§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move,That this House approves the proposal of His Majesty's Government to introduce as soon as possible a system of compulsory military training as announced on 26th April; regards such a system as necessary for the safety of the country and the fulfilment of the undertakings recently given to certain countries in Europe; and welcomes the fact that the Government is associating with this proposal fresh legislative powers to limit the profits of firms engaged mainly in armament production, and the assurance that, in the event of war, steps will be taken to penalise profiteering and to prevent additions to individual fortunes out of war-created conditions.This Motion has been put down in order to afford the House an opportunity of discussing, at the earliest possible moment, the statement I made yesterday. The Government are glad to be able to afford this opportunity for consideration of their proposals to supplement our voluntary system of recruiting by a limited and temporary measure of compulsory service. Before I come to the proposals themselves, there are two other matters upon which I would like to say a few words. The first relates to consultation with other parties. No complaint was made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition; and, indeed, I think perhaps that if I had consulted him beforehand it might have caused him some embarrassment, because I do not imagine he would have wished to share the responsibility of the Government in any way for the introduction of these proposals. But it was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). To him I would repeat what I said yesterday, that there was no intention on the part of the Government of deliberately keeping them in the dark, but the pressure under which the Government have been working really did not leave us time for proceedings which otherwise, perhaps, we would have gladly undertaken. We thought it was important that this statement should be made in the course of this week, because if it had been delayed until next week it would almost inevitably have been taken as being in some way related to the speech of the German Chancellor to-morrow. We have, of course, no information as to what the nature of that speech will be, and our action is entirely independent of 1344 it. That should be made perfectly clear to all the world.
Another matter to which I want now to refer is the pledge which I gave the House, and which was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. What are the facts about the pledge? It was originally given by my predecessor—Mr. Baldwin, as he then was—on 1st April, 1936, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). The hon. Member asked the Prime Minister togive a guarantee that a conscription measure will not be introduced so long as peace prevails.That was answered by the then Prime Minister:Yes, Sir, so far as the present Government are concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1936; col. 1992, Vol. 310.]On 17th February, 1938, after I had become Prime Minister, the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander):asked the Prime Minister whether he is able to give an assurance that the pledge given by the late Prime Minister that conscription would not be introduced in peace time by his Government applies equally to the present administration?I answered that simply,In reply to his third question, the right hon. Gentleman is quite correct in his assumption that this "—"this" being my statement, just made, as to the doubling of the Territorial Force—is an evidence of the Government's opinion that we have not by any means yet exhausted what can be done by voluntary service, and we shall demonstrate the possibilities of voluntary services to meet all our needs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1939; col. 2051, Vol. 345.]
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
Does the right hon. Gentleman not regard that as an understanding which the House took to mean that he reaffirmed the previous statement?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman may be sure I am not trying 1345 to shirk anything. I just want to get the facts correct. His question was not an exact repetition of what had been put before. I am not denying, in the least, anything I said then, and I shall have something more to say about it. I want to point out that on the first two occasions to which I have referred conditions were very different from what they are to-day. At neither of those times was war imminent, and I think I may fairly say that there was no question present in the mind of anybody at that time which appeared then likely to lead to war.
§ Mr. McGovern
Might I remind the Prime Minister that there was another pledge, given at the time of Munich to myself, renewing it?
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member is perfectly correct. I am referring to the two previous ones. On those occasions the Czecho-Slovak question had not emerged into a prominent position. Although it is true that various countries, including our own, were rearming, yet the rearmament did not reach either the dimensions or the pace which characterises it to-day.
Now we come to the statement I made on 29th March. The question which the right hon. Gentleman opposite put to me was whether it was the Government's intention to maintain the voluntary system as against conscription, and the effect of my answer was "Yes." That truly represented the intentions of the Government at that time. No one in the Government at that time—on 29th March—had any idea that to-day we should be introducing proposals of the kind which I outlined to the House yesterday. We did think at that time—I certainly thought myself, and I think my colleagues thought—that it was possible to meet all our needs by the voluntary system of recruiting, though, no doubt, we all realised that we should have to pursue a vigorous campaign if we were to bring home to the people of the country the need for recruits. Since then I have changed my mind. I hope that everybody is ready to change his mind if circumstances change. Nothing could be more stupid, more likely to lead the country into disaster, than that the Government should refuse to change their mind when changed conditions require it. The fact is that to-day we no longer believe that 1346 the needs of the country can be met by the voluntary system if that system is to stand alone. I will explain why that is so in a moment or two.
But let me for a moment pause to point out what would be the position if the pledge were to be interpreted as I understand the Leader of the Opposition interpreted it, and if the Government held the view which I have just described. It would mean that we could not take a measure which we believed to be necessary for the safety of the country unless, first of all, we had a General Election. [An HON. MEMBER: "You could change the Government."] I can conceive, of course, that matters might be pushed to such an extremity that this Government would not have any other choice. But surely a very heavy responsibility would rest upon those who forced us to that conclusion at this time, to leave the country in a state of confusion and uncertainty, to postpone for what might be vital weeks those measures that we thought were necessary, to check the output of munitions vital to us at this time, and to distract the attention of those who are responsible for Government Departments to an election—surely that is not a course which could be lightly undertaken.
I am as particular about keeping my word as most hon. Members in this House. I remember being told by one hon. Member who is not a supporter of the Government that I was generally found to be better than my word. That is not a reputation I would desire to jeopardise; but I do feel myself that the times to-day are so different from those which were contemplated when this pledge was formulated, so different even from the period of which the hon. Member just now reminded me, that they constitute altogether a different category, a category which might be described in the words used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), when he quoted yesterday with approval a passage from the "Financial News" describing the present asa wholly abnormal period to which neither peace-time nor war-time financial canons applied.The right hon. Gentleman opposite called that quibbling. I call it common sense. At any rate this pledge, however you interpret it, was a pledge given to 1347 this House. It is for the House to say whether they feel that they ought to hold me to it or to release me from it. I trust that they will confirm the view which I have expressed as my own, and, if they do, I feel confident that the country will be with them.
Let me say what are the circumstances which have constrained the Government to come to this momentous conclusion that they must supplement in this particular way the voluntary system which in the past has served us well. Surely it is not necessary to remind the House that even since 29th March the situation has radically changed. It was after 29th March that we felt compelled to give that assurance to Poland, that if her independence were threatened and she felt therefore obliged to resist, we should feel obliged to come to her assistance. That assurance to Poland was afterwards followed by similar assurances to two other countries, Greece and Rumania. Is there any hon. Member in this House who does not realise that by those assurances our liabilities were enormously increased? Is there anyone who does not realise that the purposes of those assurances were primarily to prevent war, but that if they were to be effective we must inspire confidence not only in the countries to which we gave them, but throughout Europe, that we meant to carry them through to the end. Too often we have seen doubt cast upon our determination in the past, doubts expressed as to whether we really did mean business when the time came, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have themselves on many occasions expressed those doubts. Evidence has been accumulating rapidly in the past week that these doubts were increasing as we were increasing our engagements. That gibe that Britain was "ready to fight to the last French soldier" is one that has been bandied about from capital to capital. It has been becoming clearer and clearer to us that the success of our whole effort to build up a solid front against this idea of domination by force was being jeopardised by these doubts.
I noticed yesterday that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) put a question to me about the number of men who, under our proposals, would be available. I hope I did not do him an injustice, but I thought 1348 I detected in that question an intention to belittle what the Government were doing. I notice that it is a fixed part of the practice of the right hon. Gentle man to belittle and to pour contempt on everything that this Government does. The further in time the Government gets from the period when he himself was Prime Minister the worse it gets in his estimation. I do not know whether he is going to speak in this Debate. If so, it will be interesting to know whether he is in favour of a larger measure of conscription or whether he is against conscription altogether. I am sure he is "ag' in the Government" whatever they propose. Let me say that in my judgment it is important not to belittle this great departure by this country from one of its most cherished traditions. The party opposite are not belittling it; they are not saying that it is not a matter of the most far-reaching importance. I do not think that anyone can read the papers of this morning, can read the extracts from the foreign Press, without realising that the statement of the Government's intentions has brought confidence, relief and encouragement to all our friends in Europe. I noticed, in particular, a passage in a Communist paper in France. M. Gabriel Péri said—
§ The Prime Minister
M. Gabriel Péri said:It is impossible to contest the importance of the British decision. As long as this decision was not taken Britain's promises to Poland, Rumania and Greece were of a more symbolic than practical character.But it would be a mistake to suppose that although the number of men affected in a single year by our proposals is not large, indeed I might almost say trifling compared with the scale of Continental armies, it would be a mistake to suppose that from the military point of view it is not important. I do not think it would be proper or advisable for me to define what are the gaps in our military defences which this measure will enable us to fill up, but surely anyone can see that to have a certain knowledge that on a definite date a definite number of men will be available who can be trained in a definite time, is of the first importance in planning military operations.
There is another important point which has come home to us in recent weeks 1349 and which has emerged from the progress of the recruiting campaign for Territorials. I have not any doubt, I never have had any doubt, that in time, by vigorously pursuing that campaign we could get all the Territorials that we wanted, but evidence has come in to us that the recruiting of Territorials is actually being hampered by the consciousness of the unfairness of the system. When an appeal is made for men to come forward and volunteer, the answer has not infrequently been: "I am quite willing to serve my country, but why should I volunteer to take this burden upon my back when there are so many to whom perhaps the sacrifice will be less than it is for me, who are hanging back and who are unwilling to take their share in burdens which ought to be shared by all because the benefits are to be shared by all?" The Government reluctantly came to the conclusion that this measure was necessary, as I have said, for the safety of the country and to ensure the success of the policy which we are pursuing with the approval, and, I might say, the active instigation of the party opposite.
As is pointed out in the Motion, we are associating with this proposal further fresh proposals designed to meet their views, views with which we have every sympathy, that when you ask people to undertake compulsory service you ought not at the same time to permit others, who perhaps do not share in the obligation, to be enriched out of the country's needs. The country is aware that the Government have made persistent and earnest attempts to put into practice these views, but I quite frankly admit that their efforts have not been entirely successful. It has not been for want of getting the best advice we could get. Indeed, experts have exhausted their ingenuity in devising types of contract and methods of costing investigations which were intended to prevent unreasonable profits from being made. But the difficulty has been that conditions have been constantly changing, and, in particular, frequent enlargements of our plans, which, of course, meant a tremendous enlargement of orders which had to be doubled or trebled, have upset the plans and have allowed profits to be made on a scheme which, when it was formulated, seemed to be entirely watertight.
Therefore, we are now proposing to take further steps. My right hon. Friend 1350 the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech expressed his desire not to retard or hamper the revival in business which is beginning to appear after the recent recession, by taxes which would fall particularly upon industry. I do not imagine that anybody would differ from that view, especially as industry is now subject to Income Tax at a high level and to National Defence Contribution. In the same way, we do not desire to deprive armament firms of reasonable profits, but we do say that it is repugnant to the general sense that profits should be unreasonably swollen. The question of the limitation of profits is one that requires a great deal of study, and there are obvious difficulties to be overcome. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his advisers are now giving particular attention to the devising of the best plans to achieve that purpose, and definite proposals will be laid before Parliament at a very early date.
I said yesterday something about profits in war time. We are not now at war, and I hope we never shall be, but if war should come the Government have stated plainly their view as to the impropriety in war time of such increases in fortunes being made out of the conditions created by war as were seen in the course of the last War. I think it would be generally accepted that when the safety of the lives of the population are at stake, the wealth and resources of individuals must be considered as being held for the common good, and that they should be drawn upon as required. Therefore, I would say now that in the view of the Government if war ever came taxes on the very wealthy, which are already very high, must be further and substantially increased. We feel that profiteering in war time, wherever it can be established, should be subject to special penalties.
In the last War we had to proceed in our endeavours to limit profits by trial and error. We learned by experience, and towards the end of the War we knew what was the best of the ways that had been tried, to use a common phrase, for taking profit out of war. Next time we shall start where we left off, and along with measures which are designed to check and control rises in prices of necessities such as have accompanied all past wars, we intend that a system shall be introduced to deal with all profits 1351 arising out of war and not merely with profits arising out of armaments. Such measures should be effective in preventing the accumulation of individual fortunes to which I have already referred.
It should be remembered that the changes which are induced by war may alter very materially the relative values of property, and that whereas some may be enriched, others may be impoverished. It is doubtful whether the matter can be dealt with effectively during the progress of the war until the permanent change in values has been established, but I think it is possible that the subject could best be grappled with by a levy on wartime increases of wealth such as was examined by the Select Committee in 1920, but not at that time proceeded with. I want to say again to the House that we are studying this matter further at the present time, so that we can work out a scheme which can without delay be put into operation if ever the occasion should arise.
I want to conclude by making an appeal to the party opposite. I make it whether they are able to heed it or not. I think we fully realise what this word "compulsion" connotes in their minds. They hate it. They have believed, and I dare say do believe now, that once you introduce compulsion it is difficult to stop it. It might spread until it affected every aspect of the national life. The Government, feeling compelled in these difficult and dangerous times to act in this way, have very earnestly endeavoured to try and meet those fears and doubts. This is not a proposal for the substitution of a compulsory system for a voluntary system. It is a limited measure which is designed only to meet immediate and temporary needs. It will be framed specially to emphasise its temporary character, and it will deal only with the numbers of men who are now required. It is specially provided that the men who are affected will not be sent overseas unless and until war breaks out, when, in that respect, they will be in the same position as everybody else. But it is a measure which does offer us a prospect of a steadily increasing body of men, who, if they were called upon to do active service, would have bad the training which is necessary to enable them to use their arms and equipment effectively.
1352 And let me say this. No one here has any doubt about the patriotism of hon. Members opposite. No one doubts that if we actually had to face war, whatever differences we may have among ourselves about our domestic affairs would be put on one side, and all of us would stand together in the defence of those liberties, and that freedom which are precious to every one of us. I do not want to give the idea that I think that war is imminent—I do not—but I do think we are in a condition when very little weight one way or the other might decide whether war was going to come or not, and I do want to appeal to hon. Members opposite not to be hasty in taking an irrevocable decision, which might create, in quarters where we would not wish it created, a doubt about our determination to play our part to the full in carrying through the policy which they as well as we approve. I would ask them to consult their friends in the country, to make sure before they take a final decision to persist in an opposition which I cannot help thinking is based rather upon views which they have long held, but in very different circumstances from these, and not so much upon the actual proposals that we are putting forward.
For my part, I do not believe that this country has ever been more united in its approval of the stand which the Government are making against the forces of aggression. I do not believe there is any step, whatever the sacrifice might be, that the country is not prepared to take if it felt it necessary to secure the success of that policy.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I beg to move, in line r, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst prepared to take all necessary steps to provide for the safety of the nation and the fulfilment of its international obligations, this House regrets that His Majesty's Government, in breach of their pledges, should abandon the voluntary principle which has not failed to provide the man-power needed for defence, and is of opinion that the measure proposed is ill-conceived, and. so far from adding materially to the effective defence of the country, will promote division and discourage the national effort, and is further evidence that the Government's conduct of affairs throughout these critical times does not merit the confidence of the country or this House.1353 I wish to emphasise the first line of this Amendment:whilst prepared to take all necessary steps to provide for the safety of the nation and the fulfilment of its international obligations.The Prime Minister has made an appeal, and I intend, as I had intended to do at the outset, to make unmistakably plain to everyone in this country, and in other countries, what is the position of this party and just what is the basis of our opposition to these proposals. We are as determined as anybody else to see that the defences of this country are in every way adequate and that Britain is in a position of sufficient strength to fulfil all her obligations, to prevent war, and to defeat aggression if it should arise. The Labour movement has consistently stood against the rule of force in the world—far more consistently than the Government. No section of the country is more firmly resolved to resist any domination, whether by Herr Hitler or by anybody else, and we have been far more conscious of that menace than have the Government. There is no question of the readiness of our people to make sacrifices for the cause of freedom and democracy, but we are opposed to the introduction of conscription because we believe that, so far from strengthening this country, it will weaken it and divide it, at a time when it should be strong and united.
We have not come to our decision lightly. We realise to the full all the dangers of the present time, but we are convinced that the Government's proposals are ill founded and are harmful to this country. We have reason to complain that this grave departure from the established principle of voluntary service should be rushed through this House. Only at the last moment was there any consultation with the trade union leaders, and they hold very strong views on this. In the background of conscription, as every trade unionist knows, there is the danger of industrial conscription. They have been given a definite pledge by the Government, and they have acted on that pledge. They have thrown themselves into the organisation of voluntary service on the strength of that pledge, and now they find themselves thrown over at a moment's notice. Even if this action was right, it has been done in the worst possible way.
I shall examine in a moment the Prime Minister's suggested reasons as to why it 1354 Measure now, but I will say just a word with regard to the Prime Minister's pledge. However you put it, it is a breach of an undertaking, and we live in days when there are far too many breaches of undertakings, when there are people who hold that pledges that are given under a certain set of circumstances can be disregarded if circumstances change. We are all stressing the need for keeping pledges as a basis for getting any real peace in the world, and it is not a light thing when a pledge like this is thrown aside. I am sorry that the Prime Minister should have tried to introduce that suggestion that there was some difference between a pledge given in peace time and a condition which was not quite war, but was not quite peace. I do not think that was a frank way of meeting the situation. I think the frank way would have been to have come to this House and ask to be absolved, and a still better way would have been to say, "This Government has pledged itself not to do this, and in the circumstances we cannot have an election because of outside circumstances, but we realise that we had better let somebody else carry on the job." That would have been another straightforward way to meet the situation, but to quibble about whether there is war or peace was not, I think, worthy of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. If he claims, as I gather he did yesterday, that the present condition is practically one of war, I would like to say that we have been in that condition for a very long time now, and everybody knows that what has been essentially a war policy has been carried on. But his eyes were not opened to the fact, with the result that every point has been lost in the last few years. I say that it is unfortunate that that departure from his pledge should have been made so hurriedly.
I now come to examine the reasons for this proposal, and the first one put forward was that there was a change of circumstances because we had undertaken certain new obligations. We have undertaken an obligation to Poland, an obligation to Greece, and an obligation to Rumania. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to mean that with every new obligation we require new forces? Surely, you have also to consider the forces on your own side. From any realistic point 1355 of view, if war should break out—we all hope it will not—we should be obliged to send certain forces, and should have to estimate those forces, where they could be applied. But we had obligations before this, and it is really ridiculous to suggest that there is a difference now. The second reason that was given is the one put forward much more freely, and that is that we ought to make a gesture, that the whole value of this is a gesture. Some people say that it is to warn potential enemies, others that it is to encourage our friends. The Prime Minister put that point himself. He said it was necessary to reassure our friends that this country was really in earnest. I am afraid that that is necessary, and it is mainly due to the Prime Minister himself. There is a lack of confidence in the Prime Minister and in the inner circle of Minister around him.
It is not that the Prime Minister is following out a steady policy—indeed his policy is constantly changing. But if a gesture was wanted, there is a much more effective gesture which could have been made. The conscription of wealth in a capitalist and class society like our own, would have been a most convincing gesture. It would have had the advantage of giving a reassurance from the very quarter from which it is needed, because foreign workers have no doubt at all about where British workers stand in resisting aggression, and they have no doubt at all about the British workers' devotion to democracy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Blum."]—and they would welcome proof that the wealthy classes in this country were sincerely devoted to those causes. But if you want to make a gesture, you ought to see that that gesture is really going to add to the strength of the country. There may be an offset to that gesture which weakens its effect. There are many people who hold the view that, apart from this question of a gesture, the real pressure in this matter has come from that section which has always been pressing for conscription. They have always advocated it, and they see a golden chance of getting it now.
It is difficult, however, to find any real reason, from the practical point of view, for this proposal of the Government. Let me say that we take no exception to the proposal for changing the procedure for embodying the Territorials. That is merely 1356 a matter of introducing more effective machinery. I confine myself to the proposal for introducing a measure of compulsory service. The assumption is that the voluntary system has failed to meet our needs. I deny it. I think that in very difficult circumstances it has had a most remarkable success. I wish that its achievements were better known, both in this country and in other countries. The voluntary principle is based on the readiness of the citizens to serve their country, and its effectiveness depends on the people's confidence in their leaders and on the efficiency of governmental machinery. In both those respects the working of the voluntary system has had much to contend with as I shall show. First and foremost, I place the complete distrust with which millions of people regard this Government. They do not believe that it really believes in the things in which they themselves believe. They do not believe that the Prime Minister is really converted to collective security and is standing here for the rule of law against aggression. They have bitter memories of his past actions and speeches. He has not shown himself a friend of democracy. He has assisted in the handing over of free peoples to despotism. All that has had a damping effect on the working of the voluntary system.
Our people will always respond to a moral ideal, but they do not find the expression of their ideals in the Prime Minister and his colleagues. Secondly, they have had bitter experience of the ineptitude and incapacity of this Government. All the newspapers are now pointing out what we were castigated for pointing out a few years ago, namely, the weakening of our strategic position by the inept foreign policy pursued by the Government. They see the result in the piling up of armaments. They realise now what are the results of all that range of actions which started a long way back—Abyssinia and Non-intervention, and all the rest. They have also been deterred by the administrative incompetence of the Government; the refusal to appoint a Minister of Defence, with the result that we get the kind of half-baked proposals which we have before us to-day; the long resistance to and then half-hearted acceptance of a Ministry of Supply; the revelations which we were forced to make on the Floor of the House because private 1357 representations were of no avail, on the question of our Air Force, and which eventually got rid of the Minister and led to a change; the long neglect of air-raid precautions by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the delays for days in coming to decisions on vital points; the lack of grip on the economic situation shown by the President of the Board of Trade in answer to questions, and the incapacity of Ministers. Therefore, the people doubt—and this is a very serious doubt—whether if they joined up they would find the equipment adequate. At the back of it all—and we cannot forget this—is the resentment which is felt at the means test and the miseries of unemployment and the existence of poverty in the midst of plenty. It speaks volumes for the spirit of our people that, despite all these depressing circumstances, we have had such a magnificent response to the appeals for voluntary service.
Let us see what has been achieved. There is no difficulty at all in getting voluntary service for the Air Force and the Navy. The Navy is 21,000 over establishment. The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve is full, and recruiting has closed. The Royal Air Force is up to establishment. The 31,600 recruits appealed for in June, 1938, were reached in March, 1939. The Regular Army has been getting up towards establishment. Its progress was held up because of delay in bringing in long overdue reforms, which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has at last introduced. The Territorial Army had 63,000 recruits last month, and altogether the voluntary effort of this country is on a scale which is not, I think, appreciated abroad. We have under arms or in reserve 1,250,000 men, and that figure is rising to 1,500,000. In addition, there is the tremendous army of volunteers for home defence. The Minister of Labour paid a proper tribute to that effort the other day and told us that there had been a wonderful response. When we have this working of the voluntary system we want to know—and we shall want to know in a great deal more detail than the Prime Minister has given us—what are the technical reasons for the need for compulsory service.
I pause here to note that the arbitrary selection of certain age units really nullifies the contention of the Prime Minister that the great advantage of conscription was that one man would not say, "I am 1358 taken and another is left." It is still more unfair to call up men of 20 and 21 and to leave men of 22, 23 and 24. One technical reason given was that we must have people to man our anti-aircraft guns. I agree that it is folly to leave the manning of a force which may be required at 10 minutes' notice in the hands of people who have to be called up to take part-time training. We pointed that out year after year without result. But I cannot believe that it is a right allocation of our man-power to use the very young for this purpose. I believe that you could get all the men you want for manning the antiaircraft defences from ex-soldiers and ex-naval ratings who are quite capable of doing the job if you offer them proper conditions, and I hold that ought to have been done.
That, however, is not the main reason for this proposal. The main reason is that these trainees are to form a growing reserve to fill up the ranks of the Army in the event of war. I do not know exactly how many men this will give. I think we ought to have had some figures with this proposal. We had some in the Prime Minister's statement and one knows, roughly, the number of men in the class, but one does not know how many of these have already joined up, or the deductions that must be made for those who will be rejected on physical grounds. But you are going to get a certain recruitment, and I would like to know whether we are in a position to deal with those recruits. In a letter to the "Times" Captain Liddell Hart says:Ultimate efficiency is impaired rather than assisted by enlisting men before there is adequate equipment with which to train them.The real trouble has been that the Secretary of State for War has been hampered all through by the reluctance of the Government to appoint a Minister of Supply. This is a supply difficulty far more than a man-power difficulty, and that problem has not really been reached. I want to know whether we can, as a matter of fact, deal effectively with these recruits. The question here is how to utilise our man-power to the best effect. We have not had any clear indication of what land forces we need. I do not suggest that we can get it exactly, but there is one thing quite clear. This country provides the greatest Fleet in the world. It has a rapidly growing Air Force. It has to provide munitions for them, and will no 1359 doubt help to provide munitions for its Allies and it cannot, in addition to that, provide a great Continental Army.
I think it is a pity that the Government do not make more widely known the extent of our effort. I am sure we make a great mistake in that respect. I have had some quotations from Continental journals put before me, and I do not think they realise always what we are doing. I do not think they realise what we have done in the past. I know that in the Great War many Frenchmen did not realise what the British Fleet meant. The Germans did, and I hope they do now. We have, therefore, to work out carefully the best way of utilising our resources in men and material, and it is a great mistake to go purely on the number of men. There were some words used by the Secretary of State for War in his speech on the Army Estimates last year "which are worth noting in that connection. He said:The strength of the Navy is assessed in Ships and not in personnel, that of the Air Force in squadrons and not in ground staff. Following this line of thought the strength of the modern Army is based, not on the individual but rather on fire units which combine fire power and mobility. Why alone in the Army should heads be counted and fire power and mobility discounted? The number of men required in each unit is the number needed to man and serve the weapons, together with the necessary elements for service, replacement and administration. Every man above this is an additional target and a strain on the service which has to feed and maintain him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1938; col. 2139, Vol. 332.]That is a very vital consideration, because the effectiveness of our effort does not depend entirely on the main who is right at the point of attack. It is the number of men and munitions behind him that make him effective. It is not suggested at the moment that we are proposing, as has been suggested, that other people should fight our battles. We can put into the field very formidable land forces, in addition to our Naval and our Air forces, but there is a limit to the amount which we can do effectively. I hold that the voluntary system can provide all the men that we can usefully put into the field, and I do not think the conscriptionist method is the right way for allocating our man-power. It is far more a matter of the planning of our social and industrial structure. The present 1360 gross inequalities of the standards of life lead to luxury and waste of man-power.
I come to the Prime Minister's suggestions, which he rather optimistically referred to, and somehow connected with the conscription of wealth. He did not deal with conscription of wealth at all, but merely dealt with the possibility of checking profiteering, and I think it is characteristic that he tries to gild the pill of conscription merely with an offer in the future of a promissory note to legislate at an undefined date. There has been a great deal of deterioration in the value of the Government's promissory notes. If you want to get a better allocation of our forces and the strengthening of the country, you want to do it now by repressing unnecessary luxury and utilising the man-power of this country. But the assumption is made that somehow or other conscription is the better way and will give you more men. I beg to doubt that. Sir Auckland Geddes, who, after all, had a great experience in the World War, said:With, perhaps, more knowledge than most of the working of conscription in this country, I hold the fully matured opinion that, on balance, the imposition of military conscription added little if anything to the effective sum of our war effort.We were carried through the greatest strain of the War on voluntary service. I do not think that we have really had an effective appeal yet for voluntary services in this country, and I would ask the Government to make it instead of introducing this provision. The introduction of a limited class of conscripts into the voluntary service will injure the voluntary side of our services. It will not be properly co-ordinated. That, I think, is a gesture—a gesture of throwing a monkey wrench into the machine. Those who support it in many quarters are supporting it because they see in this the first step to far wider conscription, and it is suggested that why trade unionists feel apprehensive is because this may lead on to industrial conscription.
I do not think that the Prime Minister has made out his case. He has not really tried to get the people that he requires by an effective voluntary recruiting drive. I doubt whether he is the man to do it. I do not think that this Measure has been dictated by any real review of the needs of our defences. I think it is partly a gesture and partly the yielding to the 1361 clamour of the conscriptionists. One of the things that always militates against voluntary effort is the shouting for conscription. I am old enough to remember how the Territorial Army used to be run down by the advocates of conscription.
I am convinced that under the leadership of a Government that understood how to appeal to the deep moral instincts of our people, who do care about these things—freedom and democracy—a Government that had their confidence because they knew that they really believed what they professed, they would show that the voluntary efforts of a free people are far more effective than any regimentation by dictatorships. We oppose this proposal because we think it has not been thought out, that it will not add to the strength of the country and that it will not add to our effective fighting forces, but is far more likely to weaken them.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
It is apparent from the strong and eloquent speeches to which we have just listened from the two right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me that there are wide differences of opinion in this House on the merits of the proposal the Government have put upon the Order Paper. But, at the same time, any foreigner who believes that there is any real difference in the attitude of Members of all parties in this House on the question of the defence of this country and of peace, freedom and order in the world, will be making a profound mistake. For my own part, I want to say and do nothing which will make more difficult the diligent search which we all ought to pursue for the greatest common measure of agreement and national unity in the serious situation in which our country finds itself to-day.
To my hon. Friends and myself, and indeed to many other hon. Members in the other parts of the House, the essence of the situation in Europe has seemed to be the conflict between law and arbitrary force—"the eternal conflict" as Burke called it. I believe that our generation may yet retrieve the chance to end it. Too long have we truckled to arbitrary force. We have allowed it to grow in power, prestige, self-confidence, acquisitiveness and insolence, and we have impotently watched the decline in the power of law to protect one unhappy victim after another from the 1362 aggressor. It is clear that the only alternative to the dread choice between war and submission to the aggressor is to build up a solid front of resistance to aggression so clearly invincible that no nation will be able by force to impose its will upon another or to acquire the economic and military resources of a weaker neighbour and to use them to increase its own power, so that every nation will have to submit its grievances and claims to the due processes of law or to the arbitrament of third party judgment. That has been called misty idealism by the so-called realists in His Majesty's Government. Their realism has now proved to be a delusion, and our idealism emerges as the true realism.
This policy is going to be immensely more difficult to practise now than it would have been even a year ago. In the past year our national strength has increased immensely but the strength of the Axis Powers has also been increased, not only by their own national efforts of armament, but also by the acquisition of the territories and the economic resources, military material and strategic positions of whole countries, including advantages of enormous military importance in Central Europe and in Spain. On the other hand, our impotence to prevent successive outrages, our enforced condonation of them, and the erratic course of our foreign policy have undermined the confidence of our friends and stimulated the ambitions and self-confidence of the aggressors.
Of the more distant countries, with, whose destinies ours has been linked by the pressure of events and by the policy which Parliament has approved, suffice it for me to say two things now. First, that I am not surprised to learn that His Majesty's Government "have found it necessary to review the means which they have at their disposal to discharge their new obligations and to impress our friends in Europe with the determination of this country to offer a firm resistance to any attempt at general domination." Secondly, as regards the United States of America and Soviet Russia, I yield to no hon. Member in this House in my desire for the closest possible co-operation between these two great countries and ourselves or in the gratitude which we all feel to President Roosevelt for his inspiring messages and for his well-judged and 1363 well-timed intervention in the cause of peace and order. As for Soviet Russia, no hon. Member in this House will accuse me of failing to insist, both in season and out of season—and I am afraid that to hon. Members opposite it has generally seemed to be out of season—on the importance of co-operation between our two countries, but anyone is mad who thinks that either President Roosevelt or Mr. Stalin is going to rush in to protect British interests or that the co-operation of Russia is going to make it possible for us to put forward anything less than the greatest effort of which we in this country are capable in the common cause of peace and freedom. Indeed, the only way to attract the sympathy and co-operation of either the American people or the Russian Government is to show our firm resolve to make our maximum contribution to the common interest in resistance to aggression, and to the establishment of peace on the basis of law and justice and of equality both of political status and of economic opportunity for all nations.
As for France, the friendship and alliance between our two countries is, and must remain, the solid core of peace, order and freedom in Europe. At a time when Frenchmen are cheerfully making heavy sacrifices, when large numbers of them are actually mobilised and manning their defences by land and at sea, and when Italian and German propaganda is trying to insinuate that Great Britain is willing to fight, as the Prime Minister has said, to the last Frenchman, and that if war comes it is only French blood which will flow, we must make it clear to Frenchmen that we are willing to make to the common cause, in which the interests we have at stake are just as great as their own, a contribution fully proportionate to our population, our resources and our responsibilities. That is why my hon. Friends and I have voted for every armament Estimate since rearmament began, why we raised that famous Debate in July, 1937, when the demand of this House for measures of protection against air raids first became effective, and why we have for three years been urging, by moving Amendments to the Address and in other ways, the establishment of a Ministry of Supply.
Necessarily the character of the contribution made by our two countries must reflect the differences in their circum- 1364 stances. In France, as in any continental country, the thought of national danger naturally turns the eyes of the people towards their land frontiers, running invisibly across village streets and separating a peasant from his nearest neighbour. France must protect herself in the air and guard her sea communications, but her main defensive effort must necessarily be made on land. How different is our situation in these islands. It is impossible to invade us so long as we retain command of the seas, and unnecessary to invade us if we lose it. But we present one of the most tempting targets in the world to air attack. Obviously, therefore, our main defensive effort must be made by sea and in the air. But we cannot in the present circumstances be content with that. Partly owing to the short-sightedness of our policy towards Italy and Spain France is now encircled on three frontiers. Our own defences, and those of other nations who are now entitled to look to us for protection, are directly threatened in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean; so, with the support of all parties in this House and in the country. His Majesty's Government are preparing an expeditionary force of 32 divisions—nearly 500,000 men—not to defend France, but to act as a bulwark of freedom in France, or wherever else they maybe required. Nobody doubts that we can get the men. The only doubt is how soon we can equip them.
So I would say to the French: "We want to make the greatest contribution of which we are capable just as we know, you are doing. Our first contribution is the greatest fleet in the world; our second, one of the world's most formidable air forces now rapidly growing in strength; and our third, an expeditionary force of 500,000 men as soon as we can equip them, and behind that force, as the equipment comes in, we must build up reserves, making 1,000,000 men. It is calculated that for every man in the field in a modern, mechanised army, there must be 17 men and women of all ages to equip and maintain them. Behind the Fleet and the Air Force there must be proportionately an even larger army of skilled and unskilled workers. Two million men and women are required for air-raid precautions, but only a small proportion of them are whole-time workers. In addition, in the event of 1365 war you and our other allies would want to draw on the products of our munition factories, and you would require our assistance in financing your war efforts. "Now I would say," Let us examine together whether there is left over any untapped resource which Great Britain can contribute either in military effort or in any other way to the common cause, "and, so having decided what our contribution is to be, I would add: "but the method of making it is a matter for us, and for nobody else, to decide."
We all know that there are many hon. Members, not only on the opposite side of the House, who believe in compulsory service, and naturally in the present circumstances they are anxious to see it introduced. I recognise their sincerity, and I hope that they will recognise mine when I say that I am firmly convinced of the merits of the voluntary system. I would not argue that it is impossible for a country to adopt compulsory service and remain a democracy. When I look at France, at Belgium and at Switzerland, that argument to me does not seem to make sense; but I do say that a democracy, which cherishes its liberty as the British people do, will not willingly adopt compulsion unless and until the resources of the voluntary system are exhausted. I say that a quicker, a more active, a more united, a more cheerful and, therefore, a more formidable response, can be obtained from a democracy by leadership than by compulsion, and that the voluntary system best accords with the history and the traditions of the British people. The volunteer armies of Great Britain and the British Dominions pitted themselves successfully in the last War against the finest and best equipped conscript armies in Europe. Indeed, it is not necessary for me to argue the merits of the voluntary system or the hatred of the British people for compulsion. It must have been considerations such as these which led Mr. Baldwin to give, and the present Prime Minister to repeat, the famous pledge against the introduction of conscription in peace time during the period of the present Parliament, and even under the proposals of His Majesty's Government our reliance will still be, in the main, on the voluntary system, for the Prime Minister declared yesterday—I quote his own words: 1366The introduction of this measure leaves the voluntary system as the basis of our three Defence Services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1939, col. 1153, Vol. 346.]I have most carefully considered the reasons which the Prime Minister has offered for a revision of his pledge against conscription. The first is to impress other nations. I have made one alternative proposal, and I could make others, but I do not wish to delay the House. But I am afraid that, for reasons which I will give later, foreign nations will fail to be impressed by the proposals of His Majesty's Government.
The second reason given by the Prime Minister in his statement yesterday, and repeated by him to-day, is that the voluntary system is unjust. [Interruption.] I know that there are a great many hon. Members who quite sincerely hold that opinion, and I should not be in the least surprised to hear them express their opinion in the course of this Debate; but I am very much surprised to find it expressed in the Prime Minister's statement yesterday. Reasons for this departure from the conscription pledge which are based on expediency I can understand and respect even if I do not agree with them, because circumstances change, and what is inexpedient today may become expedient to-morrow, and even the sacrifice of a principle may be justified in an emergency for the protection of more important principles. But moral values are not susceptible of change, and if in the opinion of the Government, the voluntary system is unjust, His Majesty's Government ought not to have waited until they wanted to impress foreign Powers before changing it. In launching their national appeal a few weeks ago they were either deliberately and unjustly exploiting the patriotic instincts of the volunteers, or this appeal to justice does not now ring true.
The third reason is that certain Territorial and non-regular personnel have been called up to reinforce our system of anti-aircraft defence, and that this service entails a more prolonged sacrifice than was anticipated when they were trained and enrolled. It will be a very prolonged sacrifice if they have to wait until the new conscripts have been enrolled and have completed their training. The Territorials who have been called up should be relieved at frequent intervals by other Territorials. How many men 1367 are involved? At the most a few thousand; and volunteers for that purpose could be recruited in a week.
The one reason which His Majesty's Government do not give and cannot give for this new departure is that they cannot get the men without conscription. The Leader of the Opposition has given to the House impressive figures of the present numbers of our fighting Forces. I join with him in regretting that greater publicity has not been given to the numbers of men this country has raised, and to the great military effort we have made. I do not believe the people of this country know, I am certain the French do not, and that other foreign countries do not know it. They ought to know that we have raised 2,000,000 men and women for anti-aircraft precautions and 1,250,000 men for the fighting services. That should be known abroad; the Government ought to have told the foreign countries. That is the right counter to the Italian and German propaganda in France.
The men are coming in so fast that they will not be able to equip them for months to come. Criticisms have been made of the half-heartedness of the appeal for recruits, and the handicap it has suffered from the grossly inflated list of reserved occupations. Suggestions were made at the conference at the Ministry of Labour for putting more drive behind the appeal, but they were rejected by Sir Auckland Geddes, who said that if His Majesty's Government put any more drive behind the appeal for volunteers, they would be overwhelmed by the flood of recruits. Why take unwilling men, and incidentally split the country, when you can get, cheerfully and willingly, all, and more than all, the volunteers you can equip?
What is this proposal which is to impress foreign countries with our firm resolve? The Prime Minister chided my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) with deliberately belittling the effort which the Government were proposing to make, but the Prime Minister himself went on to describe the numbers involved as seeming to be trifling when compared with the armies of foreign countries. But, he said, the numbers would steadily increase. Steadily increase over what period of time? We could get the numbers as quickly, and more quickly, by a strong 1368 appeal for volunteers. The proposal is to conscript only men of 20 years of age. There are 310,000 of them, from which number must be deducted, first, those who are already serving as sailors, soldiers and airmen; secondly, the unfit; thirdly the conscientious objectors; and, fourthly, those who are engaged in reserved occupations. His Majesty's Government, with these great responsibilities which, since 29th March, we have incurred in Poland, Rumania, and Greece, will have, to impress foreign Governments, 200,000 boys of 20, and we are warned in the newspapers that not even that number will be called up at once, and that no doubt it will be a whole year before the 200,000 have been called up. There are to be 200,000 boys of 20 with which to impress the leaders of the great conscript armies of Europe. Even at the present rate of recruiting they would be enrolled in three months by voluntary methods, and much more quickly if a special appeal were made.
Why should the whole burden of compulsion be placed on this one age group? The Prime Minister spoke of the prospective Territorials who have been reported to him to have held back from volunteering because they said it was unfair that other men were not doing their share in the great national effort that was being made. I suppose the Prime Minister meant that if a man working in a bank, with a dozen clerks in the room, found that two or three of them were shirking their responsibilities, he said, "Why should I go?" What difference does this scheme make to that situation? The man will now be able to say, "All the men of 20 are to go." That is the only difference the scheme makes. There will not be any measure of compulsion on any of the men whom the Prime Minister was told such a man had seen shirking their obligations. If I may paraphrase the Prime Minister's statement of yesterday, I would ask, Is there no weakness in a system which allows a man of 35, 30, 25, 23, 22, 21, to devote himself to pleasure or to gain while the man of 20 devotes his leisure and his holidays to training himself to be ready in war to risk his life and the future of his family for his country? Why does it devolve upon the man of 20, and upon him only, to vindicate those eternal principles of justice which the Prime Minister invoked 1369 in his statement yesterday? If ever circumstances impose upon this country a departure from the voluntary system, let the principle of compulsion be applied generally, and not only to boys of 20.
Finally, I cannot refrain from expressing again my astonishment and regret—to which the Prime Minister referred in his opening remarks this afternoon—that no attempt was made to consult the Leaders of the Opposition parties or the representatives of organised labour before reaching this decision. The right hon. Gentleman made a point of the fact that it was only I who raised the matter yesterday, and I was the more glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition raise it at the beginning of his speech to-day. Yesterday, when I put the point to the Prime Minister, he answered it—and he referred to it again to-day—as though I were complaining that I had not received information about the Government's intentions before they were announced in the House. That is a small point of courtesy with which it would not for one moment have occurred to me to trouble the House. My complaint was that no Member of either the Labour party or the Liberal party, nor as far as I am informed any trade union leader, was consulted before the decision was made. Information given after the decision was made and announced in broad outline on Tuesday to the Press is not consultation. The right hon. Gentleman argued that consultation would necessarily have involved responsibility. I believe that Members of all parties, in this grave situation in which the country is placed at the present time, are prepared to share in the responsibility of leading the country, and indeed, every Member of the House has a great responsibility upon him at the present time; and I cannot help feeling that the reasons which the Prime Minister gave for not consulting the other parties, and in particular representatives of organised labour, were not convincing.
Therefore, it seems to me that His Majesty's Government have failed to justify their grave departure in policy at the present time; that such a departure ought in no circumstances to be made by a Government which is, rightly or wrongly, widely distrusted, and which still excludes from its ranks those of its own supporters who have been consistent 1370 advocates of the policy which it has belatedly and half-heartedly adopted; that, by failing to consult beforehand the representatives of the other parties and of organised labour, the Government are creating a deep, dangerous and unnecessary cleavage in public opinion; and that their proposals are unjust in their incidence, and so timorous and half-hearted as to be unlikely to serve their main purpose of impressing foreign countries. It is for those reasons that I have tabled an Amendment to the Motion, but to prevent my action from being misinterpreted by anybody in any foreign country, let me make it abundantly clear that it relates only to the specific considerations which I have enumerated, and that it is because I believe that other measures and other men are required to enable this country to make its full contribution towards the construction of a firm bulwark against aggression and towards the preservation of peace in the world.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I was a little disappointed with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) and the attitude he has felt it his duty to adopt. We have been in very general agreement upon the great steps which have been taken in foreign policy, and I was rather hoping that he would find in this Debate an opportunity for carrying the excellent leadership he has shown in these matters of foreign affairs one step further in the sphere of defence, because certainly no one has been a more strenuous advocate of the enlargement of our responsibilities and of the vigorous championship of our rights and interests than my right hon. Friend, and it is somewhat discouraging to find that at the first really awkward fence, if I may put it in that way, with which he has been confronted, he has found it necessary to take such a very strong attitude of opposition.
However, I must say that this is an occasion when I find it much easier to support the Government's measures than to admire the Government's methods. I can readily understand the complaints of the Opposition parties in view of the pledges that have been given. The Leader of the Opposition made a temperate speech, and certainly I shall do nothing to add to the bitterness, but I never could understand why it was necessary to go on reiterating these pledges 1371 when events were changing so rapidly. All of these pledges against compulsion were successive deterrents to that process of gathering countries together upon which we were embarking and upon which our hopes were being centred. A more reasonable course, I think, would have been, after Munich, to have introduced a compulsory National Service Register. This would have afforded the opportunity of surveying the whole country, of testing public opinion, and of preparing the public for the use that would be made of the register in an emergency, or as the crisis deepened.
But all this time the Government were arguing against any form of compulsion, and they were teaching their followers to argue against it. Up to a few days ago, we were assured that compulsion was a principle that could not be tolerated. Now, with surprising suddenness—almost overnight—that principle is adopted. Personally, I am very glad that it is adopted, but it is not difficult to see why the Opposition parties have a grievance, and I dare say that even some Members on this side of the House find themselves embarrassed and stultified by the sudden change. Moreover, this reversal does not come alone. I forbear to recapitulate the successive conversions of the last six weeks. Everyone is baffled by the many rapid changes of policy upon fundamental issues. Even when one is in full agreement with those changes, one has an uncomfortable feeling that far-reaching decisions are taken, not after mature planning, but in a hurry, not from design, conviction or forethought, but because of the pressure of events abroad or the pressure of opinion at home. That undoubtedly militates against confidence in His Majesty's Government, which is so necessary now both throughout this country and among our allies.
On the other hand, I am bound to say that I cannot feel that any valid charge can be brought against the Prime Minister on the score of good faith or on the score of his pledges. I will give some reasons if I may. In ordinary circumstances, if everything were safe and sure, the obvious way out of our Parliamentary difficulties would be to have a General Election. That would be the natural course to be taken in these circumstances. A pledge has been given, its fulfilment has been found to be contrary to public inter- 1372 est as judged by the Government, and unless release is given by the Opposition as well as by the supporters of the Government, an election is the natural step. Such a course would now be attended with the very gravest dangers. It would inflict lasting injury upon our power to cope with our problems. I have no doubt whatever, even if the case were put in the least favourable manner, that on this issue in this crisis the Government would win. But what would happen then? We should have a new Parliament deeply embittered, with a large minority of the nation worked up into violent opposition against the Government on all the issues of foreign policy and defence.
On the other hand, if the Opposition won and they established the principle of no compulsory National Service, I say—make no mistake about it—the whole resistance of Europe to Nazi domination would collapse. All countries, great and small alike, would make the best terms they could with the Nazi Power, and we should be left alone with our great possessions to settle up with the dictators ourselves. The mere process of an election, apart from the arguments which I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister use, would be highly detrimental and dangerous. The election would last more than a month during which, whatever its results, we should be a tempting object of attack. We should all be divided and abusing each other. There is one thing on which you can never have a compromise, namely, which of two gentlemen are to have one seat. All our foes might seize their opportunity, and all our friends would stand wondering what was going to be the result of the poll. Therefore, it seems quite clear—and I was very glad to hear what the Prime Minister said on the point—that a General Election at this time by a Government possessing a large, effective and united majority would be little less than a crime. I am very glad that so far no electioneering threats or talk have been indulged in on either side.
The Prime Minister, whatever his declarations have been, is deprived through external circumstances of the ordinary constitutional methods of escaping from a difficulty of this kind. Therefore, he is bound to act in accordance with what he believes to be the national needs and safety. That is the supreme pledge which is tacitly and unspokenly given by all those who hold 1373 first office in the State. I should like to point out that, looking back on the past, this is exactly what happened in the Great War. We were all pledged against conscription in the Great War. The most fiery speeches were made by all the Members of that Government before the War and at the election preceding it. I certainly declaimed against it with the utmost vigour. When, however, the crisis of the War was reached and it was found to be absolutely necessary to have conscription, hardly any of the Ministers found the slightest difficulty in voting for it. Nor did Parliament find the slightest difficulty in prolonging its own life. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Chancellor?"] I am not needlessly enlarging the area of controversy.
Of course, it is said that that was wartime, but I entirely agree with the Prime Minister when he asks: Is this peace? Indeed, it is a war that has been going on, as I think the Leader of the Opposition said, for nearly three years. We have been losing this war. We have had three disastrous campaigns and the battles, the actions of the war, have gone against not only us but against the principles of law and freedom, against the interests of the peaceful and progressive democracies. Those battles already make a long catalogue—the Rhineland Abyssinia, Austria, Munich, Prague, and Albania. [HON. MEMBERS: "And Spain."] That is a matter about which you may certainly say it has been a triumph of the dictatorial Powers. We are all, then, agreed that circumstances—and I am very glad to hear that agreement—are analogous to war actually prevailing, that resort to a General Election is physically and practically impossible, and that, in consequence of that, the Prime Minister had no choice but to do what he considered was the best for the safety of the country. I am certain he will not be reproached in the country or by the great majority of the Members of this House for the step he has taken.
After all, disputes of this kind, and natural misgivings and grievances of this kind, are not the chief thing we have to consider nowadays. They are only a very small part of what we have to face. We have to face the danger in which we stand. We have to face the facts as they really are to-day. We have to find, or try to find, the right course for us to take at this moment in the interests of the nation, and not only in the interests of 1374 the nation, but in the interests of the common cause. Do not let us forget that we have a common cause. Many differences sunder us, and I make the fullest possible allowance for the pain which this decision has naturally caused to many in the Opposition parties. But the common cause remains and continues. There is a common cause in this House. There is a common cause in Europe. There is a common cause all over the world, and whatever we do, and however we express our sincere conviction on this occasion, we must, above all things, be careful not to fail the common cause. The new policy announced by the Prime Minister a few weeks ago of building up a defensive peace, a bloc of nations all pledged to resist further Nazi aggression against any one of them, and to secure the largest possible measure of collective defence, has been universally accepted by Parliament.
In pursuance of this policy we have recently made a series of tremendous commitments, staggering commitments, and these commitments have been made under conditions, let me remind the House, which, after the destruction of the Czech Army and the capture of the gigantic arsenals of Czecho-Slovakia, have become unfavourable, adverse and hard. Nevertheless, in spite of that, all parties supported the guarantee to Poland and to Greece and the arrangements which are proceeding for an alliance with Turkey. The still more rapidly-decided guarantee to Rumania was equally acclaimed. Also, there are our obligations to France, the keystone of the arch of democratic safety. Besides this there are our self-evident interests in the independence of Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. These are, indeed, awful responsibilities for any nation to have assumed, but this House has assumed them with a degree of unanimity I have never seen on any other subject, and that at the time when they knew the full gravity of the consequences of their decision.
It is on that basis that we must consider the step which the Government now ask us to take. I have not until quite lately myself pressed actual military conscription upon His Majesty's Government. I admit I was impressed to some extent by the argument of the danger of splitting the country, and I should have been content with a compulsory National Service Register set up at the proper time 1375 with a declaration that compulsion would be general on the outbreak of war. But in view of these far-extending commitments, and also in view of the many doubts cast upon the good faith and zeal of our country by German propaganda and the effect which this propaganda was having in other countries, I was sincerely convinced that such steps and such a declaration as I suggested a month ago would no longer suffice and that they have become altogether inadequate.
During the last few days I have seen a good deal of our Rumanian visitors—very fine, earnest men, representatives of a small country. I could not help, as I was talking to them, a feeling coming across me that quite possibly in a few months their old land might be invaded, the institutions of their country overturned, every semblance of sovereignty and freedom robbed from that small State as it has been robbed from Czechoslovakia. I could not help feeling the danger and jeopardy in which they stood. They came here for our advice, seeking our counsel. We have given that advice, and we have given them a promise of aid. I must say, with those emotions in my mind, I feel that an act like that which is proposed, to make a declaration that we will not even keep back this long-cherished principle of voluntary service, is an act which is really wrung from us by the desire not to lead others into the path of danger where we have not the means to follow and aid them ourselves.
Then there is the supreme question of France. Nazi propaganda in France is unceasing. The Prime Minister quoted to us this afternoon one bitter gibe about England fighting to the last French soldier. This kind of propaganda is very dangerous. I remember it was used in Russia before the Revolution. We heard it said then that England would fight to the last Russian soldier. You never know how much mischief can be spread about on those lines. I will take a highly improbable instance so as not to appear to be spreading alarm. Suppose Gibraltar were attacked next week by German ships. France would declare war upon Germany, and her army, comprising 5,000,000 trained men, would be mobilised, and in a very few days 2,000,000 of those men would stand under the fire of the enemy. They would 1376 be doing that because a British fortress had been attacked. It is true that we simultaneously and similarly would proceed to the aid of France if her territory were the subject of aggression, but we have not got an Army of those numbers which we can set in motion immediately the signal is given One must think of the feelings of the average French soldier, marching with millions of his comrades in what might be a quarrel deliberately fastened on us, picked with us, with the very view of introducing a division between the two countries.
The French do not easily understand that an island people who have not seen the watch-fires of a hostile camp on their soil for nearly a thousand years—excluding invasions from Scotland—have deep prejudices against militarism and are historically attached to the voluntary system. They only see that they would have to stand against the enemy in the front line, under the cannon fire, for many terrible months, while all the time, as they would believe it, because we had not previously taken the step of introducing compulsion, no relief, or very exiguous relief, would be reaching them from these shores. [HON, MEMBERS: "There is our Navy."] I am putting this point because you will find that when a great number of people go into danger they do look around them to try to find out whether everything is fair and square, and although our contribution to any war will be a very great one, it is not of the same kind as would be exacted from the French from the very first day that war began.
A most dangerous attempt is being made to sever the loyalties which unite the two western democracies. It seems to me that Great Britain is at least as dependent upon France as France is dependent upon us. The rise of feeling in France in recent weeks was a fact that no British Government could have afforded to neglect. If the insidious propaganda which is going on were to drive a wedge between Great Britain and France, the ruin of both countries would be speedy and final. It appears to me that the principle of collective security implies an equally loyal self-sacrifice offered by all countries in proportion to their strength and means. The contributions of different countries are not, of course, the same, but they must be equal in quality and in comradeship. These 1377 considerations apply to every one of the countries that are now linked with us. Moreover, the success of our plan for preventing war depends not only upon rallying many nations to resist aggression but upon obtaining from each of those nations the fullest possible service. Without that there can be no safety.
It seems to me—and this is a point which I would put especially to the Leader of the Liberal party and his friends—that this whole policy of building up a front against aggression might easily have been injured if at this juncture the Government had still refused to take this most necessary step. Indeed, I go further, and I would say that had the Prime Minister allowed himself to be hampered by what he has said in the past he would have failed in his duty, and by failing would have brought us measurably nearer to the danger we seek above all things to avoid. As to the urgency of this, I was very glad to hear the explanation which was given by the Government that it was better that it should be done on its merits as a purely British measure than appear to constitute an after-comment on a speech which is to be delivered.
But I do not attach importance to the speech which is to be delivered tomorrow. If Herr Hitler utters words of menace, that will not make the situation any worse than it appears on the actual facts. If he utters reassurances I, for one, shall not believe them until they are confirmed by deeds. If he utters mere abuse, why should we pay any attention to that? We pay too much attention to the speeches of dictators and give too little study to the marshalling of their forces and the strength of their authority, which is continually going on. No, Sir, the urgency of our decision to-night arises from this fact, that once His Majesty's Government have declared in favour of compulsory service that declaration must be implemented and endorsed by the House of Commons at the earliest possible moment, by the largest possible majority, if it is to gain the acceptance and the useful results for which it is designed. Therefore, it seems to me that to leave it uncertain even over the week-end might have spread doubt and discouragement among those whom we are seeking to influence, and whom in a certain sense we are aspiring to lead.
1378 This is not the time to debate the details of the Conscription Bill. They will be before us next week. I attach the greatest importance to that Measure as a symbol, and I also have no doubt that it is most useful as a military adjunct to what still remains, upon the whole, a voluntary system. But I must say, so far as we have been informed of the Government's plans, that I am inclined to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—I do not know whether the Prime Minister was aware that he was driving away a supporter on this matter: I am looking forward very much to marching through the Lobby this evening with my right hon. Friend on a great issue like this for the defence of the nation—that this plan does seem to be somewhat small for the trouble that it is going to cause. It is certainly too small for the danger we seek to cope with, and not yet proportionate to the part we have decided to play in what I still must call the common cause.
If a country were to adopt conscription in a time of perfect peace, with years of preparation open before it, the calling up of one class of youths of 20 each year for training on Swiss or Swedish militia principles would be a natural, reasonable normal step to take; but that is not our case. We have not made such preparations in the past, and we have not got the time now, when we are face to face with an emergency, to build up annual quotas year by year. Words have ceased to count for some time past. We have now got to the point where gestures, however dramatic and admirable, are not in themselves enough. We do not want only a gesture: we want an Army, and we may want an Army soon. We certainly cannot make an Army out of an undue proportion of youths of 20; and to imagine the British nation can escape from this embarrassment, or that our European problems can be solved by the calling up of 200,000 youths of 20, is a delusion.
It seems to me that several classes should have been included in this Bill. It is true that owing to past delays we have not the weapons or the training facilities for any very large numbers, and, of course, they would only be called up as those became available. Large numbers of the classes that would be liable would be exempted—no, I will not say exempted, because it is a derogatory term 1379 —I will say excluded from the fighting line because of their requisite indispensable skill in munitions and other vital services. All that would not be an easy task. Well do I remember in the Great War the difficulties we had in restraining the skilled men, and in restraining the miners in particular, from proceeding to the front.
The spirit of this country is great and buoyant. I do not believe that volunteering will be checked by this measure of compulsory service. I agree with the Prime Minister that probably it will receive a stimulus, because, as he said, and everyone knows, there has been an immense amount of talk in the country on these lines: "If they want me they will come for me "—that has been said—"and why should we have it all put upon us while those chaps stand by with their hands in their pockets?" But let me say this of those who stand by, as it is said: believe me those young men who are going to be called up will not object. Those who have conscientious scruples may object, and I agree that those should be respected, but the great mass of these young boys who are to be put into camps in the summer and trained in the Regular Army will think it an honour and a pleasure, and I have not the slightest doubt that the food and the healthy exercise they will get will enable them to go back to the ordinary course of their lives with a far more robust physique.
Therefore, I give my support to this proposal. I remember that when the Great War broke out in 1914 it was a war in which the political leaders had to convince the people that the cause was good. The movement came, as it were, from the thinking classes in society.
§ Mr. Churchill
They were able to do so. But there is a difference now. Then the cause was explained and the nation accepted the explanation and rallied to the cause. But now the impulse, the main impulse, to resist the Nazi dictatorship principles comes from the mass of the people. I think in every country with which we are associated, in all those European countries—countries trembling on the verge, like Yugoslavia—the drive of the people is strong. It is very often the Governments who are hesitating. Here the spirit of the people has been ahead of the 1380 Government, and it may even be found to be ahead of Parliament also. There is still time for the countries which are ruled by the dictators to place themselves in harmony with the overwhelming majority of the human race and in harmony with its irresistible forward movement. That must be our hope, and I earnestly hope, although conscientious differences must be expressed, that everything will be done to avoid giving encouragement at this juncture to these dictators, or that they may be led to suppose that we are not ready, with other like-minded States, to go to all lengths in doing our share of the common duty.
The two Bills proposed yesterday by the Prime Minister bring this country for the first time into line, at least in principle, with all the other countries with whom we are acting. They certainly affect the safety of the State. They have a direct influence upon the hopes of maintaining the peace of the world, and it seems to me that anyone who casts his vote against them must do so with grave compunction and sense of responsibility.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I think I express the feeling of the whole House when I say that if the speech to which we have just listened had been made by the Prime Minister to-day there would be no Division and we should have seen a united House. I am confident that we are united in this House to-day, and shall remain united whatever be the result of the Division tonight, on our determination, at whatever cost to any principle and to any interest, to stand up to and if necessary to beat Hitler. Everything must give way to that. I suppose I am one of the most extreme individualists in this House. I hate compulsion and I dislike the State, but when it comes to danger to that liberty and justice upon which England is built I would scrap every one of my principles in order to preserve liberty and law in the: world. Inter arma silent leges; when we have our backs to the wall we have to sacrifice all. If the marvellous speech to which we have just listened had been made by the Prime Minister we should have a united House, but we should still have had a poor leader; for our chief difficulty to-day is that, although we are all united, this country is badly led.
Let us consider for a moment what we are supporting to-day, or what our 1381 Government are supporting and why they are doing it. The Government are introducing compulsion, but that is not going to strengthen our Army one little bit within the next six months, dangerous six months. Our defences will not be improved one jot. The Prime Minister said that recruiting for the Territorial Army was going badly; I should like to know whose fault that is. It is just a week ago yesterday that I was approached by the Lord Lieutenant of my county who had got all the deputy-lieutenants together to start recruiting. They could not start because they had not got the correct papers. We are holding our first recruiting meeting next Sunday, but you have already damned recruiting by bringing in this Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. You will not get people to join up in the Territorial Army. "There are other methods," they will say; "we need not defend liberty because the Government are going to introduce conscription and everybody will come in in his proper turn." As a matter of fact, the response has been marvellous already, although there has been no organisation behind it at all. I am told there have been 60,000 recruits already enlisted in the last month, although there has been no pressure from anybody. That is as good as we did in the last War.
The scheme now introduced is not primarily in the interests of the defence of this country. It has other quite understandable and good reasons behind it. You have to weigh the position of our allies and you have to remember the attitude in Rumania and Poland, where they say that our promises are all right but how can we implement them? You have the abominable anti-English propaganda going on in France as it did in the last War. This Measure is introduced principally in response to that pressure of public opinion among our allies. I do not think that the people who are pressing for it realise the harm they are doing to the common cause by splitting this country. The introduction of this Measure has given great satisfaction to our allies and I am interested to see that it has annoyed the dictators; at the same time do let us realise the injury that it has done to the cause of Democracy through causing a split which may endure for many years, although we were previously an absolutely united Parliament.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
I have great respect, as I am sure we all have, for the character and spirit of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I suggest that while Parliament may be split the country is not split on this matter.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I wish you were right. [Interruption.] Unfortunately the split that we have seen here to-day will be worse in the country and not better, and that is the real injury to the cause on which, for a few short months, we were absolutely united. In any case, would it not have been obviously better, if the Government were going to introduce compulsion that they should have in favour of that movement not the vague public opinion of the allied Press but something more substantial? What talks have there been between the staffs? How far do the French general staff want this Measure? Have they pressed for it? Is it simply a matter of public opinion or is it a reasoned argument as to a common plan of action? Above all, in not one of the speeches that I have heard to-day has a word been said about Russia. If we had been told on these benches that the Russian Government wanted conscription here, you would have got the support of the hon. Member who sits above the Gangway.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I give the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to understand that no matter what happens in any country I will stand by the workers in this country, and oppose conscription and oppose the Prime Minister.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I think the workers in this country would think very differently if they knew that Russia wanted this move, but we have not had a word to-day of something which would give infinitely greater security to liberty than any amount of conscription.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I apologise for interrupting the right hon. and gallant Gentleman but he has mentioned Russia. May I point out that in Russia they have already accepted this principle?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
That does not impress me at all, because in Russia they have not liberty. What would impress me and my hon. Friends on these benches much more would be if there had been some beginning of staff talks with the 1383 Russian fighting forces and if this were part of a concerted plan. In that case we should have a really good argument to use for bringing in conscription. We have no argument except the French Press. Weighing one thing against another, I think the placating of the French Conservative Press is a small matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Blum."] The Conservative papers have been on this tack for the last two or three months now.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seen the appeal issued by M. Blum to his friends the Socialists in this country?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
No. I have not seen it, but I know M. Blum's views. As a Frenchman M. Blum wishes that we should bear a larger part in this struggle. M. Blum is not a military man but a civilian. If we had had a plan worked out with the French general staff showing what was wanted from us, that would carry far more weight with me than M. Blum does, much as I love him.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that M. Blum advised the party here to support the policy of non-intervention in Spain?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
All the history of that matter has yet to be written. I do not believe that M. Blum was ever in favour of the non-intervention policy in Spain. My impression is that M. Blum was forced by his associates in the French Government and by the British Government to take throughout the line he did. The main point I wanted to make was that we have to judge this matter from the point of view of expediency. If it were necessary, in order to satisfy allied opinion, that allied opinion should have been expressed by the general staff in general staff talks between the two fighting forces. It should be shown to the French general staff what England's contribution was going to be—our great Air Force and our Fleet. We cannot go in for everything. Remember that for the first nine months of the War our fighting forces and our Army in France were minute compared with the French fighting forces, but our Fleet was holding the sea and directing the storm. Now we have, in addition to a supreme Fleet, an Air Force incomparably greater than that of France. We are making contributions 1384 which, if they were put before the French people, would show that we were prepared to do our part. It is true that we should still have to convince Rumania and Poland, but I maintain also that before we took a step solely in order that we might please our allies we should have got, or tried to get, something in exchange for taking that step.
We know that we have a bilateral agreement with Poland, but what is the use to us of that if Poland refuses to allow Russia to co-operate with us or to use its territory? If we are taking this step in order to please our allies, we might have forced Poland to accept the assistance of Russia, and made it a condition that no British Army would go to Poland unless the Russians were allowed to go there too. The same applies to Rumania, Greece and Turkey. Hitherto, our agreements with those countries have been purely unilateral; we have pledged ourselves to defend them, and they have made no offer to defend us. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has said that, if Gibraltar were attacked, France would immediately declare war. Probably France would. But I have grave doubts whether, if we were attacked, Poland would. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It is not a question of doubting their honour. Think of the position in which they are at the present time! If we were attacked, say, in Holland, could we really expect the Polish Army to attack unaided on the Eastern Front? And yet our safeguard is that there should be attacks on the Eastern Front, to occupy the German Army on that side. I am afraid that, unsupported by Russia, it is too much to expect that either Poland, or Bulgaria, or Rumania, or any of these countries will spring to arms if we alone are attacked.
Here was a magnificent opportunity for us to say: "We will adopt conscription in England, we will abolish our age-old habit of voluntary service, on one condition—to get from you a pledge that you will help us," instead of the unilateral pacts that we have with those countries at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not unilateral with Poland."] No, it is a bilateral pact with Poland, but a pact which it is extraordinarily difficult for that country to implement unless it accepts help. For these 1385 reasons I think that this scheme of conscription, which is introduced to-day in such a hurry, was certainly ill thought out. If it was necessary, I think the approach made to the scheme has been lamentably stupid. I do not bother in the least about pledges; I quite see that the Prime Minister has to change his mind. That does not bother me. But surely a little more tact might have been shown in trying to preserve the unity that has hitherto been maintained in this House on foreign affairs.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I would say during the last three months. Prior to that, the Government were wholly on the other side, and all for what is called appeasement. We had unity for a short time, but that unity has been sacrificed, and I am ashamed to say I think it has been sacrificed with great pleasure by the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] There was not a word in his speech that was calculated in any degree whatever to soothe down the Labour people or get their support for a great cause. How can you expect support from the Opposition benches for this or any Measure when the Government are perpetually showing their own instability on the questions which are exercising our attention at the present moment? Only the other day Sir Nevile Henderson was sent back to Berlin, nobody knows why. The other day there was the question of recognition of the Italian conquest of Albania. To-day no one, however anxious he may be to preserve unity and achieve collective security and a united front against the dictators, can be sure that the Prime Minister of England, the leader of this country, as he should be, knows which way he is going or has made up his mind to go in any particular direction whatever.
These are the difficulties with which we are faced. If we had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, if we had Mr. Asquith, if we had any of the great leaders of the past in this crisis in which we live to-day, we should be a united House, determined to win for our country and for freedom. Instead of that, we are wandering about not knowing whether we ought to recruit for the Territorial Army, whether we ought to do this or not, or what we shall see when we open our papers every morning. The position was 1386 well expressed the other day when someone said that people were feeling alternately sick and relieved at what is being done by the present Government. This measure of conscription is too much to expect the House to adopt, at least without a little more preparation than it has had. We require to know what the fighting authorities in the allied countries think, and what they want. We are entitled to know that this will actually strengthen our forces, and that we are not going once more to have Territorials—who, let it be noted, are now enlisted for foreign service—sabotaged in the interests of the Regular Army recruited by compulsion. For all these reasons I think the Government cannot expect this Bill to go through without opposition. But I would warn those people who are our enemies, and who will rejoice to see that it does not go through without opposition—I would warn them that that opposition is rather to the tactics, rather to the methods adopted, and that it does not indicate for one moment any hesitation in our determination to break the rule of the dictators and to establish once more in the world the rule of law.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
I think we all welcomed the closing words of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). As for the rest of his speech, and as for the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I hope I may say without offence that, at a time of such immense gravity, they are making a little too much of the particular methods which have been followed by the Government in bringing forward these proposals to-day. It is, of course, perfectly true that the Prime Minister, almost up to the other day, declared himself opposed to any form of conscription, and I have no doubt sincerely. Other Ministers expressed themselves in the same sense. But I hope that those who are opposed to the Government and who have been opposed to the Prime Minister's policy in the past will at any rate give him credit for sincerity in this matter. As to the picture that the Leader of the Opposition drew of the Prime Minister as a kind of wicked uncle luring the simple babes of the Opposition and the Trades Union Council into the dark wood of conscription, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had just a little more imagination, and put themselves more in the 1387 shoes of the Prime Minister, I think they might realise that they are dealing with a man very much like themselves, and with a Government very much like their own Front Bench.
If I may use the Prime Minister's own phrase, he said that "these proposals had arisen, like other steps in the marshalling of our defences, out of the sequence of events." Some of us might have considerable reason to complain that these proposals have "arisen," and were not foreseen, that they have arisen out of the sequence of events, instead of the Government leading and directing events, that they are not the result of prevision or of definite policy, but the result of events forcing themselves upon the Government, who, to the last moment, tried to avoid facing them, and only swerved from the red light when they were almost up against it. That is the real burden of criticism, and it comes, not only from friends and well-wishers in other countries, but from the great mass of the people of this country.
Frankly, I believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite greatly exaggerate the importance that anyone in the country attaches to their criticism of the Government and its efforts in the last few months. The people of this country are much more concerned, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme truly said, with gaining the victory for our common cause; they are much more concerned with the necessity of being ready to face the danger; and their one complaint against the Government is that the Government have not foreseen, that they have not been ready, but have always been overtaken by events and driven to action in such haste that, on this particular occasion, they have not even had the time to consult the other side. I venture to think that had right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite been in the position of the present Government, they would probably have done exactly the same sort of thing. They also would have said they were against compulsion, until at the last moment they found they could not do without it. It is not merely other countries whose pressure has influenced the Government. The Prime Minister himself pointed out that it is the response which is given to every recruiting officer throughout the country by the men who say, "Have done with 1388 all this sham of so-called voluntary recruiting; call us when you want us, and we are willing and ready to come, ready to come in real numbers." More than that, it is also the pressure of sheer military necessity that is forcing itself upon the Government.
I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider this matter for a moment from the point of view of our obligations and of the means that we have to fulfil them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in a speech as convincing as I think it was wise and statesmanlike in its approach, pointed out the tasks and the problems which we have to face, not only in other countries but in our own Empire. Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt—all these are in the gravest peril to-day. Our obligation to France is very different to-day, when France has two, and perhaps three, frontiers to defend. Then there are our obligations to Greece, to Rumania, to Turkey and to Poland. What have we with which to meet those obligations? It is perfectly true that our Navy and our Air Force must count for a great deal in any war. But we can play an effective and conclusive part only if we can at any rate do our share on land. Let us face the facts absolutely frankly. What have we to contribute to the defence of our own territory or of our Allies at the outbreak of a war? We have, as the Secretary of State for War pointed out only the other day, three divisions ready to go abroad more or less at once, another two which might go in a couple of months, and a sixth whose equipment may not be ready until next year. Six divisions at most are all that we shall have available at the beginning of a war to take the field against any enemy.
§ Mr. Amery
That is all that we have, and it is not enough for any one even of the lesser of the obligations that we have undertaken. Beyond that, we have nothing available at the outbreak of a war, for we must remember that the Territorial Army—and I yield to no one in my admiration of those who are prepared to give voluntary service in their spare time, putting themselves, at any rate, in some measure of preparation for Defence—is, owing to the conditions of 1389 its service, quite incapable of taking the field at the beginning of a war. The idea that homeopathic doses of training, in the form of a few drills in the evenings and an annual period of a week or two in camp, would give either the individual skill or the collective cohesion that would enable you to put troops into the field is ludicrous. To send the Territorial Army to the front without some months of training after war had broken out would be sheer massacre.
When the Amendments in the names of the two Oppositions talk of our getting sufficient men to-day, they fail entirely to draw any distinction between men who offer to give service and men who are trained. The one thing that this present Measure, limited though it is, will give, is trained men within a very few months. If this Measure is put into operation now, and if we are granted six months of peace, that will give us over 200,000 trained men. What is the total of trained men we have at present? Our six divisions and the trained reserve behind them do not amount to 250,000 men all added together. At the end of six months this Measure, inadequate though it may be, will result in an increase in our total strength of trained men available on the outbreak of war by something like 75 per cent. It is, to that extent, a very real addition. I grant that it is inadequate, but I know very well that it is not easy for the War Office to make arrangements for such an expansion as is required. It is, at any rate, much easier to make it when the men are brought together at the Army centres, with the existing facilities for training and equipment that are there, than to create facilities for training all over the country, as you have to do with the Territorial system.
I hope, most sincerely, that as soon as the War Office gets to work and finds out what it can do in the way of training and equipment it will not stop at calling out one class, but that before the summer is over, if we have peace as long as that, it will call out at least one other class. I also suggest that meanwhile, as far as facilities allow, it might give an opportunity to any others outside the 20–21 age group to take advantage of this six months training if they are willing to do so. That applies not only to the unemployed; there may be many others. It is 1390 by the standard of training that we must judge our military efforts. The Territorial force has the advantage of a slight preliminary training and the fact that the men have, in effect, pledged themselves in peace-time to be conscripted when war breaks out.
§ Mr. Amery
The men who come forward in a free country in accordance with the laws of their country, freely voted by themselves, are not pressed men. Ask the free burghers of Switzerland whether they are pressed men. Ask the Australians and New Zealanders, who before the late war had been trained under an obligatory system, whether they considered themselves to be pressed men. On the contrary, what prevents people coming forward to-day is the indirect compulsion of economic competition. If you want a trained nation, just as if you want an educated nation, you can bring it about only by a national law. Parents would never have been able to afford to send children to school against the competition of parents who sent them to the factories, without the compulsion of a national law. It is compulsion which alone has given us an educated nation; it is only some measure of compulsion, by a national law, voted by a free people, which will give us a trained nation, trained and fit at the outbreak of war.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the numbers we are bringing in by the voluntary system. Let us be frank about that. I pointed out that these numbers, so far as they are not men who enlist for professional service in the Regular forces, are recruited only for a kind of service which is not going to make them ready at the outbreak of war. Even so, we have recruited up to date, including those who were in the Territorials before this crisis began, 250,000 or 260,000 all told. Is that a large proportion? If you take the manhood of military age in this country, and make any exemptions you like for reserved occupations and otherwise, you will have not less than, say, 4,000,000 available. Out of this number, 250,000 represent 6 or 7 per cent. That is not a national response. You can get a national response, either in numbers or in training, only if you have a national law behind it. You may talk about the patriotism 1391 of the people who will spring to arms when the danger comes; "all England will rise as one man "—and be just about as much use. So much for the point of view of necessity.
I would add one thing more. We are confronted by States which think in terms of total effort, every ounce of the national energy, every man and woman ready to play their part, and taught to play their part before the hour of danger comes. Our friends and allies are also working up to that same level of effort. They cannot understand a country like ours not thinking in terms of total effort. It is true that a large part of our effort may be devoted to our Navy and Air Force; all the more reason why the rest of our nation should be trained to play its part. What really is the principle for which hon. Members opposite stand? Their whole political philosophy has always been on the side of compulsion, in all social reforms and in all other measures. Why should they object to compulsion in training for service to the country for a cause with which they agree?
§ Mr. Maxton
I heard the right hon. Gentleman appeal to this side. He has not said one word about that question of wealth, with which the Prime Minister dealt at great length but without meeting the case. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us his ideas on the question of compulsorily mobilising the wealth of the nation?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not wish to delay the House unduly, but I will say a word on that. Is the objection to compulsion merely that it is being proposed in peacetime? I have always understood that every Government in this country since the Great War has accepted the principle that in any major war we must, on the outbreak of war, have a universal obligation to serve. As far as I know, that is accepted as much by the other side of the House as by this side.
§ Mr. Amery
I think it is common knowledge. The pledges that the Prime Minister gave referred only to peace-time, and were accepted in that spirit by the House. Is the objection to compulsion as such, or to compulsion in time for 1392 it to be of use? If it is right to take men compulsorily after war has broken out, in confusion, hurry and panic, why is it wrong to call them out in order, quietly and systematically, and train them so that they may have a chance when war comes of giving that service to their country that they wish to give?
On this question of conscription of wealth I might remind the hon. Member opposite that a Motion in my name dealing with this subject is still on the Order Paper, and the Motion we are discussing to-day has been taken from that, without acknowledgment, in a somewhat amplified form by the Government. I certainly agree wholeheartedly with the view that if it comes to war—[An HON. MEMBER: "Only if it comes to war?"]—I will draw the distinction at once—if it comes to war no one must be entitled to make profit at home out of those who go to the front. That applies not only to capitalists and salary earners, but to wage earners as well. Clearly, when war begins it will be essential to have a stabilisation of wages, salaries and profits. That is the situation in time of war, and on that I am prepared to go to any length to which any hon. Member on either side of the House would be prepared to go.
When it comes to time of peace, what is being asked for from these men is six months' time—and time and money are interchangeable factors. Six months out of a working life is equivalent. I suppose, to an Income Tax of 3d. or 4d. in the £. Those who are earning wealth to-day—the wealthier peoples—are giving anything up to half of their working time to the State. I am not complaining of that; I think it is a good thing; but do not let us exaggerate the idea that giving some short period of time to training for the nation is going to be a revolutionary thing. It is a very small additional thing asked, and asked of everybody.
I earnestly hope that it may be possible for the Opposition to-night at any rate to refrain from casting a vote which will be misunderstood by all our friends and theirs in other countries and will give an unpleasant satisfaction to our opponents. I can picture the sneer on Dr. Goebbels' face when he reads of one great party in the State having marched solidly into the Lobby against this proposal. I am sure that in this matter hon. Members are not expressing the feelings of the great bulk 1393 of those who in ordinary times support them politically or constitute the strength of the trade unions. I believe that on this issue the nation to-day is far in advance of the Government, and there is no greater mistake that a Government can make—I should like to add that an Opposition can make—than to underrate the patriotism of the British people.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Hicks
It is with a deep sense of disappointment and profound misgiving that I rise to take part in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has asked us to look at the facts. I do not know whether he has paid attention to the examination of the facts that the Labour Party have from time to time laid before the House and asked the Government to adopt, but the appeal has fallen on deaf ears. He says he believes that the country is far in advance of the Government. I think we can share some sympathy with that view, but I do not know how we are going to test it. It is extraordinary that hon. Members opposite speak with such unanimity on the question of conscription to-day when only a week or a fortnight ago you would have found as many opinions against as in favour of it. I do not know what facts they have to justify the changeover. I do not know what information is given to Members of the Government party which is denied to us which justifies the change of policy proposed by the Government. I realise the gravity of the decision that the Government have made, and I realise the perilous and alarming state of Europe which has provided the excuse, but it is only an excuse. I have not heard, apart from a platitudinous desire, any statement made here to-day or in private conference which would convince an intelligent body of men that the situation has changed within the last few days sufficiently to justify it.
We are talking to-day about conscripting flesh and blood in peace time and dealing with finance in war time—the limitation of profits of those mainly engaged in munitions. They will be able to establish tribunals to excuse themselves in nearly every case. We say that recruits have come in faster than effective places in the ranks could be found. If there is evidence to contradict that, it is -contrary to all the information given to us in reply to Questions in this House and 1394 to other inquiries that we have made, certainly much faster than the required equipment could be found. What is it that is proposed now? I do not know, if the Bill be passed, when it is proposed to call the men up, or whether the calling up will be postponed until the equipment is equal to their requirements when they are called up. The fighting services and the Territorials have been augmented to the maximum reasonable capacity. I think that is a statement with which everyone will have to agree. Young men, and middle-aged men and women, have been demonstrating a growing eagerness to give service in response to an appeal which was urged in the national interest and for a national cause.
I should like the House to listen to some of the contributions that the great organised trade union and Labour movement has made to establish local committees, the advice that has been given and the help generally that has been available. I made a speech on 10th March, 1936, on the question of Defence, and was challenged by one of my hon. Friends in regard to the question of the Government effectively consulting with organised labour as to how to carry out their programme. I dealt then with the very delicate instruments which have to be manufactured in order to preserve the lives of those who are asked to engage in battle. Later I went to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence and solicited his consultation in order to see how far the building industry was able to make a contribution to his requirements. That was readily responded to by the Minister, and the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland also took part in the discussions. As a result there was set up a consultative committee between the various Service Departments, the Treasury and the Ministry of Health, and between employers and operatives, and so efficiently has it worked that I have never heard a single complaint during the whole of the period that the building requirements of the country have not been efficiently carried out. That was done on my initiative in the first instance in order to see how far we were able to co-operate to provide this necessary branch of work.
Later the Prime Minister asked the General Council of the Trades Union Congress to meet him to discuss certain 1395 points in regard to the way in which the nation should be helped in this matter. The engineering industry had very long consultations after the Prime Minister had met the Trades Union Congress as to what they were prepared to do and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence addressed them, as did also the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Sir Walter Citrine. After much consultation from time to time the Trades Union Congress effected a meeting between the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour in regard to the later form of Civil Defence. It was very trenchantly asked whether this meant that we were going to continue the voluntary system. The Minister of Labour gave the Trades Union Congress the emphatic assurance, "Yes." The Lord Privy Seal gave the same assurance. We asked not only for that but for a Cabinet assurance that the voluntary system would continue to prevail. That was given without qualification, and from that I made a speech last December urging the importance of the local committees which would be working for recruitment and asking that the Government should agree to set up a national committee which would be able to reveal any inadequacies in any part of the country, to make recommendations to fill any gaps and to prove that the voluntary system could work, as against taking partial evidence that in some parts of the country it might not be successful. The Government agreed to the principle of the national committee. I was appointed from the Trades Union Congress to sit on the National Service Committee, and I am a member of it now. If this proposal for conscription had not been put forward, I should have been speaking at Portsmouth to-night. The Lord Mayor invited me to make a further appeal for recruitment for the services necessary to National Defence after a big demonstration which is taking place tonight.
We circularised the whole of the trade unions after the consultation with the Lord Privy Seal and the Minister of Labour, and the whole of the trade councils throughout the country, and invited them to agree to take part in local organisations to maintain the voluntary system. Some of our trade councils refused to accept our invitation. Overwhelmingly they accepted it, but some refused. What did the trade unions do 1396 then? They appointed their executive officers to act on local committees in order that the trade unions should not be un-represented when the committees were set up. I say that because of our faith in the voluntary system and our willingness to co-operate and to do everything to make it work. We were under no illusions as to what we meant by collective security. We do not use the term in a light sense. We think we understand what it means, and it may have very heavy and serious consequences. We do not shirk those consequences. We are willing to accept them on the basis of the voluntary system. Many of our officers swallowed many of their past prejudices and gave advice to their members, though it was not too easy for them to pronounce the words after their past platform experience.
Recently, in the building industry again, we have gone to the Lord Privy Seal and undertaken to do all the work in connection with his requirements in regard to defence. The civil engineering employers and the building trade employers, the civil engineering operatives and the building trade operatives have offered the whole of their services to the Department to deal not only with their requirements for shelters, of whatever type, the strutting of basements and, in the event of war, to make good the roads, and to see to the water works and gas works. We are training many hundreds of men in the use of explosives, in the event of bombs dropping on houses and part being demolished and the other part being rendered dangerous, men competent to blow down part of the houses in order to save life without blowing the street down. Hundreds have been trained for that purpose and thousands. are being trained for rescue parties, with a knowledge of the trade and of the materials, so that they may understand how the debris is falling, of what it consists and how it should be approached in order that more people are not injured. That is altogether apart from the rebuilding.
All this voluntary work has been put in. You talk about recruitment. There are a million men available for the Government in that department What contribution would you expect? Do you want those men to be in khaki for them to be able to do the work? That is a necessary part of civil defence. If war broke out 1397 to-morrow, the whole of the building trade would have to be im-mobilised because of the need for their services. We have taken an inventory of every contractor in the country to find out his resources, what lorries he has, and what other means are available for the purpose of clearing away debris and being able to extricate people who may be beneath it, for the purpose of shoring up and protecting houses and repairing them. All this has been done in a voluntary way with a desire to help the Government and the country in the situation which might arise as the result of war. That is a matter of great importance.
Is that all now jettisoned? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Is the voluntary system to be thrown aside? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Further, is the appeal to reason on behalf of the nation for the sacrifice, which has been met so enthusiastically, no longer of avail? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] You are cutting right across this arrangement. [Interruption.] You cannot explain those niceties to a mass meeting, and it is a very serious position. Is the spirit of the volunteer now beneath the military jack-boot? I cannot think of any other reason for introducing this, apart from the military mind. Whilst they may be very efficient in their own branch of service—though I cannot say that—if they start to enter industry, they are thoroughly incompetent, and disaster would follow in that direction. The old British tradition of freedom has been dealt a severe blow by this proposal for conscription. The Government have decided that young men between 20 and 21 are no longer to have any choice.
§ Mr. Baxter
I have a great regard for the hon. Member's services, but when he says the young men no longer have any choice, does he infer that they should have a choice?
§ Mr. Hicks
There is no longer any choice. This is in time of peace. We feel that the decay in general standards of honour in international affairs is producing a similar decay in home standards. The Government might agree to change their policy without consulting their constituents. That is their responsibility, and one which they will have to stand up to at some time, but the trade unions have no intention of being put in that position. They cannot change their policy without 1398 consulting their constituents. Our Congresses year after year have debated this matter. Those who have followed the debates will know the very great work that has been put in year after year to attune the minds of our members to the importance of the situation of the country and its relation to collective security, and they will know the degree of opposition that has been offered and the debates that have taken place and the great fight that has been put up. We have a body of very intelligent constituents who understand the position as well as we do ourselves and, if we attempt to go back to our constituents and say that the voluntary system remains intact, that conscription is not in substitution of the voluntary system but to supplement the voluntary system, they will tell us to go and wash our brains—and quite right, too. I can assure the House of that. The trade unionists, as represented by the officers with whom we have been able to come in contact, say they have been deceived, and they feel very resentful about it. If I said anything less than that, I should not be respecting their feelings, and it would be misleading to the House if they thought that their feelings would be anything else. Through the National Council of Labour a statement was issued on Tuesday which I should like to read:The National Council of Labour at its meeting to-day noted with deep concern statements in the Press that the Cabinet has approved in principle the adoption of conscription. It recalls the Prime Minister's pledge, renewed as recently as 29th March, that the Government would not resort to conscription in peace time. It reminds the nation that the Labour and trade union movement accepted this pledge in good faith and, recognising the vital importance of National Defence, has actively co-operated nationally and locally to ensure success for the voluntary scheme of National Service. It declares that there. is not the slightest evidence of failure of the voluntary system that justifies the renewed clamour for conscription. The Council is convinced that the voluntary scheme is providing, and can continue to provide, the nation with all the manpower required for effective National Defence and for the proper fulfilment of its obligations for mutual assistance in the collective system of resistance to aggression. Proof that this conviction is well founded is afforded by the vast defence power which has already been developed on a voluntary basis and which is rapidly increasing. The Council holds the view that conscription will not effectively increase the defence power of our country but, on the contrary, will introduce undesirable controversy and generate harmful 1399 disunity at a time when the aggressive dictators should be confronted by a resolute and undivided people. It will also seriously dislocate the economic life of the country. The Council reaffirms its uncompromising opposition to conscription and demands that the Government shall apply itself with energy, confidence and practical determination to the task of developing the organisation of our national resources through the system of voluntary service.That is a very well considered statement. It was not exaggerated. Much stronger language could have been imported into it but for the fact that we were not anxious to feed our enemies with propaganda. We tried to state, in as measured language as we could possibly conceive, the feelings that we held in regard to the matter. If there was a definite need of more recruits, why were we not told? If the Government wanted half a million instead of 100,000, why did they not come to us and see whether we could get them? We do not believe in giving up the voluntary system until we can see that it has broken down, and we do not believe that it has. We believe that this is ill-considered and is cutting across a good deal of effective and efficient work that was being done to help the country and to prepare it to meet aggression if the occasion should arise. We love our country. Make no mistake about that. The Minister made that observation, and we recognise it and equally return it. I think that Hitler or anyone else would soon discover that if he started to attack this country. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), but he spoke first and stole my thunder. I was going to say I do not know what the Führer will say to-morrow but, if it is belligerent, there will be no war. If it is soft pedalling, look out.
Does anyone think that this will impress or intimidate Germany, or convince any of our potential enemies or allies that we are stronger as the result of the Measure that is proposed? Nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I think it will do much to convince persons of discernment and understanding abroad that Britain is weaker than they suppose. I do not think it will have the effect of making them feel that we shall be stronger. The best fighter is not one who is dragged into the ranks. The experience of the Spanish people and the people of China will give evidence that those who believe in their cause and in what they 1400 are fighting for are much more efficient than those who are dragooned into it. We say we can provide all the man-power essential for mutual assistance. Conscription is the basis of totalitarianism—of Fascism—and here I should like to quote a statement by Lord Baldwin in Ottawa from the "Times" of the 24th instant. He said:The dictators start with solid advantages. They can, by modern mass methods, impose beliefs and demand obedience to a creed which rouses the baser nature of man. If you begin early enough, it is easier to train a race of robots than a race of free men. To act is easier than to reflect. The totalitarian ideal is the mechanical solidarity of the herd under the leadership of a dictator, omnipotent and infallible. The democratic ideal is the moralised solidarity of the group under the leadership of the citizen who is deemed wisest and best, and who can be dismissed."Moralised solidarity." How well those words conform to the voluntary system. I endorse every one of them. I sincerely believe that this is a step backward into the bog of waste, of degradation, of militarism, and of barbarism into which Fascism has plunged Europe. I think the Government could reply to the question that has been put as to our commitments in Europe by a statement of the truth of our intensive recruitment and of our defence preparations, which have succeeded out of all proportion to what every one thought, and that, although they have never been thoroughly mobilised. We are told that there is no shortage in the Air Force and none in the Navy, and that recruitment for the Regular Army is proceeding rapidly and is better than most people expected. I think the Government must thoroughly understand the many obligations that these desperate times thrust upon the manpower of this country, but we have to remember that we are a small island country and an intensely industrial country.
I was privileged to serve on a conference, at the invitation of the Lord Privy Seal, to listen to evidence in regard to the type and character of the defence that we could evolve for industry and the civil population in the event of war, and I heard many statements there of a character that impressed me with the importance of our civil defence and the need for speeding it up. I was impressed by the character of the evidence that was given as to what was necessary for us, in this island country of ours, with a 1401 population of about 46,000,000, to do. We are different in size, different in industry, different in geographical importance from those other countries, and that is a matter that should be taken into serious consideration. The maintenance of the nation's industries and services is basically essential for the life of our people, not only in food production and distribution, transport, water, light, fuel, etc., but the maintenance of production for manufacture for export. The only way in which we shall be able to live in war time, as in peace time, is by exporting goods to be able to pay for the goods that are necessary to come into our country. That is a side of our economic life that has to be understood.
It was said to-day, I think by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party—at any rate, I have read it—that we require something like 15 to 16 men to-day to provide the food, clothing, housing accommodation, and necessary munitions and military equipment to keep one man actively in the field. If it requires that number with a mechanised Army, we have to look around this country and see what our man-power is. If we have a big Navy, a big Army, a big Air Force, and if we have all the other things to do in producing the necessary provisions to enable us to carry on, we have to see that the system is not top-heavy and out of balance, and that we have the necessary number of men in industry to be able to carry on the economic life of the country, not only in its mercantile shipbuilding, but very often perhaps in its battleship building also. I think these are fundamental things that we have not taken into calculation. It is an easy thing to say that we want 200,000 or 300,000 men. What General would ever say he did not want another 250,000 or another 1,000,000 men? Is there any of them, however, who calculate what a finely established balance there is in industry? How many of them examine industry to see how finely it is balanced in its relationship to our economic life? That is not their job, but it is our job in industry to be able to tell them what proportion of this economic life is necessary to keep the country going. There is an enormous and unprecedented production of weapons and engines of war, bombs, guns, tanks, etc., necessary to safeguard the activities essential to our production and to the prosecution of war.
1402 The Prime Minister's statement will cause a considerable degree of controversy, and I am very sorry it has arisen. I think the country and the organised forces of labour were getting themselves into the state of mind that we had outside our gates a ruthless group of people who respected neither honour nor obligations and who would, with one fell swoop, come down upon us and attack our civilisation, and the country was attuning itself to the mind that there was nothing that you could ask it to do that it would not be perfectly prepared to do to meet that menace. But we believe very definitely in the voluntary system, and we believe that it is a profound mistake to throw this into the arena. We believe that you may get 200,000 or 300,000 men. or even, if necessary, 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 men, but we regret that such a step should have been taken. The trade unionists feel that in this matter they had confidence in the pledge which had been given to them but they feel now that they have been led up the garden, as some of them say, and that they have been betrayed, and they resent it very bitterly. They are unable to give you the authority to proceed with this Measure. They are bound by the decisions to which their Congresses have come from time to time, and before any change in the policy of the trade union movement in this matter can be made, it will be necessary—and it is very likely that it will very soon be done—that the Congress and the executive of the members elected to the Congress will be called and the facts put before them, and their authority will be given to decide their future action.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Duff Cooper
We all regret, I am sure, that a Division has to be taken in this House this evening. It is too late, of course, to appeal to the leaders of the Opposition to reverse the decision that they have already taken. Personally. I think that if those who will study tomorrow the figures in the Lobby could read also the speeches that have been delivered to-night, the effect of those figures would be far less harmful than I am afraid it is likely to be. We have not heard, even from the benches opposite, any very violent denunciation of the principle of compulsion, which is what we are really discussing. Hon. Members have devoted large portions of their 1403 speeches to criticism of the Government's foreign policy and of the particular proposals which will form the substance of the Bill to be discussed next week, but they have not, I am glad to say, any of them denounced as unacceptable at all times some measure of conscription.
The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), who has just sat down, delivered a sincere and in some points an impressive speech, but a great deal of it seemed to me to be directed more against than for the argument he was trying to sustain. He told us of all that he and his colleagues and those who work with him in the Trades Union Congress have done, and how far they have succeeded in assisting the Government in carrying out the task of preparation, but if, in spite of all that, the Government are now convinced that that is not sufficient, surely the Government are the people in the best position to know, and surely the very magnitude of the effort that we have made proves the magnitude of the menace which still hangs over us. I think the only point at which the hon. Member went a little too far was when he suggested that the Government were now under the influence of their military advisers, the influence of the jack-boot. I do not think the Prime Minister would ever come under the influence of the jackboot. Certainly, so far as the tenure of office of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is concerned, I think history shows that the boot has been on the other leg.
But the principle which we are discussing to-night, whether in an emergency we should insist upon every man doing his duty as we consider it necessary for the State, is one on which I should have thought there could be no two opinions in the Labour party, and it seems to me that the Labour party are once again missing one of their great opportunities. I believe, myself, that it is due unfortunately to the influence that is exercised on the party by the Trades Union Congress, and if there were any members of the Carlton Club who showed Leftist tendencies, I think they should be recommended to take a course of Conservatism from the Trades Union Congress. The hon. Member who has just sat down told us that it would be impossible for the Trades Union Congress to alter a decision except at an annual conference.
§ Mr. Cooper
Well, except at a special conference. That shows that even the machinery of the Trades Union Congress is somewhat unwieldy. The principle of conscription is one which, as the hon. Member for East Woolwich suggested, is not the basis of the totalitarian States. The principle of calling on every man to do his duty in defence of the State is as old as democracy itself. It was revived in Europe by the French Revolution, it was abandoned by the French Government under Napoleon III, the least democratic Government the French have ever had, and it was restored again by the Third Republic. It is a principle which admits and insists upon equality, a principle which is opposed to privilege and favouritism.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted the Prime Minister's statement that it was the injustice of the system which was responsible for the decision that has recently been taken. I think the Prime Minister is correct in saying that the voluntary principle is unjust now, whereas it was not unjust in the past. When we could be satisfied with a very small Territorial Army, we could depend almost entirely on people joining it because they liked soldiering. There is an enormous number of people to whom the military profession appeals, who do not mind giving up a certain number of nights in the year to drilling, and who thoroughly enjoy a fortnight a year in camp. I remember that before the War and before there was a Territorial Army, when I was at school, I joined the Volunteers, but it never occurred to me that I should do so because it was my duty. I am not sure it would have had a great effect upon me if I had thought so. The alternative that presented itself to my mind was whether or not it would be fun. At that time the majority of boys at my school did not join the Volunteers, but I thought that on the whole it might prove amusing, and so I joined. So long as a very small Territorial Army was sufficient, one could rely upon that supply of young men who liked to join, but now hundreds and thousands of young men who do not like drilling at all, who hate to spend a fortnight in camp, who much prefer to spend a large portion if not all of their annual holiday elsewhere, and whose industrial and professional career might be seriously inter- 1405 fered with by training—hundreds and thousands of them are joining now solely because they think it is their duty, while others, who also may think it is their duty, are not joining. That is why what worked quite justly under the old system has become injustice to-day.
The cry for the conscription of wealth has been raised, as it always is on these occasions, by hon. Members opposite, and I would like to ask what they really mean by the conscription of wealth. Do they mean the confiscation of all private profit? I do not think they do. I maintain that the conscription of wealth, in the sense in which we are asked in this House to approve the principle of conscription, exists to-day. The Government elected by the people have the right—and nobody has ever questioned it—to take any portion of a man's private wealth from him. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us only two days ago the exact proportion of our private wealth which he needed to take this year. The principle exists and is effective. Hon. Members may say that you ought to take a great deal more, but that is simply a question of the administration of the principle. Some hon. Members this evening have suggested that we should make a greater demand on the youth of the country than is being made. Some people think we should start at 18 or 19 years of age and carry on to 22, 23, or 24 years of age. That is a difference of administration, a difference of degree, but not a difference of principle. Equally, whether you should have a tax of 10s. or of 19s. in the £ is a difference of degree, not of principle. The principle of the conscription of wealth in this country exists to-day and has existed for years.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) was unable to approve of the Government's proposals to-night. I think he was rather sorry himself, although it seems to me that there is much greater difficulty for the Liberal party than for the Labour party in accepting this interference with individualism. I was not surprised that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who, as he said himself, would be prepared to do anything and to swallow any principle in order to defeat the enemy, yet found this an extremely difficult principle to swallow. The Liberal party have long 1406 stood for individualism, for laissez faire, for Free Trade—all excellent things in their time, for all of which philosophies as philosphies there is a great deal to be said. But they have one thing in common with the late Mr. Gladstone against them, and that is that they are stone dead.
I think the most effective part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland was not that in which he was questioning the principle of compulsion, but that in which he violently attacked the suggestion that it should be limited to men of one age only. I returned only this morning from Paris, and I can assure the House that the effect of the announcement there of this new development in policy was electric. I was addressing the English colony on Monday evening and they all asked me one question. In my speech on Monday evening I was rash enough to say that I was convinced that sooner than any of them expected, compulsion would be adopted in this country. It was adopted on the following day, I got no credit for making that rash, though, as it subsequently proved, true prophesy. They all thought that I was "in the know" and that I had received private information, which, indeed, I had not. But in France there has been going on for many weeks an intensive anti-British campaign. It has always been the policy of Germany, both on the battlefield and in the council chamber, to divide Great Britain from France. It was with that object that she launched her armies in March, 1918, and so nearly achieved it. She has had the same object in mind during March and April, 1939. In 1918 the attack was thrust back and the situation was saved by the promotion of Marshal Foch to the supreme command, and the attack on Great Britain in Paris and throughout France this year, has been defeated by the decision of His Majesty's Government to adopt the compulsory principle.
Preparations are going on very rapidly in France—much more rapidly than we are led to believe by the announcements in the Press. It is not the policy of the French to say too much of what they are doing, but in every household and in every shop you find that things are being delayed, that orders are not being carried out, owing to men—middle-aged men—being called back to the colours for a short period of intensive training. I asked 1407 whether the men who were called up ever grumbled and I was informed that such was never the case. On the contrary, so my informant said, most of the men look back to their year or two years of military training as the happiest period to their lives. They have left school, they have got away from the tiresome control of the pedagogue, and they have not yet entered on the daily task, on the irksome and responsible and often dreary drudgery of working life. For a year or two they are carefree. They are associated with men of their own age, all on the thresh-hold of their careers. When the short day's duty is done, they are free to amuse themselves as they wish and when, in after years, they are called up for a week or two, they go back from their work and sometimes from their homes, with considerable relief. They look forward to recapturing for a short period what to some, in a more fortunate existence, is the freedom of university life, which many people would like to recapture if it were possible.
This, as has been explained by the Prime Minister, is only to be a temporary measure. Whether it proves temporary or not, I cannot say that I share the fears which have been expressed of its eventually becoming a part of our national life. I think in all the great democracies of the world where it exists, it is a useful force. A year's health and training and camaraderie, with the complete extinction of all class differences during that period, works in the long run for the good of the community. I believe that this temporary measure which has been forced upon us by a terrible emergency, may prove, in the end, a source of health to our manhood and enjoyment to our people and a bridge over those divisions of class which cause so much ill-will, and have caused so much ill-will in the past, and that it will prove, as it has in those other countries, a sound foundation and backbone of democracy.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen
I think that there is agreement that no one should say or do anything which would bring comfort to the leaders in Germany. There is a common feeling, I believe, that no word or action in this House should bring comfort to Hitler. While I join in that sentiment, I become more and more convinced that 1408 there is a great deal of comfort to Hitler in the announcement by the Government of their plans regarding conscription. The Government, somehow or other, have been led to take this decision in spite of the pledge of the Prime Minister, and the Government's proposals can provoke only derision among people with any military knowledge in the countries concerned. With regard to the pledge of the Prime Minister, I would say that it provides Hitler with a very fine answer to the common accusation against him that his pledges are not to be trusted. An answer to that charge has been provided for him by the Prime Minister of Britain who has broken his pledge in relation to conscription. The right hon. Gentleman says that circumstances have changed, but that is exactly what the Führer says when he takes a new step. He always says that he was willing to keep his pledge until world circumstances changed and made it impossible for him to do so. Is not that exactly what the Prime Minister has done in this case? I would refer to the question which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) to the Prime Minister on 6th October last year. I quote from the Official Report:Mr. McGovern (by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that the Government will continue to honour the pledges given in answer to previous questions, namely, that no measure of conscription or compulsory national service will be introduced?The Prime Minister: I have previously stated that conscription or compulsory national service will not be introduced by this Government in peace time and that statement still holds good.Mr. Amery: In that case, would it not be desirable to have a change of Government, in order to make it possible to introduce this necessary Measure?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th October, 1938; col. 474, Vol. 339.]The Prime Minister might have come to the House to-day and said frankly: "I have broken my pledge because of changed circumstances and because of the-pressures that have been put upon me by the new circumstances since last October." But to fumble about as he did, and to try to persuade us that he was not breaking the specific pledge which he gave in October is merely to mislead the House and is not calculated to give any comfort or confidence to the people of this country as regards any further assurances which he may give in the future. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. 1409 Churchill) naturally was quite satisfied that the Prime Minister should have broken that pledge. But had it been a pledge by the Prime Minister which the right hon. Gentleman was anxious to see maintained, I am sure the House would have been delighted with the eloquence of his denunciation of the Prime Minister as a perjured individual and one who had broken his word. I can imagine the fine phrases which the right hon. Gentleman would have produced with regard to the false and forsworn Prime Minister and all the rest of it.
The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the ways in which the Prime Minister could have dealt with the situation was by having a General Election, but that in view of the circumstances of the country and the international situation a General Election could not be contemplated. There is, however, another possibility. There is the possibility of taking a referendum of the people on this matter. I recall, that a referendum on the question of conscription was taken by the Australian Government during the last War, and it resulted in the defeat of the proposal to make military service compulsory in Australia. I believe the same thing would happen again. It is utter humbug for hon. Members opposite to tell us how sure they are that the country is in favour of the introduction of the compulsory principle.
I wonder whether hon. Members above the Gangway have been as amused as I have been at the expert knowledge which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and other hon. Members opposite have shown of the trade union movement, and their claim to know the real opinion of the trade unionists of the country as compared, say, with the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks). They assume that they know more about trade union opinion than the trade union leaders. It is ridiculous for right hon. Members opposite to try to put across such statements. They do not know anything about the views of the trade unionists of the country on this question. It is true that a Conservative Member came to me yesterday and told me that he had been down to his works, and that the fellows there were delighted about 1410 this. Whether he expected me to believe that or not, I do not know, but I venture to say that, when the Bill passes and the Act comes into operation, Members on the opposite side of the House will find that, in that part of the country with which I am concerned—Glasgow and the West of Scotland—the Measure will meet with the utmost hostility. I shall not in the least be surprised to find great industrial trouble on the Clyde when the attempt is made to put conscription into operation on Clydeside. I do not think that you will get the young men in Glasgow to join up, whatever Act of Parliament this House may pass in this connection.
Does not the hon. Member think that there is the greatest likelihood of the industrial section of the West of Scotland taking the same practical view of this matter as they took of the financial crisis of 1931?
§ Mr. Stephen
The fact of the matter is that in Glasgow there was a very large opinion against the National Government in spite of the demoralisation that took place in the Labour party owing to the treachery of the leader of the Labour party and the extraordinary circumstances that resulted during that period of crisis.
§ Mr. Stephen
If that is the view of the Government, then let the Government try it out. If the Government and Members opposite had real confidence in the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie), I am quite sure that they would go to the country on this issue. The refusal of a General Election is due to the fact that they have. no confidence in the possibility of victory, none whatever. This question was very much to the fore in South Ayrshire. It was the one question that the Conservative candidate was pushing all the time. It was a real jingo by-election, and in spite of the fact that we had a new candidate, and hon. Members all said what a tremendous influence the late Mr. Brown himself must have had in that division owing to so many of his own personal qualities, the new Member has come into this House with an increased majority, showing plainly that in that part of Scotland there is no belief in this Government 1411 or in the policy of conscription that the Government axe introducing at the present time. We have to realise the fact that the Government in this way are giving to Hitler the answer to all the criticism that has been made of Hitler that he is a man who is always breaking his word. He is entitled to say that the Prime Minister has himself broken his word and is now imposing conscription on his own people.
What is going to be the effect of this proposal on the country? Is it going to have the effect of adding to the military and the economic strength of the country in the circumstances in which the country is placed at the present time? It will have the exact opposite effect. Those of us who heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich must realise that the country is going to be divided completely on this question and that, so far from the resources of the country being more adequately organised in the future by means of this Measure, we are going to have a great division in the country. Personally, I may not be very much concerned about that because in this Debate I want to make this point. One speaker after another, from the Prime Minister onwards, has said that there is unanimity in this House in the acceptance of the new liabilities with regard to Poland, Greece and Rumania. I have already protested in this House about this statement coming especially from the Treasury Bench. Members of my party in the House are opposed, and have stated that they are opposed, to the acceptance of these new responsibilities, and there are Members of the Labour party who are in full agreement with the Members of the Independent Labour party in this connection. It is simply a deliberate attempt to mislead the country in trying to create the impression that there was no opposition in the House of Commons to the acceptance of these responsibilities by the Government. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not in the House at present, but I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy will make it plain to him that we feel very aggrieved indeed at the way in which the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government try to mislead the country by stating that there is unanimity in this House on so many of these questions.
I want, however, to say a few words about the other aspect—that of the conscription of wealth. The right hon. 1412 Gentleman the Member for St George's asked what we meant by the conscription of wealth, and he proceeded to say that they had that already, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer could bring forward proposals which could be put upon the Statute Book and the wealthy could be taxed 20s. in the £. I regret that the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) is not here. He would have laughed very hearily at that statement of the right hon. Gentleman. We recall what took place when the land taxes were being put upon the Statute Book, and the power of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the House of Commons in that connection is known to all. I want to try to give Members some idea of what we really have in mind when we talk about the conscription of wealth. When I came to the House to-day I passed the Home for Waifs and Strays, and I noticed on their notice board that they took in four additional children every day. They have 4,000 waifs and strays, and they provide about 15,000 meals a day. That is one part of the case.
Hon. Members have been talking about the effect of conscription. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said that young fellows who came into the Services, after a short time, became well-nourished and fit. Unfit, badly nourished men are going to have the advantage of this training, to be fed and clothed and given the possibility of a good life. The other side to that is that they have not had in this country adequate food, clothing and shelter, and have not had that opportunity of exercise and fresh air. The Access to Mountains Bill was considered in this House last Friday. That Bill was so mutilated in Committee that I myself stated that I was only willing to let it go through because it did not apply to Scotland. It was absolutely mutilated in Committee, so that access to mountains is only to be granted to the people of this country on the most limited terms.
On the evening of Budget Day my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) made a most moving appeal on behalf of the old age pensioners of this country who are living on a miserable 10s. a week at 65. There are many anomalies in connection with the scheme of old age pensions, and there is not the slightest possibility of any attempt being made by the 1413 Government to provide any satisfaction for the needs of all these pensioners in the country. Members in all parts of the House will no doubt have had the same experience as myself. Every week letters come telling about the pitiful position of men who gave their services in the last War and who are now the victims of bronchitis and other pulmonary troubles and are denied pensions by the Government, because some doctors cannot trace an absolute mathematical connection between their service and their present pulmonary trouble. There are also 2,000,000 people unemployed and living under miserable conditions. The Minister of Labour asked us to remember that they are not always the same 2,000,000, and I agree. It only makes the position worse, because it means that there are about 6,000,000 people who, during the course of the 12 months, experience a period of several weeks or months of unemployment, and the consequent poverty, insecurity and unhappiness that it brings with it.
That is one side of the question. I have given a list of some of the things that came into my mind. On the other hand, I remember that a few months ago a member of the Government died, and we found in the newspapers afterwards that he had left a fortune of about £3,000,000. I refer to the late Lord Stanley. He has left a fortune of £3,000,000 at a time when millions of people are having to live on 10s. a week. Yet the Prime Minister has the audacity to say that wealth is very largely conscripted already, and that Income Tax, Surtax, and Estate Duty are at a high level. The right hon. Gentleman asked what we mean by conscription of wealth? I mean taking the millions from people like the late Lord Stanley and putting them into the control and ownership of the people. Let me put it in another way. If hon. Members opposite are realists, there will be no great difficulty in finding out what we mean by the conscription of wealth. We mean the socialisation of the land and the means of production, distribution and exchange. You are going to take compulsorily these young men of 20 to 21 from their homes, many of them the sons of old age pensioners living in poverty, and many of them the sons of those who are on the means test and being denied social justice. You are going to put them into the Army 1414 in order to provide forces to protect the millionaires of this country. I say it is a shameful and preposterous suggestion of the Government.
We have heard a lot of talk about not doing or saying anything which will bring comfort to Hitler. The Government bring comfort to Hitler and to Mussolini all the time by the way they starve the working classes of this country and refuse to give them the opportunity of a decent standard of life. The Government bring comfort to Hitler and Mussolini by the way they continue to oppress our people in the Colonial parts of the Empire and in India. You talk about public opinion in France and how there has been such a tremendous wave of enthusiasm because the British Government are adopting this policy. The friends of the right hon. Gentleman are not my friends in France. I have also been on the Continent and I find many people who have a most bitter resentment at the way in which the ruling classes of Britain use our great Empire for their own advantage or for the advantage of a small section of the community. Do not think that the exploitation of British Imperialism throughout the world is regarded with affection on the Continent, because it is not true. The working classes in other countries do not trust the rulers in Britain, and the strength of Hitler and Mussolini at the present time is that the working classes in Germany and Italy are not prepared to be used to further the interest of British Imperialism.
We had a crisis in September and the Prime Minister went to Munich to try a policy of appeasement. He was conscious of the magnitude of the slaughter which would be involved in another war, and he was able to come to an arrangement and come home convinced that he had achieved much by meeting Hitler and getting him to agree upon a policy of peace. But what did he do after that? He sat still. He was more concerned about getting on with the rearmament programme, building up the British forces, creating the impression that Britain had but a certain period of time in which to be able to strengthen our forces of Defence and make ourselves much stronger. Naturally the policy which had been applied for a matter of ten days during the crisis gave way, and it was followed by the rape of the remnant of Czecho-Slovakia. The Prime Minister 1415 then adopted another policy. He made a speech at Birmingham in which he said he had been wounded to the heart by the way Hitler had broken his word. It was not enough to realise the magnitude of the slaughter which would be involved in another war and then forget about it, and allow a continuance of the economic circumstances which produce these crises from time to time.
Here we are faced with the Motion asking the House of Commons to impose compulsory military service upon decent working young fellows. It will bring sadness and dismay into many hundreds of thousands of homes in Great Britain. It is going to fill the hearts of the mothers of Britain with the most intense indignation. There is no need for it whatever, and I hope that the working classes of this country will refuse to become cannon fodder and fight the battles of the ruling classes of this country who themselves are not prepared to give up any of their privileges. Will all this talk about equality of sacrifice there is not an hon. Member of this House who will go without anything which is necessary for his happiness as a consequence of the crisis through which we have passed. Now you are asking sacrifices from the working classes. I believe this policy will in the end prove fatal to the Government and to the whole system for which the Government stands; a system of the exploitation of the workers of this and other lands.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodd
I not want to be drawn into the arguments which the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has used, but he commenced his speech by referring to the pledge which has been given by the Prime Minister. I think the pledge can be released by a Vote of this House, or, better still, by no vote at all.
§ Mr. Maxton
Does the hon. Member think that if we cast a vote here to-night, all of us being over 21, we can relieve the Prime Minister of a pledge which affects 350,000 young men of 20 and 21 years of age?
§ Mr. Dodd
I am going to deal with that point. There are occasions when this House rises to its responsibilities and great speeches are made. To-day we have listened to several very fine speeches, and 1416 I hesitate, in the short experience I have, to take part in a Debate of this character, but I feel that I can make a contribution, and I hope the House will listen to the remarks I have to make. I cannot agree in any way with what the hon. Member for Camlachlie has said. I do not believe there is such disagreement in the country as he has suggested. It may be the case in certain parts of Clydeside, but that does not say that it is the case everywhere else. He discussed the problem of poverty and wealth, and I propose to deal with that in my speech. We have listened to speeches from both sides of the House showing how we have arrived at the present position. We know it all too well. We had one speech from the Opposition benches which, I think, was a great contribution to the Debate, it was the speech of the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. G. Hicks), and having regard to the position he occupies in his organisation, his speech is entitled to very great weight. I think the House is under an obligation to the hon. Member for the manner in which he detailed what has been done, unknown to many, by the members of the Trades Union Congress and by trades unions during the last two or three years. That is not sufficiently widely known, and if it were known in this country and abroad, there would be a greater appreciation of that work than there is. Nobody doubted the hon. Member's sincerity when he explained his own feelings on the question of compulsory service. For the past few months, I have sat with him on the Central National Service Committee, and I know how much he and other hon. Members opposite, have done in the way of addressing meetings throughout the country in order to try to build up a large force on the voluntary National Service basis.
But I could not understand the hon. Member when he made the point that this new Measure cuts out voluntary National Service. It does not do that in any way. If hon. Members opposite have doubts as to whether we can still continue with it, let me say that my opinion definitely is that we can. There is nothing in the new Measure that will interfere in any way with recruitment for the different voluntary services. I think that the hon. Member held out what may be a very important hope when he enlarged on the constitution of the Trades 1417 Union Congress and the fact that a vote had to be taken from members throughout the country. If I could read into his thoughts, it seems to me that he gave some slight indication perhaps that he at any rate has not the grave misgivings with regard to compulsory service that may be shared by some of his colleagues opposite.
§ Mr. Ridley
I feel sure that if the hon. Member took that view, he would be doing my hon. Friend a very great injustice.
§ Mr. Dodd
I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Woolwich is not in the House at the moment, and cannot reply himself, but that was the impression which I gathered in listening to him. It may be that I am wrong. However, I was interested to hear the views of the hon. Member, since he represents the very large organisation of the Trades Union Congress. I wonder how many hon. Members know the feelings that exist at the present time among many employers' organisations. There is, throughout the country, a growing feeling, which has been thrown up from below, that this is a Measure which sooner or later had to be introduced, and the sooner the better; and there is among some of the trades unions and among the employers' organisations a very strong feeling that something of this character is absolutely essential.
Last week, at a meeting of representatives of chambers of commerce, a resolution was carried, with very few dissentients, calling upon the Government to introduce a compulsory National Register at the earliest opportunity for the purpose of bringing together all the resources of the country in every form. Man-power, wealth—the whole mass of the resources of the country—will be called into play if war should come. We want to be prepared and to know where we stand. There is a vast difference between compulsory National Service, compulsory Military Service, voluntary National Service, a voluntary National Register, and a compulsory National Register. In my view, a compulsory National Register is absolutely imperative, and can be the only thing which is complete and absolute. There is nothing in what is proposed to-day that overrides voluntary National Service in every other Service except the Territorial Army.
1418 I should like to say a few words on the matter of national resources. We discussed across the Floor of the House wealth and poverty, putting one against the other, discussing what a man has, what he draws per week and what he gives away, but those are matters of infinitesimal importance when it comes to a national crisis and a war. Provided the country has food to feed the people at home and to keep an army in the field and a fleet at sea, provided houses have roofs—which they might not have—provided people have somewhere to sleep and something with which to cover their bodies, wealth means nothing in a national crisis and in war as it is fought in these days. It is a matter of organising all the wealth, power, strength, industry and man-power of the country.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Can the hon. Member give any indication of any Members on his side who would be prepared to give up wealth and go to work?
§ Mr. Dodd
No, but a great number would be prepared to give up a great deal and go to fight. At the conference to which I referred a few minutes ago, many people spoke, and it was an amazing thing to hear industrialists from all over Great Britain talking about what would happen if war came, what would be expected of them, and what should be done as compared with what was done in the last War, and to hear men who had been in the thick of it expressing the opinion that if war should come, manpower, wealth and industry should be mobilised in a national effort.
I do not wish to concentrate my speech on that aspect of the subject. I want to make a contribution from an entirely different point of view, namely, that of a serving Territorial officer. During the last 14 years, I have been in the Territorial Army. For three years before that, I was in an Officers' Training Corps. At the end of the last War, I was only a boy. I joined as soon as I could. During the last 13 or 14 years, the Territorial Army has been abused by almost every section in the land, and as there are some who have very short memories, I would like to remind the House of the things that have happened. Five, six or seven years ago, a wave of pacifism and disarmament swept the country. At that time, people did not think that anything like this could come again. During all 1419 that time, quietly making their way against every conceivable difficulty of recruitment, the local Territorial units were doing their best, and officers and men gave of their time. The record of hon. Members opposite is not too good. Time and time again, recruitment marches were refused and the use of town halls for recruitment meetings was barred. My own unit was refused the use of the local park for a jubilee parade. Various things of that sort happened. We had men who scarcely dared to go into the town in khaki uniform at that time; one had mufti parades whenever possible, so that the men could not be picked on and abused by men of the same age.
At the time of the crisis in September of last year, this country was very glad to be able to call upon the Territorial Army very glad to call upon those civilians who had given up nights and week-ends for years and years, and who had not just come and enlisted in a moment of crisis. They were men who had been trained, and who had been preparing men to train other men, for years and years; and they found themselves called upon at very short notice. The country was grateful to them. At that time, we learned very quickly from practical experience some of the difficulties we were up against. It has been said that the only necessity for this form of conscription arises because the voluntary system has failed, but I say that the reverse is the truth. It is because the voluntary system has succeeded that the necessity for this step has arisen, and anyone who knows the voluntary system practically knows that that is true.
In my unit, which is a battalion of the Tank Regiment we have not the slightest difficulty in getting troops. Our first line is full, and we could fill up the second line in a few days and a third line in a short time. Men are coming to offer their services and we have not the slightest difficulty in getting them. If this is allowed to go on we shall be placed in the same position as that in which we were in 1914–15, when the flower of the nation volunteered and was sent abroad and was wiped out in a year or so. The generation which followed the War has had to carry the brunt of trade and industry and commerce during the past 10, 12 or 15 years and we may have to 1420 face a repetition of what we have gone through since the last War. There is a terrible gap between the young men and the old men, the young man trying, without the experience of his elders to keep things working smoothly, without the experience of his elder brother, the man who volunteered for service before conscription in the last War and was killed in the early days of the War.
That is what we are up against to-day. The same thing is happening now. Men are volunteering willingly. There are others not so willing and they stay behind. I was talking to a young fellow in a local unit last week. He is an engineer and he told me he was serving his time. He joined up last year and said he was attending night school three nights a week and added, "I am expected sometimes to do three nights a week training with my unit. I am on parade on Saturday afternoon and probably I have a Sunday morning or afternoon parade. Then I have to work during the week. I joined because I felt I ought to serve. My whole week is taken up between my job and my work in the unit. I come out of my time shortly at 21 and I shall then be a fitter. I go to my work tired, because I have so much to do. I know I do not work as well as the lad on the benches next to me, and I know the foreman knows. The lad next to me has not volunteered and is doing nothing. Because he has his freedom he does his work thoroughly and the foreman makes a differentiation and chooses between us." A fortnight ago several young fellows came to me and said, "We have come to tell you we are not prepared to volunteer for National Service." I said, "Why come and tell me that?" They said, "We thought we would come and tell you, because you might misunderstand unless we make it clear why we are not prepared to vote for voluntary National Service. We are not prepared to serve voluntarily while men in the same department and the same shop have complete freedom to do as they want. On mobilisation we would be the first to be sent in the field and to hold up the main thrust of attack of the first few days."
That gives a practical indication of what is in the minds of some of these young fellows. There is no disloyalty. The men and the women too, are there and are coming forward. I hope that 1421 this House to-night will not, through some petty political point of view, discourage them. I ask the House to believe me when I say that a vast number of trade union members and of the working class in my division of all parties are definitely in favour of a measure of this character. There is not a shadow of doubt that the division is in the ranks of hon. Members opposite much less than in the ranks of the people. Let us try and forget our differences and our party political points of view. They are of such little importance in these days. The country is tired of politics. It wants something that will lead it clearly out of the present troubles. It does not matter whether it comes from these or the other benches as long as the country has leadership, as long as it is shown that something is being done and that we are prepared to make use of all the national effort which men and women are ready to make. They only want guiding into the right channels.
Let us not demonstrate to this country and people abroad that there is a division in our house, but rather demonstrate that we have belief in ourselves and that we can sink our lesser differences even if it is only for a year or two. I hate the idea of compulsion and conscription and the idea of making a man do something he does not want to do, but what I do not want to do is to take into action a number of young men untrained, not even capable of defending themselves, let alone the country. Let them be given training and equipment so that they may have the courage and strength to go out and say, "United we stand as a nation." Believe me, this country, and this Empire are invincible. Never mind talking about what we can do for Russia and using Russian manhood; let us for the present forget Russia and remember ourselves. Let us have at least one spark of faith in our own ability and in this great Empire. Let us stand together and show to the world that:.… come the world against her,England yet shall stand.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
Those of us who have listened to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Dodd) will appreciate that he not only has strong principles, but is doing his best to live up to them. I dissent 1422 very strongly, of course, from a good deal of what he said, but I can always respect and appreciate the man who tries to live out his principles. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has considered where his argument with regard to the two engineers carries him. If the other boy joined up there would be two inefficient workers in the engineering shop. The hon. Member was really making out a case against so much work on the part of the volunteer, and rather vitiated his argument. When he talks about the Territorials and the manner in which they have been treated during the last few years, with contumely and so on, I can only say I represent a district where, although there is not a strong feeling in support of the hon. Gentleman's views, I have seen soldiers marching and have never seen them interfered with or insulted in any way.
§ Mr. Dodd
I am not speaking of the last few years, but before then. The extraordinary thing was the way in which we managed to get units up to full strength. I am speaking of Oldham and of all the Manchester area, but at that time it was general throughout the country wherever a Labour council was in office.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I represent half a district which is entirely represented by Labour; nobody else has a chance. I do not remember any occasion on which we have done anything to insult the Territorials, or to deter men from joining them if they wished to do so. We have lent our recreation ground for cenotaph services, and so on, at which they have been represented. When he talks about the pacifist campaigns which have been carried on, and are still, I am glad to say, being carried on, he ought to remember that there was throughout the world, and not only in this country, at the conclusion of the last War, a spirit of determination that "Never again" should be a reality. The crime against the youth and manhood of to-day is to be found in the fact that the French, the British, the Italian and other Governments—not so much the German, because in the early days they were powerless—andespecially the United States, never took the least trouble to implement the promise that the disarmament of Germany should be followed by the disarmament of the world. Last night I received one telegram from a group of 1423 people and one from an individual mother imploring me to do whatever was possible to prevent this thing happening. The words of the telegram were:We believed that the last War was a war to end war. We have brought up our boys not to kill, and now Parliament is going to try to force them to kill. Do what you can to stop that.I think that is a perfectly natural telegram for a mother to send. Is it not true that Lord Baldwin stood at that Box and told us of the horrors of aerial warfare and called upon the young men in this House and outside not to allow it to take place? He told us that if we would win the war we must kill more babies and women, and kill them more quickly than the enemy could kill ours, and I think all who heard him will agree that that speech just stunned us. I happened to go out of the House at the same time as he did, and he said to me, "Lansbury, I have been wanting to get that speech off for a long time. I am glad I have been able to do it at last." Why did he do it? I could not say anything stronger for pacifism than Lord Baldwin said at that Box. Well, nothing has changed. What he said then is true to-day, and it will be true to-morrow, and these mothers have a right to appeal to this House on this question.
I want to say a word about the pledge. I have grown too old to desire to impute evil motives almost to anybody. People say that I have grown soft about it, but I have grown to understand myself better than anybody else, and I know that the recording angel will want a big pail of whitewash to whitewash me, and therefore I am not so prone to sit in judgment on others. But the Prime Minister has put himself in a very difficult situation. He has told the country, and he has told people individually, that his pledge about conscription held good, and if he were here I should have liked to say to him that an argument founded on the words "Circumstances alter cases" is a very bad one indeed, because it was the one which was used by the German Foreign Minister when the Germans invaded Belgium. He defended that action by saying, "Necessity knows no law." Everyone remembers those words, and what we heard from the Prime Minister this afternoon was, in effect, "Necessity knows no law."
1424 I would not attempt to add to the magnificent speech, from the trade union point of view, of my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Hicks), but when we are told by the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Cooper) that conscription brings all classes together and when he talks about the sort of glorious elysium the French soldiers live in, I should like to ask how it is that the Communist party in France is stronger than in any other country outside Russia. Is that because it is a classless society and the classlessness has been brought about because they have conscription and everybody serves in the ranks? It is sheer nonsense to talk that way.
A further point I want to make, and I think it ought to be pressed home in all these discussions, is that conscription in this limited form is grossly unfair to the almost immature youths who will be conscripted. They are going to be taken in without having had any chance of life at all. It is said that this conscription is only for three years, but Acts of Parliament can be extended, and there is a provision to extend this one. I venture to say that if this Bill is carried there will be very soon a bigger measure of conscription, and I want the House, and especially my trade union comrades, to remember that the power of conscription can be used to break any sort of strike or dispute that the workers may have with big corporations. In France, even quite lately, we have seen the threat of the calling-up of several classes prevent a general strike. I am not arguing, and I do not want to be taken as arguing, whether general strikes are good or bad, but what we have to remember is that if there is conscription the Government of the day always have a terrific political weapon with which to destroy the economic claims of the workers, if they are put to it. No one has spoken about that from the other side. The brilliant speech of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) dealt with a lot of things, but it did not deal with the realities connected with the effects of conscription. You cannot have military conscription without, in my opinion, at the same time placing in the hands of the Government the power of labour conscription.
Let us keep to the French for the moment. It is said to-day that this has 1425 been done in order to destroy the pernicious doctrine that has been propagated in France, but I do not believe that many Frenchmen believe in that doctrine. I go to France as often as any other man and I have never heard the ordinary Frenchman talk in that way. The argument which they say is being put across in France is that we want to fight to the last Frenchman, but I would like to ask anybody to go over the figures of the last War. I could not find them before I came out to-day. They relate to the number of men who are known to have been slain in battle or wounded in the last War—men of this country, France and other nations. I believe it is reckoned that from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 men were killed and a much larger number wounded. The total of the casualties of Great Britain bears a fair relationship to those of any other nation.
I would point out, as I tried to point out the last time I spoke, that, up to the time of Waterloo, British soldiers—English, Irish, Welsh and Scots—fought in Flanders, Belgium and the Lowlands, side by side with whom? With Germans, Prussians and Hessians, the ancestors of what is known as the German Empire. I wonder if in those days the jeer went round that we were fighting to the last German and Prussian and so on. Of all the childish, ridiculous, and stupid arguments I have heard, that about our fighting to the last Frenchman is about the worst.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson
I came back from France only this morning and the argument there is that in the last War the French lost between 600,000 and 700,000 men extra while our armies were preparing and while we were preparing the Kitchener armies.
§ Mr. Lansbury
The hon. Gentleman need not have interrupted me. I said that my division, which elects me as a pacifist but is not itself pacifist—I have always acknowledged that—almost immediately formed battalions and almost in a night they were over in France. Almost in a night they were wiped out. I am not going to let Frenchmen or anybody else make the assertion that people in this country did not put as big a weight into the business—the horrible and futile business—of fighting, as did anybody else.
Mr. Vyvyan Adams
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that those men would have had a better chance in the last War if they had been trained?
§ Mr. Lansbury
They were trained. Perhaps the hon. Member knows more about this matter than I do, but I know that they were trained. They went there and fought, and they had great eulogies from generals, the Press, the King, Parliament and everybody else. It is rather mean that at this time their services should be described and talked about as they are being now.
§ Mr. Lansbury
The hon. Gentleman has just come in. I said before he came that I also go to France and also meet Frenchmen. I went to France during the first six months of the War and I talked to Frenchmen and Frenchwomen during that time. I never heard a word during that period about this matter. To have it all thrown out now in order to make an argument for conscription is rather mean. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has his opinion and I have mine and mine as well as his is based on information received from French people in France. I therefore am entitled to put it here. I want to tell the hon. Gentleman another thing. I hear about the small countries wanting Great Britain to do this. It is only a few months ago that I went through Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary, and I never heard any of this sort of calling in question of this country. All that I did hear is what I have told the House over and over again, that Great Britain, France and Germany, if they would only stop quarrelling and would unite and cooperate, could find plenty of employment for money, brain-power and energy in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe generally. I was never asked about conscription by statesmen or rulers. I discussed war and I gave lectures on pacificism. I went to the Ministers and rulers, and not one of them but agreed that another war would ruin civilisation and that we were all fools not to get together and start using the world instead of destroying the world. But I have been led off into this subject.
Anyone would imagine, to hear the arguments, that people on the Continent, where they have conscription, love it and enjoy it. I am the President of the War Resisters' International and my friends 1427 are raising money every day to help conscientious objectors who are either in prison or are just sent out of prison because of their refusal to conform. These people have always looked upon this country as the home of the voluntary system and as a place where it would always be maintained. Now you are going to take a step which will send, you say, a message of hope to some people; you are going to send a message of despair to others. There will be no country in the world where there is freedom from military conscription. That is a terrible thing for us to do. It also knocks on the head the idea that all the countries really enjoy it.
Now about ourselves. The Prime Minister has said that in the Bill that is coming forward provision will be made for conscientious objectors, who will be dealt with by being offered alternative service. They proposed that, in a way, on the last occasion. I hope that those who agree with the Prime Minister and with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will take care how the tribunals are established and about the men who are put upon them. I do not think that old men like me ought to be put on these tribunals to weigh up the judgment and the conscience of much younger men, but persons much younger and persons with an appreciation of what conscience means. There are degrees of opposition to military service and what is called National Service.
I should like to say one word about National Service. I dissent altogether from the idea that the only National Service is that connected with war. I am one of those who want our country organised completely for National Service, I want all industry organised for National Service, I want the resources of the nation organised for National Service. Many a young man who would not go into the officers' training corps or join a cadet corps has been trying to train himself, or get himself trained, so that, in addition to earning his living, he might carry on some piece of social service or social work, which would bring him in no money, like many men on the other side and on this side of the House, but which would give him an opportunity of serving. Many of these men—more than I think, often, the House realises—would want, if they could be allowed to do so, to keep on in that 1428 sort of way, because they cannot go and fight, they cannot bring themselves to believe that they ought to do this thing.
I hope that the House, when the Bill comes forward, will look at this part of the question in a very broad manner. I know that in some countries there are terms of imprisonment, then the man is discharged, and then there is another term of imprisonment, but still the spirit of the man does not get broken, or the international organisation to which I belong would not be able to exist. There are members, too, of the Society of Friends, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and other organisations, who cannot bring themselves to come within the military machine at all. There are others who cannot bring themselves to fight in any war which they think is a war waged just for capitalism, that is, for keeping things as they are; and so you have this to face in regard to this legislation. As I have said, many of these youngsters will have difficulty in persuading old men, whose minds are nearly always closed up and who think that they know sufficient. They ought to be able to go before tribunals that can understand the points of view that I have very imperfectly tried to put before the House.
Then there are others who couple with every other objection the religious objection, believing that war is a crime. That does not mean that they are self-conscious prigs, and think that all other people are more wicked than they Nothing of the kind. They come to a conviction in the way that we come to ours, and that conviction enables them to go through very great hardships. People say sometimes that they have not much courage. Someone behind me one day—I do not think he meant me to hear him—was talking about white-livered pacifists. Is it a very easy thing for these fellows to stand up in front of their friends? Is it an easy thing to face what one relative of mine has had to face? He was at Oxford. He was quite young. He joined the Army when he was, I think, about 16½, and then got so disgusted and upset with the horrible business that he came out as a conscientious objector, was sent to prison, and then, when the War was over, was never allowed to go back to Oxford, where all who know him know that he would have become a don quite easily. His whole career was wrecked. Now 1429 he has a boy of about 17. That boy, I am sure, come what will, will not go into the Army, and his father will probably have the bitter satisfaction of seeing a brilliant boy and his career wrecked. When you are judging these conscientious objectors, please remember that there are many of them living to-day who had to pass through that ordeal, and who are probably in the same position as my friend.
We hear a great deal about Hitler and about Mussolini. Some rather scathing things have been said this afternoon, and I expect that to-morrow they will be answered in kind. I wish it were possible to make these men talk with one another, rather than at one another in the way that has now become fashionable. I would like to remind Herr Hitler that three years ago, the day before his birthday, he himself said this, and published it:Germany will be very willing to attend a conference and take part in a united effort to establish economic co-operation and mutual understanding between the nations of the world, if President Roosevelt or the head of another great country will take the lead in calling such a conference.It may be said that that was just eyewash, but I wonder what might have happened if President Roosevelt—who knew about this, as all the world knew, because it was broadcast throughout the world—I wonder what might have happened if someone had taken his word and there and then had said: "Right; now where shall we meet—at the Azores or somewhere in Europe—so that we can commence to talk?" When I spoke last, I said I wished that President Roosevelt would take some step like this. It was about a fortnight ago, two days before President Roosevelt sent out his message. I, like someone else who spoke to-day, had obviously no knowledge of that when I was making my speech, but he has sent it out. It is possible that to-morrow we may read or hear some sort of denunciatory speech from Herr Hitler, but I, at least, hope not. I disagree, perhaps, with my hon. Friend the Member for East Woolwich, who said it will be better if he is blatant and not persuasive. I hope—perhaps it is a faint and stupid hope—that possibly he may not leave the door absolutely unopened.
I would like publicly to remind him of something else that he has said, both pub- 1430 licly and privately, many times, and that is that no man, no country, can gain anything out of another great war, but everybody will be losers. That has been said in this House again and again. I would also like to remind him of what the Prime Minister has said, what the Leader of the Opposition has said, and what I believe every speaker in this House has said—that this country, and in fact the world, are ready to meet round a table and discuss every grievance, and everything that they may feel is a grievance, and try to find a way out.
I have often said here—and perhaps I shall be forgiven for saying it again—that what is needed more than anything else in the world to-day is for some nation to be good enough—as Lincoln Stebbings, the great American writer, said—to enter the promised land, some nation that will be brave enough, bold enough, to say that we are living in an entirely new economic age, when, for the first time in the history of man, we can say that there is the potential power to produce enough for all the children of man, when we can say, "You can get access to every part of the world," when we can say that nation shall speak unto nation. All that is needed now is for some nation, and especially a nation like ours, with great possessions, to say, "We are willing to make a tremendous contribution towards the peace of the world by offering cooperation and service in the use of the world." It will mean giving up some prestige; probably it will mean giving up:God who made us mighty, make us mightier yet.It will mean putting our country and our resources on the altar of common service. Just as, within this nation, we ask the landlords and the capitalists, through this House, to allow us to take the resources which they hold and to use them for the benefit of the common people of this country, so what is needed is an international movement that will give the lead in sharing the world instead of destroying the world.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I am sure that every hon. Member has been, as usual, impressed by the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us. I, for one, do most sincerely share his view that no good can come from fierce speeches delivered 1431 against individuals who may have the confidence of large numbers of people in the countries criticised. I feel that we have departed from our old British policy, which existed, perhaps, until the Great War, in that we allow ourselves sometimes to be carried away and to make speeches which are immediately wired overseas, and which contribute nothing towards decisions, but which merely exacerbate opinions and make it more difficult for statesmen to smooth things out in future. The right hon. Gentleman also desires to see every possible step taken to secure peace. He is, quite frankly, a pacifist. I hope, after all I saw in the last War, that I am pacific.
I think that when our minds are concentrated on the Measure which is coming before the House next week, we must remember that, however much the Prime Minister may be criticised to-day, no man has so fearlessly risked criticism in order to try to advance a policy of appeasement and peace in the world. We, who are always so fair in this House in our criticism of our fellow-Members, must appreciate that the mere fact that the Prime Minister, with such repugnance, as everybody knows, has been driven to take this step, as he believed in the national interest, in an hour of great anxiety, points to the fact that the danger is so great that, at the risk of further misunderstanding on the part of his fellow-citizens, he has to take new measures to make us safe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) begged us to be fair, and to recognise the position of conscientious objectors when this Measure comes before Parliament. I share with him the view that where men, from the highest motives and religious convictions, really feel that they cannot join the Forces of the Crown, they should be given service equally helpful to the country in other fields.
I want to refer very briefly to the Leader of the Opposition. He suggested, rather stridently, that the Prime Minister was wrong in suggesting that this situation in which we find ourselves was not such a situation as would entitle him to introduce compulsion under the peacetime pledge. But towards the end of his speech he said, referring to nations on the continent of Europe, "A war policy has, in fact, been carried on." He was speaking of the dictators. If 1432 he believes that he should agree with the Government that the present is not a time of peace. Then he asked, "Does the Prime Minister really suggest that with every new obligation we need fresh forces?" I do not suppose that if you are going to add very largely to the number of your obligations each new obligation would need fresh forces, but the obligation in Central Europe which we have undertaken recently ought to mean additional forces. If it does not, we had no right to give the pledge and to encourage people there to believe that we are ready to share the sacrifices which we are asking from them by encouraging them to stand firm. You have no right to give them any sort of guarantee unless you mean that you are going to add to your land forces, so that you can make a real contribution to their salvation against the tremendous military machine which they are being expected to withstand.
§ Mr. Attlee
The hon. and gallant Member misunderstood my argument. My point is that the obligations which we had already would mean a great military effort, and that if war broke out there would be a call upon all our resources. The fact that we had accepted an additional obligation here and an additional obligation there did not necessarily mean an intensification of that effort, because if the worst came to the worst we should need all our strength.
§ Sir H. Croft
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I will come to the main point as to the need for strategic power in face of the two different types of commitment. When he says that in the event of war we shall need all our strength and all our man power, I would only ask him, as one who has a gallant record in the service of his country in the last War, will he not agree with me that, if he thinks there is any chance of war in the next six months, it is our bounden duty to see that a pool of reserves is trained and that we do not send our men to slaughter merely because they have not an idea of training and do not know how to take cover and to take ordinary precautions in battle?
I confess that I am a very recent convert to compulsory service. I am one of those who, like many hon. Members above the Gangway, hoped and believed that, in the face of great national danger, 1433 under a voluntary scheme we should have seen the whole of our democracy rise unitedly to serve. As one who takes a particular interest in this side of life, I have been tremendously impressed with the fact that, even with our very small Regular Army, during the last four years, till the last few months, we saw that the Regular Army was becoming so weak through lack of recruits in the face of the rising totalitarian States that but for the crisis of last September we might almost say we should have found it almost impossible to keep up the overseas battalions by this time this year. Then, again, I have given much of my life in the Territorial Army, and am naturally proud to think of the part which the Government have now asked it to take in the field. Although I agree so much with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) I should be rather inclined to say, Do not underrate the Territorial Army. I can remember when I was with the lads of the village during the first Battle of Ypres. They were very green people who had no idea what war meant. They were within 60 yards of the Prussian Guard and there was no one between us and the sea. Everyone knows that Territorial units, when they have the right spirit and when they are well trained and well led, can most speedily render themselves fit to meet an enemy. But you have to remember that a large number of the men in the present Territorial Army will never have done a camp, which is only a fortnight, until after August next, and they are really not fit to meet the most highly trained armies in the world with three or four years constant service.
When we realise how small the Regular Army is, when we realise that the Territorial Army is untrained and that we have to make a land contribution as well as our sea and air contribution or else our support is a mockery, I beg the House to consider this fact that, if we sent our Regular Army overseas, and if we were able to send the first divisions of the Territorial Army, which have been up to strength for some time, also overseas, even if we were receiving great assistance from France on one front and other Allies on another, if the fighting is as intense as it was in the Great War, at the end of two months unless there is a trained pool of reserves somewhere, our whole military machine will be 1434 brought to a standstill. It is for that reason that I have been converted, most reluctantly, as I have also reluctantly been converted to this policy of widened commitments, that I believe that you must immediately have a trained reserve if you are not going to bring your fighting forces absolutely to a standstill within some two months of the commencement of a war.
Now one word as to what the right hon. Gentleman said concerning commitments. I, and many of my hon. Friends, believe that under the old commitment of the defence of the British Empire, of France, the Channel ports and the Low Countries, the contribution of the Fleet, which, after all is tremendous, with our great and growing air power, an army which could within a few months be put into the field of something like 500,000 men, Regulars and Territorials—that was a contribution which was sufficient for our commitments in Western Europe. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that we have decided to tell Poland that, if she is attacked, we will fight. We have told Rumania and Greece, without any reciprocal obligations, exactly the same. That has been claimed as a first step towards collective security. So what do we mean? There are 10,000000 trained totalitarian soldiers. I do not take war for granted—God forbid that this shall happen—but if there are 10,000,000, are you really moral in asking Poland, or Rumania, or Greece to stand firm if you can send only four or five divisions a year to their assistance? On any front, even on the French front, if you really hope to send a contribution of Territorial divisions in the near future, must we not see to it that we can keep them in the field? It must be clear to everyone that these new commitments have, in fact, placed new responsibilities upon us. I was terribly distressed as an Englishman. I thought we should never have to commit our people to go on to the battlefield and die for any interest other than the well-defined historical commitments that we have been under in Western Europe. We cannot undertake these other commitments, we cannot ask small nations which can put only 500,000 men into the field to fight and to die for our idea of collective security, unless we have the big battalions going out to stand behind them.
May I say one word with regard to the type of proposal that the Government 1435 have put forward? For some two years I have been trying to study what would be necessary if we should come to the position of a European war in the future, and I came to the conclusion that the finest thing that we could do for the country would be to have a reserve with a training comparable to that of the old Militia that we had before the War. I am getting rather old in these affairs compared with many present, but I have taken a great interest in the subject for many years. When a young man, as a Volunteer first of all and then a Territorial, I spent a considerable part of my time also in attendance at Militia training. The old Militia recruits did six months training and thereafter came up for three weeks or a month a year in the subsequent three years. In those days they were the real down and outs. [Interruption.] It was a holiday then. I hope it will not be awful slavery now. They were the poor lads of this country. I have seen them go into barracks and put aside their very shabby civil clothes, and at the end of their training most of them could not get into their civil clothes again. I mention that because I believe this proposal of the Government is going to be as helpful, physically and morally, to a large section of our population, who have no hope at the present time, as it will be from the military point of view.
It may be asked by hon. Members above the Gangway: "Why is it not suggested that we should have merely a Territorial system for the whole nation?" I should be the last to belittle the Territorial Army, but I cannot help thinking that for a large number of people in this country if you could give them six months definite training, with good food, good clothing, and under good conditions, it would be far more helpful and healthful to them than if you put them into the Territorial Army for four or five years and they went for a fortnight's camp each year. A large number of men to-day would not be fit to go to a Territorial camp. You must begin the training gently, in order to get them back into physical fitness. The old Militia used to go for what the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) described as three weeks' holiday. If it was three weeks' holiday in the old days a similar type of training for six months could hardly be regarded as something very 1436 terrible for the people of this country at the present time. Some 70,000 men a year used to go out to the Militia training of their own volition, and since that is what we are asking for under this scheme, it is not a very great burden to put upon the people of this country.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
Why not feed them now so that they will not be able to get into their clothes? Some of them are starving.
§ Sir H. Croft
It is because they are starving that I want to give them an opportunity of being well fed and having an opportunity of getting back their strength. I agree that men who are at the present time unemployed would not in many cases be fit to go straight out to a Territorial camp.
§ Sir H. Croft
I think the hon. Member will agree that that is hardly relevant to this Debate. If anybody denies the great contribution that our people have made already under the voluntary scheme, they will be making a great mistake. It has been most encouraging to see the response of the men who have gone into the Territorial Army in recent months. No country in the world could have got as many recruits for A.R.P. It has been a very magnificent response, and it is because that voluntary effort is worthy of stimulation that I want steps to be taken to prevent a hiatus in the military scheme. If hon. Members above the Gangway think that war is impossible in the near future, that there is no danger, that Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini have come to the end of their adventures; if they believe that, then what I am saying is all wrong, but if they believe that there is danger, then I ask them to remember that none of these splendid volunteers in the Territorial Army will have any sort of campaign training until they go to camp in August.
It is because it is urgent to show to the world our answer to President Roosevelt, and to show the small countries in Europe where we stand, that we must do what is essential under this scheme. We must do something immediately in order to train a sufficient number of people to fill the gaps in our Army should they unhappily have to take part in a war overseas. I am grateful to hon. Members for permit- 1437 ting me to offer these few remarks, and I would like to add to what the Prime Minister said and to what was said by the hon. Member who spoke from the trade union angle. If this awful tragedy is coming to the world in the near future, next week, there will be no possible division between us. All difference will be obliterated and we shall simply be British citizens. I would beg hon. Members to consider whether we ought not to give, perhaps, this last hope of warning to the world by showing that this country means what it says and that although we are a pacific people we are prepared, if war comes, to fight with all the warrior virtues that our nation has shown when it saved the world on three previous occasions.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
This is an unusual occasion for members of my party. I do not remember when we have been appealed to in such feeling terms as we have been appealed to to-day for our support. It is astonishing that when it appears that we have come to the brink of war, those who despise us in peacetime make love to us. The Prime Minister to-day, at the end of his speech, made an appeal to us not to be hasty in reaching an irrevocable conclusion on a matter which appears from his speech to have been a very hasty decision on the part of the Government. We were told yesterday that the Government had reached a decision that they should establish the principle of compulsion in the fighting services, and to-day, after that hasty decision, we are asked not to be too hasty in coming to our conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman will present a pistol to our heads when eleven o'clock strikes. He put upon us the responsibility—I quote his words—"of taking a decision which may settle whether war will come or not." That responsibility is not ours. It is the responsibility of one who to-morrow may choose unwisely, as a result very largely of the continual capitulation made by His Majesty's Government. The decision in this matter does not represent the views of the British people.
We are not prepared to shoulder a responsibility which lies on the other side of the House and not on this. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) also tried to woo us. I felt a little embarrassment at the love-making that has gone on in the House to-day and which 1438 was concluded by the hon. Member who has just spoken (Sir H. Croft). The right hon. Member for Epping earnestly hoped that everything would be done to avoid giving encouragement to the dictators. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his opening sentences made it perfectly clear where we stand on that matter. I would utter no word which would give any encouragement whatever to any dictator, wherever he may be. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said we should take our decision with great compunction and with a sense of responsibility. We shall do so.
This situation is no fault of ours. Britain is now reaping what successive Ministers on that side of the House have sown. We are suffering to-day from the effects of a melancholy train of disasters in foreign policy during the last seven or eight years, as indeed the right hon. Member for Epping admitted. He left out one disaster, but at least his list of disasters was an appalling attack upon those who, for over seven years, have governed the foreign policy of this country. But in spite of the mistakes that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends and predecessors have made, let me reaffirm what my right hon. Friend said in almost the opening passage of his speech, that this country will never allow itself to be dominated by dictators. We may differ as to ways and means. I profoundly differed from the right hon. Gentleman to-night, but so far as we on this side are concerned, the pledges that we have made regarding our defence and security and the maintenance of the liberty of the world, we shall keep.
The National Government have added another criminal act to an already very long list of crimes committed during the time that the National Government have been in office. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister tried to escape from the pledges which he handsomely admitted he had made as recently as a month ago He said that the situation had changed. There is no real change in the situation. At the time that the right hon. Gentleman made his last statement in reply to a Supplementary Question from me, he was; then contemplating the situation which we have before us to-day. Why did he bring up the Territorial Force to war strength, and double it? Because of this danger, because of possible commitments. 1439 Why did he not then tell us that within four weeks he felt that, because of his commitments, he might wish to be released from the promises that he had made? But I will say this to the right hon. Gentleman. He has since that day made three commitments—to Poland, to Rumania, and to Greece. He has no business to make commitments unless at the time he makes them he can be certain that he can fulfil them. It is not right to make commitments with the view in mind that some time in the future you may be able to fulfil them. The right hon. Gentleman has placed us where we are to-day because, in agreement with the French, he gave Czecho-Slovakia hopes that, should they be in trouble, they would be assisted. The British and French Governments made no objection whatever to the mobilisation of the Czecho-Slovakian forces. Those forces must have been mobilised with the belief that there would be help forthcoming if they were attacked. That help was not forthcoming.
No Prime Minister ought to pledge this country unless he is satisfied that he can fulfil the obligations that he has made. The right hon. Gentleman has no right to put this country in pawn, but he has put it in pawn. He has come to the House to-day to explain to us that, in spite of all that he has tried to do, he is very sorry, but with these obligations to three overseas countries, who will never want one division of British infantry—indeed, we could not get it there—he has come to the conclusion that we must have conscription. What, I may ask, is the purpose of this breach of pledge? I am still not very clear. Is it intended to be a warning before a speech is made to-morrow, or may it prove to be a mere irritant which will do more harm than good? It is, as I shall try to show, a very puny effort; it is an attempt to lull this country into a false sense of security. The right hon. Gentleman did it last autumn. He came back from Munich as the great saviour of peace, and he said, waving his piece of paper, which seems now to have been lost in the files at No. 10, Downing Street, "It is all right this time." The right hon. Gentleman is trying to persuade the people of this country that it is all right this time. Let me say, quite frankly, that we do not believe that this new proposal of the Government's means national security. The Prime 1440 Minister has bounded about clutching at one straw after another. He clutched at appeasement. Appeasement is a word that is not popular now on that side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, yes, it is."] I hope hon. Members who believe in it will still pursue it, but I thought it had been discarded by His Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman is trying now limited pacts of mutual aid as and when trouble arises. That is not our policy. It is a small approach to our policy, but it is not our policy. The right hon. Gentleman appears, however, to have so little faith in this new policy of limited pacts as and when trouble arises that he has turned now to the last, final, desperate expedient of what he calls a limited measure of conscription.
The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Epping both referred to foreign opinion on this matter, and the right hon. Member for Epping referred to foreign propaganda. There is no reason why British policy should be based upon foreign propaganda, but there is every reason why the British Government should put their own case over to other nations. It is no reason why, because of misconception as to the part we should have to play in a general war, that we should necessarily accept the views of friendly peoples. Britain, as I have said, will be prepared, if called upon, to defend freedom and the friends of freedom and make the maximum sacrifices. It will not flinch from using the whole of its resources, material and human, for what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping called the common cause. But this country is entitled to some say as to the character of the aid which it should bring to the common cause. It is no reflection on our foreign friends to say that this island kingdom with its far-flung Dominions and Colonies, has troubles to face which they do not fully appreciate.
The British Navy is the greatest fighting and protective force in the world—of this country and of Continental countries. Should there be a great war, who will police the seas of the world? The British Navy. Who is to make that terrible weapon of the blockade effective? The British Navy. Who, among all our Allies in the West is to be expected to attack enemy seaports? The British Navy—not for us alone but for all who stand with us. Is that force to be despised? I 1441 do not wish to make comparisons about the Western nations, but in the West of Europe the British air arm, much as I still criticise it, is the greatest air arm in Europe west of the Urals. Is that to be despised? We have no Maginot Line in this country except A.R.P. Has not that to be made as effective as we can make it?
We on this side have not ruled out the possibility of an expeditionary force of reasonable size, but we may have cast upon our shoulders in the Great War that may come a productive test which no nation in the world has ever faced, not merely to provide our own war equipment and for the needs of our home population, but for other nations whose protective system has been demoralised and disturbed by perpetual air attack. Is that not a contribution? This country already can make the greatest contribution to the preservation, or the establishment of peace of any nation in the West. We cannot in these days of mechanised warfare, with all our other responsibilities, responsibilities which we cannot shirk, be called upon even by our best friends, to provide an Army on a Continental scale. I can see a point being rapidly reached at which every man in the Army would become a liability and not an asset because with the scale of destructive power of modern forces, the call upon production is something which I fear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in this House have not yet visualised. I do not want to quote statistics, but I would say that in the high speed conditions of modern warfare on land and sea and in the air, you will need 20 men behind the lines or behind the Air Force or the Navy for every one you have on active service. If that be so, what nonsense is this talk about large-scale conscription?
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has said that this is on a modest scale. It is limited to 310,000 boys. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping—I am sorry he is not in his place—grew almost lyrical at the prospect of this being the beginning of a great conscript army. I am entitled to ask how many of that gross figure of 310,000 will be the net addition to the fighting power of this country? The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour has a vanishing trick. He can prove that there is no standing army of nearly 2,000,000 un- 1442 employed. I am now going to prove, I think to the satisfaction of my hon. Friends, that this new potential army of 310,000 can be spirited away by facts and not by a process of argument such as that employed by the Minister of Labour. The gross figure of 310,000 will be whittled down by deductions of one kind and another. During the last War, I am informed, the net yield from an age group of that kind was less than half the gross total. If so, the 310,000 has shrunk already to 150,000.
But allowance must be made for further deductions. How many of these boys of 20 are already in the Territorials? I do not know, but I am informed by responsible people that about the heaviest age category in the new Territorials is that of the boys who are now to be conscripted. How many boys between 20 and 21 are now serving in the Regular Army, in the Royal Air Force and in the Royal Navy? The Secretary of State for War may be able to correct my figures, but shall I say that the total is about 50,000? I do not quibble about 10,000 in this matter, because my vanishing trick still continues. This phantom army of 310,000 boys now becomes very attenuated, and we should be left with, what? Not with the 200,000 which has been referred to in the House to-day and which was referred to in the Press yesterday, by strange methods of elimination which are beyond me, but with something like 100,000 to 150,000, which is little over twice the recent monthly enrolment in the Territorials under the voluntary service scheme.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am on die point of military strength, and not of boys of 20. I am saying that the Territorial Force, if it keeps it up the next month, will, in two months, have provided voluntarily all that the right hon. Gentleman is requiring through his service of conscription. There is another point, and I agree fundamentally with the Prime Minister and with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. There will be net losses in other directions. I believe that conscription will knock the heart out of all kinds of voluntary recruiting. It will be a discouragement not merely to the young men who might be conscripted when they are 20, but to the people older than that who fear that before long they may become victims of conscription, and 1443 who will say, "We will wait until we are called." If I am right—and I have some reason for believing that from messages which came to me last night and to-day in very large numbers—in saying that, it may well be that the actual net yield of military power as the result of conscription through the Measure now proposed will be nil. I could, if I were to press my case that this will do irreparable injury to voluntary recruiting of all kinds, prove, even more than the Minister of Labour could prove, that his recruits would be a minus quantity.
To make a breach in the system of voluntary service, as admitted by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, is a dangerous departure from settled British tradition. To make a break at the cost of creating new divisions inside this country, when the results might be negligible, is not merely fantastic; it is criminal. I am driven to ask, especially after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, Is there something more behind this limited attempt to supplement voluntary service? Is this an organised attempt—and if it is organised it is a dishonest attempt—aided and abetted by full-blooded conscriptionists in this House of Commons, to enforce compulsion on Britain for good? It is a false policy to produce man-power in your fighting services without fighting power. It is an open secret that people now are enrolling in the Territorial Army at a greater rate than they can be used, and I could quote from yesterday's "Daily Telegraph" headed "Territorials' Lack of Arms." Here are second units being made up to strength and having to borrow rifles two or three nights a week from the first units.
What is the good of pretending to add to the man-power of this country, when the Government have neglected that production which is essential to the full use of the man-power when it is enrolled? We believe that willing service in this country—we do not take the gloomy view which is now being taken by the Government—can produce all that we need to utilise to the full all the war production which this country can possibly make available. The right hon. Gentleman neglected that side of it. He did admit that at some time, somewhere, there might be profits made out of this production, which still is not big enough, and he 1444 tried to bribe us to-day by saying that, however difficult it was, he would try to reduce profits on munitions, and, in the event of war, he would go so far as to curtail the production of new fortunes. Labour's view of liberty and service is not to be bought by bribes of this kind. It is not to be bribed by either prospective promises as to what will happen in a state of war or by the vaguest promises as to what will happen in the near future to existing profits made on armaments. We hold the view that no man and no company have the right to profit out of the nation's needs, and the right hon. Gentleman's promises do us less than justice.
But in any case—and I am bound to put this—pledges in these days of changing circumstances are no use. The circumstances may change again very shortly. The British Labour movement, which has been shabbily treated in this situation, which has made its offers and done its best, and on which this country must rely in the last resort, stands by its policy. We are not going to sacrifice a limited measure of freedom here at the dictates of the totalitarian States. We, who perhaps know the masses of this country better than hon. Members opposite—[Interruption]—however misled some of them may be politically, still believe that Great Britain can be saved by voluntary service. This Government has never tried it properly. It has shirked it. It has been paving the way for this kind of measure.
We in the Labour movement stand by the policy for which we have fought consistently in this House during the whole of this Parliament. British Labour rejects the Government's policy of conscription with a full sense of its responsibilities, and it does not do it in order to give any comfort to a potential aggressor. I cannot see a potential aggressor being afraid of this phantom army. British Labour warns potential aggressors that the working class will keep the freedom it has won. It has never been given anything; it has fought for everything it has, and it will keep what it has won, it will fight for what it has won. But it is not going into battle with a Government which is so afraid of the spirit of our people that it must begin to compel a very narrow section of it. It would prefer a Government which had the courage to rely upon what is the real view 1445 of our people, that is, faith in freedom and a determination to keep it. You have chosen your way and the responsibility for that lies upon you, and not upon us, and if dire consequences should befall, which Heaven forbid, our consciences are clear that we still stand for freedom without serfdom.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
I rise as the Minister immediately responsible for the military readiness of the country to reply upon this Debate. The House will, therefore, expect from me not so much a disputation about theories as an explanation of what is necessary in practice. Are our land forces suffiicient, and are they in a condition to meet our needs? These were the questions raised by the Leader of the Opposition at an early stage of the Debate, and they are questions which I desire frankly to answer. Whatever may have been the position until recently circumstances have completely altered the situation. There have, in fact, in recent weeks been far-reaching changes in our international policy, and these changes carry with them important military implications. The needs and the manner in which we propose to meet them I shall examine. Events move swiftly, and the whole tempo of our preparations must be accelerated to keep pace with them—that is, if we are not to be out-distanced. Historically Great Britain has been averse from pledging itself in advance to the military support of other nations. We had, it is true, our obligations under the aegis of the League of Nations, but our other commitments were confined to Portugal, an ancient ally, and to Egypt and Iraq, where we have special interests. The first decisive departure in our international policy was made on 6th February of this year, when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister declared in Parliament—and the words are important—that he feltbound to make it plain that the solidarity of interest, by which France and this country are united, is such that any threat to the vital interests of France from whatever quarter it came must evoke the immediate cooperation of this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1939; col. 623, Vol. 343]It was following upon this declaration that we announced our plan for 19 Divisions, a larger number than we had ever previously contemplated putting into the field. My right hon. Friend, with univer- 1446 sal approval, inserted the first thread in the new pattern which was to be woven. Since then, our fate has become inseperably associated with the independence of other European countries. The Germans moved into Bohemia and Moravia on 15th March, and in the ensuing fortnight international tension increased. It was in these circumstances that the Polish guarantee was given and we stated that if Polandconsidered it vital to resist with their national forces, His Majesty's Government would feel themselves bound at once to lend the Polish Government all support in their power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1939; col. 2417, Vol. 345.]By the time this pronouncement was made by my right hon. Friend, we had undertaken the doubling of the Territorial Army. That was the second military implication. Albania was occupied on Friday, 7th April, and again my right hon. Friend pledged this country, stating that:His Majesty's Government attach the greatest importance to the avoidance of disturbance by force or threats of force of the status quo in the 'Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1939; col. 13, Vol. 346.]And he gave a formal assurance to the Greek and Rumanian Governments that we would lend them, in certain contingencies, all the support in our power. This series of declarations does not leave Britain where she stood last year. Against none of the declarations has a dissentient voice been raised. They all carry the assent and convinced support of the nation. Yet the necessary steps have still to be taken to assure that we are in a position fully to implement them should the need arise. This is a democratic country, and there is no alternative but to discuss the position candidly. We are now asking Parliament which endorsed our new commitments to give us the required authority to take the necessary steps. My right hon. Friend has been realistic at every stage. Military implications have ensued upon international commitments.
May I ask the House to consider our military resources? The Regular Army has an establishment of 224,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to say that we have instituted many reforms to make the Regular Army more attractive, and that the recruiting had thereby con- 1447 siderably improved. That is true. The establishment is 224,000, but the strength is 204,000. I shall at a later stage be asking the House to increase that establishment. The Territorial Field Army has an establishment of approximately 325,000 men. Its strength is 167,000 men. The Anti-Aircraft Army, if I may so describe it, has an establishment of 96,000 men and a strength of 80,000. Let us take each of these forces in turn. In the Regular Army the difference between the figures of establishment and strength shows that we are short of trained men. Those who will be at the disposal of the Regular Army under the new scheme, for which we are asking approval in principle to-night, will, in the event of war, make the shortage less inconvenient. I would point out that, although doubt has been thrown upon the value of the numbers of men we shall engage each year, a number approximating to the whole strength of the Regular Army will be trained each year.
In regard to the Territorial Field Army, the new divisions will be composed in time of the best material that we have, of volunteers who have sacrificed their leisure and their holidays to fit themselves to defend our cause. We shall fill the ranks in time. We shall train the men in time. Yet time is a factor in international events which we cannot control. The response to our appeal for recruits to double the Territorial Army is most encouraging and the Government hope that no effort will be relaxed. The number of recruits enlisted since 1st April has been no fewer than 2,000 a day, a figure which far exceeds any record previously attained. The plan announced by my right hon. Friend yesterday, under which six months' intensive training will be given to all men between the ages of 20 and 21, will fill the gap while the slower process of assembling and preparing the new Territorial formations is taking place.
No voluntary scheme on a part-time basis could secure so rapid an accretion of trained strength. The Territorial Anti-Aircraft Army in an emergency is capable of manning in the most efficient manner our anti-aircraft defences, but being in civilian employment the men cannot be there all the time. The new scheme will provide personnel who will always be at the war positions, "holding the fort" until the arrival of the Territorials, and 1448 thus we shall be given an additional measure of security that could be afforded to us in no other way. The existing Regular Army, which is below establishment, could not possibly, in addition to its other responsibilities, find the men for this duty. On purely practical grounds, therefore, the scheme will achieve the maximum advantage to the nation, there can be no dispute about that, and it will achieve it with the minimum of hardship to the individual.
Six months is not a long time to give to the service of the State. In no way is the voluntary system of recruiting for the Regular and Territorial Armies qualified. On the contrary, it must be pursued with unflagging energy. Those who joined the Territorial Army before my right hon. Friend made his statement will be exempted from the compulsory training period, and those under 20 who join now will obtain an advantage, for they will be allowed to count the period they served against the three and a half years subsequent service which the compulsory recruit must do in the Territorial Army or in a special reserve.
I have now described the changes in our foreign policy which have necessitated, and only recently necessitated, changes in our military policy. I hope I have made it plain that there is a military necessity for this scheme. Firstly, it places at the disposal of the Regular Army a trained reserve of considerable proportions. Secondly, it enables us to keep our anti-aircraft defences permanently manned. It achieves these two objects with expedition. Is there any other way in which we could achieve them? Could we expand the existing Regular Army? It has to be borne in mind that the Regular Army has to serve abroad and provide drafts for overseas, and its terms of service are arranged accordingly. There are only a limited number of men who will spend 5, 6 or 7 years in the Army, and no system of conscription could reasonably keep them for so long. Therefore, we must continue to rely on the voluntary system for the Regular Army. The Territorial Army is composed of men engaged in civil avocations, and we cannot keep these men long enough at a time to give them intensive training. If, then, we cannot properly discharge our commitments to the full extent desired, either with the Regular or the Territorial Army, it is plain that there 1449 is a gap in our organisation. It is this gap which we will close by this scheme.
It is an essentially simple scheme, one designed to impose the minimum of inconvenience. Every man at 20 years of age will do six months' intensive training, either with the Regular Army or with an anti-aircraft unit. He will then pass to the Territorial Army or to a special reserve. I have been asked why the age of 20 was selected. It has been selected because it is the age at which apprenticeship is generally finished.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
That point can be made quite plain by the figures on the discussion of the Bill. It has been selected as the age which will cause the minimum of hardship. At the younger age there would be more apprentices. There are 310,000 men in the age group between 20 and 21 years. Of these, it is estimated that the numbers in the Regular and Auxiliary Forces are 33,000. This figure subtracted from 310,000 leaves 277,000. It depends upon the rigour of the medical test how many of these will be excluded. As the Army is beneficial to the health of the nation I have no doubt that many will improve their physique in consequence. All will serve alike under this scheme, rich and poor, skilled and unskilled, professional and lay, and all will serve together. This is as democratic a proposal as has ever been made to this House. There may be two systems of education and there may be varying degrees of wealth, but here there is an identity of service. Far from dividing the nation, it should do much to bring the younger generation together and unite it by a common experience.
The only exemptions will be for those who have engaged in one of the Regular Forces or for those serving at the time of my right hon. Friend's statement in one of the Auxiliary Forces. Conscientious objectors will be able to do some other kind of national work. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) expressed the hope that those upon the tribunals which will determine whether or not an applicant should be exempted upon this ground should have some understanding of his moral faith; I hope that that will be made sure. It may be possible under the scheme to advance or 1450 retard the age in case the curriculum of a man's career should be hampered. If it would suit him to come up earlier, he may do so if he makes out his case. Similarly, he may come up later. That will cover apprentices and students. The only other obligation to those who are called up under this scheme will be 30 drills and two weeks' camp with the Territorial Army or three weeks with the special reserve, in each year for three and a-half years subsequent to the six months. There will be no further obligation except in war. There could not be a fairer system or one which interferes less with private life than this one. In Switzerland, the obligation to serve continues to the age of 6o, and drills have to be done at varying times. Nearly all other European nations carry the obligation on into middle life.
What are the objections to this scheme? There are incidental objections, and there are objections of principle. The first incidental objection—for it does not touch the principle of the scheme—is the pledge given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I was surprised to hear any reference made to this pledge in any derogatory sense by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). After the pledge is alleged to have been reiterated, my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland spoke in this House. He spoke in this House on Monday, 3rd April, and this is what he said:Henceforth the possibility of stopping Herr Hitler from plunging the world into war will mainly depend on the measures adopted by the Government. Let us, therefore, join together in exacting from this Government promptness and vigour in action …. Not another yard of ground must be lost.And again:I believe in voluntary service, … but if the Government, with their incomparable sources of information, reach a different conclusion, it would be unforgivable if they refrained from political motives, … from telling the House and the country the truth."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1939; col. 2498, Vol. 345.]My right hon. Friend knew at that time as much as he knows to-day about the pledge, but he said it would be unforgivable if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not tell the House and the country the truth. He has told them the truth to-day, and he is, I hope, if the pledge of my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland is valid, entitled to his support.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
My objections have not been addressed to the Prime Minister for coming before the House and asking for release from his pledge. I have never objected to that to-day; I made no such statement; but I stand by every word I said there. I believe in the voluntary system and I still believe the voluntary system could provide the men.
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
Does the right hon. Gentleman also believe that:If the Government, with their incomparable sources of information, reach a different conclusion, it would be unforgivable if they refrained from telling the House and the country the truth"?
§ Mr. Hore-Belisha
It is on that that I base my claim to the right hon. Gentleman's support. It is, perhaps, a misunderstanding, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) also intended his words to carry their proper implication when he spoke on the same day. He said:If the Government in these days be slow moving, vacillating, and uncertain, they will meet with the sternest criticism. We have every reason to be critical and indeed suspicious of the present Government, and we must, of course, suspend a final judgment on the Government's proposals until we are satisfied that they will be adequate to meet the international situation.He also said:We have now reached the stage where there is a declaration regarding Poland, a declaration which must, without delay, be fully clothed with meaning and made capable of instant application."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April; cols. 2478–80, Vol. 345.]That is our view. This action has been taken in order to clothe our guarantee with meaning, and to make it capable, at any rate, of more instant application. Another objection which has been advanced against this scheme is that it is partial. The Independent Liberal Amendment complains of it on that ground. The only alternative to "partial," I suppose, is "total." In every country, if men are called up they are called up at a certain age. It is not everyone who is embodied simultaneously in conscript countries. Everybody is called up at a particular age, and we all were 20 once—some of us remain 20, I have no doubt, in many ways. The right hon. Gentleman said it was unfair that a man of 21 or 22 should be exempted while a man of 20 was called 1452 up. Next year he will not be able to make that claim. The scheme, of course, must of its nature be partial unless you are going to conscript everybody in all classes of the community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in that most powerful speech he made, expressed some doubt about casting so great a burden on so many men of 20 years of age. But more than 50 per cent, of the men enlisted in the British Army to-day are under 20 years of age, and, although the Army enlists men for seven years, its average age is under 25. Therefore, it is by no means unusual to expect men of this age to bear that burden.
Another complaint has been made—and it is formulated in the Independent Liberal Amendment—that it is wrong to introduce this scheme at a time when the rate of recruitment is outpacing the supply of war equipment. I do not know why my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland should have identified himself with that statement, because in the speech from which I have already quoted—which is a mine of useful instruction—he said:Meanwhile, the Regular Army has a great deal of training equipment that is not being regularly used. Why do the Government not raise militia battalions, which could speedily be trained with the use of the equipment of the Regular Army?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd April, 1939; col. 2498, Vol. 345.]Therefore, it worried me a little to reconcile that suggestion with the complaint that he makes of the suggestion being adopted. If it is true that there will be a strain on the Regular Army—I do not wish to minimise it; there is bound to be in the provision of so many necessities, building accommodation, instructors, equipment—but the fact is that there is enough equipment with the Regular Army, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and that is the advantage of training these men with the Regular Army. It is because our equipment needs are so much greater than they were that we have proposed to institute a Ministry of Supply. It will have power to allocate orders and to assure priority. These powers have been described, even by those who approve of them, like hon. Gentlemen opposite, as "conscription of industry," and of course they are. They are conscription of firms. These powers enable you to compel firms to accept orders or to give priority.
1453 The principle of the conscription of wealth has long been accepted. As my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) said in a most brilliant speech, you may argue that you should take 50 per cent, or 99 per cent, of a man's income, but the principle has been accepted of taking some part of his income, although the principle still remains of allowing him some quota of his own earnings. My right hon. Friend has indicated that we are going to conscript wealth still more. If you have conscription of industry in the manner that I have described, if you have conscription of profits and conscription of wealth, why should you not also have conscription of the men who use what both the conscription of industry and the conscription of wealth can provide?
Compulsory service is not alien to the practice of this land. The Militia was raised, even in the last century, under an Act which provided for compulsion. Service to one's country, being at the disposal of the State in case of need, is part of our common law. It is also part of common sense. The liberty of the individual cannot be allowed to imperil the liberties of the nation. He who sets the greatest store by his nation's freedom will at this hour be the first to submit to some curtailment of his own. These will not be unwilling men. They will be proud to bear an equal burden under equal conditions. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Hicks), whose views we all respect, said, what the hon. Member who just interrupted me said, that conscription is the basis of totalitarian States. It is also the basis of democratic States. No greater insult could be delivered to France, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland than to suggest
§ that the basis of their national life was copied from the totalitarian States. It is to protect themselves from the totalitarian States that they have maintained these very necessary precautions, and on the most democratic lines.
§ I realise that there are genuine fears and forebodings on the other side of the House, and we are accustomed to respect one another's scruples. I realise that they fear not so much what is being done as what may be done. They fear that labour may be conscripted. We are not discussing such a proposal to-night. We have no intention of introducing such a proposal. What we are discussing to-night is the defence of this nation, towards which hon. Members opposite have helped as much as anybody else, and I am sure that their help will continue. The defence of this nation and the measures necessary to secure it are what we are discussing. We are discussing those measures at a critical time, when our decision means much.
§ The right hon. Member for Wakefield said that he was not prepared to shoulder the responsibilities of the Government. We are not inviting him to shoulder those responsibilities, although we would have preferred that he should share them with us. They are the Government's responsibility, and in all solemnity, knowing the facts, knowing the needs, the Government inform hon. Members opposite that these measures are necessary, vital and urgent, and it is upon those grounds that I commend them to the House.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 380; Noes, 143.1457
|Division No. 84.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Balniel, Lord||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Barrie, Sir C. C.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Baxter, A. Beverley||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund|
|Albery, Sir Irvine||Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portm'h)||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Beechman, N. A.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Bennett, Sir E. N.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garret) (C. of Ldn.)||Bernays, B. H.||Bull, B. B.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Blair, Sir R.||Bullock, Capt. M.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Blaker, Sir R.||Burghley, Lord|
|Apsley, Lord||Boothby, R. J. G.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.|
|Assheton, R.||Bossom, A. C.||Burton, Col. H. W.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Boulton, W. W.||Butcher, H. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Butter, Rt. Hon. R. A.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Boyee, H. Leslie||Caine, G. R. Hall-|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Bracken, B.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Holderness)||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Brass, Sir W.||Cary, R. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R, J.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Granville, E. L.||Magnay, T.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Channon, H.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Markham, S. F.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Choriton, A. E. L.||Grimston, R. V.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Christie, J. A.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Medlicott, F.|
|Clarks, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mills, Sir F- (Leyton, E.)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M (Norfolk, N.)||Hambro, A. V.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hammersley, S. S.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Hannah, I. C.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Harbord, A.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Critchley, A||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Munro, P.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hepworth, J.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Higgs, W. F.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Cross, R. H.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Holdsworth, H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Holmes, J. S.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hopkinson, A.||Owen, Major G.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Patrick, C. M.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peake, O.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack, N.)||Peat, C. U.|
|De la Bère, R.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Denville, Alfred||Hume, Sir G. H.||Petherick, M.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Hunloke, H. P.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Doland, G. F.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Pilkington, R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||James, Wing-Commands A. W- H.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Power, Sir J. C.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Mm. Side)||Joel, D. J. B.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Jones, Sir G W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Purbrick, R.|
|Duggan, H.J.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Radford, E. A.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Keeling, E. H.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Latham, Sir P.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Emery, J. F.||Leech, Sir J. W-||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Leigh, Sir J.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F,||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Renter, J. R.|
|Errington, E.||Levy, T.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Lewis, O.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Liddall, W. S.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Waits)||Lindsay, K. M.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Lipson, D. L.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Lloyd, G. W.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Loftus, P. C.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Furness, S. N.||Lyons, A. M.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd Pembroke)||M'Connell, Sir J.||Salt, E. W.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Gledhill, G.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||McKie, J. H.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Scott, Lord William|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Selley, H. R.|
|Shakespeare, G. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Tate, Mavis C.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Thomas, J. P. L.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Snadden, W. McN.||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Touche, G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Train, Sir J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wise, A. R.|
|Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Spent, W. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R, L.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)||Turton, R. H.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)||Wakefield, W. W.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Wragg, H.|
|Storey, S.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||York, C.|
|Strickland, Captain W. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Warrender, Sir V.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Groves, T. E.||Pathick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pools, C. C.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, Agnes||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F, (Whitehaven)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Ritson, J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hayday, A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Batey, J.||Hicks, E. G.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Beaumont, H. (Battle)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hollins, A||Shinwell, E.|
|Bevan, A.||Hopkin, D.||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sloan, A.|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cassells, T.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees-(K'ly)|
|Chater, D.||Lawson, J. J||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Leslie, J. R.||Stephen, C.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Collindridge, F.||Lunn, W.||Strauss, G R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cove, W. G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||McEntee, V. La T,||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Daggar, G.||McGhee, H. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Dalton, H.||McGovern, J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Maclean, N.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Tomlinson, Q,|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||Mander, G. le M.||Walker, J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Marklew, E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mathers, G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Maxton, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Gallacher, W.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Graham, D. M (Hamilton)||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Parker, J.||Mr. Paling and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parkinson, J. A.|
§ Main Question put.
|Division No. 85.]||AYES.||[11.12 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Allen, Cot. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)|
|Adams, S. V. T, (Leeds, W.)||Alien, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Anstruther-Gray, W. J.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Apsley, Lord|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. Of Ldn.)||Assheton, R.|
§ The House divided: Ayes, 376; Nose, 145.1463
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Denman, Hon. R, D.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Danville, Alfred||Hunloke, H. P.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Dodd, J. S.||Hurd, Sir P. A.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Doland, G. F.||Hutchinson, G. C.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Donner, P. W.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Balniel, Lord||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Barrio, Sir C. C.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Duggan, H. J.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Duncan, J. A. L.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Dunglass, Lord||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Eastwood, J. F.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Eckersley, P. T.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ellis, Sir G.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Leech, Sir J. W.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Emery, J. F.||Leigh, Sir J.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P|
|Bracken, B.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Levy, T.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Holderness)||Errington, E.||Lewis, O.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Liddall, W. S.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Brooklebank, Sir Edmund||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Fildes, Sir H.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Findlay, Sir E.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Fleming, E. L.||Locker-Lampion, Comdr. O. S.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Furness, S. N.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Burghley, Lord||Fyfe, D. P. M.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Gledhill, G.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.||McKie, J. H.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-an-Tees)|
|Cary, R. A.||Goldie, N. B.||Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Magnay, T.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Maitland, Sir Adam|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Granville, E. L.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Channon, H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Markham, S. F.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Christie, J. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Medlicott, F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mills, Sir F. (Layton, E.)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hambro, A. V.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hammersley, S. S.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Hannah I C.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Harbord, A.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Munro, P.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Nall, Sir J.|
|Critchley, A.||Hepworth, J.||Neven-Spence, Major B, H. H.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Higgs, W. F.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Cross, R. H||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Crossley, A. C.||Holdsworth, H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Holmes, J. S.||Owen, Major G.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Hopkinson, A.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Horsbrugh, Florence||Peake, O.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Peat, C. U.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peters, Dr. S. J|
|De la Bère, R,||Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Petherick, M.|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Touche, G. C.|
|Pilkington, R.||Sandys, E. D.||Train, Sir J.|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Scott, Lord William||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Porritt, R. W.||Selley, H. R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Power, Sir J. C.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Wake field, W. W.|
|Purbrick, R.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Radford, E. A.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan.|
|Raikes, H. V. A. M,||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Smithers, Sir W.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Snadden, W. McN.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Rod, A. C. (Exeter)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R, J.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Spens, W. P.||Whitey, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Raid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby.)||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Ramer, J. R.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Storey, S.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Stratus, H. G. (Norwich)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry]||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rom Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Wise, A. R.|
|Rowlands, G.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Sutcliffe, H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Tasker, Sir R. I.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Russell, Sir Alexander||Tate, Mavis C.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Wragg, H.|
|Russell, S. H. M. (Darwin)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Salmon, Sir I.||Thomas, J. P. L.||York, C.|
|Salt, E. W.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Samuel, M. R. A.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Titchfield, Marquess of||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
|Adam, D. (Consett)||Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Mathers, G.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Maxton, J.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Messer, F.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Milner, Major J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Granted, D. R.||Montague, F.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Groves, T. E.||Muff, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Batey, J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Hardie, Acnes||Oliver, G. H.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Parker, J.|
|Bevan, A.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hayday, A.||Pearson, A.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Poole, C. C.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hicks, E. G.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Cape, T.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Cassells, T.||Hollins, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Chater, D.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sanders, W. S.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Collindridge, F.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Shinwell, E.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lawson, J. J.||Silkin, L.|
|Daggar, G.||Leach, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Dalton, H.||Leonard, W.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Sloan, A.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Logan, D. G,||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGovern, J.||Stephen, C.|
|Fool, D. M.||Maclean, N.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Frankel, D.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mander, G. le M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Marklew, E.||Thorns, W.|
|Gibbins, J.||Marshall, F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Tinker, J. J.||Welsh, J. C.||Wilton, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Tomlinson, G.||Westwood, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Viant, S. P.||White, H. Graham||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Walker, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Watkins, F. C.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Watson, W. McL.||William, T. (Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Paling and Mr. Whiteley.|
That this House approves the proposal of His Majesty's Government to introduce as soon as possible a system of compulsory military training as announced on 26th April; regards such a system as necessary for the safety of the country and the fulfilment of the undertakings recently given to certain countries in Europe; and welcomes the fact that the Government is associating with this proposal fresh legislative powers to limit the profits of firms engaged mainly in armament production, and the assurance that, in the event of war, steps will be taken to penalise profiteering and to prevent additions to individual fortunes out of war-created conditions.
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.