, but to the Navy and Air Force as well, because the regulation is common to all three. Then, I ask, whether people can be expected to live on the miserable pensions which they are receiving at the present time?
Further, there is the compensation question to which reference has been made. I have a letter from a man who worked in the same colliery—a colliery which I knew as a youth—from 1880 until 1937. He sustained an accident to his eye; he is now going about practically blind and his compensation has been reduced from 23s. to 10s. 7d. a week. That is after 57 years of work. That man is denied a pension. Yet hon. Members opposite go about the country suggesting that there is nothing in the pensions proposals which are part of the policy of the Labour party. As far as I am concerned I regard the pensions issue as a live issue, and it is one which we intend to press forward. To-day we have miners getting 45s. a week, engineers getting 40s. a week, agricultural labourers getting 32s. a week and thousands of young people with less than £1 a week. Yet the Government sit in smug contentment saying "Everything in the garden is lovely." I shall go into the Lobby to-night to vote for this Amendment, more satisfied that I am doing the right thing than I have ever been with regard to any vote which I have cast in this House.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore
I do not propose to comment very fully on any of the Opposition speeches this afternoon, for the simple reason that few of them have touched upon the Amendment. I would, however, criticise the last speaker 631 for imputing a sense of complacency to the Government and a sense of complete satisfaction with things as they are to the Government's supporters.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Where are the representatives of the Scottish Office? There has not been one of them here for the last two hours.
§ Sir T. Moore
The Government have never suggested that they are satisfied with conditions as they are. The Gracious Speech itself shows that they are still seeking, in every way, to improve conditions and to make the lot of our people more hopeful in the future than it has been in the past. The hon. Member himself must know that, according to the "Daily Herald," wages have gone up by 25,000,000. He must also know that we are building houses at the rate of 1,000 a day, and that by the rearmament programme we are safeguarding those very pensions of which he has been speaking. If this country were not rearmed and strong, what would be the use of pensions? I admit that there are grounds for an examination of the pensions situation. At the same time, in carrying out a rearmament policy to preserve the country from the danger of being dragged against its will into foreign conflicts, the Government are doing a wiser and better work for the people by safeguarding pensions than by risking pensions through lack of armaments.
I do not dwell upon the speech of the spokesman of the evanescent Liberal party. I think it was a regrettable but happily ineffective effort to minimise the position and prestige of this country and the work which the National Government have done to maintain it. Nor do I wish to make any special comment on the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). His points were fully answered by the Foreign Secretary, who this afternoon made one of the most convincing speeches of his career, and gave a definition of British foreign policy which will probably travel all over the world and have many happy repercussions in the interests of the peace of the world. There was one reference by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland in the concluding part of his speech which, I hope, will not be fully reported. He said that Germany, Italy and Japan were not obviously friendly to 632 this country under the National Government. After the mischievous and provocative speech which the hon. Member, as the representative of the alternative Government in this country, has made, I cannot believe that those countries would be more friendly to Great Britain under the regime of the hon. Member and his friends than under the regime of the National Government.
We come back to the one subject which has scarcely been mentioned up to now, and that is the Amendment. My first reaction on reading it was astonishment at the cynical disregard of the facts which it discloses. My second feeling was one of regret at what foreigners must think when they read such an Amendment—that is, if foreigners ever do read these Amendments. I imagine that any foreigner would willingly accept for his own country the conditions which the National Government have brought about in this country. Of course the foreigner does not understand that this Amendment does not represent the opinion of the Opposition in general or even of those who framed it. They do not realise that this particular form of shadow boxing is to try to preserve among the Government supporters some feeling of justification that they have been right in their votes and some return for the votes they have given.
There must have been a lot of cold towels and hot heads concerned in the production of this Amendment. I tried to visualise that shadow Cabinet, as I suppose they call themselves "shadow" meaning here to-day and gone to-morrow, or here yesterday and even gone to-day—devoting their brains to working out this Amendment and saying, "Where are we to get the justification for attacking the Government?" They know that the conditions are better to-day than ever before since the close of the War. It has been said that 1929 was a peak period, but in my opinion there is more definite work, more hope for work, and a more definite feeling of confidence in the country than there was in the period ending with 1929; and that is due to the National Government. It is no good the Leader of the Opposition, in drafting the Amendment, saying, "We must do things in a big way, we must not have anything niggling or halfhearted in the Amendment." He has 633 been supported by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), with his rather ponderous platitudes, and by many back benchers in this House during the past few days, but he has not yet been supported by one convincing speech from one Member who has believed actually what he was saying. I thought we might have that obvious complaint registered by the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) that two and a-half lines only had been devoted to Scotland. I notice that the right hon. Member has not yet spoken, and the reason I presume is that he cannot find anything to make a speech upon, because he knows that the conditions in Scotland are better to-day than they have been for very many years past.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
Is the hon. Member aware that in Scotland, according to the figures of the Minister of Labour himself, the figures as from March, 1930, to March, 1937, show an increase of unemployment of 51,000, and that Poor Law relief in Scotland during those years has increased by over £2,500,000?
§ Sir T. Moore
I am aware of what the hon. Gentleman says, but he knows as well as I do, and if he does not I am telling him, that I am speaking relatively, and relatively the position in Scotland is better than it has been for a long time past. We know that the Clyde has never been so busy, that there were 86 vessels launched in the first eight months of this year, that steel and iron are in a position in which they have not been for years, and that blast furnaces have been working harder than for many years. In fact, the only industry that I cannot put my hand on at the moment as doing well is housing in the City of Glasgow itself, and no doubt hon. Members will resent my saying it, but they must be aware of the fact that the majority on the Glasgow Corporation is a Socialist majority, though it may not be so for very long.
We come now to the Amendment. What exactly are the three charges that the Opposition have against the National Government? The first charge is that of a "weak and vacillating" foreign policy, but it seems to me that that is a perfectly exact description of the policy of the Opposition themselves in regard to foreign affairs—non-intervention in Spain last year, intervention in Spain this year, 634 and then, having seen that intervention would very likely lead to a war, which they had tried to deny us the weapons to win, they changed from opposition to armaments last year to support of armaments this year. But what are the facts about the Government's foreign policy? We heard them to-clay from the Foreign Secretary, elaborately, convincingly, and definitely, and I would like to simplify the description of the foreign policy of the National Government under two heads—long-term policy and short-term policy. They are both equally easy to explain, though possibly difficult to fulfil, but at any rate they are both consistent and both definite.
The long-term policy, as I see it, can be sub-divided under three heads. The first is to preserve the security and integrity of the British Empire and its peoples, the second is to play our part in collective action for security, and the third is to promote the peace of the world. I wash out all reference to isolation, because we know it is not a possible policy. We are tied to Europe; the Channel is no more a protection, and we are tied to Europe financially, strategically, and economically. In regard to the short-term policy, the day-today policy, that has again to be divided under two headings. To localise all existing conflicts and, secondly, to mediate in such conflicts where mediation is possible. How well the Government have fulfilled these policies is a source of unending surprise and gratitude to the country. Take two examples. The first is that of Spain. I am not going into the pros and cons of the Spanish situation, except to say that I believe the time will come, and come, possibly, before we are expecting it, when we shall thank God that the National Government were able to keep the conflict sufficiently localised, sufficiently far from spreading throughout the world, like a prairie fire, absorbing, blasting, and killing everything with which it came in contact—a time when we shall see a situation arising in which Spaniards will again have to live side by side with Spaniards in peace and amity. The Spaniard is a proud person, and Spain is a proud country, and I am convinced, as I believe the National Government are convinced, that when that time comes Spaniards will look back with gratitude and friendship to the one country that never produced, as the 635 Foreign Secretary has said, war materials to kill Spaniards.
There is another example, and that is Japan. We have been told that the Socialist Opposition wants a boycott of Japan. The word "sanctions" is no longer very popular, as it was not a great success when it was applied before, unhappily. I think that if we could have got world co-operation or co-operation among 52 nations, it would have been a great achievement, but we could not. There was a leakage in Austria, for instance, and once there is a leak in the tank it is no good trying to pretend that the water will not escape. What is the logical result of such action as the Opposition desire, namely, the institution of a boycott? It obviously means that you would set up in Japan, already nervous, great irritation, and the logical result of that would be the bombardment of Hong Kong. We could not possibly detach sufficient of our Fleet from the obligations which we have undertaken in the Mediterranean, and there we should be embarked in a great war which we should be absolutely unequipped to wage. The Socialists are all warm and aglow when they pass a resolution making a demand on the Government. There is a virtuous feeling that now all will be well and that they will get the support and confidence of their misguided electors throughout the country, but that is not so, because there is no way of fooling all the people all the time, and it would be a great mistake, in my opinion, for the Socialist party to adopt that attitude.
Now I come to the second charge, that of betraying the principles of the League. It is a somewhat vague charge, but I suppose it is good enough to appeal to all those well-meaning sentimentalists throughout the country whose sense of realism is, unhappily but quite honestly, clouded by their sense of idealism. What are the actual facts with regard to the question of dropping the League, for that is what it comes to? In my opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of the country as well, this country, led by the National Government, has given more real support to the cause of peace through the League of Nations than any other country in the world. Who took the lead in disarmament originally? This country. Who took the lead in the Disarmament 636 Conference? The British delegate. Who initiated the embargo on arms to Bolivia and Paraguay? The British delegate. Who was the rapporteur at the meeting when the Yugoslav-Hungarian dispute was so happily prevented from becoming an armed conflict? Again it was the British delegate. And who was mainly responsible for sending an international force to the Saar? Again the British Government. It was only when, in the pursuit of peace, the National Government found the League hopelessly disunited, both in method and design, that they took the burden on their own shoulders and, while acting in strict accordance with the principles of the Covenant, adopted a more simplified machinery and more suitable for the purpose.
The third and last charge is:lack of any constructive and fundamental proposals for raising the standard of life of the people.In my opinion, this charge would be humorous if it were not so unprincipled. I wonder if it was with malice aforethought or design that when framing this Amendment the word "proposals" was selected. I hate to rub it in, but that is what "policy" means to the Opposition. How many "proposals" of theirs have we not had—short-term proposals and five-year plans, put up by the party above the Gangway, and how little has been the result in the well-being of this country? We believe in deeds and not so much in proposals, although there are some very fundamental proposals contained in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. First and foremost is an expression of confidence. It is a queer fact which no Member of the Opposition party ever seems to realise that a Conservative or National Government can pass progressive social legislation which a Socialist Government would never get the country to accept, because the country has confidence in the sobriety and competence and sanity of the Nationalist Government. That is why I suggest that the Opposition should cultivate the qualities that I have just laid down. Then come tariffs, the bargaining weapon by which we have brought back trade from the foreigner that had been taken from us and given it back to our own people. Finally, there is the lowering, if not indeed the abolishing, of the tariff by the 637 establishment of the trade agreements with our neighbours. They have been a fruitful source of income, amounting to something like £40,000,000 of revenue, and have introduced a complementary trade between Britain and other countries.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman give the figures of the increased exports with trade agreement countries?
§ Sir T. Moore
I have already exceeded my time, and if I were to enter into tables of statistics I would deprive others who are more qualified of an opportunity to speak. The point is that £40,000,000 would be lost if we had not the tariff system which my hon. Friend naturally resents and resists. I would ask the House to consider whether I am justified in the statement that I made a few minutes ago that, although the Opposition criticise the proposals in the King's Speech, they are fundamental and constructive, and will all have a definite bearing on the general prosperity of the people. The first is the nationalisation of mining royalties. I cannot understand why the Opposition should regard that as unconstructive, because for many years it has been one of the main planks of the Socialist party. Now it is proposed by the Government it becomes of no importance and is unconstructive. Then there is the distribution of electricity, which I suppose the Opposition regard as unimportant. It will, however, mean more to the comfort of the homes of the people in the rural areas, as well as the towns, and mean more to the extension of industry than almost any other piece of legislation of that nature could do. It is unimportant because the Government propose to bring it in and not the Opposition.
Then we come to housing. That is one of the fundamental means by which we can create a generation of young people who will have the opportunity of developing in healthy and happy surroundings, and whose minds will therefore be encouraged. The last proposal which I should have thought the Opposition would have welcomed more than anything else is the promise of penal reform. It is designed to bring mercy and justice into the treatment of criminals and to offer them the hope of respectable security and employment when they have 638 finished the punishment which no doubt their crimes deserve. I cannot believe that the country will regard this reform as unimportant or lacking in constructive effort. No one, however, can help but admire the bland effrontery and the unquenchable optimism, and, at the same time, sympathise with the hopeless futility with which the Opposition spokesmen have tried to defend their Amendment. There are better causes on which they might have been engaged.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I am delighted to have this opportunity of supporting the Opposition Amendment against this most disgraceful Speech. I do not blame the King, but I blame the Government for the Speech, which is a scandal. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) mentioned the statement in the Speech with regard to my native land. The Speech treats Scotland with callousness and in a disgraceful manner. Only 2½ lines are devoted to it, and even they do not touch the fringes of the deplorable conditions of the country. The hon. and gallant Member mentioned the ships we have built in the west of Scotland and the amount of work that we have. It is true that we have plenty of work to go on with, but we have often heard, and I have frequently challenged, the statement about the shortage of skilled labour. I will try to show what are the actual conditions in the engineering and shipbuilding industry. This is a subject about which I know something. I cannot follow other Members into the realms of foreign policy. I hope that I will make a better job of it than those who represented the party against the Government. If I were to judge by the reply given by the Foreign Secretary to-day, I would think that the Government was all right, but knowing as I do the conditions at home, I know that the Government are not fit to hold sway in Britain. They are letting Britain down badly.
I am just fresh from the Clyde, where I was met by a huge deputation of the men for whom the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs said there is plenty of work. They cannot get work. The finest skilled men in the world, the men who built the "Queen Mary," are working only three weeks in four. Every fourth week they are unemployed. I have seen the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence behind the Speaker's 639 Chair, and I wish he would come in. I wish also that the Scottish Office would give a little more attention to the House. No representative of the Scottish Office has been on the Treasury Bench within the last two hours while this important question has been discussed. Let hon. Members think of the terrible situation in which these men and their families are placed—the men for whom this country is gasping, the most highly skilled men in the country, if not in the world, who are unemployed every fourth week. That means poverty in their homes, just that little bit of difference between being comfortable and being right up against it. I do not know what is going on in Spain, or in Germany, or in China or Japan, but I know what is going on at home.
I will come to a serious business to which I drew the attention of the House a year ago. I warned the House and pleaded privately and publicly with the then Prime Minister and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence about the discontent that was on the Clyde among the engineering apprentices. He paid no attention to it. What happened? The men at Parkhead Forge struck work for a penny an hour more. They are the men on whom this country is dependent to make its guns. After the men had been out for weeks they agreed, on the recommendation of the executive of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, representing one and a quarter million engineers, to go back to work, the executive promising that they would try to straighten the business out. About six weeks ago they met in Glasgow the employers of labour on the Clyde and threshed the thing out, but came to no understanding.
This matter does not affect me as far as my constituency is concerned, but Parkhead Forge—Beardmore's—is the place to which I gave my life, where I worked as long as the employers on the Clyde would allow me to work, till I was 40 years of age. They came to no agreement, and now that great arsenal is seething with discontent. It is not Chinese I am talking about, or Germans, but about the men on whom this country is dependent for the making of its munitions. They are seething with discontent and may stop work at any time, all over a 640 penny an hour. There are about 800 men—no higher skilled men in the world, men who are constantly working to the thousandth part of an inch, making for naval guns the finest breech mechanism that has ever been made. And this Government, which has got the power to spend £1,500,000,000 on armaments, allows all this discontent to go on. It is spreading; I warn them. It has left the Clyde, and the apprentice engineers all over Britain are now threatening to strike. In Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle they are all up in arms. That is what this Government are doing here. Heaven only knows what they do abroad—I do not know—but there is no denying what they do here under our eyes.
Now I come to another thing the Government are doing. The houses in Clydebank are falling down. Half a dozen families had to he taken out of the MacAlpine houses—one of our biggest Government contractors. The houses are falling down about the people, and we have nowhere to put them. There is not an empty house in Clydebank, and the council had to do what they could for the people by accommodating them in the bowling green pavilion. We have 500 houses being built. How many bricklayers have we? Half a dozen. A super-cinema is being built in one town on Clydebank and there are 50 builders on the job. That is all going on under this Government. The Secretary of State knows all this.
Next I come to Dumbarton. One of our local papers, which is a branch of a national paper, a Tory paper, described only last Friday the conditions in Dumbarton. This is in thisLand of Hope and Glory, mother of the free.Last week the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) was making a great appeal for big families, and said the day was not far away when there would be big families in this country again. Will there? Those who live longest will see most. What inducement is there for people to have big families? In Dumbarton a man and wife and 10 children occupy two apartments measuring 8 by 10. The man and wife are 40 years of age and have 10 children—listen to this—all alive; they have never had a death. If it were not that they were hardy beyond compare they could never have survived. 641 What is the income to keep that man and woman and 10 children? £3 12s. 6d. is the entire income going into that home from all sources. The eldest of the family is 19 years of age. There is a state of affairs. One has to see the family in order to realise the hellish conditions under which they live.
Down at the end of the square there are 30 people for one lavatory. This is in the land they have to fight for and to defend. Why, the Germans, if they had won the war, would never have imposed conditions like those in this country. At the other end of the square—it is just about time some representative of the Scottish Office made his appearance here—they have been in a fright because they did not know what to de with the rats. Rats! Mr. Smith, the sanitary inspector of Dumbarton, came along and put down poison, with the result that some of the rats were poisoned; but other rats ate them and people have seen the remnants in their houses. This is not in China or Germany or Italy, but in Scotland. This is in the constituency that I represent, the constituency in which the "Queen Mary" was built, the constituency in which the greatest battleship which has ever been built is being constructed now, and in which ever so much more Admiralty work is going on. That is how the people at home are being treated by this Government. That is how they treated their engineers, our own kith and kin. If, as I know from bitter experience, they treat the working class of this country, their own countrymen, in the way I know they have, and are now treating them, how can I have any condence as to how they would treat the foreigner? I can have absolutely no confidence whatever.
The Government and the Scottish Office, the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, as well as the whole of that administration, had better beware. They know perfectly well that I have stood here and have written articles, putting forward the idea that we never were better than we are to-day, morally and physically, and never better equipped, and that we never had better men and women than the men and women of to-day. We know that whatever good conditions, comparatively, our class have, they have wrung those conditions from the ruling class. The class from which I have sprung, 642 those who are coming on and coming after us, will be as determined as ever they can be that my race shall not stand the damnable conditions that I have described to-day. They are not going to let themselves be turned adrift and treated in this fashion. Highly skilled men do not want to go on strike. I never went on strike with a light heart in my life. I have been on strike and I have led strikes, but my responsibilities were always too great from my boyhood. Those men are not willingly discontented. They ought to be treated as men. They ought to be treated as the Government themselves would treat their own personal employés.
I used to ask Sir Godfrey Collins, when he was Secretary of State for Scotland: "Give us the conditions in Scotland that pertain to the Collins's." I ask a similar question of the Government and of the Scottish Office, and I hope they will pay attention. One of the brass hats of the Admiralty was appealing to me very seriously to use my influence to try to get this business straightened out in Parkhead. What can I do? I am with the men. Their case is sound and they have every justification for making a demand for one penny an hour. They have held out for a year. The Government and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence know all about this. They know that we have a very difficult and hardheaded Scotsman to deal in the person of Sir James Lithgow, who is anxious to get the King to come to Parkhead, but he will not get him if I have any say in the matter, after treating my fellows in a fashion like that. I am expected to be quiet, but if I were quiet the very stones would cry out against those conditions. We were sent here to expose those conditions and not to make friends, not to get knighthoods or honours from the ruling class. We were sent here to fight against those conditions; not to be put off with kind words, but to demand that those wrongs be righted. There is no other justification for our being on these benches. That is what the working class sent us here for; not to get on personally, but to use the best of our ability to see that wrongs which exist in our own country are abolished.
We know that this country, above any other country in the world, can afford to give the workers a decent livelihood. There is not a beast in Britain but has 643 provision made for it for the winter that we are facing. The squirrel has its nest; the rabbit and the shepherd's collie have provision made for them; the farmer's cattle are provided for. The only creature for which no adequate provision is made is man.The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head.That is the condition of these 10 children. Think of it; 12 human beings shut up in two little rooms. You have to remember that that is all they have. There is no garden; nothing. The lavatory accommodation has to be shared with another four families. The Duke of Windsor said when he saw those conditions: "It makes me almost ashamed that I am an Englishman." The conditions that I have seen in Scotland make me ashamed that Scotsmen sit under them and allow them to continue.
Unless something is done and done speedily, and done by men who have courage, those conditions simply will not be tolerated. Little details are being attended to here and there, but the position requires radical change. It requires to be faced in a drastic manner. The folk will demand a better life than they are having at the moment. Because of those conditions and of what we see, we are going into the Lobby to vote to-night in favour of the Amendment. I could draw attention to ever so many things. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) drew the attention of the House last week to the scandalous conditions of the ex-service men who gave their all. The only individuals who came well out of the War were those who lent money. They are still drawing as a result of what they lent, but the people who gave all—life, sight—they or their dependants are left high and dry. Do you think that will go on? No, Sir.
With all their drawbacks the working classes of this country are more intelligent than ever they were before. There are more men like those who have been sent here, and throughout the length and breadth of the land, in the workshop, they are drawing attention to the fact that they have no right to be crushed in the manner that they are. It is not right that they should be thrown out into the street every third week. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities 644 (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald), who was then Prime Minister, when he went to America on his peace mission to negotiate with President Roosevelt, stopped the building of a Dreadnought at Dalmuir. The firm was compensated, but the men whom I represent, 700 of them, were thrown out on the street with no compensation. I raised the matter here with the Prime Minister, and what did he say? He said they would get our incomparable social services. That was the Employment Exchange. I asked him then whether the incomparable social services would be good enough for his son Malcolm? No fear. There was a Cabinet Minister's salary for him; but my people were flung on the street with less than £1 a week. Because of these things, I will certainly support the Amendment with the greatest possible pleasure.
§ 8.47 p.m.
Duchess of Atholl
I am sure we all agree in deploring the housing conditions to which the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has been referring, but I would remind him that two years ago the Government introduced and carried through Parliament a Housing Act designed to end just those bad cases of overcrowding, and I do not doubt that my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland are co-operating with the local authorities with a view to removing those terrible conditions. It cannot, of course, be done in a day but at least the Act is in being—
§ Mr. Kirkwood
I said that we were anxious to build houses, but cannot get labour to build them. That is not because there is no labour; there are thousands unemployed in this country; but we cannot get them. I also said that a super-cinema is being built in a town where they cannot get bricklayers to build houses, and there are 50 on the job.
Duchess of Atholl
I agree with the hon. Member in deploring that sort of thing. I agree that healthy housing ought to come first. But I cannot say off-hand whether my right hon. Friend and the Under-Secretary have the power to stop the building of a super-cinema. It is a free country, and I do not think there is any legislation that would make such a thing impossible. I quite agree, however, that healthy houses should come very much before a cinema whether super or not. 645 Turning to the question which I think over-shadows most things, the question of the international situation, I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to-day, and with most of it I was in warm agreement. I feel obliged, however, though with great diffidence, to comment on one part of it, that in which he dealt with the policy of nonintervention in Spain, and tried, as he said, to give us a fairer picture of the effect of that scheme on the two sides in Spain than, he claimed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had given us a day or two ago. While I think it is possible that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs may have over-painted the picture in one or respects, nevertheless I feel, with great respect, that my right hon. Friend omitted one or two material points from the picture that he himself drew. He gave us figures showing a great increase in exports from Soviet Russia to Spain in the last year, but he did not give us the figures for exports to Spain from Germany or Italy, and it seems to me that, unless some comparison of that sort can be made, the figures will be of no value in endeavouring to arrive at a conclusion as to which side has been most helped or most handicapped by the non-intervention scheme.
Again, my right hon. Friend did not make any reference to the question of the lack of air control. No one can complain of the Non-intervention Scheme on that account, because you cannot have effective control of the air; you cannot stretch a line in the air and say that no aeroplane shall go past it, as is possible in the case of a land frontier. That being so, one has only to look at the map of Spain to see that the friends of the insurgents, Italy and Germany, are in a much more favourable position for sending planes to Spain than is Russia. With the possession of Sardinia by Italy, and the Italian occupation, in part at least, of Majorca, Italian planes can fly quite easily to Spain by night and so can German planes, whereas, of course, Russian planes have to come by sea and so risk capture.
My right hon. Friend also omitted to refer to the question of the Portuguese frontier. No doubt hon. Members will recollect that the international control of 646 the land frontier between Portugal and insurgent Spain was removed some months ago, last summer. It may be said that the international observers were also removed from the French frontier following the removal of observers from the Portuguese frontier. No doubt the responsibility for observing the scheme of non-intervention has since devolved on the respective Governments of Portugal and France, but in the case of France the Government is a democratic Government, which is liable to criticism from the Opposition parties if it lets war material or volunteers through, whereas the Government of Portugal is a dictator, ship which is responsible to no one. I understand that the French officials have the same instructions as they always have had, not to let things go through, and we have some assurance that they will see that those instructions are observed, but we cannot have any such assurance in the case of Portugal. I find it therefore impossible to avoid the belief that the scheme of control has handicapped the Spanish Government in these various ways and also, of course, by depriving it of the right, which all legal Governments enjoy under international law, of buying arms where it can.
My right hon. Friend went on to put before us the complaint of General Franco that he had not yet been accorded belligerent rights. But is an insurgent General necessarily entitled to claim rights of that kind? If we in this country were faced with a military insurrection, the leaders of which, from the very beginning, had called in native troops who had been guilty of cruelty to this country a year or two before, as in the case of the Moors in Spain, and if they had been aided by two foreign Powers from a very early date in the insurrection, if the Government of the day had also lost the services of most of the police and had no second line with which to meet this terrible danger, this invasion, who in the House of Commons who had been brought up to believe in a representative system of Government would say that these military leaders had the right to claim from foreign countries recognition as belligerents?
If, however, anyone should ask, as one or two of my hon. Friends may be wondering, whether the Spanish Government is a legally elected Government, 647 I think that any such doubt has been put for ever at rest by the declaration made in the Cortes the other day by the late Conservative Prime Minister, Senor Portela Valladares, who was actually Prime Minister at the time of the last General Election—the Popular Front Election of February, 1936. Senor Valladares has lately returned to Valencia after an absence from Spain since the beginning of the insurrection. He has announced his warm support of the present Government of Spain, and has made the following declaration:The Government presided over by me was defeated at the election held by it. I handed over the Government to the People's Front because I was convinced of the latter's triumph, as were also the extreme Conservatives. The Ministers who were serving under me agreed that we must hand over power.He went on to say that the only alternative would have been the proclamation of martial law. I hope that we shall hear no more doubts expressed as to the legality of the Government then elected and of its successors who have been supported by the Cortes when it was possible for it to meet. We may not agree—I do not pretend to do so for a moment—with the views of all members of the Spanish Government on internal policy, but we cannot deny that it is the legally elected Government of Spain. And now this Government, as I have endeavoured to show, has been handicapped by non-intervention, and is put in a position of greater peril than before by the fact that those little provinces in the north have been isolated by the insurgents and crushed, largely with foreign help; and now the troops engaged in the north of Spain are free to turn south for an attack on the Madrid front, and bring with them not only foreign aeroplanes, but the heavy artillery, which, I believe, played so large a part in the crushing of the Basques.
That was a point stressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He emphasised the danger of these heavy guns being brought against the Government forces, because he believes that they outrange the artillery of the Government. I was very interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon agree that war material was more important in this matter than personnel, but I have looked 648 in vain at the scheme for the withdrawal of foreigners to find in it any sugestion for the withdrawal of important war material such as aeroplanes, tanks or guns. Therefore, on my right hon. Friend's own showing, the scheme for the withdrawal of foreigners from Spain omits a most important matter, and yet, under the scheme proposed by my right hon. Friend in July last to the Non-Intervention Committee, when what was described as "substantial progress" has been made with the withdrawal of foreign personnel only, belligerent rights are to be granted to both sides, and this he has explained to us to-day, will enure considerably to the advantage of the insurgents.
Again, the July proposal of my right hon. Friend—a compromise proposal, as I think we all regard it—is something very different from the resolution which was passed at the recent Assembly of the League of Nations with the support of our delegates and of the delegates of 31 other countries. It is quite true that because two small countries voted against this resolution, the League could not take any action on it, but that does not seem to me to make any difference to the fact of our support. Its most important declarations were as follow:Trusts that the diplomatic action recently initiated by certain Powers"—that is the conversations which our Government and the French Government desired to have with the Italian Government—will be successful in securing the immediate and complete withdrawal of the non= Spanish combatants taking part in the conflict in Spain.And it went on:Notes that, if such a result cannot be obtained in the near future, the members of the League which are parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement will consider ending the policy of non-intervention.These are the salient points of the resolution supported by our delegates. You will observe that it demands the immediate and complete withdrawal of foreigners—not a merely substantial withdrawal—and that unless that can be done it understands that the non-intervention policy will be brought to an end. Nor have I discovered a single word in the resolution about the granting of belligerent rights; yet since that resolution was supported by our delegates our Government have 649 allowed Signor Mussolini to force the discussion of this very difficult subject back to the Non-Intervention Committee, on which we know great delays take place. Still more, we have been pushed back, on the Non-Intervention Committee, into the discussion of the compromise of July which differs so materially from the resolution which we supported the other day at Geneva. My right hon. Friend, to my great pleasure, said, about a fortnight ago in a speech in the country, that the Government would not tolerate any dilatory tactics on the Non-Intervention. Committee, but it seems to me that members of that Committee may discuss for a considerable period what constitutes or does not constitute substantial progress.
Again, any attempt to ascertain the number of foreigners on each side is bound to be a very long business. General Franco has denied that he has any foreigners with him, and that may well mean that they will he difficult to discover. As long ago as August of last year the correspondent of a British newspaper found German air officers at Seville, by then in insurgent hands, in the white overalls which are the uniform of the Spanish airmen; that is to say, that even before German intervention in Spain was a month old German air officers who had been sent to Spain to help the insurgents were being camouflaged as members of the Spanish Air Force. Therefore, the ascertainment of the number of foreigners on the insurgent side is bound to be very slow and may be very difficult.
I saw the other day that one member of the Commission was to be appointed to represent this country, another France, another Germany and another Italy, but you would require not five or six commissioners, but dozens of men from neutral countries, skilled linguists, who could talk to the officers and men as they travelled up and down the insurgent to find out whether they could speak Spanish, or whether they spoke it with a German or Italian accent. It might be necessary to know Spanish extremely well in order to be able to tell whether Spanish was being spoken by Spaniards. And during the months that the ascertainment of the number of foreigners is taking place a desperate battle will probably be in progress, unless impeded by bad weather, between men who are outranged in artillery and who, as we were told the other 650 day, have to fight in sandshoes for lack of proper footwear, against men who have been liberally and plentifully supplied by their foreign allies with everything in the way of guns, tanks and aeroplanes. And then it has been agreed that when a substantial number of foreigners, not of foreign arms, have been withdrawn, belligerent rights are to be granted to a side which to-day, I understand, in this House has been described as a pirate, because it has just bombed a British ship.
I agree, of course, with my right hon. Friend and with all who have spoken from the Government Bench on this question, that this country has wanted to keep out of the Spanish trouble. It is quite natural that we should wish to do so, as most of our people have thought of the Spanish trouble only as a civil war, but I say emphatically that we are doing our people a great injustice if we think that any considerable section of our people have ever wished, in keeping out of the Spanish trouble, to impose on the Spanish people a scheme that was unfair to one side, and if I know the people of this country, least of all would they wish to impose on Spain a scheme that tended to help the side that is being assisted by dictators.
Just before the close of the summer Session we heard much about the presence of guns, believed to be German, in a position to fire on Gibraltar, in defiance of a treaty of more than 200 years which we have had with Spain. We also heard of other guns in a position to "fire over the Straits," to quote the words of my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. These facts have brought home to many of those who are called the men-in-the-street a recognition of the danger to us if the insurgents win in Spain. I do not forget that a very distinguished and gallant colleague of mine, the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, North (Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Keyes) somewhat minimised the other day the danger to us of these guns in the Straits. I think he said that provided we had command of the seas those guns would not prevent our ships getting into the Mediterranean by night, and probably by day with a smoke screen.
I cannot claim to have any knowledge of these matters, but it seems to me that the course of history shows that even a great naval Power such as we hope we 651 are does not always have command of every bit of the sea the whole time. If we had had full command of the Indian Ocean during the Great War when the Emden was carrying on its activities it would have been very different for several of our ships. That seems to me to be an important qualification of the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend. Again, I am told that the wind is apt to blow strong through the Straits, because they are narrow. In that case the smoke screen, if our ships went in by day, might not always be very effective. If that was the case, our ships might have to wait for several hours in order to slip through by night, and a few hours' delay might make all the difference between victory and defeat in the Mediterranean or outside it. Therefore, I cannot say that my fears about these guns at Gibraltar have been removed by what my hon. and gallant Friend said, and if he had been here I should have liked to ask him whether he would be ready to hand over Gibraltar to General Franco. Last May or June the General gave an interview to the "Times" representative, and when he was asked what he thought about Gibraltar, he said he felt sure that Gibraltar could never be a bone of contention between us and him, because it was really of no value to us.
Another formidable danger to our allies the French seems apparent from the Italian occupation of Majorca. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the other day said that he accepted the assurances of Signor Mussolini that he had no designs whatever on the territorial integrity of Spain, whether on the mainland of Spain or Spanish overseas possessions, but I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has heard what I am credibly informed is the case that in Majorca Signor Mussolini is giving a bonus to every Italian who marries a Spanish girl and a further bonus for every child born of the marriage. Therefore, Signor Mussolini, whatever he may be promising to do to-day, seems to be looking ahead in order to get a firm footing in what is undoubtedly a very important strategic position. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has also seen the photographs which some foreign newspapers have published showing Italian soldiers in Spain painting on the rocks in Italian 652 the declaration that "Europe will be Fascist or Fascistised." I do not think we can feel great comfort from a declaration or slogan of that kind.
It, therefore, seems to me that the only thing that would be fair to both sides, the only course consistent with the resolution we supported at Geneva, and the only course consistent with the safety of this country and its Imperial communications, is to stop further discussion of the compromise scheme of last July, and restore to the Spanish Government the right to defend themselves by importing arms. Even if we have no arms to sell to them, and France is also too short of arms to supply them, there are other countries which would have no difficulty in supplying arms to the Spanish Government, through France, if the French Government were ready to open their frontier, as no doubt they would be if they were ready to restore this right. I believe that if the Spanish Government could get the arms that it needs for the men it could put into the field it would have a good hope of being able to hold its own. In the last few months the Catalan forces, which in April, when I was in Spain, were acting independently of the Government forces, have become part of the Government's new army and have been doing good service in the Saragossa area, and the manufacture of munitions in Catalonia has been greatly speeded up in the last few months, although they are not able to make heavy guns. I believe the Spanish Government could put into the field hundreds of thousands of trained and disciplined men, far more Spaniards than the insurgent leaders could.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) the other day commented on the fact that there was a considerable number of men of military age behind the insurgent lines, who were not in khaki. The explanation of that may be found in a description which I have seen by a British correspondent of the procedure in a recruiting office of the insurgent army at Seville in the summer of last year. Out of 30 recruits who presented themselves on a day early in the insurrection the recruiting officers accepted only five, because they refused everyone who seemed to be at all educated or intelligent. They only wanted men who were ignorant and not likely to give trouble. I do not believe, therefore, that the insurgent leaders 653 really could face putting arms into the hands of a great many of the more intelligent men who are in their territory.
My right hon. Friend indeed told us that some refugees from France when given their choice of going back to the Basque country or to Catalonia, opted in equal numbers. With respect, I do not think that was any indication of great support for the insurgent regime, because the 50 per cent. who opted to go to Catalonia were opting to go away from their homes. Their homes were in the Basque country, and, naturally, if any refugees are told that they can go home and that it is safe for them to do so, they proceed to go there, and not to a distant part of Spain which they do not know. But I doubt if the return of 50 per cent. of refugees to the Basque country is likely to continue. I have information from some one who is in a position to know, that 29 young women who had opted to go back to the Basque country under an assurance that they would be safe were shot on 18th October. That sort of thing is not likely to encourage refugees to go back. There is such a strict censorship on the insurgent side that it is difficult to know what is happening, but these are indications that the people are not behind General Franco in the way many believe.
I cannot withhold the conviction that the Republican Army are fighting with an intensity and fervour that you cannot expect to find among the men of the other side, fighting as they are for a dictator, especially if they have been imported from a dictatorship country. There are indications, also, of trouble between the Spaniards and Italians on General Franco's side. That tends to weaken the insurgents. There are indications, too, that the Spanish war is unpopular in Italy and Germany. Therefore, with all respect to my right hon. Friend, I cannot feel convinced that the opening of the French frontier would not be sufficient to enable the Spanish Government to win the war. That view does not seem to me to take account of the reign of terror on General Franco's side. I could give other instances if time permitted in support of that, but the best evidence is that our Government and others, since they heard of the fall of Gijon, have telegraphed an appeal to General Franco to show mercy to the Asturians who have been taken prisoners.
654 There may, however, be some who doubt whether the Spanish Government stands for liberty. There are those who regard it as being a Communist Government. But surely one of the hall-marks, perhaps the special hall-mark, of democracy is that there is no limit to freedom of political association as long as the law is not broken. And in Government Spain there is no such limit to political parties or trade unions. Indeed, they have suffered from an excess of political parties, a fact which has tended to weaken them in their emergency. The Spanish Government is therefore essentially a democratic one. Nor is it, nor has it ever been, Communist. Communists have never been admitted to the Government except as part of a coalition of five or six parties. They have never been more than two in number or held the most important offices. So there has never been a Communist Government. One could with far greater justice refer to the present National Government as a Liberal Government, because it has four Liberal members in the Cabinet, headed by a very influential member in the Chancellor of the Exchequer, while the first National Government could with yet more justice have been called a Socialist Government because it had four Socialist members in the Cabinet, including not only the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor. I hope, therefore, that in this House we shall have an end of describing the Spanish Government as Communist.
On the other hand, General Franco, when, in April last, he combined all political parties into one, of which he was to be the leader, showed the hall-mark of a dictator. The Spanish Government and those who support it are therefore fighting to defend what should be the most precious thing for any people—liberty. And on account of Spain's great mineral wealth, so precious for purposes of the re armament of countries which have little mineral wealth of their own, and on account of Spain's important strategic position, I believe that the Spanish people, in fighting to defend their liberties, are fighting a preliminary battle to' defend the liberties of other countries. I feel therefore that, if we further withhold the right from that people to the means of full self-defence, we shall incur a grave 655 moral responsibility, and shall greatly increase the dangers which darken our own future.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Batey
One sentence of this Amendment which makes a special appeal to me is the sentence which regrets the lack of any constructive and fundamental proposals for raising the standard of life. On Friday, the Home Secretary attempted to deal with that sentence. He based his case in defence of the Government on three counts. The first was that production had increased; the second, that there were more men employed; and the third, that there had been a decrease in unemployment. During the afternoon one of my colleagues made what I feel was a most effective reply to the Home Secretary, and one that I would like to hear answered to-night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that those facts might be true; that it might be true that production was increasing, that more men had work, that unemployment had been reduced; but it was also true that while wages had increased by only 3 per cent. the cost of living had increased by 10 per cent. and profits had increased 78 per cent.
I am glad the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just come in. I would like him to deal with that, and especially to defend the Government in regard to the cost of living. I remember hearing the late Prime Minister say more than once that unemployment had destroyed four or five Governments. We have not got unemployment with us to any large extent for an election now, but, just as I believe unemployment did destroy Governments, I believe the increase in the cost of living, and especially in the cost of food, will destroy this Government. It is wise for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep in mind that the cost of living gradually but surely fell from November, 1920, to June, 1933. Then the tide turned, and from June, 1933, instead of a gradual fall in the cost of living we have had a gradual increase. What was the cause of the turn of the tide? We say that it was the Government's tariff and quota policy. On 6th October, a Conservative paper—not a Labour paper—the "Daily Mirror," came out with an article on its front page, headed in big black letters, "Food prices are rocketing to make a Wartime Christmas." The article said: 656This will be the worst winter for British housewives since the War. Food prices are rising daily. They will keep on increasing until by Christmas at least 23s. will be needed to buy foods purchasable for £1 last year. Inquiries in the London markets yesterday showed that meat, bacon, butter and potatoes are about 25 per cent. dearer than last autumn.I want to submit that bread, bacon, butter and milk have all got dearer. First let us take bacon, and I will give a quotation from a newspaper:The present high retail price of bacon is not the fault of the shopkeeper or of world forces, and the only people profiting by it are the large bacon curers. Since the 'contract system' of pig purchases broke down to months ago the Pigs Board has become practically non-operative, and the Bacon Board is the only effective part of the so-called 'marketing scheme.' This Bacon Board is in many respects little more than a big curers' ring. As with all the present Government's 'marketing boards' it has been given monopoly powers, and bacon pigs may only be sold to existing 'registered curers.' As a result the bacon position has come to he practically dominated by one large firm of curers (with its associated groups) Marsh and Baxter.Then it says:Danish imports, the principal supply of bacon, have been reduced from 4,370,744 cwts. in the first nine months of 1933 to 2,569,238 cwts. in the first nine months of 1937.It goes on:Wholesale prices have risen from 60s. a cwt. at the end of 1932 to 106s. this month, and retail prices from 10½d. a 1b. in September, 1932, to is. 3¼d. per lb. to-day.I should be inclined myself to go beyond is. 3¼d. I saw some bacon in a shop on Sunday at Is. 5d. a 1b.
§ Sir Ernest Shepperson
The hon. Member has given the figures of the reduction of imports of bacon in this country from Denmark. Could he at the same time tell us what is the increase in the British production of bacon?
§ Mr. Batey
Well, another paper, and a Tory paper, the "Daily Mirror"—the last extract I read was from the "Daily Herald"—said on 6th October:Quota restrictions on Danish bacon have sent up prices, as we cannot buy enough British bacon, and what there is is too expensive.Now what about butter? The "Sunday Express" only a week yesterday said the price of English butter might rise to 2S. 6d. a 1b. by Christmas. I notice it is stated in to-day's "Daily Herald": 657Housewives may have to pay 2s. per 1b. for New Zealand butter by Christmas. Wholesale prices increased by 12s. a cwt. last week, and on Saturday the price the public bad to pay rose by 2d. to 1s. 8d. per 1b.That is not a bright prospect for the housewife, but in this matter we depend very much upon imports. In the Trade and Navigation Accounts for this month we read that in the first nine months of 1935 there was imported into this country 7,491,981 cwts., for which we paid £29,461,604. In the first nine months of this year we imported 7,177,752 cwts., for which we paid £34,122,047; in other words, we imported 314,229 cwts. less and paid £4,660,443 more. The housewives have got to pay that, and when the housewife goes to the shop and has to pay that extra money she is not happy and she will record her unhappiness against the Government when the time comes.
One knows that the Government started its policy in regard to bread by being prepared to give £6,000,000 subsidy, to be paid by the housewives to the farmers for home-grown wheat. That £6,000,000 has to be paid to the housewife, but even after all that is done in this country we have still to depend upon imported wheat and the Trade and Navigation Accounts for this month show for wheat these facts, that in the first nine months of 1935 we imported 72,358,263 cwts. and in the first nine months of this year we imported 71,857,722 cwts. But for that imported wheat we paid in 1935 £20,961,914, and this year £37,283,826. In other words, though we imported 500,541 cwts. less we paid £16,321,912 more. That has to be paid by the housewife too. It is not a matter only of the country paying £16,000,000 more for wheat, but that £16,000,000 has to be paid by the housewife.
What can we say in regard to milk. The price of milk has practically doubled, and it is not good quality milk. Separators are used so much that the milk purchased at such an increased price is simply whitened water. All the cream has been taken out, and there is nothing left in the milk. You simply get skimmed milk. This is what the "Daily Mirror" says in regard to meat:Most alarming of all price increases are those for meat and bacon. Best cuts of all meal: are up by fourpence per 1b.—and the peak has not been reached by any means. Wholesalers are as upset about all this as 658 the housewife. They say, meat is up because of the Government's quota scheme. We have to pay more for the restricted amount of foreign meat we are allowed to import, and South America is reaping the benefit. The home producer, instead of making good the shortage is producing less and making more money.I submit that the price of food has increased because of the policy of the Government, and the housewives of the country will not forgive the Government unless they stop these increases in price. The same is true of clothing and rent. Clothing has increased by 105 per cent., and notwithstanding this fact the Government impose an import duty of 25 per cent. on felt hats and caps. They are not satisfied with what they are taking out of the working classes by way of increased food prices, but they are saying that "If you wear a cap we are going to increase its price by 25 per cent." One cannot understand why the Government should makes these attacks on the working classes. Felt hats and caps are worn by working men. Why do not the Government make an attack on silk hats?
Duchess of Atholl
Many people are wearing felt hats to-day; you will see them at almost every gathering.
§ Mr. Batey
Yes, I sometimes see gentlemen wearing felt hats, but I sometimes see the same gentlemen wearing silk hats, and if they would take the duty off caps one might forgive them for putting a duty on felt hats.
I should like to say something about the Special Areas, especially as the Minister of Labour is in his place. There is the question of the means test. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Commission has done absolutely nothing. But I hope we shall get a special Debate on that matter. We are attacking the Government because they have no proposals for increasing the standard of living. I rather regret this on behalf of the mining community. The Government are putting forward proposals to help royalty owners and coalowners and they are also proposing to deal with the miners. They are going to give to the royalty owners £66,500,000, and also propose to bring in one Bill dealing with royalties and organisation. They are two different interests. How it is proposed to deal with them in one Bill simply puzzles me. They propose to give to the royalty owners £66,500,000 and to 659 reorganise the industry for the benefit of the coalowners, but when you turn to see what it is proposed to do for the miners you find that in the Expiring Laws Continuation Bill it is proposed to carry forward the Minimum Wage Act. That is all. That was an Act passed in 1912, renewed year after year afterwards, but an Act which to-day is almost a dead letter. If there is anything to which this Government should turn its attention it is to the minimum wage and the guarantee to every man who goes down a coal mine of a decent wage.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Emmott
The Debate has covered a very wide ground and has oscillated backwards and forwards between different subjects in such a way that I hope the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) will excuse me if I deliberately avoid following the topics with which he dealt, and concern myself with others. I should like to make a few comments on the observations addressed to the House by the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). I hope she will allow me to say that she is always extremely well informed on the subject of Spain. I do not intend to enter into any details of that topic, for various reasons, but I should like to attempt some answer to some of the arguments she put before the House to-night. First she complained that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when giving the figures of exports from Russia to Spain did not also give the figures of exports of goods from Germany and Italy to Spain. The Noble Lady seems to have forgotten that the concern of the Foreign Secretary was to answer the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who had argued on a previous occasion that there was a great superiority of armaments supplied to General Franco by Germany and Italy, and did not mention at all the supply of material of war to the Government of Spain. It was in order to supply that omission that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary addressed the argument that he did to the House to-day. It was quite unnecessary for him to give the figures of exports from Germany and Italy because that side of the case had already been covered, and indeed it 660 formed the case of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs.
Duchess of Atholl
If my hon. Friend could complete the figures by giving those for Germany and Italy we should be able to see the exact position.
§ Mr. Emmott
I do not think I am called upon to fill the gap. There may be some publication in the library in which I should be able to obtain those figures; but of course I have had no opportunity of consulting any such publication, and in any case the reply of the Noble Lady does not meet my argument, which I think I have fairly put to the House.
Then she complained that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary did not mention the Portuguese frontier. As though anticipating the answer that might be given her, the Noble Lady said that it was quite true that during a particular period there had been no international observation on the French frontier; but she proceeded to argue that the two cases are not upon a par, since the French Government is a democratic Government and the Portuguese Government is a dictatorship, and that therefore the French Government is subject to criticism if it is alleged that arms are going over the frontier between France and Spain. Does the Noble Lady really consider that that determines the question? If so, I profoundly disagree with her, as I believe the greater part of the House will too. What has it to do with the matter that the French Government is democratic and the Portuguese Government is a dictatorship? The fact that the French Government is open to criticism in the French Chamber does not, in actual fact, prevent arms from going over the frontier between France and Spain.
The Noble Lady complained a little that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had referred to, and by implication perhaps expressed some approval of, the complaint of General Franco that he had not been accorded belligerent rights, and she asked, as though there could be no doubt about the answer, "Is General Franco entitled to claim belligerent rights?" I must confess that I thought that the account which she gave of the nature of General Franco's movement and of the whole state of affairs in the territory subject to his authority was extremely partial. Can it be doubted that 661 if the question of the presence in Spain of foreign soldiers be left out of account—I agree, of course, that it is an important and even a dominant consideration—all the conditions which ordinarily justify the recognition of belligerency have long been satisfied by General Franco? He has conducted war for more than a year according to recognised rules; he has established a Government; he has subject to his jurisdiction more than 14,000,000 out of 22,000,000 Spaniards, and he controls much more than two-thirds of the territory of Spain.
Duchess of Atholl
May I interrupt the hon. Member concerning his point about international law. It is rather an important one. One of the rules of international law is the observing of the Geneva Convention in regard to the use of the Red Cross. Is my hon. Friend aware that the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, which has had ambulances working in Spain for over a year, has recently discarded the use of the Red Cross because its ambulances have been so often fired on by the insurgents?
§ Mr. Emmott
I think that fair consideration of events will show that there have been grave infringements of such rules and conventions by both parties in the Spanish war.
The Noble Lady repeatedly referred to the Valencia Government as the "legally elected" Government. I absolutely disagree with this description. She seemed to think that this question was determined by a statement made in the Cortes by Señor Valladares. I do not know what were the reasons of that gentleman for making that statement, but I decline to take his pronouncement as finally determining this question. I go back to the beginning of these terrible events—the election which resulted in the return of the Government against which or against the successor of which General Franco rose. That election was characterised by circumstances which certainly in this country, and in almost any other country, would have invalidated its results.
§ Mr. Emmott
I was asking the House to throw its mind back to the election that 662 took place in February of last year. President Zamora, who was then President of the Republic, has testified, in an article which was published in the "Journal de Genève" not many months ago, to the circumstances of widespread disorder of a most serious character which attended that election. I have not the article with me, and I am speaking on this topic without any detailed notes, but I know that in that article, the substance of which has never been contradicted, he explained how ballot boxes had been stolen, how scenes of great disorder had taken place at many polling booths in many places, how guns and revolvers had been used to intimidate electors, and how every kind of irregularity, disorder and violence had taken place during the election. Indeed, I think I faithfully represent his conclusion when I say that it was that an election which took place in those circumstances was completely irregular and invalid.
But I do not rely upon this consideration alone. If the Noble Lady argues that a Government that was elected in such circumstances is a legally elected Government, we simply do not speak the same language. I think I should be entitled to rely upon those circumstances as justifying my argument, but I agree it may be argued that that particular group of circumstances is a little too narrow for me to rest upon it the view that I hold of this matter. I rely upon a far more fundamental idea. The Government which came into power in Spain last year, and against which General Franco rose, never fulfilled the first function of Government: that is to ensure the safety of the lives of its citizens and to ensure the protection of their property. That first essential function for which all government is instituted, was never fulfilled by the Government which came into office in Spain in the early part of last year. The events which took place between February and July of last year proved the absence in Spain of those conditions to which we are accustomed in civilised countries and which reveal the maintenance of the authority of Government. I believe that if one-thousandth part of the things which happened in Spain in those months had happened in this country, we should never have heard any of the arguments to which we are always listening from hon. and right hon. 663 Gentlemen above the Gangway. The House knows how many churches and buildings were destroyed, how many strikes broke out, how many assaults on individuals took place, what crimes against property there were, how many robberies without violence or with violence took place, how many murders, unpunished, were done at that time. It is a most hideous record of events, and it is recorded in speeches of leaders of the Right parties in the Cortes, whose testimony has never been contradicted.
I mention only one single instance, which I would beg the Noble Lady and those who think with her to remember. I refer to the murder of Calvo Sotelo. She talks of democracy. Is anarchy democracy? Is the killing of a man for the part he has played in Parliament to be called democracy? Imagine what we would think if such a thing had happened here. Sotelo made a speech early in July indicting the Government for its failure to fulfil its functions; after that speech a gentleman whose name I think was Galarza, the Minister of the Interior—a Minister corresponding to our Home Secretary—said that violence used against the leader of the Monarchist party would be no crime. Imagine such a deliberate incitement to violence, if not to murder. A few days later Sotelo made another speech in which he again indicted the Government for its failure to preserve order and to do its duty. He related facts and circumstances which were not contradicted, and he used arguments to which there was no answer. At the end of it a deputy, a woman who goes by the name La Passionaria, exclaimed, "That man has made his last speech." And so it was. One night, or perhaps two nights later, police officers appeared at Sotelo's house. The name of the commander of those officers is known. It is Captain Moreno. The number of police is known. There were 15 of them. They arrived in police car No. 17. They took Calvo Sotelo from his house and shot him like a dog. That, we are told, is democracy. That is the cause which we are invited to support on the ground of democracy.
Duchess of Atholl
Does my hon. Friend not know that a very popular police officer had been shot on the day 664 before by Fascists and that the murder of Sotelo, which everybody deplores, is supposed to have been in revenge for that murder? It should also be known that the Government arrested men supposed to be concerned in the crime and set up a special tribunal to try them. Then the insurrection broke out and the trial could not be heard in public.
§ Mr. Emmott
I cannot enter into an argument upon the question which crime came first or whether this murder was a reprisal for another murder. I could do so on another occasion, but I cannot do so to-night. It may be that this particularly loathsome murder was in revenge for another.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must point out that the Amendment on the Paper seems to be in the nature of a criticism of the Government of his country.
§ Mr. Emmott
I am obliged to you, Sir, for your reminder, and, if I may say so with respect, I accept as deserved your implied reproof. I can only plead in excuse that the Noble Lady had already developed to the House a detailed argument on the topic of Spain, and I thought it incumbent upon me to attempt to give some answer to what she had said. However, merely to conclude the sentence with which I was about to reply to the intervention of the noble Lady, I say it may be that this murder was in revenge for another murder. But my reply to her argument is that such a thing is incompatible with Parliamentary democracy and with the true Parliamentary system, and I recall that event to the minds of those who invite us to support this cause on the ground that it is identified with the cause of Parliamentary democracy.
I dwell no further upon that topic, but I should like to make a brief reference to one other point raised in this Debate. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) more than once put this question to Government. He said, in effect, "You have abandoned the old system upon which you conducted your policy for many years, and you may now be faced with a combination of hostile Powers. What is your potential combination for meeting such a situation?" The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) on Friday had much to say upon what he described as the isolation or semi-isolation in which, he alleged, the policy of the Government 665 had placed us, and he described to the House the prospect of this country being faced single-handed with a war with one or a number of first-class Powers. There is a brief answer which I think ought to be given to that important argument. It is a reference to a very important declaration which was made in France at the end of last year by the French Foreign Minister, M. Delbos. That declaration was made at a time when the mind of the country was quite occupied with the abdication of His Majesty King Edward VIII, and therefore it did not receive the attention which it deserved. M. Delbos said:I wish to state that all the forces of France by land, sea and air would be spontaneously and immediately used for the defence of Great Britain against an unprovoked aggression.That is an answer to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. It does not appear after all that the policy which His Majesty's Government have pursued has produced the evil results which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland have prophesied.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
We all regret that the Prime Minister has not sufficiently recovered to he able to take part in this Debate, and we hope that he will soon return to the House. Our Amendment is meant to be, and has been taken to be, a Vote of Censure on the Government. It expresses our opposition to the foreign policy and the home policy of this Government. In the course of the whole discussion on this King's Speech there have been extremely few allusions to the specific proposals of the Government. I think that on all sides of the House there has been a tendency to try to find out what is the definite policy of the Government in home affairs and in foreign affairs. We charge the Government with pursuing a course which is dangerous to the peace of the world and to the security of this nation, and in their home policy we charge them with failing to make proposals for fundamental changes which we believe necessary for the health and happiness of the people of this country and the prosperity of this country; and we state in our Amendment that that prosperity should be established on a just and enduring basis. We in fact hold that the only enduring 666 basis of prosperity for this country must be a basis of social justice, but the Government stand firm by a system which we hold to be rooted in social injustice.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), in moving this Amendment, in a speech, I think, of very great cogency, rightly stressed the point of security, and our first charge against the Government is this, that they do not, in their policy, show any means of getting security for this country or any security for the individual; and yet, in the speeches of Ministers, there is a kind of complacency, not, I agree, so much with regard to foreign affairs, but with regard to home affairs. One would gather from the speeches of all the Ministers that this country had now attained a wonderful pitch of prosperity and that that prosperity was likely to endure. We challenge that, and we stress, in our Amendment, the need of a policy which will place prosperity on an enduring basis and a policy which will make for a lasting peace.
Throughout the whole of this discussion on the King's Speech there has been a constant interplay between home and foreign affairs. I am not going this evening to say more than a very few words on foreign affairs. They have already had a fairly full discussion this afternoon. The Foreign Secretary spoke, I thought, with more vigour and determination than usual, but he gave us no foreign policy. The Minister for Transport, in his speech, suggested that a King's Speech was not the occasion for such an announcement of policy, but only an occasion for dealing with certain items in a programme. I think, if he will look up precedents, he will find that he is wrong and that a King's Speech is an occasion on which the Government do set forth their policy. The Foreign Secretary has told us that he is drifting, but he has not told us where he is drifting. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney said we really did not know what foreign policy the right hon. Gentleman was pursuing, and we still do not know.
We have had no answer to a specific question that I put last Thursday, and that we put again, and that, is, What is the basis of the Brussels Conference? After all, that is a rather vital point of 667 foreign policy. We have it on record that this country intends to be bound by all its obligations, and a conference has been called at Brussels to discuss matters arising under the Nine-Power Treaty. We have put that question three times already, and perhaps, if I put it again, I shall get an answer. I am not asking what are the specific proposals for action to be taken in the Far Eastern dispute; I simply ask him as to whether we can be told whether, when the Government send their representatives to the Brussels Conference, they intend to stand upon the principle of the Nine-Power Treaty under which they are called together, that is to say, the integrity of China.
In the rest of the Foreign Secretary's speech to-day, he made as much case as he could, but I thought that it was a very weak case and a very dangerous case. It seemed to me to concede a good deal more than need have been conceded to the aggression of the dictators, those dictators whom, if we could only follow the advice of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Emmott), we should not even recognise, because we must not recognise a Government that kills its political opponents, and we remember Matteotti. We must not have any dealings with a Government that persecutes religion, and we know what is happening with regard to the Protestant and the Catholic Churches in Germany. The hon. Member for East Surrey recommends a very drastic policy, which, of course, is not accepted by the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary goes right to the other extreme. He says that we are not concerned at all with the internal conditions and policies of foreign countries. I do not think he is right. I thought that the Noble Lady opposite, in her speech, was far more in accordance with the historic tradition of British policy. The historic tradition of British policy throughout the 19th century was what might be called, in its broadest, non-party sense, the Liberal tradition, that this country favoured democracy and self-government, that we believed that the extension of liberty and democracy throughout the world, and their maintenance, was a British interest. I shall hope to hear that that is still a British interest.
In our view, the Government's policy has brought this country into great 668 danger. It is clear that they have no policy for dealing with the fundamental causes of war. They are content, as far as one can see, to drift on, and the only positive item that appears in this programme is increased armaments. If you look at the King's Speech, that item appears in the middle of the King's Speech, and it is really the central fact of the King's Speech—that is to say, increased armaments—and it rather looks as if the Government's policy was one of drift or even retreat while they are piling up increased armaments.
I want for a few minutes to consider the Defence position of this country, because "the defence of this country" is a phrase that can be used to cover many things, or nothing at all. To say that you are prepared to defend this country, or you are piling up armaments to defend this country, does not mean that you have an intelligent Defence plan. A foreign policy should be directed towards securing such conditions as will minimise the need of arms for the defence of the country, and will make the country more secure. Armaments, in our view, are only justifiable as providing the necessary sanctions for a peace policy. Particular armaments can only be justified if their purpose is to give security, and to be instruments of a well-considered and sound plan of Defence. Without any explanation the Government are asking this country to accept the fact that their Defence programme will really give security.
I want to glance for a moment at the position in which this country, the British Commonwealth and the British Empire find themselves from the point of view of Defence after six years of the National Government. The British Empire was built up on sea power. Its strength lay in the inviolability of these islands and the fact that the seas which divide us. from possible enemies united the parts of the King's Dominions. The development of air power menaced these old conditions of our security. It jeopardised the whole position, and the abolition of air warfare should have been the first aim of any Government that is really interested in getting security in this country. It meant not only the removal of a menace to civilisation, but the removal of a menace to the security of this country.
669 We all know what happened at the Disarmament Conference. We all know that our Government did not press for the abolition of air forces. They never took up with enthusiasm any of the schemes put forward. On the contrary, they resisted them. We are now going to spend millions on Air Defence. The plea put forward for the retention of air bombing was for the defence of the outlying portions of our Empire. Another great source of strength for this country in the days before the air age was that there was only one great vulnerable land frontier throughout the whole British Empire—the North-west frontier of India—and that cost us millions of pounds and thousands of lives to defend it. Thanks to the National Government, you have another big land frontier in Kenya and in the Sudan. We have to keep our sea routes free, but thanks to the National Government and their policy the route to India is threatened in the Red Sea. There is the possibility of the establishment of hostile Powers, either directly or indirectly, in Spain. There is possible danger from the Balearic Islands, there is a possibility of danger from the Canary Islands, and there is the question whether we can get through the Straits of Gibraltar. We understand now on high authority that we shall always be able to do so provided there are smoke screens. The fate of the "Jean Weems" is a reminder of the dangers that hang over our shipping. It will have to be a fairly extensive and continuous smoke screen.
In the Far East the Government are conniving at Japanese aggression. We have abandoned the Pacific to the Japanese, and the Government hope by not interfering to retain Hong Kong, but what use Hong Kong will be when China is dominated by Japan and is kept from exploitation by Japanese industrialists, is not very clear. The Government have broken the unity of the League. In modern conditions it is utterly impossible to defend the British Empire in anything like isolation, and we ought to think seriously of the strategic position as regards the Defence of this country and the British Empire, and the way in which it has been immeasurably worsened by the folly of this Government.
We have had an apologia by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon; it was everybody's: fault but ours; he did all he 670 could to try to absolve this Government from responsibility. But, after all, this is the Government which blamed the Labour Government for the slump of 1931. This is the Government which claims credit for every improvement in the economic situation—all due to confidence in the Government; but if it does that, then the reflex, the condition of the world to-day, is due to the lack of confidence. The question we have to ask is, in what way do the Government propose to defend this country? In the conditions which now exist as the result of their disastrous policy we agree that any Government would have to provide an increase of armaments; that is the measure of the Government's failure; but armaments are no use at all unless there is a sound policy of Defence, and I doubt whether there is anyone in this House, not excepting the members of the Government, who could give any intelligible idea of what is the Government's Defence plan for this country. We certainly have never had it from any service Minister, we have never had it from the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, who apparently leaves that to the experts and talks about supplies.
I ask the Government, seeing that we are now every day in Debate menaced by this talk of war, what are their plans of Defence? They have been playing with air precautions for the last five or six years. They have been boggling about the cost in a penny-wise and pound-foolish manner. If the precautions had to be undertaken we ought to have got on with them at once and settled with the local authorities. The local authorities do not know their role. Business people do not know their rôle either. There is the whole question of whether there will be any need of evacuations. They are being practised on the Continent. I do not know whether anything is being done about them here. There is the question of the anti-aircraft. defences. It has never yet been explained why a task in which much may depend on a few seconds or a few minutes is given to the Territorials.
We have the whole question of the location of industry. A very disturbing memorandum on this subject was put out the other day, which seemed clearly to show that the Government still think the location of industry is primarily a matter of profits. I want to know whether there 671 has been any planning of industry from the point of view of Defence. I saw in a paper to-day a picture of a great new flour mill which had been put up in a most exposed situation. They have concentrated our food supplies in a few exposed situations. They have concentrated our electricity generation in a few exposed places. Is there any kind of plan with regard to the danger from the air, because we do not see it? I am not asking for details, but for some idea of what is the underlying purpose of the plan. With regard to aircraft, are our aircraft intended for stopping air raids or for counter-attack? In a word, we ought to know whether the Government hold the doctrine that successful air warfare means killing women and children, or not.
I want to ask the Government whether there is any plan worked out in these conditions which have been the creation of their inept foreign policy. What is the policy in regard to the Army, for which we are having great recruiting speeches made? Nothing seems to be decided. There has been a series of extremely able articles in the "Times" on this question. I hope that we shall hear something about it. We have never had an exposition. More serious than all is the question of the human element, of the people, of this country. I do not know whether the Government realise how deep is the mistrust of this Government. You cannot play a trick like the last electoral trick and then tell the people that you have played that trick, as Mr. Baldwin did, without their suspecting ever after that you have something up your sleeve. When questions are raised on this subject of Defence the thought in the minds of the people all the time is: "What is behind it? Is this another political trick?" There is a deep division of opinion. The Government have had their chance of getting unity on this subject but they threw it away.
Above all there is the question of the human strength of this country; and that brings me to the home policy of the Government, which is not based on the organisation of this country for the strength and prosperity of the people. At every stage it is based upon private profit. There are great reports about malnutrition. The means test is incompatible 672 with a decent standard of nutrition. The Government know that from their experts. I have just been in Merthyr, which is a neglected area; after all the talk about it, prosperity has not reached those Welsh valleys yet. There is immense man power there still unemployed. The speeches made by Ministers about the prosperity of the country leave us quite cold because they assume that the standard of life reached now is the furthest step we can get. The kind of reply is this; "We are just as well off as we were under the Labour Government." [HON. MEMBERS: "Much better."] But this is the height of prosperity in a boom, while the Labour Government were at a point of capitalist depression in a slump. This boom is compatible with 1,300,000 people unemployed, and compatible with conditions in which, according to Sir John Orr, half the population do not spend more than 9s. per week on food. Most of them do not spend so much. The situation in this country is, according to the statisticians, one in which a small class of 1½ per cent. of the population takes 23 per cent. of the present income of the country; that is the position that you are asking people to defend. That is the position which you think will make the people of this country strong for Defence. We say that the Government, even from the point of view of Defence should be organising this country upon a juster and more rational basis.
We are concerned with something more than Defence. We are not claiming that the people of this country should be given just bare subsistence, but that they should have the full share of the life that could be afforded by this country if this country chose. Our condemnation of the Government is that they are not taking advantage of the opportunity which modern science provides of bringing real prosperity and help to the people. This King's Speech shows the Government without a policy, prepared to carry on in the hope of something turning up, and with no suggestion that there is in their minds anything as to the future, either for, preserving the world from another war or preserving this country from another slump.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Simon)
The Leader of the Opposition began with an observation on the 673 width of the Amendment, and I am not sure that the speech which he has just made has not widened even further the subjects for discussion and inquiry which have been raised. At any rate, it is quite impossible for me, in the short time that is left, to go over the whole of the ground, and I think the House generally will agree that, so far as the Amendment deals with the subject of foreign affairs, that subject has been very fully and effectively dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a speech which, in its range and scope, must certainly rank as one of the great speeches which we have recently heard. One question, however, was put to me by the right hon. Gentleman which I want to endeavour to answer before I pass to the other part of the Amendment. He asked a question about the Brussels Conference. He will not expect me to do more than make a statement in quite general terms. He asked whether His Majesty's Government stand on the principles of the Nine-Power Treaty. Yes, we do. Under the Nine-Power Treaty each signatory pledges himself not to infringe the integrity of China, and agrees, in the event of a breach of the Treaty, to enter into consultation as to the situation which has been created. That is the reason why the Brussels Conference is being held, and it is in implementation of these undertakings that we are attending.
§ Mr. Attlee
There is one further point. The other very important part of the agreement is that they will make no alliance, agreement or arrangement with any other State that is infringing the integrity of China. That is the important thing.
§ Sir J. Simon
I am not going to be led away. I am in a position of some responsibility. The Foreign Secretary was here this afternoon, and no such interruption was made then. I am certainly going no further than what I have said. It is as far as I can go to-night. It is as far as the United States Government have gone, and, as the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon, we find ourselves standing, and we are very glad to stand, by the side of the United States.
Before I deal with the other part of the Amendment, there is a short statement which I have to make on another subject that was mentioned in the Debate, 674 and which I would sooner make immediately, because it may be difficult to find time to make it later on. It has to do with the statement made on Friday by my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, that the Government have had under review for some time the question of the British Broadcasting Corporation undertaking broadcasting in languages other than English. The House will recall that the Ullswater Committee on Broadcasting made a recommendation to the effect that the appropriate use of languages other than English should be encouraged; and inquiries which have since been made of His Majesty's representatives abroad have led to the conclusion that broadcasts from this country in Spanish and Portuguese would be welcomed, particularly by listeners in South American countries, and in Arabic by listeners in the Near East.
What I want to make plain is that the British Broadcasting Corporation, fully realising the importance of the issues involved, had already for some time been examining these problems, and they made it clear that, if the Government decided that action on the lines of the Ullswater Committee's recommendation was desirable, the Corporation would undertake to provide a satisfactory service as speedily as circumstances would permit. The Government have now requested the Corporation to take action in the matter, it being agreed that nothing should be done which would prejudice or interfere in any way with the existing Empire service from Daventry. New transmitters are needed, and until they are constructed and brought into use, only a limited service will be possible. Details concerning the introduction and scope of the service will be announced shortly by the Corporation. I should like to make it clear that, in this new service, the Corporation will have the same full responsibilities and duties as are set forth in the Charter of the Corporation in relation to their existing services. His Majesty's Government are satisfied that the Corporation are to be relied upon to maintain in this new service the same high standard which is characteristic of their Home and their Empire services.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
Do I understand from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the transmission of straight news in German and Italian, as 675 well as the other languages, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, is excluded in this arrangement?
§ Sir J. Simon
Not excluded, but provision will be made first for broadcasts in the languages I have mentioned. Perhaps I may now deal with some of the important points put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) earlier to-night. I took a note of them, and, as far as I can, I will deal with some of the points which he so clearly made. He asked me to say something in relation to the Special Areas. What I propose to say is, first, that the Special Areas have had a very substantial share in the reduction of unemployment. The total numbers of unemployed in all the Special Areas together has fallen from 442,000 in November, 1934, which was immediately before the Special Areas Act was passed, to 264,000 at the end of last September. That is a total reduction in the Special Areas of 178,000, which is over 40 per cent. [Interruption.] I must be allowed to make my statement. The change for the better has taken place in all areas—in Durham and Tyneside the reduction was 76,000, in South Wales 62,000, in Scotland 36,000, and in West Cumberland 4,000. All the principal industries in these areas have shared in it, notably coal mining, engineering, shipbuilding and ship-repairing. I heard an hon. Gentleman opposite suggest that the reduction in these figures—a total, as I pointed out, of 178,000—is substantially accounted for by their going away from the area by transference. It is true that transference, officially or unofficially, has played a part in it. It is significant, however, that in this two-year period for which I have given the figures, the numbers in the Special Areas have decreased by only 20,000. The indication, therefore, as the House will see, is that far the greater part of the reduction in unemployment is due to those who have remained in the area and found work in the area. [Interruption.] If a challenge is made of the figure, I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will see the reasonableness of making it by way of a Question. I have given figures which were very carefully obtained and supplied to me.
§ Sir J. Simon
I must really be allowed to continue. The hon. Member said that sites were going begging. I do not think that is a fair statement of the situation. The trading estates which have been set up give every promise of attaining success. Take the Team Valley Estate, near Gateshead. In that case operations on the virgin ground began only a year ago. Already 23 factories have been built and occupied and 35 are in course of construction. In other cases the work was started later. There is reason for saying that this effort is going to produce very considerable results. The hon. Member was informed recently that in the case of his own area there is a company which is already preparing to acquire and clear, which is the necessary preliminary to sites being occupied. I would make this general statement on the subject, that the policy of the Government, which is carried out principally through the Commissioners, is to broaden the basis of industry in the Special Areas by attracting new industrial undertakings there. Government factories and the factories of commercial firms, as the agents of the Government, have been constructed in these areas in very considerable numbers.
The hon. Member suggested that the shadow factories should be placed in the Special Areas. I do not think that observation showed a very clear apprehension of what a shadow factory is. The scheme of the shadow factories is very much more than a shadow. It is a scheme to enable a rapid switch over from peace work to war work, from the making, say, of motors to aeroplane engines, carried out by firms and skilled workmen who are most familiar with these highly technical operations. Generally speaking, the shadow factory scheme must be carried out near the main factory, where the labour, plant and administration are available.
The hon. Member said: "You have not done anything towards compelling the location of factories in the place which you dictate." May I be excused for saying that that is the crudest conception of theoretic Socialism. The policy of insisting that every factory shall be put exactly where you say, means a policy of penalties on the people who construct them. I am satisfied that the policy of inducement by special grants is much more 677 likely to be rapidly effective than the idea of compelling a particular person to use a particular site whether he wants to or not, and to prohibit him from using another site by penalties. The Special Commissioners have powers, never before granted by any other Government, in order to induce industries to settle in the distressed areas, and their policy is bearing fruit in an increasing degree and promises a substantial amount of progress.
The hon. Member referred to what he called Mr. Nash's proposals. I deal with that matter with some hesitation because, naturally, I do not want to discuss in detail the various suggestions which that distinguished gentleman made confidentially. I can assure the hon. Member and the House that those proposals were most carefully examined, but on the hon. Member's own showing they would appear to have involved a certain earmarking of exchange, and I am sure he will agree with me that such schemes are difficult to operate. And perhaps when we remember that the Dominions as a whole have an interest in this matter, it will be clear that it is not so simple as the hon. Member would have us believe.
As regards the suggestion that we put obstacles in the way of an unlimited supply of food, I would point out that there are no duties on imports of food production from the oversea Dominions. There is no statutory quantitative regulation of particular foodstuffs from the Dominions. There are consultations between ourselves and the Dominions with a view to the orderly control of the market and for the purpose of maintaining the maximum possible supplies to consumers consistent with a reasonable remuneration to producers. I should very much like to know whether Socialist theory or future Socialist practice is going to differ from that. Hon. Gentlemen have made it a complaint against the Government that we have taken part in plans or schemes which prevented the running down of agricultural prices to the lowest possible point.
In July this year the Labour Publications Department, of Transport House, published a pamphlet called "Labour's Policy for our Countryside," and in the course of that is set out the policy for which Labour stands. It explains that if the producer is not assured of a fair price-he cannot make the best use of the 678 land he cultivates, and it goes on to say that Labour policy involves an adequate supply of produce to the people at no greater increase in price than may be required by an efficient and well-conducted marketing system.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not want to take time, but the right hon. Gentleman is himself taking time unnecessarily in endeavouring to induce the House to believe that I said anything inconsistent with the passage he has just quoted.
§ Sir J. Simon
I am glad to know that, if my impression of what the hon. Gentleman said a few hours ago was accurate, and I am capable of reproducing it, he now admits that he was wrong.
§ Sir J. Simon
I would like to say a few words now on wage rates and the cost of living, particularly in reference to, the speech by the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) just now. In the first place, will my hon. Friend allow me to say that he is mistaken if he thinks extremely low prices of food and other products are a proof of prosperity? Exactly the opposite is the case. They are really an indication and may be a. cause of trade depression. It is only when the producer of primary products gets an adequate price that he is able to purchase the products of industry. Some rise in prices is therefore an indication of prosperity. Certainly it is so if it is accompanied by increased production and increased employment. That is perfectly well recognised by the hon. Gentleman's leaders, and I will give a quotation to make the point clear. In 1931 the late Mr. William Graham—and I do not think any one spoke with greater authority—said:Over and over again hon. Members have asked in reference to the fundamental trade position, 'Do you see any sign of these prices having touched bedrock? Because it is common ground that only when the upward movement begins will there be any real improvements and confidence in trade or will the numbers of the unemployed be progressively reduced.The facts, quite shortly stated, are these—The price level continued to go down for some years after 1931. There was a sharp reduction in the cost of living for; I think, three years. Prices began to turn, I think, in 1933 and the cost of living in 1934. But when it got down to 679 those depths those really were slump levels and the consequence of the slump, and it is a mistake to suppose that because you see a turn therefore you have got a new ground of complaint and a new brickbat to throw at the Government. There has been a certain rise in the cost of living. But even now it has not reached to the 1929 level; I think it is seven points lower. Wage rates, on the other hand, are still higher than in 1929. In Germany, on the other hand, wages have actually fallen more than the cost of living since 1929. And observe the contrast, because while I am all for joining those who are not content with conditions as they are, and want to make them better, let us not exaggerate the misfortunes of our native land whatever Government is in power.
I should like to add one more quotation. I was reading the other day a book by a very distinguished publicist who, I have always found, writes very reasonably, Mr. J. A. Spender. He says:There are of course very serious problems of poverty, but to speak as if the British workers, who are four-fifths of the population, are slaves living in slums, exploited by wicked men who cheat them of the wealth that belongs to them, is very unflattering to these workers, or would be, if they were not aware that it is untrue. It is the fundamental falsity of these ideas which has doomed the Socialist party to sterility. The great majority of the British workers arc not living in slums and are not slaves. A large number of them are owners of property, and do not desire a revolution which would abolish property. Looking at revolutions and their results in other countries the last thing that they desire is that this country should be made the subject of similar experiments.I know that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said at the beginning of this afternoon, "Please don't make any reference to the year 1929 when we are discussing wage rates." The reason for that really is that when you examine the contrast with 1929 you see how complete the fallacy is. I make this simple statement. Most people would rather have prosperity, rising employment, rising wages, with a rise in the cost of living, than depression, increasing unemployment, and falling wages, with a fall in the cost of living.
Let the House consider this point, which I have no time to develop now. If you introduce into this Resolution a reference to the standard of life, that is a very different thing from concentrating 680 attention on index numbers, either for cost of living or for wage rates. The standard of life in this country for people of all sorts—and not least for the labouring class—has risen enormously. The great outpouring of public money for social assistance, the cheap amenities of life, such as the wireless set, which practically every home has got.—[Interruption.] What I was saying was that if you want to measure the standard of life you have to think of other things besides food. It is a great fallacy to suppose that because you have worked out an index number by taking, perhaps, three-fourths of the expenditure of the poorest labourer, and have worked out wage rates you have got all the facts. You have not. Take wage rates. Hon. Members know that wage rates are one thing and the amount of work a man gets is quite another. It depends a great deal on the amount of short time or overtime, it depends whether there is a shift of people from the lower levels of employment to the higher. If you took away all these amenities, all the social services, if you cancelled everything out, would not everybody say that the standard of life of everybody had dropped like a stone?
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I have seen this week-end many hundreds of unemployed people and their plight is much worse than it was a few years ago.
§ Sir J. Simon
I can only say that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree with my general observations on this point. But it does not in the least follow from my argument that we are not concerned and deeply concerned at the plight of those who remain unemployed. I do not believe that the Amendment represents in the least the general judgment of the people of this country. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) began his speech on Friday by saying that the issue was security, and in the course of this Debate we have been told that the issue was confidence and an assurance of prosperity. I cannot conceive anything less likely to promote security or confidence, or prosperity, than the alternative to the policy of the Government. I do not want to create any new rift in what is now a happy combination, but it does not follow that because the Labour party has produced a new short programme, we are not entitled to reflect upon what they have told us 681 about their intentions. They have told us that their policy cannot be carried out without a crisis. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said so?"] If the House will give me two minutes I will read them. The first is the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps)—[Interruption]—a gentleman who has been elected to your executive. He said:The first day a Socialist Government came in they would carry a comprehensive Emergency Powers Bill under which socialism would be established by Ministerial Orders.And the Leader of the Opposition, who sits there now, wrote:I associate myself with Sir Stafford Cripps's conclusion.
§ I am not asking hon. Members opposite to agree with everything I say, but I ant. perfectly convinced that the reason why this country has continued to make progress is because it has general confidence in the policy of the Government. The policy set up against the Government is a policy which would destroy confidence, and I invite a majority of this House and the great majority of the country to show their confidence in the Government's policy.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 363.683
|Division No. 1.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Price, M. P.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Pritt, D. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Unites.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hicks, E. G.||Ridley, C.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Barr, J.||Hollins, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Hopkin, D,||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Rowson, G.|
|Bevan, A.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Short, A.|
|Brown, Rt, Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cape, T.||Lathan, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lee, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leonard, W.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dalton, H.||Logan, D. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lunn, W.||Stewart, W. J, (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Day, H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dunn, E. (Rather Valley)||MacLaren, A.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Walker, J.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. MoL.|
|Foot, D. M.||Messer, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Milner, Major J.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||White, H. Graham|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Naylor, T. E.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Owen, Major G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mothers.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Baillie, Sir A. W. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Apsley, Lord||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (lsle of Thanet)|
|Albery, Sir lrvmg||Aske, Sir R. W.||Balniel, Lord|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandman (B'knhead)||Assheton, R.||Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Barrie, Sir C. C.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Baxter, A. Beverley|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Duggan, H. J.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Dunglass, Lord||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Eastwood, J. F.||Kimball, L.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Eckersley, P. T.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Birahall, Sir J. D.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Ellis, Sir G.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Blakar, Sir R.||Elmley, Viscount||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Emery, J. F.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Emmott, C. E. C. C.||Leigh, Sir J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Emery-Evans, P. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Levy, T.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Everard, W. L.||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Brass, Sir W.||Fildes, Sir H.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Findlay, Sir E.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Fleming, E. L.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Browne, A. C. (Bellast, W.)||Furness, S. N.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Burghley, Lord||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Gledhill, G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Invarness)|
|Butler, R. A.||Gluckstein, L. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isla of Wight)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Goldie, N. B.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Cartland. J. R. H.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Cary, R. A.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Granville, E. L.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Gayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Cheater)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Magnay, T.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Greens, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Makins,Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.|
|Channon, H.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Grimston, R. V.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mitchell, H. (Brantford and Chiswiek)|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hambro, A. V.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Han. D. J.||Hannah, I. C.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Harbord, A.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hartington, Marquess of||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)||Harvey, Sir G.||Morrison, G. A. (Soottish Univ's.)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Munro, P.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hepworth, J.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Crooke, J. S.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Groom-Johnson, R. P.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cross, R. H.||Higgs, W. F.||Ormsby-Gore, RI. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Holdsworth, H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Cruddas, Col. R.||Holmes, J. S.||Peat, C. U.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hopkinson, A.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Petherick, M.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Pilkington, R.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|De la Bère, R.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hulbert, N. J.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hume, Sir G. H.||Pownall, Lt.-Cot. Sir Assheton|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hunter, T.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Purbrick, R.|
|Doland, C. F.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Radford, E. A.|
|Donner, P. W.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. w H.||Raikes, H. V. A, M.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Drewe, C.||Joel, D. J. B.||Ramsdan, Sir E.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Ralhbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Simmonds, O. E.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. Blf'st)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Smithers, Sir W.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Somerset, T.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Rose Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Rowlands, G.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Royds, Admiral P. M. R.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wells, S. R.|
|Russell, Sir Alexander||Spens, W. P.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||Wickham, Lt-Col. E. T. R.|
|Russell, S. H M. (Darwen)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Salmon, Sir I.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Salt, E. W.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitohin)|
|Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Sandys, E. D.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Sassoon Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Sutcliffe, H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Savery, Sir Servington||Taskar, Sir R. I.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Seott, Lord Willlam||Tate, Mavis C.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Selley, H. R.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wragg, H.|
|Shakespeare, C. H.||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Touche, G. C.||Young, A. S. L. (Partiok)|
|Shaw, Gaptain W. T. (Forfar)||Train, Sir J.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.